Tag Archives: microplastics

Weekly News Check-In 6/12/20

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

GREENING THE ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about greening the economy

PROTEST AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

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

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

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

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

» More about the EPA

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

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

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

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

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

» More about FERC

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTICS / ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

» More about plastics, health, and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 5/1/20

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

Construction on the Keystone XL and other major gas pipelines is currently on hold due to legal problems with a blanket nationwide permit administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Persistence by students spearheading the divestment movement has carried the day, with the University of Oxford announcing the greening of its portfolio. A couple of other prominent universities announced their own fossil fuel divestment shortly afterward.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), is being grilled by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. regarding its use of tolling orders, which effectively delay landowner legal action against pipelines, even while construction is allowed to proceed on their seized land.

An awful lot of climate-related reporting this week concerns Michael Moore’s documentary “Planet of the Humans”, released on Earth Day and viewed on YouTube over four million times by now. The overwhelming response from the environmental community is one of disappointment. We offer several articles that critique the film on its merits.

The economic and human devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has opened up a lively conversation in the media about greening the economy – imagining how we might leverage this singular moment to fundamentally change the contract between us and Earth. We’ve started collecting those stories in a new section.

Clean energy and clean transportation, while hampered by the Trump administration, are still moving ahead. We found articles that explain community solar and community choice aggregation of electricity supply. Also, the challenge of owning an electric car if you live in a city and don’t have a garage to charge it in.

Our fossil fuel industry section has another report on its crumbling finances. Also, there’s new satellite evidence of what ground-based investigations had already shown: the Permian Basin is emitting massive plumes of methane.

We keep an eye on developments in the biomass-to-energy industry. This week we found encouraging news from Virginia and North Carolina – two states that recently closed the door on further biomass development and debunked the idea that it’s a “clean” form of renewable energy. Meanwhile, an investigation in Vancouver, B.C. revealed that woody biomass suppliers are converting whole trees to pellets – not merely using the waste bits as promised.

We close with some good reporting on microplastics in the oceans and on the search for chemical methods of plastics recycling.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

NWP found illegal
After Keystone Ruling, Corps of Engineers Suspends Key U.S. Project Permit
By Mary B. Powers, Engineering News-Record
April 26, 2020

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now temporarily halted permit approvals under its blanket process to allow energy, power and possibly other project construction that crosses streams and wetlands, after a federal judge on April 15 called the nationwide permitting method illegal and overturned the permit issued for the Keystone XL pipeline now under way in Montana.

The delay, of unspecified duration, was confirmed by the Corps to the Associated Press, it reported on April 23. The agency said notifications approving permits for at least 360 projects under the so-called Nationwide Permit-12 program are affected as it reviews new legal issues.
» Read article     

Keystone XL Pipeline Ruling Could Hamper U.S. Energy Project Permits
Federal judge vacates Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12
By Pam Radtke Russell, Engineering News-Record
April 17, 2020

A federal court ruling on April 15 halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline over U.S. water bodies could have far-reaching implications for all utility-related projects that need to quickly obtain a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ blanket permit—known as Nationwide Permit 12—to take construction across water.

“It has nationwide impacts. NWP 12 cannot be used going forward in expedited approval,” says Larry Liebesman, a senior adviser at Washington, D.C.-based water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates.
» Read article     

» More about pipelines      

DIVESTMENT

Oxford divests
Oxford University bans investment in fossil fuels after student campaigns
Decision comes after high-profile protests that saw campaigners occupy St John’s College
By Samuel Lovett, Independent
April 22, 2020

The University of Oxford has agreed to divest from fossil fuels and commit to a net-zero investment strategy following extensive student-led campaigns and protests.

In a motion passed by Oxford’s governing body, the Congregation, which is made up of 5,500 academic and administrative members, the university is now required to cut all ties with fossil fuel firms and end future investment in these companies.

The resolution also dictates that managers of the university’s endowment, which amounts to £3bn, must acquire evidence of “net-zero business plans” from companies within Oxford’s portfolio of investments.
Note from Bill McKibben’s The Climate Crisis newsletter for New Yorker magazine: “Oxford’s action was followed, within twenty-four hours, by similar steps from American University, in Washington, D.C., and by the University of Guelph, in Ontario. In all three cases, several generations of students had pushed for the action, been rejected, and come back again.”
» Read article     

» More about divestment       

FERC

tolling orders in the dock
DC Circuit grills FERC on use of tolling orders on Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, other natural gas projects
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
April 28, 2020

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held an en banc hearing on Monday to examine federal energy regulators’ use of tolling orders, particularly regarding the approval of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline.

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.
» Merriam-Webster: en banc – in full court : with full judiciary authority (An en banc hearing is a kind of appeal in which a much larger group of judges hears a case.)
» Read article     

pipeline markers
Chatterjee defends how FERC treats protesting landowners
By Mike Soraghan, E&E News
April 28, 2020

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee says his agency has been doing a “great job” in speeding up the process for complaints from landowners in the path of pipelines.

But the agency won’t provide numbers to back that up, and an E&E News analysis of recent protests found many still move slowly. And landowner advocates say Chatterjee’s attempt at accelerating cases doesn’t get at the real problem.

Long-standing FERC practice allows the agency to stall the protests of landowners while allowing pipeline companies to seize their land for construction. But that practice has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months.

