Tag Archives: Heartland Institute

Weekly News Check-In 7/3/20

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Welcome back.

There’s continued interest in the recent arrest of two environmental activists in Louisiana on felony terrorism charges for their non-violent action delivering a box of “nurdles” to a plastics industry lobbyist. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

We’re happy to report that the Holleran family has been compensated by the Williams Companies for hundreds of trees cut on their Pennsylvania farm to make way for a pipeline that was never built. The Constitution Pipeline was recently scrapped when New York refused to permit it. As a side note, we’re pretty sure Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker could use a similar argument to stop the Weymouth compressor.

Future cases like the Holleran family’s tree loss may have been averted by a recent DC Circuit Court ruling that found the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can no longer continue its use of “tolling orders” to indefinitely delay hearing landowner complaints, even while trees are cleared and pipelines are built across their properties.

This week, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a sweeping and serious new climate proposal, including measures for greening the economy in the post-pandemic recovery. The Trump administration and Senate Republicans declared the bill dead on arrival. You can express your opinion of that by voting on or before Tuesday, November 3, 2020…. Meanwhile, the need for transformative action is especially acute in coal country. A gradual contraction of that mining economy has recently morphed into freefall – with relief and a new economic model desperately needed.

Some of us have noticed recently that the latest generation of climate models occasionally predicts substantially more warming than prior models did. We found an interesting article exploring that anomaly, and revealing the devilish complexities around cloud effects. We also have a fascinating story of coal-driven climate change from 250 million years ago, plus encouraging news indicating that the Heartland Institute – a major force in climate denial – appears to be losing influence.

Electricity will not entirely replace fuels in the foreseeable future because some processes and modes of transport are just too energy intensive. Hydrogen is a strong alternative candidate, but it’s currently produced using fossil fuels. “Green” hydrogen is coming – our Clean Energy section offers a primer.

Energy efficiency upgrades, especially in commercial and industrial sectors, are among the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions. That is not necessarily true for existing low-income housing, but taken as a component of redressing social injustice, it’s a compelling program that deserves high priority. Another priority is greening the transportation sector. It’s at once the largest greenhouse gas emitter and Big Oil’s best customer. We’re seeing both progress and push-back.

We wrap up with a few articles about the fossil fuel industry. It’s a gutter tour through financial collapse, attempted influence against green legislation, and a tightening circle of litigation calling out years of fraud.

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

outrage after terror charges
Outrage after “Cancer Alley” activists face terrorism charges for anti-plastics stunt
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
June 29, 2020

For decades, those on the frontline of the environmental justice struggle have faced legal intimidation and harassment for speaking out against chronic pollution in “Cancer Alley,” an 85-mile stretch of oil, gas, and petrochemical facilities along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana.

According to the Times-Picayune, “[Anne] Rolfes was booked with terrorizing, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. [Kate] McIntosh was booked with principal to terrorizing.” Each was released after posting a USD 5,000 bond.

So what had they done to deserve a felony terrorism charge and potentially face years in prison?

Over six months ago, in December, they left a highly symbolic sealed box containing plastic pellet waste on the doorstep of a local oil and gas lobbyist to highlight the issue of chronic pollution in the region, which is home to some of the most impoverished and vulnerable communities in the United States.

In that sense [the charges] are SLAPPs — Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. We know legal intimidation is getting worse in the US.

Indeed, as Earther points out: “In the past four years, 21 states have introduced criminal penalties for demonstrating near oil and gas infrastructure with many of those laws mirroring text drafted by the industry-backed American Legislative Exchange Council. In 2019, the federal government proposed legislation that would prescribe up to two decades in prison for ‘inhibiting the operation’ of pipelines — or even just ‘conspiring’ to do so. But even by those standards, these charges seem utterly gratuitous.”
» Read article         

» More about protests and actions

PIPELINES

no eminent domain for corporate gain
Family that lost hundreds of trees to failed pipeline project settles with company, gets land back
Constitution pipeline builder cut 558 trees to make way for line that never got built
By Susan Phillips, NPR – State Impact
July 3, 2020

A Northeastern Pennsylvania family who watched as work crews, accompanied by armed federal marshals, destroyed their budding maple tree farm to make way for the failed Constitution Pipeline has settled with the company Williams for an undisclosed amount. A federal court has also vacated the eminent domain taking of about five acres, reversing an order it made more than five years ago.

“We’re really glad that it’s ended,” said Catherine Holleran, co-owner of the 23-acre property that has been in the family for 50 years. “We’ve gotten our land returned to us. That was our main objective right from the first.”

The Constitution Pipeline project would have carried Marcellus Shale gas  from Pennsylvania to New York state. Though the project received federal approval and the necessary permits from Pennsylvania regulators, New York blocked the pipeline by not issuing permits. Williams dropped the project in February.
» Read article     

» More about other pipelines             

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

tolling orders in the dock
DC Circuit: FERC can’t indefinitely delay action on gas pipeline challenges
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
Updated July 1, 2020

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 10-1 on Tuesday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lacks authority to postpone rehearing decisions on natural gas projects through the issuance of tolling orders. The practice has delayed parties that oppose FERC rulings from challenging those decisions in court.

FERC Commissioner Richard Glick called the decision a “resounding victory” for landowners impacted by FERC’s pipeline orders. “It is important that these parties can go to court before a company can take their land & build a pipeline affecting their communities,” he said in a tweet.

Tolling orders are an accessible tool for FERC to delay judgement on rehearing requests when more time is needed to consider arguments regarding the legality of the commission’s actions. FERC attorney Robert Kennedy said tolling orders are “generally entered almost as a matter of routine.”

