Tag Archives: methane

Weekly News Check-In 2/21/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

Over 200 people turned out on Wednesday to protest the Weymouth compressor station, currently under construction. Thirteen people were arrested and construction ceased for the day. The point was to draw attention to the environmental damage and local injustice of siting this facility in a densely populated community already burdened with high levels of pollution and related disease.

Another protest drawing considerable attention is happening in Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’en against the Coastal GasLink project. Protesters have blocked ports and rail lines, ramping up pressure on the Trudeau administration.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos captured a lot of attention for his $10B pledge to fight climate change. An article in Vox.com suggests that Bezos might consider putting his money and energy into cleaning up mega-polluter Amazon itself. Meanwhile, a new study in the journal Nature reveals that methane emissions from oil and gas production may be considerably greater than previously understood – and calls out the devastating consequences of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks.

From the cutting edge of clean energy, we found a report on recent laboratory success in using protein nanowires to produce electric currents from moisture in the air. Near term, this could eliminate the need for batteries in small electronic devices. A little farther out, the technology could potentially scale up to power much larger applications.

Good news on clean transportation: the Trump administration’s effort to weaken vehicle emissions standards appears to be running off the road. While incompetence is partly to blame, the real issue is economics. Clean transportation is rapidly becoming more affordable than the dirty old model.

Wrapping up, we offer an article on serious problems with plastics recycling – and how vast quantities of nominally “recyclable” waste are piling up in landfills.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

compressor construction site
13 people arrested in protest at Weymouth compressor station site, police say
Over 200 people attended the demonstration calling on state officials to stop the controversial project, activists said.
By Christopher Gavin, Boston
February 20, 2020

Construction began on the compressor station — part of the company’s “Atlantic Bridge Project” to expand capacity on a natural gas pipeline to Canada — in December after Enbridge secured final permits.

According to a statement from FRRACS, Wednesday’s protest was to call on Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Environmental Protection to halt construction of the facility.

“Multiple people were arrested for blocking the gate to the construction site, while two other people were arrested for locking to pieces of construction equipment on site,” the statement says. “As a result of today’s action, construction was stopped and workers left the site.”
» Read article        

FRRACS logo
Press Release: Climate Protectors stop construction at compressor station
By Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS)
February 19, 2020

North Weymouth, MA – Early this morning, over 200 members of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) and allies gathered for a mass demonstration at Enbridge’s compressor station site to call on Baker and the DEP to immediately halt construction on the project. Multiple people were arrested for blocking the gate to the construction site., while two other people were arrested for locking to pieces of construction equipment on site. As a result of today’s action, construction was stopped and workers left the site.  Thirteen arrests were made in total. Court dates will be held on Thursday, February 20 and Wednesday, February 26 at 8:30AM at the Quincy District Court.
» Read article        

Weymouth arrests 2-19-20
Dozens of protesters arrested at Weymouth compression center worksite
By Brynne Connolly, WHDH – Boston
February 19, 2020


WEYMOUTH, MASS. (WHDH) – Dozens of people protesting the construction of a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth were taken into custody Wednesday, according to the group protesting the project.
» View report             

Weymouth lockup
Weymouth Compressor Opponents Lock Themselves To Equipment

Protest group said two protesters locked themselves to construction equipment at the site of the Weymouth compressor station on Wednesday.
By Scott Souza, Patch.com
February 19, 2020

WEYMOUTH, MA — The group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said efforts for a large-scale protest at the construction site of the proposed Weymouth gas compressor station drew hundreds of protestors and included two locking themselves to equipment to halt construction on Wednesday. The protest was the latest from FRRACS and similar groups in Weymouth that have resulted in arrests in recent months.
» Read article        

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Coastal GasLink protest
Canada: protests go mainstream as support for Wet’suwet’en pipeline fight widens
Protesters have blocked railways and barricaded ports in wave of dissent – and the pressure on Justin Trudeau has increased
By Amber Bracken at Unist’ot’en Camp and Leyland Cecco in Toronto, The Guardian
February 14, 2020

Set amid dense evergreen forests near the bank of the Wedzin Kwah, or Morice River, the remote cabins at Unist’ot’en camp have become a place of healing for Indigenous youth, who take lessons on trapping and traditional medicines.

But the camp in north-western British Columbia is also the last line of defence in the Wet’suwet’en nation’s fight against a controversial natural gas pipeline.

And in recent days, their fight has been taken up by other groups across the country.

For more than a week, members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk have blocked freight and commuter rail traffic in Ontario, in support of the Wet’suwet’en. Elsewhere, protestors have blocked roads, barricaded access to shipping ports and occupied the offices of elected officials in a wave of dissent.
» Read article        

» More about protests and direct actions

CLIMATE

Bezos dressed himself today
Donating $10 billion isn’t the best way for Jeff Bezos to fight climate change
Amazon is a mega-polluter. Cleaning house at the company should be the CEO’s top priority.
By Sigal Samuel, Vox
February 19, 2020

“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” Bezos wrote in his Instagram announcement on Monday. “This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”

That sounds good, and donating $10 billion to address the climate emergency is certainly a commendable action, although it’s worth noting that figure represents less than 8 percent of Bezos’s total net worth of $130 billion.

But the devil is, as they say, in the details. And Bezos’s announcement is very short on those. Some climate groups are far more effective than others, so depending on where exactly Bezos puts his money, he could have a vastly beneficial effect on the planet — or very little effect at all.