A House committee is investigating FERC’s treatment of landowners. And a federal appellate judge last August called the legal limbo created by the agency “Kafkaesque.”
» Read article     

» More about FERC     

CLIMATE

planet of the ecofascists
Planet of the Ecofascists
Almost everything in Michael Moore’s supposed documentary Planet of the Humans is out of date, which undermines any potential the film had to bring important critiques of technological solutions to climate change to light.
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
April 29, 2020

As of this writing, Planet of the Humans has been viewed more than four million times. Now that I’ve watched it myself, let me say up front that there are kernels of truth here that would have made for an important and interesting documentary, if Moore and director Jeff Gibbs had brought more intellectual honesty to bear on the project.

Good documentary filmmaking hews closely to the ethics of journalism. Sure, you’re looking for a narrative thread that keeps audiences engaged. But you don’t cherry-pick the facts to include only those people and data that prove the pre-determined point you want to make — unless you’re Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, apparently. To justify their main argument, which is that the only way to address climate change is via population control, they veer sharply away from documentary and into commentary, leaning on wildly outdated information, often inaccurate data points and a bizarre obsession with Big Green as the real problem blocking action on climate. Let’s explore these issues in detail:
» Read article     

not even a documentary
Michael Moore produced a film about climate change that’s a gift to Big Oil
Planet of the Humans deceives viewers about clean energy and climate activists.
By Leah C. Stokes, Vox
Apr 28, 2020

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate the occasion, filmmaker Michael Moore dropped a new movie he produced, Planet of the Humans. In less than a week, it has racked up over 3 million views on YouTube.

But the film, directed by Jeff Gibbs, a long-time Moore collaborator, is not the climate message we’ve all been waiting for — it’s a nihilistic take, riddled with errors about clean energy and climate activism. With very little evidence, it claims that renewables are disastrous and that environmental groups are corrupt.

What’s more, it has nothing to say about fossil fuel corporations, who have pushed climate denial and blocked progress on climate policy for decades. Given the film’s loose relationship to facts, I’m not even sure it should be classified as a documentary.
» Read article     

new low for MM
Climate experts call for ‘dangerous’ Michael Moore film to be taken down
Planet of the Humans, which takes aim at the green movement, is ‘full of misinformation’ says one distributor
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
April 28, 2020

A new Michael Moore-produced documentary that takes aim at the supposed hypocrisy of the green movement is “dangerous, misleading and destructive” and should be removed from public viewing, according to an assortment of climate scientists and environmental campaigners.

The film, Planet of the Humans, was released on the eve of Earth Day last week by its producer, Michael Moore, the baseball cap-wearing documentarian known for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. Describing itself as a “full-frontal assault on our sacred cows”, the film argues that electric cars and solar energy are unreliable and rely upon fossil fuels to function. It also attacks figures including Al Gore for bolstering corporations that push flawed technologies over real solutions to the climate crisis.

A letter written by Josh Fox, who made the documentary Gasland, and signed by various scientists and activists, has urged the removal of “shockingly misleading and absurd” film for making false claims about renewable energy. Planet of the Humans “trades in debunked fossil fuel industry talking points” that question the affordability and reliability of solar and wind energy, the letter states, pointing out that these alternatives are now cheaper to run than fossil fuels such as coal.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist and signatory to Fox’s letter, said the film includes “various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.” The film’s makers did not respond to questions over whether it will be pulled down.
» Read article     
» Read Josh Fox’s letter

stressed-out trees
‘We Need to Hear These Poor Trees Scream’: Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests
New studies show drought and heat waves will cause massive die-offs, killing most trees alive today.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Apr 25, 2020

“It’s our choice of how much worse we want it to get. Every little bit of reduction of warming can have a positive effect. We can reduce the tree die-off. Are we going to make the choices to try and minimize that?”

Breshears has used tree mortality data to try and make near real-time projections for tree die-offs in the Southwest. This would help adapt forest management, including firefighting, to rapidly changing conditions in a region where an emerging megadrought has already weakened and killed hundreds of millions of trees, including Rocky Mountain lodgepole and piñon pines, as well as aspens.

Elsewhere, African cedars and acacias are dying, South America’s Amazon rainforest is struggling, and junipers are declining in the Middle East. In Spain and Greece, global warming is shriveling oaks, and even in moist, temperate northern Europe, unusual droughts have stressed vast stands of beech forests.

At the current pace of warming, much of the world will be inhospitable to forests as we know them within decades. The extinction of some tree species by direct or indirect action of drought and high temperatures is certain. And some recent research suggests that, in 40 years, none of the trees alive today will be able to survive the projected climate, Brodribb said.
» Read article     

» More about climate       

GREENING THE ECONOMY

co-ops dah
Want to Rebuild the Economy with Clean Energy? Germany Offers 20 Years of Lessons
Hundreds of wind and solar co-ops have taken on big utilities and shown they can reliably power the grid—and hugely reduce emissions.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
April 30, 2020

BERLIN—Twenty years ago, before climate change was as widely seen as the existential threat it is today, Germany embarked on an ambitious program to transform the way it produced electric power.

Over the next two decades, it became a model for countries around the world, showing how renewable energy could replace fossil fuels in a way that drew wide public buy-in by passing on the benefits—and much of the control—to local communities.

The steps Germany took on this journey, and the missteps it made along the way, provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to fight climate change.
» Read article     

Megalopolis coal smog
Emissions Declines Will Set Records This Year. But It’s Not Good News.
An “unprecedented” fall in fossil fuel use, driven by the Covid-19 crisis, is likely to lead to a nearly 8 percent drop, according to new research.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to plunge nearly 8 percent this year, the largest drop ever recorded, as worldwide lockdowns to fight the coronavirus have triggered an “unprecedented” decline in the use of fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency said in a new report on Thursday.