Petitioners argued that pipeline projects have been completed while opponents were unable to litigate because a tolling order was in place.

“This case is exceptionally important because it brings to light a habitual practice by [FERC] that raises serious questions of fairness, due process and legality. And the commission’s defense in no way addressed how [a FERC order] can be final for some but not for others,” NRDC’s Giannetti told Utility Dive.
 » Read article         

fifty k to twenty
NERA counters broad opposition to FERC net metering petition, reveals utility-linked member
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 2, 2020

Lawyers representing the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) on Tuesday filed their response to the almost 50,000 comments opposing the group’s petition to federal regulators to effectively upend net metering policies nationwide.

NERA has generated significant attention in the power sector with its April petition asking FERC to declare “exclusive” jurisdiction over behind-the-meter energy generation.

Bipartisan groups of state legislators, regulators, attorneys general, governors and other officials filed almost 100 comments in opposition. Advocacy groups, legal experts and academics filed over 500 comments, while almost 50,000 individuals also commented on the filing, all in opposition to the proposal.

Meanwhile, just 21 groups filed in support, 15 of which echoed comments written out by the Heartland Institute.

Net metering compensates customers who have rooftop solar or some other form of behind-the-meter resource for the energy it provides to the grid. Opponents of the practice say it can overcompensate distributed resource customers, leaving remaining customers to absorb the additional costs. The focus of the petition, however, is not on the merits of net metering, but whether FERC should have jurisdiction over those sales.
» Read article         
» Read the NERA filing with FERC          

» More about FERC

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Democrat climate plan
Democrats to unveil bold new climate plan to phase out emissions by 2050
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
June 29, 2020

House Democrats will unveil an aggressive climate crisis “action plan” on Tuesday to nearly eliminate US emissions by 2050, according to summary documents reviewed by the Guardian.

The net-zero emissions goal is what United Nations leaders and the scientific community say the world must achieve to avoid the worst of rising temperatures, and it’s what the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, says he would pursue if he were to win the White House in November.

The more than 538-page report will include hundreds of policy recommendations focused on 12 key pillars, according to a separate outline.

Modeling on a subset of those recommendations by the firm Energy Innovation showed they would cut net US greenhouse gas emissions by 37% below 2010 levels in 2030, and 88% below 2010 levels in 2050, according to the report outline. The remaining 12% of emissions cuts would have to come from hard-to-decarbonize sectors, including heavy-duty truck transportation, industry and agriculture.

The proposal outline recommends a clean energy standard for net-zero electricity by 2040 and net-zero new buildings by 2030. It calls for only zero-emitting new vehicles to be sold by 2035, and it advocates for doubling funding for public transit.
» Read article         

slippery slope for coal country
A Call for Massive Reinvestment Aims to Reverse Coal Country’s Rapid Decline
The plan targets devastated communities from Virginia to Arizona. “There is a debt to be paid,” said one proponent.
By James Bruggers, InsideClimate News
June 30, 2020

The global coronavirus that’s put tens of millions of Americans out of work and plunged the nation into a recession is speeding an ongoing transition away from coal.

With devastation in communities left behind, 80 local, regional and national organizations on Monday rolled out a National Economic Transition Platform to support struggling coal mining cities and towns, some facing severe poverty, in Appalachia, the Illinois Basin, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona and elsewhere.

Although it comes just four months before the presidential election in November, the platform doesn’t mention the Green New Deal, the proposed massive shift in federal spending to create jobs and hasten a transition to clean energy that’s divided Republicans and Democrats.

But Heidi Binko, executive director of the Just Transition Fund, which drafted by the plan with a wide range of partners, including labor unions, community organizations, business groups and environmental and tribal nonprofits, said it could be used as a template for part of the Green New Deal or any other legislative initiatives aimed at helping coal communities.
» Read article             

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

running hot
Are New Extreme Global Warming Projections Correct?
By Jeff Berardelli, Yale Climate Connections, in EcoWatch
July 2, 2020

For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world’s top climate modeling groups have been “running hot” – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.

“It is concerning, as it increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts,” explains Dr. Andrew Gettelman, a cloud microphysics scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado.

As a result, there’s been a real urgency to answer this important question in climate science: Are there processes in some new models that need correcting, or is this enhanced warming a real threat?
» Read article         

Siberian Traps
Ancient coal fires led to prehistoric extinctions
Did eruptions set ancient coal fires burning? Global heating happened 250 million years ago, just as it is happening now.
By Tim Radford, Climate News Network
June 29, 2020

Geologists have linked one of the planet’s most devastating events to the burning of fossil fuels, as ancient coal fires set in train a global extinction wave.

Emissions from the fires on a massive scale can be connected to catastrophic events that extinguished most of life on Earth – and this time, humans were not to blame.

It all happened more than 250 million years ago, at the close of the  Permian period. And this time the match that lit the flame was [a] massive but slow volcanic eruption in what is now Siberia, a burning that continued for two million years.
» Read article

heartland twilight
Hard Times in the Climate Denial Business for the Heartland Institute
Shorter Conference, Fake Sponsor, Low Attendance, and a Lot of Gray Haired Men
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 29, 2019

Last week, the Heartland Institute was again trumpeting climate science denial at its 13th “International Conference on Climate Change” at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. But by a number of measures, the Chicago-based free market think tank’s science denial doesn’t exactly seem to be a growing — or cohesive — movement at this point.