There is, however, something Bezos could do right now that would be guaranteed to have a vastly beneficial effect on our climate: He could clean house at his company. Amazon is a mega-polluter, and although Bezos has lately pledged to decrease its carbon footprint in response to pressure from inside and outside the company, there’s a whole lot more he could do.
» Read article        

methane study
Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
February 19, 2020

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

Adding to climate concerns, the Trump administration is moving forward with a plan that effectively eliminates requirements that oil companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from oil and gas facilities. By the Environmental Protection Agency’s own calculations, the rollback would increase methane emissions by 370,000 tons through 2025, enough to power more than a million homes for a year.
» Read article       
» Obtain the study     

warmer winters
How Warming Winters Are Affecting Everything
By Lauren Sommer, Mose Buchele, Molly Samuel, Patty Wight, Michael Elizabeth Sakas, Amy Mayer, Nat Herz, NPR
February 18, 2020

Winters are warming faster than other seasons across much of the United States. While that may sound like a welcome change for those bundled in scarves and hats, it’s causing a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities across the country.

Temperatures continue to steadily rise around the globe, but that trend isn’t spread evenly across the map or even the yearly calendar.

“The cold seasons are warming faster than the warm seasons,” says Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “The colder times of day are warming faster than warmer times of day. And the colder places are warming faster than the warmer places.”
» Read article       

416ppm
‘The Saddest Thing Is That This Won’t Be Breaking News’: Concentration of CO2 Hits Record High of 416 ppm
“Emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation need to be reduced to ZERO to stop this trend!”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
February 12, 2020

The United Kingdom’s national weather service, the Met Office, warned in January that “a forecast of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide shows that 2020 will witness one of the largest annual rises in concentration since measurements began at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, 1958.”

The Met Office said that “the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is expected to peak above 417 parts per million in May,” noting that the anticipated increase is due in part to emissions from the bushfires that have devastated large swaths of Australia since late last year.

“Although the series of annual levels of CO2 have always seen a year-on-year increase since 1958, driven by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the rate of rise isn’t perfectly even because there are fluctuations in the response of ecosystem carbon sinks, especially tropical forests,” explained professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Center and University of Exeter.
» Read article     

paid for by the upper crust
Meet the Millionaires Helping to Pay for Climate Protests

By John Schwartz, New York Times
September 27, 2019

Three wealthy donors formed the Climate Emergency Fund this year to support “disruptive activists,” as Trevor Neilson, one of the founders, put it. For years, he said, they have individually given money to more traditional environmental organizations like Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, but concluded that these groups were taking a too-gradual approach to the fight against climate change and that the crisis demanded greater urgency.

“The smartest place for philanthropists to invest is in this new generation of activists who refuse to accept the excuses of the adults whose lazy approach to climate is leading us off a cliff,” Mr. Neilson said. “The era of gradualism in environmental activism is over.”
» Read article     

» More about climate  

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

air gen
New green technology generates electricity ‘out of thin air’
By University of Massachusetts Amherst
February 17, 2020

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air, a new technology they say could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy, climate change and in the future of medicine.

As reported today in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an “Air-gen.” or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere.
» Read article        

» More about clean energy    

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

efficiency winning
Trump’s Path to Weaker Fuel Efficiency Rules May Lead to a Dead End
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
February 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — Last April, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, proclaimed at an auto show here that he would soon roll back President Barack Obama’s stringent fuel efficiency standards.

That, the administration contends, would unleash the muscle of the American auto industry. It would also virtually wipe away the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change.

Nearly a year later, the rollback is nowhere near complete and may not be ready until this summer — if ever. In January, administration staff members appointed by President Trump sent a draft of the scaled-back fuel economy standards to the White House, but six people familiar with the documents described them as “Swiss cheese,” sprinkled with glaring numerical and spelling errors (such as “Massachusettes”), with 111 sections marked “text forthcoming.”

The cost-benefit analysis showed that consumers would lose more money than they would gain. And, because the new auto pollution rule lacks the detailed technical analyses required by law, the regulations would be unlikely to withstand court challenges.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation

PLASTICS RECYCLING

recycling NOT
America’s ‘recycled’ plastic waste is clogging landfills, survey finds
Many facilities lack the ability to process ‘mixed plastics’, a category of waste that has virtually no market as new products
By Erin McCormick, The Guardian
February 18 2020

Many plastic items that Americans put in their recycling bins aren’t being recycled at all, according to a major new survey of hundreds of recycling facilities across the US.

The research, conducted by Greenpeace and released on Tuesday, found that out of 367 recycling recovery facilities surveyed none could process coffee pods, fewer than 15% accepted plastic clamshells – such as those used to package fruit, salad or baked goods – and only a tiny percentage took plates, cups, bags and trays.

The findings confirm the results of a Guardian investigation last year, which revealed that numerous types of plastics are being sent straight to landfill in the wake of China’s crackdown on US recycling exports. Greenpeace’s findings also suggest that numerous products labeled as recyclable in fact have virtually no market as new products.
» Read article        

» More about plastics recycling  

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Weekly News Check-In 1/3/20

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

Goodbye to another year of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and to the hottest decade in recorded human history. The fight against the Weymouth compressor station tells the whole story. We could draw a direct line from that and the Granite Bridge pipeline, and from the many other seemingly unstoppable fossil fuel infrastructure projects – straight through the unfolding climate disaster and Australia’s burning summer.