But experts cautioned that the drop should not be seen as good news for efforts to tackle climate change. When the pandemic subsides and nations take steps to restart their economies, emissions could easily soar again unless governments make concerted efforts to shift to cleaner energy as part of their recovery efforts.

“This historic decline in emissions is happening for all the wrong reasons,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director. “People are dying and countries are suffering enormous economic trauma right now. The only way to sustainably reduce emissions is not through painful lockdowns, but by putting the right energy and climate policies in place.”
» Read article     

Merkel wants green recovery
Germany’s Merkel wants green recovery from coronavirus crisis
By Michael Nienaber, Markus Wacket, Reuters
April 28, 2020

BERLIN (Reuters) – Governments should focus on climate protection when considering fiscal stimulus packages to support an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Her comments are the clearest sign yet that Merkel wants to combine the task of helping companies recover from the pandemic with the challenge of setting more incentives for reducing carbon emissions.

Speaking at a virtual climate summit known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Merkel said she expected difficult discussions about how to design post-crisis stimulus measures and about which business sectors need more help than others.

“It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programmes, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection,” Merkel said, adding the focus should be laid on supporting modern technologies and renewable energies.
» Read article     

climate-positive plan
A Time to Save the Sick and Rescue the Planet
With closer cooperation among nations, the head of the United Nations argues, we could stop a pandemic faster and slow climate change.
By António Guterres, New York Times Opinion
Mr. Guterres is the secretary general of the United Nations. Before that, he was the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.
April 28, 2020

Addressing climate change and Covid-19 simultaneously and at enough scale requires a response stronger than any seen before to safeguard lives and livelihoods. A recovery from the coronavirus crisis must not take us just back to where we were last summer. It is an opportunity to build more sustainable and inclusive economies and societies — a more resilient and prosperous world. Recently the International Renewable Energy Agency released data showing that transforming energy systems could boost global G.D.P. by $98 trillion by 2050, delivering 2.4 percent more G.D.P. growth than current plans. Boosting investments in renewable energy alone would add 42 million jobs globally, create health care savings eight times the cost of the investment, and prevent a future crisis.

I am proposing six climate-positive actions for governments to consider once they go about building back their economies, societies and communities.
» Read article     

Wellington cable car
New Zealand calls for thousands of new ‘green’ jobs in bold comeback plan
By Christian Cotroneo, Mother Nature Network
April 27, 2020

There’s plenty of speculation over the origins of the pandemic that has ground much of the world to a halt. But there’s little doubt about who caused it. As a panel of international scientists noted in a release issued this week, “There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic — us.”

The statement — authored by professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, Eduardo Brondizio and zoologist Peter Daszak — goes on to point the finger squarely at our obsession with “economic growth at any cost.”

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.”

Now, the real question is how do we make things right in the world, while avoiding the mistakes that brought us here in the first place? At least one major political party thinks it has the answer.
» Read article     
» Read the statement by Settele, et al.

» More about greening the economy  

CLEAN ENERGY

Dirty Energy Dan
Billions in Clean Energy Loans Go Unused as Coronavirus Ravages Economy
As Congress rushes out trillions of dollars to prop up businesses, the Energy Department is holding on to tens of billions in clean energy loans.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — As the government struggles to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic, the Trump administration is sitting on about $43 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects, and critics are accusing the Energy Department of partisan opposition to disbursing the funds.

The loans — which would aid renewable power, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage technology — had some bipartisan support even before the coronavirus pushed 30 million people onto the unemployment rolls. But some supporters of the program said it was being held back by a president who has falsely claimed wind power causes cancer and consistently sought deep cuts to renewable energy spending, including the loan program.
» Read article     

community solar explained
So, What Exactly Is Community Solar?
Not everyone can have solar on their own roof. A new GTM series helps explain the weird and wonderful world of clean energy.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
April 30, 2020

Residential solar has grown by leaps and bounds in the U.S. over the past two decades, but let’s face it: Not everyone can have solar on their own roof.

As many as three-quarters of American households are unable to access rooftop solar — because they rent, or live in an apartment building, or a rooftop system is not affordable for them.

Enter community solar: a simple, even elegant concept. Neighbors who are unable to build their own solar systems can join together, build a larger and more cost-efficient solar array nearby, and use the energy it provides to power their homes. Like many simple concepts, however, the details can quickly become overwhelming.

In the first of a new series of explanatory articles, GTM will help you understand what community solar is and how it works.
» Read article

CCA trending
Community Choice Aggregation: A Local, Viable Option for Renewable Energy
By The Climate Reality Project, EcoWatch
April 25, 2020

Cities and counties across the country are choosing to create community choice aggregation (CCA) programs, sometimes known as community choice energy or municipal aggregation.

In this alternative system, municipalities can secure the electricity supply and determine the electricity portfolio on behalf of their customers, while still relying on existing infrastructure to deliver the electricity. By aggregating the demand for electricity, local communities can negotiate rates and increase their use of renewables. CCAs allow for communities to have more control over their electricity sources, lessening the control investor-owned utilities can exert on a community.
» Read article     

» More about clean energy     

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

charger desert
‘Charger Desert’ in Big Cities Keeps Electric Cars From Mainstream
For city dwellers who would love an E.V., the biggest hurdle might be keeping it juiced up without a garage or other convenient charging stations.
By Lawrence Ulrich, New York Times
April 16, 2020

There are people across America who would buy an electric car tomorrow — if only they had someplace to plug it in. Forget oft-cited “range anxiety,” many experts say: The real deal-killer, especially for city and apartment dwellers, is a dearth of chargers where they park their cars.