That’s even with more media coverage than five years ago, and with friends in high places. In early 2017, following the election of President Trump, attendees of the Heartland Institute conference were clearly excited to have a climate denier in the White House. Frontline reported that the mood at the conference was “jubilant.”

Even last year, the organization was projecting an air of optimism. Former Congressman Tim Huelskamp was still Heartland president and confidently declaring victory for the climate denial movement.

“It took a while, but we think we’ve won the battle — Al Gore was wrong,” Huelskamp said.

So, how are things going for Heartland these days?
» Read article         

fading winters
Fading Winters, Hotter Summers Make the Northeast America’s Fastest Warming Region
Connecticut’s average temperature has risen 2 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century, double the average for the Lower 48 states.
By Abby Weiss, InsideClimate News
June 27, 2020

Connecticut is one of the fastest-warming states, in the fastest warming region, in the contiguous United States. An analysis last year by The Washington Post found that neighboring Rhode Island was the first state among the lower 48 whose average annual temperature had warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius since 1895. New Jersey was second, the Post found, followed by Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts.

The Post analysis also found that the New York City area, including Long Island and suburban counties in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, was among about half a dozen hot spots nationally where warming has already exceeded 2 degrees. The others are the greater Los Angeles area, the high desert in Oregon, the Western Rocky Mountains, an area from Montana to Minnesota along the Canadian border and the Northeast Shore of Lake Michigan.

Climate scientists don’t fully understand why Connecticut and the other Northeast states have warmed so dramatically, but they offer an array of explanations, from warm winters that produce less snow and ice (and thus reflect less heat back into space) to warming ocean temperatures and  changes in both the jet stream and the Gulf Stream.
» Read article           

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

green hydrogen explained
So, What Exactly Is Green Hydrogen?
For a colorless gas, hydrogen gets described in very colorful terms. A new GTM series helps explain the weird and wonderful world of clean energy.
By Jason Deign, GreenTech Media
June 29, 2020

According to the nomenclature used by market research firm Wood Mackenzie, most of the gas that is already widely used as an industrial chemical is either brown, if it’s made through the gasification of coal or lignite; or gray, if it is made through steam methane reformation, which typically uses natural gas as the feedstock. Neither of these processes is exactly carbon-friendly.

A purportedly cleaner option is known as blue hydrogen, where the gas is produced by steam methane reformation but the emissions are curtailed using carbon capture and storage. This process could roughly halve the amount of carbon produced, but it’s still far from emissions-free.

Green hydrogen, in contrast, could almost eliminate emissions by using renewable energy — increasingly abundant and often generated at less-than-ideal times — to power the electrolysis of water.

A more recent addition to the hydrogen-production palette is turquoise. This is produced by breaking methane down into hydrogen and solid carbon using a process called pyrolysis. Turquoise hydrogen might seem relatively low in terms of emissions because the carbon can either be buried or used for industrial processes such as steelmaking or battery manufacturing, so it doesn’t escape into the atmosphere.

However, recent research shows turquoise hydrogen is actually likely to be no more carbon-free than the blue variety, owing to emissions from the natural-gas supplies and process heat required.
» Read article         

looking ahead
‘Simple’ or a ‘band-aid’? ISO-NE leans toward Eversource/National Grid $49M solution for Mystic plant replacement
New England’s grid operator chose the lowest-cost proposal, but one developer says that doesn’t make it the most effective or efficient.
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
July 2, 2020

ISO New England in June identified National Grid and Eversource’s “Ready Path Solution” as the most cost-effective way to address transmission reliability issues following the planned retirement of the Mystic Generating Station in 2024.

The $49 million project is inexpensive and relatively simple compared to 35 other proposals, which carried price tags up to $745 million.

The ISO is expected to issue a final decision July 17 and is accepting comments through today. At least one competing developer is unhappy with the grid operator’s initial determination: Officials at Anbaric Development Partners say the Ready Path approach is a “band-aid” that will not address the region’s longer-term energy needs.

According to Anbaric, its project would eliminate the need for $620 million in near-term system upgrades the ISO will need to address to incorporate offshore wind being procured by the region.
» Read article          

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

low income EE
Utility efficiency programs offer model to merge climate, racial justice solutions
Many states require utilities to help low-income customers conserve energy despite higher costs and barriers.
By Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network
Photo By Dennis Schroeder / NREL
July 2, 2020

As urgency grows to simultaneously address climate change and racial justice through proposals like the Green New Deal, low-income energy efficiency programs provide a potential example of how to merge the priorities.

The time is right to bolster such programs since the pandemic’s economic effects mean more households will likely need assistance with energy bills, advocates say.

Studies — including a recent one by Lawrence Berkeley Livermore National Laboratory — show that dollar for dollar, the biggest efficiency gains can be made by investing in commercial and industrial energy conservation, while efficiency programs targeting low-income customers are among the least cost-effective.

However, many consumer groups, utilities, researchers and other stakeholders agree: The benefits provided by helping low-income customers are wide-ranging, and especially important to advance racial equity and protect vulnerable people in times like these.
» Read article          

» More about energy efficiency       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

not for the US market
Europe’s Demand for Electric Cars May Get a Jolt From COVID-19 Response

Stimulus packages, falling costs and rising environmental awareness may rev Europe’s EV market quicker than expected, analysts say.
By John Parnell, GreenTech Media
July 3, 2020

Far from depressing the market, the response to the COVID-19 outbreak looks set to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles across Europe.