The good news continues to reside in stories about clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency, and even some of that is mixed. But the fossil fuel industry keeps the truly scary stuff coming. New year, last chance? Time to write, phone, march, and change the trajectory.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

compressor protesters 2019
Why The Weymouth Compressor Was Such An Environmental Flash Point in 2019
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
January 1, 2020

One of the biggest local environmental stories this year has been the on-going saga of the Weymouth natural gas compressor station. As 2019 comes to a close, construction is currently underway despite opposition from many city, state and federal officials.

WBUR’s Miriam Wasser joined Morning Edition to talk about why this project has become such a flash point — hint: health, safety and climate change — and what the Earthwhile team will be watching in 2020.
» Listen to report     

Charlie's sour bells
Charlie Baker was confronted by protesters during a Salvation Army bell ringing
The Weymouth compressor project is underway, but opponents aren’t letting up.
By  Nik DeCosta-Klipa Boston.com
December 20, 2019

Gov. Charlie Baker made his annual stop by the Salvation Army kettle in Downtown Crossing on Thursday, ringing one of the group’s bells to encourage donations this holiday season.

This year, however, the sounds of Baker’s clanging bell were joined by a chorus of angry protesters.

“We brought our own bells,” one protester said ahead of the demonstration.

Surrounding the Massachusetts governor during his unique appearance on the downtown Boston street corner, the small group chanted in opposition to a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, which received final approval last month from federal officials. Construction on the controversial project began Dec. 4.
» Read article      

» More on the Weymouth compressor station

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

I was attacked for having a personal stake in stopping fossil fuels. I do – and so do you
By Dan Weeks, Concord Monitor opinion
December 26, 2019

As for Granite Bridge, before taking my position I spent hours listening to the pipeline’s lobbyist at Liberty Utilities and reading the studies he sent (commissioned by the utility). Then I re-examined the independent research on fracked gas, pipeline explosions and fugitive methane emissions, which are 86 times more potent than CO2 at warming the planet and effectively negate the global warming “benefits” of gas versus oil and coal, according to peer-reviewed research in the journal Nature and many other publications. As the New York Times reported just this month, “natural gas…has become the biggest driver of emissions growth globally” thanks in part to a recent jump in gas flaring. New pipelines simply cannot solve the climate crisis, as my critic claims.

The truth is, I do have a personal stake in stopping new fossil fuel investments wherever they occur – and so do you. For the good of my three young kids and yours, I refuse to be silent about the mounting climate crisis or the emerging clean tech solutions to which I have chosen to dedicate my public career in a manner that is anything but “disingenuous” or “underhanded.”

As for my presumed opponent in this debate, I wish him and his union well, and look forward to the day when New Hampshire policies allow us to put thousands more union tradesmen to work building the clean energy future our kids and climate demand, as neighboring states have shown.
» Read article     

» More on Granite Bridge pipeline        

CLIMATE

compare wildfire size
The Shocking Size of the Australian Wildfires
By Katharina Buchholz,  Statista
January 2, 2020

The devastating California wildfires of 2018 and last year’s fires in the Amazon rainforest made international headlines and shocked the world, but in terms of size they are far smaller than the current bushfire crisis in Australia, where approximately 12 million acres have been burned to date. Fires in remote parts of northern Russia burned 6.7 million acres last year, but most of the regions were sparsely populated and no casualties were reported.

While the California fires of 2018 have long been put out and the Amazon fires have been reduced at least, Australia is only in the middle of its fire season. Ongoing heat and drought are expected to fan the flames further. This week, shocking pictures of bright orange skies in Queensland and flames ripping through towns captured the world’s attention.
» Read article      

angry summer
Australia’s Angry Summer: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like
The catastrophic fires raging across the southern half of the continent are largely the result of rising temperatures
By Nerilie Abram, Scientific American
December 31, 2019

The effects of rising temperature on drying out the environment can be countered by rainfall or by the growth of vegetation that increases humidity locally. But in the southern half of Australia, where rain falls mostly in the winter, there has been a substantial decline in precipitation. In the southwest of the country, rainfall has declined by around 20 percent since the 1970s, and in the southeast, around 11 percent of rainfall has been lost since the 1990s.

One of the factors driving this long-term loss of winter rainfall is the positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). This change is causing the westerly winds that circle the Southern Ocean to shift southward toward Antarctica, causing rain-bearing winter cold fronts to pass south of the Australian continent. The role of anthropogenic climate change in driving this trend in the SAM is also clear in the science.
» Read article      

fire weatherThe bushfires in Australia are so big they’re generating their own weather — ‘pyrocumulonimbus’ thunderstorms that can start more fires
Jim Edwards, Insider
December 30, 2019

Intense fires generate smoke, obviously. But their heat can also create a localized updraft powerful enough to create its own changes in the atmosphere above. As the heat and smoke rise, the cloud plume can cool off, generating a large, puffy cloud full of potential rain. The plume can also scatter embers and hot ash over a wider area.

Eventually, water droplets in the cloud condense, generating a downburst of rain — maybe. But the “front” between the calm air outside the fire zone and a pyrocumulonimbus storm cloud is so sharp that it also generates lightning — and that can start new fires.