Call it the Great Disconnect. In townhomes, apartments and condos, in dense cities and still-snug suburbs, plenty of people, worried about climate change, would make for a potentially receptive audience for E.V.s. But without a garage, they often feel locked out of the game.
» Read article     

Transportation Electrification Partnership proposes $150B federal stimulus package
By Cailin Crowe, Utility Dive
April 27, 2020

The public-private Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP), led by the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), wrote a $150 billion federal stimulus proposal to create jobs, reduce air pollution and build climate resilience in Los Angeles County and beyond, amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The proposal includes a call for a $10 billion investment in EV charging infrastructure for light duty vehicles. According to the proposal, 84,000 public and workplace chargers in LA County are needed by 2028 to support air pollution reduction and climate resilience. It suggests investing in initiatives like installing curbside charging infrastructure on streetlights for drivers who don’t have access to charging at home — an initiative the City of Los Angeles has already successfully put to use.
» Read article     

» More about clean transportation    

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Permian methane flare
New Satellite Data Reveals Dangerous Methane Emissions in Permian Region
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
April 25, 2020

New research based on satellite data confirms that the oil and gas industry in the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico is leaking record amounts of methane. The new research published in the journal Science Advances found that methane emissions in the Permian Basin were equivalent to 3.7 percent of the total methane produced by the oil and gas industry there.

In December DeSmog reported on the work of Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, who has been studying the methane emissions of the oil and gas industry. Howarth’s latest research estimated that 3.4 percent of all natural gas produced from shale in the U.S. is leaked throughout the production cycle, which appears to be confirmed by this new research.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and makes up approximately 90 percent of what is known as natural gas. It’s a major contributor to global warming.

The oil and gas industry has long tried to sell the idea of natural gas, which is, again, primarily methane, as a clean energy climate solution. However, with a leakage rate of 3.7 percent, natural gas is actually worse for the climate than coal.
» Read article     
» Read the research paper

As BP’s profits plunge, analysts say we are entering the “end-game” for oil
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
April 29, 2020

Sometimes hyperbole is overused, but more and more commentators are saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to fundamentally redefine the global oil industry, with many companies not surviving the pandemic at all.

Investors are going to lose billions of dollars, which could be much better and wiser spent on investing in a just clean transition. But will they listen before the lose?

The warning signs are growing.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels         

BIOMASS

whole trees to pellets
Trees harvested for biomass energy under scrutiny
Environmental groups say wood pellet makers now using live, whole trees
By Nelson Bennett, BIV
April 26, 2020

One of the more contentious sources of renewable energy is biomass – i.e. burning wood pellets instead of coal or natural gas to generate heat or electricity.

The controversy could grow in B.C, as wood pellet producers appear to be resorting to using more live whole trees to produce wood pellets for export, as opposed to just wood waste.

Two B.C. wood pellet producers – Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (TSX:PL) and Pacific BioEnergy – are being singled out by Stand.earth in a new report that suggests that the companies are now using what appears to be live, whole trees.

“Wood pellets are obviously the worst and lowest use of our last primary forests in the interior,said Michelle Connolly, director of Conservation North, which has documented the use of whole trees at B.C. pellet plants.

“The B.C. government assured us that green trees would not be used in pellet plants, and clearly that’s not true.”
» Read article     
» Read report

Virginia and North Carolina Show Biomass the Exits
By Sami Yassa, Natural Resources Defense Council / Expert Blog
April 26, 2020


Over the past 6 months, two southeastern states, Virginia and North Carolina, have taken landmark actions to ensure that dirty, destructive forest biomass for electricity has no place in the clean energy future of the region. In March, the Virginia legislature passed its landmark Clean Economy Act, which was signed into law by Governor Northam. Prior to that, North Carolina issued its final Clean Energy Plan under Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80. In both cases, bold state action rejected biomass for electricity as a clean energy source and articulated compelling rationales to limit and restrict any future growth of the industry.

These back-to-back actions by neighboring states have created a long-overdue policy rejection of forest biomass for electricity driven by a groundswell of objection from concerned citizens. The actions send a clear signal that leaders in the region have no appetite for the unfounded subsidies and warped policies in the EU and UK. These subsidies drive the ecological destruction of the region’s forests, threaten their most vulnerable communities with disproportionate impacts, and accelerate climate change.
» Read article     
» Read VA’s Clean Economy Act
» Read NC’s Clean Energy Plan

» More about biomass     

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

microplastics on sea floorScientists Discover Highest Concentration of Deep-Sea Microplastics to Date
By Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch
May 1, 2020

Scientists have discovered the highest concentration of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor—1.9 million pieces in one square meter (approximately 11 square feet) of the Mediterranean.

But the finding, published in Science Thursday, suggests a much broader problem as deep-sea currents carry plastics to microplastic “hotspots” that may also be deep-sea ecosystems rich in biodiversity. For study coauthor professor Elda Miramontes of the University of Bremen, Germany, the results were a call to action.

Of the more than ten million tons of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every year, less than one percent of it stays on the surface. Researchers at the University of Bremen, IFREMER in France, the universities of Manchester and Durham and the National Oceanography Centre in the UK set out to discover what happens to the remaining 99 percent, a University of Manchester press release explained.