The combined market share of EVs and plug-in hybrids jumped 6.8 percent in the first quarter of the year, faster than the 2.5 percent growth seen in the same quarter last year, according to sales figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

And that was before big pandemic-recovery stimulus plans began targeting the EV market. In contrast, total sales of new passenger plunged 41.5 percent between mid-March and the end of May, according to the ACEA.

But in the U.K., where monthly data is available from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, battery electric vehicles are performing well. In May, new petrol and diesel registrations were down around 90 percent compared to the same time last year. BEVs were up 21.5 percent. A tax break for corporate buyers that started in April won’t have hurt.

“In the very short term, we have seen that EV uptake rates have been immune to the drop-off in new car sales,” John Murray, head of EV research at the consultancy Delta-EE, said in an interview.
Blog editor’s note: Sadly, the VW ID-3 featured in the photo will not be available in the U.S., because Americans no longer buy enough small cars to justify the marketing and U.S.-specific design expenses.
» Read article          

house green transport bill
Oil Industry and Allies Look to Pump Brakes on Democrats’ Plans to Move Transportation Off Petroleum
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
July 2, 2020

This week Congressional Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives put forward policies, including passing a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill on July 1, aimed at cleaning up the number one source of carbon pollution in America — the transportation sector. The oil and gas industry and its supporters quickly weighed in, framing “the critical role” of the industry in addressing climate pollution and in some cases outright attacking these plans’ efforts to move away from petroleum-powered transport.

It is the first time a body in Congress has set a deadline for selling 100 percent zero-emission vehicles, which include electric or fuel cell cars. Over a dozen countries have already set timetables for phasing out conventional petroleum-powered vehicles.

The chances that the infrastructure package and many other policies outlined in the Democrats’ climate plan will become law under the Republican-controlled Senate and President Donald Trump are very slim to none. According to The Hill, Trump slammed the infrastructure package as “full of wasteful ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it “nonsense.” Both Trump and McConnell receive sizable campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Oil industry trade associations and front groups funded by the oil and gas industry are already coming out against the Democrats’ climate plan and infrastructure package.
» Read article          

barnstorm buzz
The largest electric plane ever to fly
As electric planes pass another milestone, Future Planet asks how long will it be before they are ready for everyday aviation? And just how far can they go?
By Chris Baraniuk, BBC / Future Planet
June 17, 2020

At a large airfield surrounded by farmland in central Washington State, an electric aeroplane recently made history. It is the biggest commercial plane ever to take off and fly powered by electricity alone. For 30 minutes on 28 May, it soared above Grant County International Airport as crowds of onlookers clapped and cheered.

The biggest electric plane ever, huh? Well, it was a modified Cessna Caravan 208B – which can take a maximum of nine passengers. And the test aircraft only had a seat installed for the pilot.

It’s a far cry from the 200-300-seater jet that takes you on weekend city breaks or work trips, never mind the huge double-decker planes that cross continents. But the “eCaravan” test flight was a success. The two companies behind it, AeroTEC and magniX, which supplied the electric motor, are chuffed with the results. Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of magniX, pointed out in a statement that the price of flying the Cessna clocked in at a mere $6 (£4.80). Had they used conventional engine fuel, the 30-minute flight would have cost $300-400 (£240-320).
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

over-hyped gas
“Gas is over-supplied, over-hyped, and out of time”
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
July 2, 2020

For years, Big Oil denied there was a problem with climate change and carried on drilling, deliberately creating doubt over the science. They could have acted decades ago, but they did not.

As our climate crisis intensified, the industry shifted its public relations strategy and started touting natural gas as a so-called “clean” bridge fuel, a stepping stone if you like, from dirty oil to renewables. There were major flaws in that argument, that gas is neither green nor clean, as OCI and others have repeatedly pointed out.

The other blatantly obvious flaw that climate activists pointed out was that the climate emergency was so urgent that we did not have time to carry on the fossil fuel age in any shape or form, whether oil or gas, and we should be investing in renewables now.

Two weeks ago, there was what I termed an “historic moment” when BP slashed up to USD 17.5 billion off the value of its assets after lowering its longer term price assumptions in the wake of COVID-19. In the words of the Financial Times, BP “expects” the pandemic “to hasten the shift away from fossil fuels.” BP’s assets were essentially stranded.

Whereas BP’s write-offs were largely in dirty heavy oil and offshore, what will be sending shocks waves through the industry is that Shell’s write-downs are in gas.
» Read article          

shell too
BP and Shell Write-Off Billions in Assets, Citing Covid-19 and Climate Change
The moves were seen as a possible turning point as plummeting demand makes big oil companies admit they’re not worth what they used to be.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
July 2, 2020

Two of the world’s largest energy companies have sent their strongest signals yet that the coronavirus pandemic may accelerate a global transition away from oil, and that billions of dollars invested in fossil fuel assets could go to waste.

This week, Royal Dutch Shell said it would slash the value of its oil and gas assets by up to $22  billion amid a crash in oil prices. The announcement came two weeks after a similar declaration by BP, saying it would reduce the value of its assets by up to $17.5 billion. Both companies said the accounting moves were a response not only to the coronavirus-driven recession, but also to global efforts to tackle climate change.

Some analysts say the global oil and gas industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation and is finally being forced to reckon with a future of dwindling demand for its products.
» Read article          

Senator Barrett
Fossil Fuel Lobby Is Targeting the State Senate’s Climate Bill
Mike Barrett represents the towns of Bedford, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Lincoln, Waltham, Weston, large parts of Lexington and Sudbury
By State Senator Mike Barrett, Patch
June 29, 2020

On Thursday, June 25, an organization named the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy criticized Massachusetts State Senate climate legislation now pending before the House of Representatives. In response, State Senators Mike Barrett and Jason Lewis issued the following statement.