If powerful enough, a pyrocumulonimbus storm can generate a fire tornado, which happened during the Canberra bushfires in 2003.
» Read article        

climate science decade
Climate Science Discoveries of the Decade: New Risks Scientists Warned About in the 2010s
A decade of ice, ocean and atmospheric studies found systems nearing dangerous tipping points. As the evidence mounted, countries worldwide began to see the risk.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
December 28, 2019

The 2010s may go down in environmental history as the decade when the fingerprints of climate change became evident in extreme weather events, from heat waves to destructive storms, and climate tipping points once thought to be far off were found to be much closer.

It was the decade when governments worldwide woke up to the risk and signed the Paris climate agreement, yet still failed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale needed. And when climate scientists, seeing the evidence before them, cast away their reluctance to publicly advocate for action.

The sum of the decade’s climate science research, compiled in a series of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggests global warming is pushing many planetary systems toward a breakdown.
» Read article      

youth resistance 2019
A Year Of Resistance: How Youth Protests Shaped The Discussion On Climate Change

By Joe Curnow, University of Manitoba and Anjali Helferty, University of Toronto, in DeSmog Blog
December 28, 2019

Greta Thunberg made history again this month when she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The 16-year-old has become the face of youth climate action, going from a lone child sitting outside the Swedish parliament building in mid-2018 to a symbol for climate strikers — young and old — around the world.

Thunberg was far from the first young person to speak up in an effort to hold the powerful accountable for their inaction on climate change, yet the recognition of her efforts come at a time when world leaders will have to decide whether — or with how much effort — they will tackle climate change. Their actions or inactions will determine how much more vocal youth will become in 2020.
» Read article      

fracking methane
The Fracking Industry’s Methane Problem Is a Climate Problem
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 22, 2019

While carbon dioxide — deservedly — gets a bad rap when it comes to climate change, about 40 percent of global warming actually can be attributed to the powerful greenhouse gas methane, according to the 2013 IPCC report. This makes addressing methane emissions critical to stopping additional warming, especially in the near future. Methane is shorter-lived in the atmosphere but 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

Atmospheric levels of methane stopped increasing around the year 2000 and at the time were expected to decrease in the future. However, they began increasing again in the last 10 years, spurring researchers to explore why. Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, recently presented his latest research linking the increase in methane to fossil fuel production, with fracking for natural gas, which is mostly methane, likely a major source.
» Read article      

boiling down under
As heatwave bakes Australia on land, an unprecedented marine heatwave causes fish kills in the ocean
By Irena Ceranic, ABC Australia
December 17, 2019

Western Australia’s coastline is in the midst of the most widespread marine heatwave it has experienced since reliable satellite monitoring began in 1993.

The warm waters are believed to have contributed to a number of fish kills in the past month.
» Read article        

hottest decade
2019 Wraps Up The Hottest Decade In Recorded Human History
By Eric Mack, Forbes
December 3, 2019

“Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade since 1850,” the World Meteorological Organization wrote in its provisional “State of the Global Climate” report for 2019.

It also appears that 2019 will wind up as either the second or third warmest year on record. This would mean that all of the ten warmest years on record have come since 2005, with eight of the top ten occurring in the decade now ending.

Another disturbing development is that the trend line for global hunger has reversed, increasing to affect one in nine humans after a decade of declining. The WMO says drought and floods are largely to blame and both phenomenons are on the increase against the backdrop of warming air and oceans.
» Read article     

» Read WMO report     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

big desert solar
Trump administration set to approve NV Energy’s 690 MW solar farm, largest in US
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
January 2, 2020

The Trump administration intends to approve siting for the largest solar farm in the United States, a 690 MW facility that will also include 380 MW of 4 hour battery storage.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final environmental impact statement for the project on Monday, following the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Nevada’s approval of NV Energy’s proposal Dec. 4. The $1 billion project will be sited on federal land outside Las Vegas.

Obama’s BLM previously rejected the project under an agreement with conservation groups that protected sensitive desert land from wind and solar development. The Trump administration indicated it would scrap that agreement in February 2018.
» Read article      

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV Uber for LA
Electric Vehicles for Uber and Lyft? Los Angeles Might Require It, Mayor Says.
L.A. has big plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but requiring EVs for rideshare services would also radically change the economics of the business.
By LESLIE HOOK, FINANCIAL TIMES – in InsideClimate News
December 27, 2019

Los Angeles is considering forcing rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft to use electric vehicles in what would be a first for any city as LA seeks to cut emissions and get more electric vehicles on the streets, the mayor said.

Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, told the Financial Times that the electric-vehicle requirement was one step being contemplated to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050.

“We have the power to regulate car share,” he said in a phone interview. “We can mandate, and are looking closely at mandating, that any of those vehicles in the future be electric.”
» Read article

Toronto Garbage Trucks Will Soon Be Powered by Biogas From the Very Food Scraps That They Collect
By McKinley Corbley, Good News Network
October 30, 2019

Toronto is set to be one of the first cities in North America to launch such an initiative, thanks to the their newly-constructed Dufferin Solid Waste Management Facility.