They determined that it doesn’t settle on the bottom evenly, but is instead pushed together with other sediments by deep-sea currents.
» Read article     

» More about plastics, health, and the environment      

PLASTICS RECYCLING

exploring chem recycling
Plastic pollution: why chemical recycling could provide a solution
By Alvin Orbaek White, The Conversation
April 21, 2020

The world is drowning in plastic. About 60% of the more than 8,700 million metric tonnes of plastic ever made is no longer in use, instead sat mostly in landfill or released to the environment. That equals over 400kg of plastic waste for every one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet.

One reason for this is that many plastics are not recyclable in our current system. And even those that are recyclable still go to landfill eventually.

Plastics cannot be recycled infinitely, at least not using traditional techniques. Most are only given one new lease of life before they end up in the earth, the ocean or an incinerator. But there is hope in a different form of recycling known as chemical recycling.
» Read article     

» More about plastics recycling    

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Weekly News Check-In 12/20/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

With construction activities underway at the Weymouth compressor station, direct observations of environmental safety violations are piling up. We have news from that and other protests, along with an endorsement of nonviolent direct citizen action from scientists in 20 countries.

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ordered the government to cut that nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by the end of 2020. By far the most sweeping court intervention to date on behalf of the climate. Coal plants will close. Also in that section – satellites are beginning to pinpoint and measure methane leaks from space. Great news for data collection, but the findings are alarming.

Looking at clean energy, the Massachusetts chapter of US Green Building Council released a report showing that net zero energy buildings are economical to build – busting a longstanding myth that they’re too expensive. Energy storage has a new player, with the first U.S.-located liquid air facility planned for northern Vermont. This technology could compete favorably against lithium-ion batteries for requirements exceeding four hours. Mixed news on clean transportation: President Trump just killed the hoped-for extension of the electric vehicle tax credit. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is moving along with Governor Baker’s support.

In the alternative universe where fossil fuels are king, big players want to create a U.S.-style shale boom in Argentina. That in spite of dire climate warnings and gloomy financial analysis suggesting quite the opposite. Also related: new research shows many more (and smaller) plastic pieces in the ocean than previously thought.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH

tracking trucks
Dirty concerns raised about Weymouth compressor station construction
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
December 18, 2019

Trucks are daily tracking mud from a compressor station construction site in the Fore River Basin, and the dirt could have contaminants such as arsenic, according to Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station.

Arena said a Remediation Abatement Measure by Enbridge Inc., requires construction trucks to be cleansed before they leave the work area.

“Local contractors from J.F. Price and trucking companies are delivering gravel to the site,” she said during a Dec. 16 Weymouth Town Council town meeting. “These trucks are leaving the site with mud on their tires, and they are tracking the mud onto the public access roads and Bridge Street.”

Arena said there are no required cleansing pads at the compressor site under the Remediation Abatement Measure or RAM for truck operators to cleanse their tires of the soil before exiting the premises.
» Read article

compressor site cleanup
Officials, residents concerned with compressor site cleanup
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
December 17, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Town officials and residents are concerned that crews working to excavate contaminated fill at the site of a planned natural-gas compressor station are not following safety protocols and allowing hazardous materials to spread.

Alice Arena of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, a group opposed to the project, went before town council on Monday night to raise concerns about the ongoing work to remove contamination and more than 10,000 tons of soil containing arsenic and potentially other hazards.

Algonquin, a subsidiary of Enbridge, the company building the compressor station, recently started cleanup of the contamination at the site as part of a “release abatement measure” plan.

Arena said trucks visiting the site are already tracking soil onto neighboring roads, since there is no “cleaning pad” to wash off the mud and dirt beforehand as required in the plan. She said workers have been on site with no protective gear or breathing apparatus.

Arena said Enbridge has not appointed a public liaison to call about issues at the site as required, among other ongoing issues.
» Read article       

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS

NH coal train no stop
N.H.-Bound Coal Train Kept Rolling, Despite Activists On The Tracks
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
December 17, 2019


About a dozen activists attempting to stop a coal resupply train near Worcester  were forced from the tracks when the train failed to stop Monday night.

No one was injured or arrested.

The activists — some of whom were affiliated with groups like the Climate Disobedience Center, 350 New Hampshire Action and 350 Mass Action — said in a press release that the action was part of their campaign to shut down the Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, N.H., one of the last remaining coal plants in New England.
» Read article

scientists endorse direct action
Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate action
By Matthew Green, Reuters
October 12, 2019

In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne.

Wearing white laboratory coats to symbolize their research credentials, a group of about 20 of the signatories gathered on Saturday to read out the text outside London’s century-old Science Museum in the city’s upmarket Kensington district.

“We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law,” said Emily Grossman, a science broadcaster with a PhD in molecular biology. She read the declaration on behalf of the group.

“We therefore support those who are rising up peacefully against governments around the world that are failing to act proportionately to the scale of the crisis,” she said.
» Read article

» More about protests and direct action

CLIMATE

Dutch court decision
Netherlands’ Top Court Orders Government to Act on Climate Change
By John Schwartz, New York Times
December 20, 2019

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands on Friday ordered the government to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by the end of 2020. It was the first time a nation has been required by its courts to take action against climate change.

Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Law at Columbia University Law School, said in an email: “There have been 1,442 climate lawsuits around the world. This is the strongest decision ever. The Dutch Supreme Court upheld the first court order anywhere directing a country to slash its greenhouse gas emissions.”
» Read article

rehab and release
Changing Seas Bring ‘Turtle Stranding Season’ to Cape Cod
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times
December 19, 2019


Mr. Prescott, who retired this summer after 40 years as director of the wildlife sanctuary in Wellfleet, spotted his first cold-stunned sea turtle in the region in 1974. “It was dead,” he said.

The following year he found two.

Other people started to walk the beaches too, after Mr. Prescott wrote about the turtle in the local paper. “By 1978, ’79, it became pretty obvious that there were turtles here every year,” he said.

“The single variable that helped explain this trend was warmer late-fall temperatures,” said Dr. Griffin, who published a study that looked into what was causing the rise in cold-stunning.

Turtles are cold-blooded and depend on surrounding temperatures to regulate their internal body temperatures, which makes them extremely sensitive to ambient temperatures.
» Read article

austral heat records
‘Red Lights Flashing’: Australia Smashes Heat Record Just a Day After Previous Record Hit
“I think this is the single loudest alarm bell I’ve ever heard on global heating.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
December 19, 2019


Calls for immediate and ambitious action to tackle the climate emergency piled up Thursday in response to preliminary analysis from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology that Wednesday smashed the nation’s temperature record by a full 1°C just one day after the previous all-time record.

The first record was set Tuesday, when Australia’s national average maximum temperature reached 40.9°C (105.6°F), eliciting alarm from climate and fire safety experts. Wednesday, the average rose to 41.9°C (107.4°F), sparking a fresh wave of warnings and demands for bold efforts to battle the planetary crisis.

For the second day in a row, Australia has broken its hottest day in recorded history.
» Read article

Sonnblick Observatory
2°C: Beyond the limit – How we know global warming is real
By Chris Mooney , John Muyskens , Aaron Steckelberg , Harry Stevens and Monica Ulmanu, Washington Post
December 19, 2019

If early forecasting aimed to avert tragedy and economic loss, the troves of data it produced are used today to monitor a new sort of disaster, one that was scarcely foreseeable by 19th-century meteorologists but that now constitutes the single most significant fact about the planet’s environment.

It is that the world is more than 1 degree Celsius hotter than it was before industrialization began pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere. This warming has fueled new deadly fires, strengthened hurricanes and displaced people. And many areas have warmed far more than the average.

How can that be known? How can it be possible to take Earth’s temperature, not just for this week or this year, but for decades and centuries?

The answer begins with nearly 1,500 weather stations already operating by the time Sonnblick began recording. The telegraph allowed all those readings to be collected and analyzed to show weather patterns.
» Read article  

Candidate Trump
Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change

Trump’s first term has been a relentless drive for unfettered fossil energy development. ICN’s 2020 candidate analysis looks at the president’s climate record.
By Stacy Feldman and Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
December 19, 2019

As president, [Trump] has rolled back regulations on energy suppliers at a rapid clip slowed only at times by the courts, while auctioning off millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land. Last year, domestic oil production hit a record high. The result of this, among other things, was the reversal of three consecutive years of declining U.S. carbon emissions.

Trump has begun the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, the agreement signed by nearly all nations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. He replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, intended to sharply reduce emissions from U.S. power plants. He has taken the first step to weaken fuel economy standards for cars, the single most important effort for reining in the largest driver of U.S. emissions.

His administration has undone or delayed—or tried to—most regulatory and executive actions related to climate change, while proposing new ones to accelerate fossil fuel development. Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law counts 131 actions toward federal climate deregulation since Trump took office. In the absence of any comprehensive national climate law, those moves have led to an erosion of the federal government’s main regulatory levers for cutting global warming emissions.

Several of those actions, including rollbacks of significant rules on methane, cross-state air pollution regulations and energy efficiency, have been blocked or delayed by judges who have questioned the administration’s broad view of its legal authority. Some of those setbacks may be temporary, though, and the courts have yet to rule on the most consequential deregulatory actions. According to the administration’s agenda for 2020, the president will try to fast-track as many more as possible before the end of his first term.
» Read article

Ohio methane blowout
A Methane Leak, Seen From Space, Proves to Be Far Larger Than Thought
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
December 16, 2019

The first satellite designed to continuously monitor the planet for methane leaks made a startling discovery last year: A little known gas-well accident at an Ohio fracking site was in fact one of the largest methane leaks ever recorded in the United States.

The findings by a Dutch-American team of scientists, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mark a step forward in using space technology to detect leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, from oil and gas sites worldwide.

The scientists said the new findings reinforced the view that methane releases like these, which are difficult to predict, could be far more widespread than previously thought.
» Read article         
» Read report ($10 download fee)

COP25 RIP
U.N. Climate Talks End With Few Commitments and a ‘Lost’ Opportunity
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
December 15, 2019

In what was widely denounced as one of the worst outcomes in a quarter-century of climate negotiations, United Nations talks ended early Sunday morning with the United States and other big polluters blocking even a nonbinding measure that would have encouraged countries to adopt more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions next year.

Because the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, it was the last chance, at least for some time, for American delegates to sit at the negotiating table at the annual talks — and perhaps a turning point in global climate negotiations, given the influence that Washington has long wielded, for better or worse, in the discussions.