In January of this year, the Massachusetts State Senate passed An Act Setting Next-Generation Climate Policy, now pending before the House of Representatives. The Senate’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is radical not in its ideology but in its seriousness; we’re determined to get emissions down across the Massachusetts economy, transportation and buildings included.

We should add that the senators who wrote the legislation sat down with a good many commercial interests, listened to what they had to say, and made changes. At the time of the bill’s final passage — with the votes of both Democrats and Republicans, and with only two dissents in the 40-member Senate — its seriousness of purpose seemed to impress the business community without unsettling it.

But that was then. With the onset of COVID-19, conservative elements are eager to exploit an opening. Two years ago, an investigative report in the Huffington Post blasted the then-new Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy as a “front for gas interests,” identifying, as major funders of the group, Eversource, National Grid, and Enbridge, the pipeline conglomerate behind the natural gas compressor station project in Weymouth.

Last week the Coalition surfaced anew, patching together a limp critique of Next-Gen that seems less about the bill and more about the Coalition’s longer-range objective, which is to keep fossil fuels at the heart of Massachusetts energy policy.
» Read article           

Joe Camel meets Don Fuego
Oil and gas coloring books teach kids safety, fossil fuel dependence
By Kate Yoder, Grist
June 29, 2020

It’s finally summer: The time of year when your kids run through the sprinklers, munch on watermelon, and whip out their crayons to scribble in coloring book pages of fracking wells and gas pipes. Wait, what?

Last week, Puget Sound Energy, the Seattle-area utility, shared an odd activity on Twitter: “Color your way through Natural Gas Town and learn how natural gas provides energy to your neighborhood!” The tweet, later deleted, linked to an online coloring page showing a detailed map of how natural gas lines run underneath your yard and into your home. The image is from Energy Safe Kids, a national program that teaches children safety tips — like how to sniff out a gas leak and avoid pummeling natural gas meters with water balloons.

The Energy Safe Kids site includes an interactive coloring page for the friendly gas flame named “Don Fuego,” a video game called “Gas Dash” in which your character hurdles gas meters and fire extinguishers while riding a bike, and a word search that challenges you to find “butane,” “pilot light,” and “cogeneration.”
» Read article

arrival of the reckoning
Fracking pioneer Chesapeake files for bankruptcy protection
By CATHY BUSSEWITZ and TALI ARBEL, Associated Press
June 28, 2020, Associated Press

Chesapeake Energy, a shale drilling pioneer that helped to turn the United States into a global energy powerhouse, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Oklahoma City-based company said Sunday that it was a necessary decision given its debt. Its debt load is currently nearing $9 billion. It has entered a plan with lenders to cut $7 billion of its debt and said it will continue to operate as usual during the bankruptcy process.

The oil and gas company was a leader in the fracking boom, using unconventional techniques to extract oil and gas from the ground, a method that has come under scrutiny because of its environmental impact.

Other wildcatters followed in Chesapeake’s path, racking up huge debts to find oil and gas in fields spanning New Mexico, Texas, the Dakotas and Pennsylvania. A reckoning is now coming due with those massive debts needing to be serviced by Chesapeake and those that followed its path.
» Read article           

we sued - DC
Both Minnesota and D.C. sue Big Oil for “campaign of deception” over climate change
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
June 25, 2020

Big Oil’s decades-old campaign to deny, deceive, and delay action on climate change has been thrust into the spotlight again after both Attorney Generals for Minnesota and the District of Columbia (D.C.) launched legal action against the industry within twenty-four hours of each other.

First yesterday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed the suit against Exxon, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and three Koch Industries for pushing climate denial for decades.

The 84 page document did not mince its words, arguing, “that the economic devastation and public-health impacts from climate change” in Minnesota “were caused, in large part, by a campaign of deception that Defendants orchestrated and executed with disturbing success.”

Dating back decades, instead of warning Minnesota about the risks of climate change, the “Defendants realized massive profits through largely unabated and expanded extraction, production, promotion, marketing, and sale of their fossil-fuel products.”

The suit cited scientific evidence dating back to the fifties and sixties. “By 1965, Defendants and their predecessors-in-interest were aware that the scientific community had found that fossil-fuel products, if used profligately, would cause global warming by the end of the century, and that such global warming would have wide-ranging and costly consequences,” the suit said.

Instead of acting responsibly, the companies repeated the playbook of the tobacco industry and funded “fraudulent scientific research” in order to create uncertainty.

And instead of acting in the public interest, and investing in alternatives to fossil fuels, the Defendants just carried on drilling for oil and gas, making extreme profits.
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 3/20/20

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

Construction at the Weymouth compressor station site doesn’t accommodate the social distancing required to address our COVID-19 health crisis, and opponents of the project are requesting a temporary halt to activities there. More Massachusetts news: Columbia Gas will be purchased by Eversourse. We found a thought-provoking editorial suggesting that ownership should pass to the public instead.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), continues to dig in as an increasingly partisan approval mill for fossil fuel projects. Three of the four commissioners are now Republican,  a clear break with past tradition of balanced representation.

Our climate section leads with an MIT study showing that significant amounts of ozone-depleting CFCs are leaking from old refrigeration equipment and insulating foam previously considered too inconsequential to remove and remediate. We now know that CFC leakage from these sources delays recovery of the ozone layer, and is a source of powerful greenhouse gases.