Starting in March 2020, the city’s fleet of garbage trucks will collect all of the organic waste and flood scraps from the Toronto Green Bins and bring them to the facility for processing. The facility will then use anaerobic digesters to capture all of the biogas produced by the waste and transform it into renewable natural gas (RNG).
» Read article      

» More on clean transportation

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Local Governments Vote Resoundingly for Improved National Energy Codes
By New Buildings Institute
December 20, 2019

Preliminary voting results on the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) are in! The outcome of over a year of effort to update the national model energy code was released yesterday and is estimated to bring at least 10% better efficiency for decades to come for both residential and commercial buildings that follow the IECC. This is the second biggest efficiency gain in the last decade for the IECC and puts buildings on a glide path to deliver better comfort, higher productivity, increased value and lower operating costs. The changes also mitigate carbon emissions from buildings, which account for 39% of carbon in the United States.
» Read article    

» More on energy efficiency

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

emissions-health correlation
When U.S. Emissions Dropped, Mortality Dropped Dramatically

By Jeff McMahon,  Forbes
December 30, 2019

U.S. air pollution emissions dropped dramatically from 2008 to 2014, driven in part by the closure of coal-fired power plants. Now researchers have documented that health damages from air pollution dropped just as dramatically during that time.

“Not only have the emissions decreased, but the damages—the health damages—from those emissions have decreased very rapidly, more than 20% over the course of six years,” said Inês M.L. Azevedo, an associate professor in Stanford University’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering.
» Read article     

Germany shuts down coal
How Germany closed its coal industry without sacking a single miner
By Nick O’Malley, Sydney Morning Herald
July 14, 2019

While Australia continues to open new coal mines, Germany is in the midst of closing down its entire coal sector. The last of the country’s black coal mines was decommissioned last year, the victim of the economic reality that nations like Australia could dig the stuff up cheaper than the Germans could.

Now Germany is beginning the process of ending its brown coal industry and shutting down the energy plants that it feeds so it can meet its agreements under the Paris climate accord. Some see Germany’s audacious decommissioning of the industry as a model from which Australian has much to learn. Others believe that Australia is simply politically and culturally ill-equipped to do so.

The sheer scale of the German undertaking is hard to even contemplate from the Australian perspective, where coal is still king and where significant political decisions are met with particularly stern punishment.
» Read article      

gas - boom to bust
Once a booming industry, natural gas is in midst of a bust
Rick Shrum, Observer-Reporter
December 29, 2019

Yes, the boom has been supplanted by bust, and a quick turnaround isn’t likely. Andy Brogan is among industry insiders who don’t anticipate that. Brogan, leader of the oil and gas global sector at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), told the Times:

“In the short term, the gas market is oversupplied and is likely to remain so for the next few years.

“It’s a cyclical business, and we’re at the bottom of the cycle.”
» Read article      

swimming in debt
As Fracking Companies Face Bankruptcy, US Regulators Enable Firms to Duck Cleanup Costs
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 20, 2019

In over their heads with debt, U.S. shale oil and gas firms are now moving from a boom in fracking to a boom in bankruptcies. This trend of failing finances has the potential for the U.S. public, both at the state and federal levels, to be left on the hook for paying to properly shut down and clean up even more drilling sites.

Expect these companies to try reducing their debt through the process of bankruptcy and, like the coal industry, attempting to get out of environmental and employee-related financial obligations.

In October, EP Energy — one of the largest oil producers in the Eagle Ford Shale region in Texas — filed for bankruptcy because the firm couldn’t pay back almost $5 billion in debt, making it the largest oil and gas bankruptcy since 2016.

The federal government is only getting around to assessing EP Energy’s potential liabilities once the firm is already in the bankruptcy process, revealing one of the flaws in the current system. Federal and state governments have not been holding fracking companies fully liable for the environmental damage and cleanup costs of their drilling activity.
» Read article      

» More on fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 12/13/19

WNCI-2

Welcome back.

Enbridge continues with preliminary construction activities at the Weymouth compressor station, prompting more protests and arrests. Residents expressed renewed concerns over soil contamination and Congressman Joseph Kennedy demanded that FERC halt the project.

Protesters gathered in Concord, NH last weekend to demand cancellation of the Granite Bridge pipeline, and in other actions protesters blocked a trainload of coal bound for the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow.

We found lots of climate news, including direct video evidence of massive methane leaks from fracking operations in the Texas Permian Basin. Meanwhile, the global stew of greenhouse emissions continues to rise – hitting another record in 2019 – while the Arctic thaws and ocean oxygen levels plummet.

We offer an important article on energy efficiency in building codes, and how an obscure state agency is slowing progress toward zero energy buildings.

Our sections on clean energy alternatives and regional energy developments concentrate largely on the mounting proof that it’s time to trim back our natural gas infrastructure. It’s a theme that surfaces again in news from the fossil fuel industry. That section concludes with an excellent 5-part series exploring why we continue to build natural gas power plants even though alternatives are less expensive and more reliable.

We finish with an excellent video op-ed from the New York Times on plastics recycling, explaining how that system is so completely broken.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

truck stop - Weymouth
Congressman Joseph Kennedy demands halt to Weymouth compressor station construction
By Ed Baker, wickedlocal.com
December 12, 2019

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III is demanding a stop to the construction of a compressor station in the Fore River Basin by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Kennedy said FERC should issue a stop-work order and review its previous approval of certificates to Enbridge Inc. due to a reduced demand for natural gas.