The Trump administration used the meeting to push back on a range of proposals, including a mechanism to compensate developing countries for losses that were the result of more intense storms, droughts, rising seas and other effects of global warming.
» Read article

tiempo de actuar
COP25: Anger Over Lack of Action for Vulnerable States as Climate Talks Conclude
By Sophie Yeo, DeSmog Blog
December 13, 2019

Climate activists have found plenty to be angry about at this year’s UN climate talks, which are scheduled to conclude in Madrid tonight. From youth groups to indigenous people, civil society has been more riled than in previous years, as the disconnect grows between momentum on the streets and the slow progress of the negotiations.

“It’s like two parallel worlds,” says Sara Shaw, part of the Friends of the Earth International delegation at the meeting, known as COP25. “It’s so stark, the contrast between climate breakdown, the potential of massive expansion of fossil fuels, using markets to game the system, the access polluters have to these talks when civil society is really marginalised. I think it’s just coming together in a huge amount of frustration at the injustice of it all.”

Two issues have proved particularly contentious: the role of carbon markets, and lack of finance for countries that are already suffering the impacts of climate change – known in the negotiations as “loss and damage”.
» Read article

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

net zero economical
Zero energy buildings are not high cost
They make sense environmentally and economically
By Meredith Elbaum, CommonWealth Magazine
November 3, 2019

The latest  report from the Massachusetts chapter of US Green Building Council, Zero Energy Buildings in MA: Saving Money from the Start, combats the common, but incorrect, notion of high upfront costs for building green. As the report describes how many types of zero energy buildings can be built with little or no added upfront cost and some zero energy commercial buildings can see return on investment in as little as one year. With zero energy buildings being more affordable than typically thought and within reach for many municipalities across the state, cities and towns can play a critical role in furthering green building in our Commonwealth.
» Read article         
» Read USGBC-MA report                   

» More on clean energy alternatives

ENERGY STORAGE

liquid air energy storageFirst US long-duration liquid air storage project planned in Vermont
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
December 18, 2019

Lithium-ion batteries have dominated the advanced energy storage market in recent years, but there is a broad understanding in the space that other technologies will become more competitive as the need for longer-duration storage grows, Finn-Foley told Utility Dive.

“That’s the sort of market niche that a lot of long-duration players, including Highview, are pursuing,” he said.

Liquid air storage involves cleaning and compressing air with excess or off-peak electricity, liquefying it and storing it in cold insulated tanks. During peak periods on the grid, the air is warmed, causing it to expand and turn a turbine, “thus generating energy that can be used at peak times when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing,” Highview Power Storage said in a press release.
» Read article         
» Read press release

» More on energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

orange buffoon EV tax credit extensionTrump’s Christmas Gift to Big Oil: Killing Hopes of Electric Car Tax Credit Extension
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
December 18, 2019

The oil industry, a staunch opponent of electric vehicles (EVs), received an early Christmas present from the White House as President Trump reportedly intervened to quash an EV tax credit expansion from inclusion in a government spending package.

The tax credit is meant to help offset the upfront cost of electric vehicles and boost the EV market. Consumers who purchase an EV can currently claim a credit up to $7,500, and the credit phases out once auto manufacturers sell 200,000 qualifying vehicles. Tesla and General Motors have both hit the 200,000-vehicle cap and had lobbied for an extension. A bipartisan proposal called for allowing a $7,000 credit for an additional 400,000 vehicles sold.

That proposal, introduced earlier this year as the Driving America Forward Act, was rolled into a broader package of incentives for renewable energy that proponents hoped to pass as part of an end-of-year spending deal. But groups tied to the Koch network and backed by oil industry funding worked hard to kill the clean energy incentives. These groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week urging the Senate to oppose any bill that includes an EV tax credit extension.

Ultimately the EV provision was dropped from the spending package. According to Forbes, “In last-minute negotiations over a massive package of spending bills designed to avert a government shutdown, the EV provision was lost in the shuffle and that was the outcome Republicans and President Trump wanted.”
» Read article

TCI - Zakim
TCI could up gas prices 5 to 17 cents a gallon in 2022
Modeling shows costs and benefits of carbon pricing
By Andy Metzger, CommonWealth Magazine
December 17, 2019

OFFICIALS DEVELOPING A new regional approach to reducing tailpipe emissions on the East Coast are considering policies that would add between 5 cents and 17 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline, generating over $1 billion in the first year spread among all the participating states.

No price is set in stone yet, and it’s an open question how many of the roughly one dozen states will sign at the bottom once the agreement is finalized. On Tuesday afternoon, after the announcement, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced his state would not participate in the collective approach, tweeting that TCI is a “financial boondoggle” and “drivers will bear the brunt of the artificially higher gas prices.”

Championed by Gov. Charlie Baker, the transportation and climate initiative, dubbed TCI, aims to syphon money from gasoline and diesel wholesalers and pump it into other transportation priorities. The initiative is supposed to go into effect in two years, and Baker has said half of the Bay State’s proceeds would be steered into the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and the other half to unspecified local transportation priorities.

The “cap and invest” program for the transportation sector would be similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that has helped drive coal plants out of the electricity market while funding popular efficiency programs such as Mass Save.
 » Read article

Baker’s walk on the wild side
Leads the charge for TCI and higher gas prices
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
December 17, 2019

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S all-in embrace of the transportation climate initiative is another step away from his shrinking Republican base and a tacit admission that the state needs more transit funding.