We found some differing opinions among experts regarding how the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the deployment of clean energy like wind and solar. That is currently a more powerful dynamic in the U.S. than the familiar tug-of-war between the pro-fossil Trump administration vs the combination of progressive state and municipal governments and advances in green technology. Take a look at our offerings in clean transportation and energy storage to see what’s happening along those old familiar story lines.

The fossil fuel industry lost a significant court battle when a federal district court decided in favor of Massachusetts, agreeing that the state has jurisdiction to sue Exxon in Suffolk County Superior Court, where the giant corporation stands accused of “hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming.” This is one of a string of similar cases, all agreeing that states have jurisdiction in these lawsuits.

We close with an article on plastics recycling, because a plastics-to-fuel plant is being proposed in Rhode Island. A feasibility study is considering using the pyrolysis process (gassification at high heat) to remove plastic from the waste stream by converting it to usable fuel. The benefits are presented by a representative from the American Chemistry Council, with arguments against this process being clearly articulated by Kevin Budris, a lawyer from Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Rhode Island who heads up the Zero Waste Project.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

call for halt
Residents call for halt to compressor station construction
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
March 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH — Residents opposed to a natural gas compressor station being built on the banks of the Fore River want construction stopped amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought much of the country to a halt.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to suspend construction of the Weymouth compressor station, to help slow the spread of the virus.

“This isn’t just about the compressor station, it’s about protecting the community and workers from an ongoing public health crisis,” the group said. “The construction site does not have access to proper sanitation stations, like soap and water, and workers can’t consistently work 6 feet apart.”
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

COLUMBIA GAS

Should the public buy Columbia Gas?
Right now, Eversource is proposing to buy the utility for $1.1b
By Craig Altemose, CommonWealth Magazine – Opinion
March 15, 2020

Public utilities are entities entrusted to provide critical public services to the public. That trust means that they are supposed to receive heightened regulation by the government while being given the gift of a government-sanctioned monopoly (i.e. if you live in their territory, they are your exclusive provider). This arrangement is meant to serve the public good, and yet in just the past two years, our public utilities failed us in virtually every way imaginable.

We have recently experienced massive lapses in safety, long-term disruptions of service, the lock-out and denial of healthcare benefits to trained workers, and continued refusal to embrace critical values of public health and climate stability in the governance of our utilities. Indeed, these utilities have used ratepayer dollars to fund exorbitant executive packages (Eversource CEO Tom May makes close to $10 million a year to head a company whose customers broadly had the choice of either buying from his company or sitting in the cold and dark in the homes) and lobby against the public interest.

So this sale is coming at a time ripe for consideration of the idea of public ownership of our public gas and electric utilities.
» Read article     

» More about Columbia Gas

FERC / LNG / OTHER PIPELINES

fossil boosting FERC
Bad news about FERC & Jordan Cove
By Drew Hudson, 198 Methods
March 20, 2020

As we feared, and warned only yesterday, in the midst of the global pandemic the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conditionally approved the Jordan Cove fracked gas export terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline today.

The approval is conditioned on Pembina, the Canadian fossil fuel corporation behind the project, qualifying for critical permits from the state of Oregon, three of which have already been denied or withdrawn. But it’s still an incredibly disappointing decision from a rogue, rubber stamp agency.

It was only last Thursday that Senate Republicans rammed through a vote on James Danly to be a new commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Danly is the first totally partisan nominee – traditionally one Democrat and one Republican are nominated together. While a handful of Senators commented on the unusual decision to stack a supposedly bi-partisan commission with three Republicans and one Democrat.
» Read article

Senate Confirms Third Republican to FERC, Breaking With Precedent
James Danly’s confirmation breaks bipartisan norms at the federal energy regulator that’s already under fire for aiding fossil fuels in key decisions.
By Jeff St. John, Green Tech Media
March 12, 2020

The U.S. Senate confirmed James Danly to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday, stacking a third Republican against the lone Democrat on the board of a federal agency that has increasingly been seen as using its authority over interstate energy markets to privilege fossil fuels over renewables.

Danly, who will fill the seat left vacant by the death of Chairman Kevin McIntyre, graduated from law school in 2013 and worked as a corporate energy lawyer before he was named general counsel at FERC in 2017. His lack of experience in the industries he will now regulate has drawn sharp criticism from Senate Democrats, and his nomination last year was initially rejected by the Senate in January, before being sent back by the Trump administration last month.
» Read article

» More about FERC / LNG / Other Pipelines    

CLIMATE

CFC banks
Emissions of several ozone-depleting chemicals are larger than expected
Recovering and safely destroying the sources of these chemicals could speed ozone recovery and reduce climate change.
By Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office
March 17, 2020

In 2016, scientists at MIT and elsewhere observed the first signs of healing in the Antarctic ozone layer. This environmental milestone was the result of decades of concerted effort by nearly every country in the world, which collectively signed on to the Montreal Protocol. These countries pledged to protect the ozone layer by phasing out production of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, which are also potent greenhouse gases.

While the ozone layer is on a recovery path, scientists have found unexpectedly high emissions of CFC-11 and CFC-12, raising the possibility of production of the banned chemicals that could be in violation of the landmark global treaty. Emissions of CFC-11 even showed an uptick around 2013, which has been traced mainly to a source in eastern China. New data suggest that China has now tamped down on illegal production of the chemical, but emissions of CFC-11 and 12 emission are still larger than expected.