“Federal energy regulators should have never approved construction of the Weymouth compressor station, and decreased market demand only underscores their initial mistake,” Kennedy said in a letter to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee.

Kennedy said two energy firms (National Grid and Eversource) recently indicated the compressor station is unnecessary to meet their customer demands and “federal regulators must immediately halt construction and review outdated, faulty approvals.

“It is time for these regulators to listen to the voices and concerns of the citizens and community who will be impacted most by their oversight,” he said.
» Read article

keep it in the ground
Protest Group: 6 More Arrested At Weymouth Compressor Station
The group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said six protesters were arrested for blocking entrance to the station.
By Scott Souza, Patch
December 11, 2019

WEYMOUTH, MA — For the second time in a week, the group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said protestors were arrested for blocking entrance to the station. Last Thursday, four people were arrested during the hours-long protest. The group said two more were taken into custody Wednesday morning after they laid down in front of the gates of the compressor station, followed by two additional arrests about an hour later.

The group said two additional people were arrested later in the morning with all six set to appear in court Wednesday afternoon.
» Read article

bricks and asbestos
Neighbors Want More Asbestos Testing at Compressor Site

By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
December 9, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Residents fighting the construction of a natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River want excavation of contaminated fill at the site halted until regulators order more testing for asbestos, a microscopic mineral fiber known to cause cancer.

Weymouth resident, Margaret Bellafiore, says a firm hired to evaluate contamination on the site did not adequately test bricks that were dumped on the property years ago after being removed from an incinerator across the street. She recently called on state Department of Environmental Protection regulators to block the excavation of fill at the compressor station site until more testing is complete.

Bellafiore said the firm TRC Environmental Corp. tested eight bricks found at the site for asbestos, four of which came from the furnace of the now defunct Edgar coal plant. Small pieces of burned coal and tan-colored burner bricks used as the furnace lining at the plant were dumped there for decades and are still visible on the beach along the Fore River.

Bellafiore said members of a citizens group, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, researched the manufacturer stamped on the furnace bricks and found that the company, A.P. Green Industries, was known to use asbestos and was sued for asbestos contamination. Bellafiore said she has called and emailed several officials from the state about the finding but has not received a response.

“We’re asking for more than just looking at four bricks. Even if you were doing a school science project, they wouldn’t allow testing of four bricks,” Bellafiore said. “We’ve gotten no answers, nothing from the DEP, and that’s what they’re supposed to be doing — oversight of the contamination. It’s a designated waste site.”
» Read article 

arsenic and dieselArsenic And Diesel As Thick As Peanut Butter: What’s Below The Future Weymouth Compressor?
Miriam Wasser, WBUR
December 6, 2019

On the banks of the Fore River in Weymouth, just west of Kings Cove Park and north of Route 3A, there’s a triangular plot of fenced-in land. The future home of a natural gas compressor station, the space looks like any other grassy area. But just below the surface, a legacy of pollution from power plants fired by coal, oil and gas lingers.

Documents filed with the state show the dirt contains arsenic and coal ash, the lightweight, heavy-metal rich substance left after coal burns. And below ground, there’s a pool of old diesel fuel that one environmental expert working on the site said could have the consistency of peanut butter.
» Read article

» More on the Weymouth compressor station

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

science is real
Concord Climate Strike Protests Liberty Utilities’ Granite Bridge Pipeline Plan
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
December 6, 2019

Protesters at a climate strike in Concord Friday called on state lawmakers to oppose a natural gas pipeline plan from Liberty Utilities. The rally was part of another global day of protests, tied to a major United Nations climate change summit taking place in Spain.

Dozens of activists, many of them teenagers, gathered outside the State House to call for more action on climate in New Hampshire. Then they marched across Concord’s Main Street to continue protesting outside an office of Liberty Utilities.

The company’s proposed pipeline would connect Manchester and the Seacoast and could go up for state approval next year. Liberty has said the project is necessary to meet current natural gas demand and serve new customers in the area.
» Read article

» More about the Granite Bridge Pipeline

ACTIONS & PROTESTS

Bow coal plant protesters
Protestors block train carrying coal to Bow power plant
By David Brooks, Concord Monitor
December 8, 2019

Climate activists blocked a train carrying coal to the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow this weekend, leading to a number of arrests.

Groups from the Climate Disobedience Center and 350NH say they blocked a train carrying coal north in Massachusetts for several hours, first in Worcester on Saturday and then in Ayer at about 4 a.m. Sunday, then on a railroad bridge over the Merrimack River in Hooksett on Sunday afternoon. They say that more than 16 people were arrested for trespassing on railroad territory during “peaceful” protests.

Merrimack Station is the largest coal-fired power plant in New England that has no plans to close.
» Read article      

» More on protests and direct actions

CLIMATE

methane super-emitters
Exposing a Hidden Climate Threat: Methane ‘Super Emitters’
By Jonah M. Kessel and Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
December 12, 2019

To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world.

But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate.

Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions.
» Read article

Greenland glacier
Greenland’s ice melting faster than first feared – exposing millions more to flooding
By Jamie Roberton, ITV News
December 10, 2019

Greenland’s ice is melting faster than first feared – exposing tens of millions more people to a greater risk of flooding, according to a stark report from the world’s leading climate scientists.

In what is described as the “most complete picture of Greenland ice loss to date”, the major new study has painted a far bleaker picture of the consequences of climate change and its potentially devastating impact on communities, particularly those in low-lying coastal areas.