The transportation climate initiative, or TCI, places a price on the carbon contained in gasoline and diesel fuels and requires wholesale distributors to pay allowances for the right to sell their product. The cost of the allowances will likely be passed on to drivers in the form of higher prices at the pump, and the revenue from the allowances will flow back to the participating states to be used for efforts to deal with climate change.
» Read article

New Hampshire pulls out of regional Transportation & Climate Initiative agreement that could bring $500 million a year to Massachusetts
By Tanner Stening, MassLive.com
December 17, 2019

Following the release of a memorandum of understanding Tuesday outlining a vision for the Transportation & Climate Initiative, one state has already pulled out of the effort.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted that his state will not be participating in the regional agreement to curb transportation emissions, saying he “will not force Granite Staters to pay more for their gas just to subsidize other state’s crumbling infrastructure.”

The regional policy could bring in some $7 billion in new funds across the region, and about $500 million a year in Massachusetts, according to estimates shared Tuesday. Those proceeds would then be invested in clean transportation solutions as each state sees fit.
» Read article

» More on clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

two-face tango
While Talking up Climate Action, Oil Majors Eye Argentina’s Shale Reserves
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
December 19, 2019

Even as international climate negotiators tried to make progress at the UN climate summit in Madrid in early December, fossil fuel production and consumption has continued to rise, and major oil companies have been seeking new horizons to exploit.

The industry is not slowing down, even in the face of the worsening climate crisis. Although many oil companies signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement, they have simultaneously poured $50 billion into projects since 2018 that are not aligned with climate targets. The industry also has plans to invest $1.4 trillion in new oil and gas projects around the world over the next five years, despite the fact that existing projects contain enough greenhouse gases to use up the remaining carbon budget.

In other words, the oil majors are actively betting on, and are heavily invested in, blowing past climate targets and burning as much carbon as possible, despite protestations from company executives that they are good-faith actors.
» Read article

forecast per well
Energy Analysts Deliver More Bad News for US Fracking Industry’s Business Model

By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 17, 2019

This month, the energy consulting firm Wood MacKenzie gave an online presentation that basically debunked the whole business model of the shale industry.

In this webinar, which explored the declining production rates of oil wells in the Permian region, research director Ben Shattuck noted how it was impossible to accurately forecast how much oil a shale play held based on estimates from existing wells.

“Over the years of us doing this, as analysts, we’ve learned that you really have to do it well by well,” Shattuck explained of analyzing well performance. “You cannot take anything for granted.”

For an industry that has raised hundreds of billions of dollars promising future performance based on the production of a few wells, this is not good news. And particularly for the Permian, the nation’s most productive shale play, located in Texas and New Mexico.
» Read article

Gas ban - MA codes
These Cities Want to Ban Natural Gas. But Would It Be Legal?
Cambridge, Massachusetts, got a surprise warning as it considered a natural gas ban to reduce its climate impact.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
December 12, 2019

Berkeley, California, passed the first such ban in the country this past summer, and other West Coast cities have since followed with similar restrictions.

But in Massachusetts, as Cambridge discovered on Wednesday, it might be harder—if not impossible—to do.

The reason: the city ordinances and town bylaws in Massachusetts may conflict with existing regulations that are governed by the state. During a Cambridge City Council committee meeting Wednesday, the city’s attorney advised that a proposed gas ban there might not stand up to legal scrutiny. The state attorney general’s office is also reviewing the legality of a ban approved last month by the Boston suburb of Brookline on natural gas heating in new buildings.
» Read article

Vaca Muerta shale
Argentina Wants a Fracking Boom. The US Offers a Cautionary Tale
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
December 12, 2019

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez takes office in the midst of an economic crisis. Like his predecessor, he has made fracking a centerpiece of the country’s economic revival.

Argentina has some of the largest natural gas and oil reserves in the world and “possibly the most prospective outside of North America,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If some other country is going to successfully replicate the U.S. shale revolution, most experts put Argentina pretty high on that list. While the U.S. shale industry is showing its age, Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale is in its early stages, with only 4 percent of the acreage developed thus far.

The country feels a sense of urgency. Declining conventional production from older oil and gas fields has meant that Argentina has become a net importer of fuels over the past decade. Meanwhile, Argentina’s economy has deteriorated badly due to a toxic cocktail of debt, austerity, inflation, and an unstable currency.

For these reasons — a growing energy deficit, a worsening economic situation, and large oil and gas reserves trapped underground — there is enormous political support for kick-starting an American-style fracking boom in Argentina.
» Read article

» More on fossil fuels

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

 

mini-microplastics
Microplastics a million times more abundant in the ocean than previously thought, Scripps study suggests

Mini-microplastics uncovered in the stomachs of filter-feeding marine organisms
By Chase Martin, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
December 03, 2019

Nothing seems safe from plastic contamination. It is pulled from the nostrils of sea turtles, found in Antarctic waters and buried in the fossil record. But a new study by researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego suggests there could be a million times more pieces of plastic in the ocean than previously estimated.

Biological oceanographer Jennifer Brandon found some of the tiniest countable microplastics in surface seawater at much higher concentrations than previously measured. Her method unveiled that the traditional way of counting marine microplastics is likely missing the smallest particles, suggesting the number of measured microplastics in the ocean is off by five to seven orders of magnitude.

On average, Brandon estimates the ocean is contaminated by 8.3 million pieces of so-called mini-microplastics per cubic meter of water. Previous studies measuring larger pieces of plastic found only 10 pieces per cubic meter.

Her discoveries about mini-microplastics, completed while a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was published Nov. 27 in a special issue of Limnology and Oceanography Letters devoted to research on microplastics and microfibers.
» Read article      
» Read published study

» More on plastics in the environment

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