Now MIT researchers have found that much of the current emission of these gases likely stems from large CFC “banks” — old equipment such as building insulation foam, refrigerators and cooling systems, and foam insulation, that was manufactured before the global phaseout of CFCs and is still leaking the gases into the atmosphere. Based on earlier analyses, scientists concluded that CFC banks would be too small to contribute very much to ozone depletion, and so policymakers allowed the banks to remain.

It turns out there are oversized banks of both CFC-11 and CFC-12. The banks slowly leak these chemicals at concentrations that, if left unchecked, would delay the recovery of the ozone hole by six years and add the equivalent of 9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere — an amount that is similar to the current European Union pledge under the UN Paris Agreement to reduce climate change.
» Read article

Czech resistance
EU Green Deal Should Be Canceled Because of Coronavirus, Czech PM Says
Will COVID-19 be a reason to accelerate or slow Europe’s energy transition? The battle lines are already being drawn.
By John Parnell, Green Tech Media
March 17, 2020

The Czech Republic’s prime minister, Andrej Babiš, has said the European Union should abandon its Green Deal and focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus in an early sign of policy battles ahead.

Announced in December, Europe’s Green New Deal seeks to invest €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) on the road to making the EU economy net-zero carbon by 2050. This would include a huge offshore wind build-out, accelerated electrification of heat and transport, the development of large-scale carbon capture projects and hydrogen storage and infrastructure.

But from the start, the plan came under heavy scrutiny from the coal-heavy Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and the COVID-19 crisis appears to have opened a new avenue for attack.

“Europe should forget about the Green Deal now and focus on the coronavirus instead,” Babiš told reporters on Monday.
» Read article

Exxon watching the hen house
Exxon Now Wants to Write the Rules for Regulating Methane Emissions
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
March 16, 2020

ExxonMobil is a company capable of contradictions. It has been lobbying against government efforts to address climate change while running ads touting its own efforts to do so.

And while the oil giant has been responsible for massive methane releases, Exxon has now proposed a new regulatory framework for cutting emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas that it hopes regulators and industry will adopt. As Exxon put it, the goal is to achieve “cost-effective and reasonable methane-emission regulations.”

“It is not target-based, it is not volume-based,” Exxon’s Norton said. “Again, it’s starting a conversation, saying these are things that you can look at.”

Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University whose work focuses on methane emissions in the oil and gas industry, drew attention to areas of Exxon’s framework he thought were lacking. For starters, he pointed out that the proposed framework does not mention emissions from “imperfect well casings and from abandoned wells,” which Howarth says “can be significant.” He also noted that the proposal does not describe “a methodology for characterizing any of these emissions;  there are techniques for doing so, but there is not much demonstrated use of these techniques by industry.”

Finally — and this is the real danger with any sort of industry self-regulation — Howarth said there must be some type of independent oversight to assess actual emissions instead of relying on the industry to self-report. XTO’s well blowout in Ohio is an excellent example of why this third-party verification is critical. Without oversight, the “system is ripe for abuse,” according to Howarth.
» Read article

Greta Not
Heartland Launches Website of Contrarian Climate Science Amid Struggles With Funding and Controversy
Dogged by layoffs, a problematic spokesperson and an investigation by European journalists, the climate skeptics’ institute returns to its old tactics.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
March 13, 2020

The conservative Heartland Institute, which made its name undercutting mainstream climate science, has launched a new effort to try to influence public discussion and political debate about global warming.

The move comes as the organization is reportedly struggling financially and has fallen into renewed controversy over its work in Europe promoting climate denial there. Last week it laid off staff just weeks after it announced the hiring of a teenage German climate skeptic to counter the global popularity of environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

The new website, called Climate at a Glance, includes brief explanations of key climate science and policy issues, many of which are either misleading or inaccurate.

In February, European journalists published an investigation about Heartland’s efforts to sow its climate denial in Europe. The journalists went undercover, posing as public relations consultants working for clients in the energy and auto industries. The report detailed Heartland’s methods for channeling donations through a third party, and “how disinformation is professionally scattered around society.”
» Read article       
» Read Published Investigation (English)

» More about climate           

CLEAN ENERGY

COVID-19 threatens renewables
For Wind and Solar Sectors, Biggest Coronavirus Risk May Be a Damaged Economy
It seemed that nothing could slow the global renewable-energy juggernaut. Nothing, that is, until COVID-19.
By Karl-Erik Stromsta, Green Tech Media
March 15, 2020

It seemed that nothing could slow the global renewable-energy juggernaut. Nothing, that is, until COVID-19.

From the solar factory floors of China’s Jiangsu province to wind farm country in West Texas, the clean-energy industries are struggling to gauge the potential damage that lies ahead — and it’s not a pretty picture.

Late last week, Bloomberg New Energy Finance lowered its 2020 global solar demand forecast to a range of 108 to 143 gigawatts — a drop of 9 percent at the low end compared to the market researcher’s prior estimate. That could mean the first down year for global solar installations since the 1980s.

Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar, said the issue of equipment supply seems to be sorting itself out as China’s factories rumble back into production.

“We think there will be a recession,” Chase said on Friday, and the implications could spell trouble for solar manufacturers. “In general, this is a sector of companies that are heavily indebted and making slim margins.”

In the U.S., the world’s second-largest renewables market after China, the biggest immediate threat from COVID-19 is to the wind industry, which was otherwise on track for a record year of installations.