Researchers say Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s and is following the UN’s “high-end climate warming scenario”, the model which predicts the potential future effects of global warming.
» Read article

lake in Greenland
Climate Change Is Ravaging the Arctic, Report Finds
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times
December 10, 2019

Warming temperatures were just one of the concerning changes documented in the report. Ninety-five percent of the Greenland ice sheet thawed this reporting year, buoyed in part by the onset of an earlier-than-usual melt, prompting growing concerns over sea level rise. A separate study published on Tuesday in the journal Nature found that Greenland was losing ice seven times faster than it did in the 1990s, a pace that would add roughly three additional inches of sea level rise by century’s end.

Arctic sea ice — which helps cool the polar regions, moderates global weather patterns and provides critical habitat for animals like polar bears — continued to decline this year, matching the second lowest summer extent recorded since satellite records began in 1979. (It was tied with 2016 and 2006.)
» Read article          
» Read report

gasping for breathWorld’s Oceans Are Losing Oxygen Rapidly, Study Finds
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times
December 7, 2019

The world’s oceans are gasping for breath, a report issued Saturday at the annual global climate talks in Madrid has concluded.

“The ocean is not uniformly populated with oxygen,” he added. One study in the journal Science, for example, found that water in some parts of the tropics had experienced a 40 to 50 percent reduction in oxygen.

“This is one of the newer classes of impacts to rise into the public awareness,” said Kim Cobb, a climate scientist and director of the global change program at Georgia Tech, who was not involved in the report. “And we see this along the coast of California with these mass fish die-offs as the most dramatic example of this kind of creep of deoxygenation on the coastal ocean.”
» Read article          
» Read report

Saddleridge fire
California Bans Insurers From Dropping Policies Made Riskier by Climate Change
By Christopher Flavelle and Brad Plumer, New York Times
December 5, 2019

“People are losing insurance even after decades with the same company and no history of filing claims,” Ricardo Lara, California’s insurance commissioner, said in a statement. “Hitting the pause button on issuing non-renewals due to wildfire risk will help California’s insurance market stabilize and give us time to work together on lasting solutions.”

One consequence of global warming is that it intensifies natural disasters such as fires and floods, but insurers have struggled to anticipate the spiraling costs. Natural disasters in 2017 and 2018 generated $219 billion in payouts worldwide, according to Swiss Re, a leading insurance company.
» Read article

» More on climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Cracking the climate code: Battle raging over building energy standards
By Andy Metzger, CommonWealth Magazine
December 8, 2019

While much attention has been focused on reducing emissions from power plants and cars, commercial, residential, and industrial buildings in Massachusetts collectively spew more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than either the power or transportation sectors. Commercial and residential buildings in Massachusetts emit about as much harmful gas into the air as the entire transportation sector.

» Blog editor’s note: Excellent overview of the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector, and efforts in Massachusetts, New York, and California to improve building energy codes. Article describes arguments being made for and against moving toward net zero energy buildings.
» Read article

» More on energy efficiency

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

gas is the past
Brookline’s ban on natural gas connections spurs other municipalities to consider the idea
By Jon Chesto, Boston Globe
December 11, 2019

When Brookline banned new natural gas hookups last month, many in the business community worried it would be the first of many dominoes to fall.

Well, here they go.

Next in line: Cambridge, and then Newton.

On Wednesday, a Cambridge City Council committee held a hearing on a proposed ordinance that would block natural gas connections in new buildings or major reconstruction projects; a Newton City Council committee discussed advancing a similar measure last week.

And officials in more than a dozen other municipalities, such as Lexington and Arlington, have started to consider bans. All this activity reflects the growing concern that not enough is being done to rein in carbon emissions and address the climate crisis.
» Read article

gas off
Sacramento Wants to Electrify Its Homes, Low-Income Families Included
How does a municipal utility committed to eliminating carbon from buildings ensure its most disadvantaged customers aren’t left behind?
By Justin Gerdes, Green Tech Media
December 6, 2019

“No one has more to gain from electrification than low-income and moderate-income households.”

With that, Scott Blunk set the agenda for a small team that had gathered at a Utah ski resort earlier this year to address a thorny challenge: How does a not-for-profit municipal utility that has committed to eliminate carbon from buildings ensure that its most disadvantaged customers aren’t left behind during the transition?

Blunk, a strategic planner with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), had assembled a diverse group of stakeholders with expertise in energy policy, green building, energy efficiency retrofits and program implementation.
» Read article

» More on clean energy

REGIONAL ENERGY

Despite shutdown of Pilgrim nuclear plant, New England has enough electricity thanks to solar and efficiency
By David Brooks, Concord Monitor
December 7, 2019

New England has more than enough electricity on hand even if extreme weather hits this winter, according to an estimate from the organization that runs the six-state power grid.

The announcement, while not a surprise, is important because this is the first winter since Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station shut down last May. The closure of large power plants like Pilgrim has led to some concern about electricity supplies during extreme cold spells, when natural gas that would otherwise be fueling electric plants is needed for heating.