2020 is critical because it’s the last year for developers to complete projects that qualified for the full production tax credit (PTC), the industry’s main subsidy. As a result, the industry was already expected to be pushed beyond its limits this year. Wood Mackenzie previously warned of many U.S. wind projects “at risk” of missing the 2020 deadline, threatening their underlying economics.
» Read article 

Could the Oil Price Collapse Drive More Investment Into Renewables?
Oil companies have long argued that renewables projects offer lower returns. “That argument no longer holds at $35 per barrel.”
By John Parnell Green Tech Media
March 13, 2020

Low oil prices will test the resolve of the majors’ energy transition plans, but analysts expect the companies’ long-term commitments to decarbonization and renewable energy to remain intact.

A dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia has sent a flood of cheap oil and gas into global markets just as the COVID-19 pandemic is stifling demand.

This market dislocation comes at a time when European oil majors including Shell, Total, Repsol and BP are embarking seriously down a path toward emission reductions and the diversification of their businesses into renewables, e-mobility and other energy services.

Oil companies have been notoriously slow in pivoting their businesses toward cleaner energy sources. Will the current market storm change that? Might it even accelerate the transition?
» Read article

interconnection queue
Wind, solar and storage take up 95% of ISO-New England interconnection queue, marking ‘dramatic shift’
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
March 9, 2020

About 95% of nearly 21 GW of energy resources currently proposed for the New England region are grid-scale wind, solar and battery projects, according to the Independent System Operator of New England (ISO-NE).

The number “reflects a dramatic shift” in the grid operator’s interconnnection queue, ISO-NE president and CEO Gordon van Welie said in a press call on Friday. Five years ago, the majority of projects sought by developers were natural gas resources, he said.
» Read article

» More about clean energy       

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

three states boost EVsFlorida, Utah, Washington approve bills to boost EVs, including $50M Rocky Mountain Power charging plan
By Robert Walton, Utility Dive
March 16, 2020

State lawmakers took significant steps last week to bolster adoption of emissions-free transportation, in moves that could result in millions of dollars in charging infrastructure investment and more electric vehicles on the road.

Emissions benefits would be “maximized” if PacifiCorp reduces its reliance on coal-fired power plants and adds more renewable energy, “so those electric vehicles could be charged on a clean electricity grid,” Aaron Kressig, Western Resource Advocates’ transportation electrification manager, said in a statement.

PacifiCorp last year announced a plan to add nearly 7,000 MW of renewable generation and storage capacity by 2025 and shut down 20 of its 24 coal-fired units by 2038.
» Read article

EV tax credit threat
Oil Industry Front Group Launches Latest Attack on Electric Vehicle Tax Credit in Senate Energy Bill
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
March 13, 202
0

As this week the U.S. Senate tries to advance stalled bipartisan energy legislation, the American Energy Alliance (AEA) last week announced its latest initiative opposing any tax credit extension for electric vehicles (EV) in that bill.

Through a series of digital ads, the group, which receives a substantial share of its donations from an oil refinery trade group, is calling on Senate Republicans to squash a proposed amendment expanding the number of vehicles eligible for the credit.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation      

ENERGY STORAGE

module-level micro-storage
Yotta Energy is putting batteries under solar modules — in the same spirit as microinverters and optimizers
Yotta has a potential solution for solar-plus-storage in the urban environment. Will the micro-storage startup become the next SolarEdge or Enphase? Or the next JLM energy? And whatever happened to SolPad?
By Eric Wesoff, PV Magazine
February 18, 2020

Ten years ago, the idea of putting a microinverter or optimizer behind a rooftop solar panel was a bit of a reliability stretch. Today, module-level panel electronics warrants its own acronym and enjoys an 80% percent market share in the U.S. residential solar market.

Yotta Energy believes batteries are headed in the same direction — to module-level micro-storage — and is deploying a 52-pound, 1 kW-hr lithium iron-phosphate battery on the same solar module racking gear that holds the ballast.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Exxon Loses Jurisdiction Fight in Massachusetts Climate Suit
By Erik Larson, Bloomberg Green
March 17, 2020

Exxon Mobil Corp. suffered a setback in a climate change case when a federal judge ruled that a consumer protection lawsuit filed by Massachusetts should go back to state court.

U.S. District Judge William G. Young in Boston on Tuesday ordered the litigation back to Suffolk County Superior Court, where Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued in October. The state accused the energy giant of hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels   

PLASTICS RECYCLING

gasification graphic
Is turning waste plastic into fuel the answer to our waste management and energy woes? Probably not…
By Steve Ahlquist, Uprise RI
March 13, 2020

The first meeting of the “Special Legislative Commission to Study the Merits and Feasibility of a Pyrolysis or Gasification Facility in the State of Rhode Island” took place at the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday.

Presenting at the first meeting was Craig Cookson, Senior Director Recycling and Recovery at the American Chemistry Council and Kevin Budris, a lawyer from Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Rhode Island who heads up the Zero Waste Project.

Cookson’s presentation painted a very rosy picture of pyrolysis and gasification, Budris called into question or debunked nearly all of Cookson’s arguments.

Cookson argued that waste plastic, which is overwhelming our landfills, can best be dealt with by using pyrolysis to convert these plastics into liquid fuels, which can then be burned to power motor vehicles or satisfy other energy needs. Budris disagreed, saying that, “the best way to move away from waste plastics isn’t to find new, creative things to do with them once they become waste, it’s to just move away from them.”

Budris took issue with Cookson’s assertion that plastics are part of a “circular economy.”

“What we’re talking about here is producing fuels from plastics through gasification,” said Budris, countering Cookson. “Producing fuels from plastic is not a circular economy. That’s linear. You have plastic that moves through its life, it’s turned into fuel, and that fuel is burned. That is a one way street.
» Read article

» More about plastics recycling   

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