“The Pilgrim retirement coincided with several new resources coming online, including three dual-fuel plants capable of using either natural gas or oil to produce power, as well as solar and wind resources,” noted ISO-New England in its announcement.
» Read article

» More about regional energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Exxon walks
New York Loses Climate Change Fraud Case Against Exxon Mobil
By John Schwartz, New York Times
December 10, 2019

A New York state judge on Tuesday handed Exxon Mobil a victory in the civil case brought by the state’s attorney general that argued the company had engaged in fraud through its statements about how it accounted for the costs of climate change regulation.

After some four years of investigation and millions of pages of documents produced by the company, the judge said, attorney general Letitia James and her staff “failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence” that Exxon violated the Martin Act, New York’s powerful legal tool against shareholder fraud, in the closely watched case.
» Read article

Aramco low-ballHow Aramco’s Huge I.P.O. Fell Short of Saudi Prince’s Wish
As investors balked, some bankers and Saudi officials still hoped to achieve the crown prince’s target price of $2 trillion. They wound up settling for less.
By Kate Kelly and Stanley Reed, New York Times
December 6, 2019

On Thursday, Saudi Aramco priced the I.P.O at 32 riyals, or $8.53, a share, valuing the company at $1.7 trillion. The offering is expected to raise $25.6 billion — a fraction of the $100 billion that Prince Mohammed originally imagined. The company’s shares are set to begin trading Wednesday on Saudi’s stock exchange, known as the Tadawul.

The result was not what Saudi officials had in mind. Rather than being listed in New York or London, shares of Aramco are being sold primarily to investors in Saudi Arabia and in neighboring countries. Some of the international banks hired to underwrite the deal have instead taken on secondary roles, with the I.P.O. share sales being overseen by two Saudi banks and the British bank HSBC.
» Read article

gas flare image
Natural gas drives record emissions in 2019, more
By Michelle Lewis, Electrek Green Energy Brief
December 5, 2019

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Natural gas may not be as toxic as coal, but it is still very much a fossil fuel. And it’s natural gas that’s driving up carbon emissions this year.

Authors of the Global Carbon Project attributed this year’s rise in emissions to natural gas and oil growth, which offsets the falls in coal use.
» Read article

The False Promise of Natural Gas
By  Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Brita E. Lundberg, M.D.,
New England Journal of Medicine
December 4, 2019

Gas is associated with health and environmental hazards and reduced social welfare at every stage of its life cycle. Fracking is linked to contamination of ground and surface water, air pollution, noise and light pollution, radiation releases, ecosystem damage, and earthquakes (see table). Transmission and storage of gas result in fires and explosions. The pipeline network is aging, inadequately maintained, and infrequently inspected. One or more pipeline explosions occur every year in the United States. In September 2018, a series of pipeline explosions in the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts caused more than 80 fires and explosions, damaged 131 homes, forced the evacuation of 30,000 people, injured 25 people, including two firefighters, and killed an 18-year-old boy. Gas compressor stations emit toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and formaldehyde. Wells, pipelines, and compressor stations are disproportionately located in low-income, minority, and marginalized communities, where they may leak gas, generate noise, endanger health, and contribute to environmental injustice while producing no local benefits. Gas combustion generates oxides of nitrogen that increase asthma risk and aggravate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Compounding these hazards are the grave dangers that gas extraction and use pose to the global climate. Gas is a much more powerful driver of climate change than is generally recognized.
» Read article  

overpowered-1
Overpowered: Why a US gas-building spree continues despite electricity glut
This is the first of a five-part series exploring oversupply in the power sector and the factors driving a glut of natural gas-fired power plants.
By  Stephanie Tsao & Richard Martin, S&P Global
December 2, 2019

Utilities, faced with a steady stream of coal plant retirements and the allure of historically low natural gas prices, have continued to build new gas plants despite flat electricity demand and rapidly falling prices for energy from renewable sources. That building spree has led to a glut of generation capacity in many regions. And it continues today, because natural gas is cheap and because business models and regulatory structures reward many U.S. utilities for building new infrastructure, whether it is economically viable or not.

But many experts believe that these plants are likely to become stranded assets well before their planned lifetimes are over. And if the boom continues, it will eliminate any possibility that the U.S. will meet the targets set out by the Paris Agreement on climate change.
» Read article
» Read the other installments:
Overpowered [2]: PJM market rules drive an era of oversupply
By Stephanie Tsao and Richard Martin, S&P Global
December 3, 2019
Overpowered [3]: In Virginia, Dominion faces challenges to its reign
By Darren SweeneyRichard MartinKrizka Danielle Del RosarioCiaralou PalicpicJose Miguel Fidel Javier, S&P Global
December 4, 2019
Overpowered [4]: Hailing renewables, NextEra bet big on gas in Florida
By Author Michael CopleyAnna DuquiatanCiaralou Palicpic, S&P Global
December 5, 2019
Overpowered [5]: Eyeing zero-carbon grid, California seeks a gas exit strategy
By Author Garrett Hering, S&P Global
December 6, 2019

» More about the fossil fuel industry

PLASTICS RECYCLING

The Great Recycling Con
The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products.
By Tala Schlossberg and Nayeema Raza, New York Times Opinion
December 9, 2019

This holiday season, the United States Postal Service expects to ship almost one billion packages — cardboard boxes full of electronics and fabric and plastic galore. And the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate 25 percent more waste in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than during the rest of the year, an additional one million tons per week.

But hey, most of it is recyclable, right?

Well, not really.
» Watch video

» More about plastics recycling

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