Tag Archives: microplastics

Weekly News Check-In 4/8/22

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Welcome back.

The big news this week involved release of the United Nations’ third recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – this one focused on steps necessary to get through this OK. The imperatives are clear and non-negotiable: immediately stop developing new fossil fuel resources and infrastructure; rapidly decrease emissions; rapidly transition power generation, transportation, building heat, and as much of industry as possible to zero-emissions.

It’s a comprehensive piece of work that assesses our current situation and clearly describes the very narrow pathway remaining after our decades of procrastination. Limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels is not a randomly-selected number. It represents science’s best understanding of a boundary beyond which the warming world will trigger multiple tipping points. Once there, we’ll all be strapped in for a wild one-way ride into a decidedly less hospitable new reality.

How did the fossil fuel industry and their government enablers react? By approving or funding two massive new offshore oil developments and doubling down on an accelerated buildout of liquefied natural gas capacity. All this has alarmed scientists to the point of taking to the streets – even getting themselves arrested in non-violent actions. These are people who traditionally prefer to avoid the fray – reasoning that their work should speak for itself, providing a solid foundation for the programs of rational policymakers.

But our unevenly-regulated economic system has proven much better at generating corporate profits than at steering society toward sustainability. A perfect example is the vast area of Midwest farmland devoted to producing corn for ethanol biofuel while the world faces a looming food shortage. Another puzzle is why the New England grid operator believes it’s still too early to accelerate the integration of renewable energy and storage – exactly what the IPCC report identified as critical, urgent priorities.

Progress for now remains concentrated at the state level. The Massachusetts Senate just released an ambitious new bill aimed, in part, to clarify for gas utilities that their current business model of piping fuel to flames has no future.

We have a couple bits of good news from the housing sector, where property managers are finding ways to achieve deep energy retrofits in existing multifamily residential units. This is a maddeningly complex problem, especially in already-occupied buildings – so the lessons being learned now will make future efforts easier. More Federal funds are also coming online for low-income residential energy efficiency projects.  Clean transportation also took a step in the right direction, with a number of major automakers backing the EPA’s tough new emissions standards and opposing a lawsuit brought by Texas and fifteen other states.

Wrapping up, we’ll leave you with one last scary thing. Microplastics are now so ubiquitous in the environment that almost all of us are hosting little bits of them deep in our lungs, in other organs, and even in our bloodstreams. We’re imposing this same body burden on every other creature, just as we’re dragging them all with us through a changing climate. Stay engaged – that’s how we’ll make things better.

button - BEAT News  For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletter from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)!

— The NFGiM Team

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

really happening
Climate scientists are desperate: we’re crying, begging and getting arrested
On Wednesday, I was arrested for locking myself onto an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown LA. I can’t stand by – and nor should you
By Peter Kalmus, The Guardian | Opinion
April 6, 2022

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

I’m a climate scientist and a desperate father. How can I plead any harder? What will it take? What can my colleagues and I do to stop this catastrophe unfolding now all around us with such excruciating clarity?

On Wednesday, I was arrested for locking myself to an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles with colleagues and supporters. Our action in LA is part of an international campaign organized by a loosely knit group of concerned scientists called Scientist Rebellion, involving more than 1,200 scientists in 26 countries and supported by local climate groups. Our day of action follows the IPCC Working Group 3 report released Monday, which details the harrowing gap between where society is heading and where we need to go. Our movement is growing fast.

We chose JP Morgan Chase because out of all the investment banks in the world, JP Morgan Chase funds the most new fossil fuel projects. As the new IPCC report explains, emissions from current and planned fossil energy infrastructure are already more than twice the amount that would push the planet over 1.5°C of global heating, a level of heating that will bring much more intense heat, fire, storms, flooding, and drought than the present 1.2°C.

Even limiting heating to below 2°C, a level of heating that in my opinion could threaten civilization as we know it, would require emissions to peak before 2025. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in the press conference on Monday: “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.” And yet, this is precisely what President Biden, most other world leaders, and major banks are doing. It’s no exaggeration to say that Chase and other banks are contributing to murder and neocide through their fossil fuel finance.

Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize. The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk. For me, one of the most horrific aspects of all this is the juxtaposition of present-day and near-future climate disasters with the “business as usual” occurring all around me. It’s so surreal that I often find myself reviewing the science to make sure it’s really happening, a sort of scientific nightmare arm-pinch. Yes, it’s really happening.
» Read article       

climate revolution
‘Climate Revolution’: Scientists Launch Global Civil Disobedience Campaign
“Scientist Rebellion will be on the streets between April 4th and 9th, acting like our house is on fire,” said organizers. “Because it is.”
By Julia Conley, Common Dreams
April 4, 2022

Scientists from around the world on Monday mobilized to demand a “Climate Revolution,” holding rallies and staging acts of civil disobedience with the goal of making the planetary emergency “impossible to ignore.”

With a kick-off timed to coincide with Monday’s release of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), researchers across the globe this week will participate in the Scientist Rebellion, staging strikes and occupations at universities, research institutes, and scientific journals to demand that the community speak out forcefully against continued fossil fuel emissions to highlight “the urgency and injustice of the climate and ecological crisis.”

“We have not made the changes necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C, rendering this goal effectively impossible,” said Dr. Rose Abramoff, an American climate scientist, referring to the goal set by the Paris climate agreement in 2015. “We need to both understand the consequences of our inaction as well as limit fossil fuel emissions as much and as quickly as possible.”

For scientists, Abramoff added, “it is no longer sufficient to do our research and expect others to read our publications and understand the severity and urgency of the climate crisis.”

One neuroscientist named Jonathan posted a video on social media explaining why he is taking part in the Scientist Rebellion.

“With our civilization poised to crumble under the weight of climate disaster in a matter of decades, the incremental advance of understanding is pointless,” he said. “In short, there’s no worthy reason for me to be doing this work if I’m not also pushing for climate action.”

The Scientist Rebellion is poised to be the largest-ever civil disobedience campaign led by scientists, with experts risking arrest in at least 25 countries on every continent in the world.
» Read article       

» More about protests and actions

LEGISLATION

prescriptive
Senate unveils sweeping climate bill
By Sabrina Shankman, Boston Globe
April 7, 2022

The state Senate on Thursday unveiled a sweeping climate bill that would pour money into development of clean energy, set mandates for government agencies, and allow some cities and towns to ban gas in new construction.

Unlike the broad strokes of past climate legislation that focused on setting strict targets for slashing emissions, Thursday’s proposal delves into granular details of state programs and agencies perceived as acting too slow on the climate.

[…] Lawmakers said the bill must take urgent priority.

[…] The bill focuses on three aspects of the state’s response to climate change: the transition to clean energy on the electrical grid, the massive work of weaning homes from fossil fuel heat, and dramatically reducing emissions from the state’s 4.3 million cars.

It now faces steep challenges as it goes to debate in the Senate and a potentially difficult reconciliation with the House version of the bill — with a tight deadline of July 31 for having a bill on the governor’s desk.

[…] A spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs said only that the Baker administration will carefully review anything that reaches the governor’s desk.

The Senate bill is in some ways a rebuke of the Baker administration on critical parts of the state’s effort on climate, said Senator Cynthia Creem. She cited problems with programs aimed at urging homeowners to switch to clean heat and that pay gas companies to continue to lay new pipe.

“We’re seeing that unless we move quickly, we’re not going to meet the emissions required, and the agencies aren’t taking the quick approach that they need to take,” she said.

That led to the creation of a bill that is in many ways prescriptive — calling for specific policy and programmatic steps.

In addition to providing $100 million to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to support investment in the clean energy industry and innovation, the bill would allow for the growth of so-called agro-solar, in which solar panels are placed at agricultural farms.
» Read article      

» More about legislation

GREENING THE ECONOMY

aerial view
As Russia’s War In Ukraine Disrupts Food Production, Experts Question the Expanding Use of Cropland for Biofuels
With the planet facing the related crises of climate change and hunger, should land be used to grow food, like corn for ethanol?
By Georgina Gustin, Inside Climate News
April 5, 2022

In the six weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict has not only sent energy prices soaring, but has disrupted food production, pushing costs upward and stoking fears of global food shortages.

The United Nations has warned of surging food insecurity in countries that depend on wheat from Ukraine, a critical and major breadbasket. Many of them were already teetering on the edge of hunger before the crisis.

As these effects of the conflict ripple across the globe, the world is seeing how energy and food markets are crucially linked. Just a couple of examples:

Farmers everywhere are scrambling to buy fertilizer, which has become exorbitantly expensive and scarce as prices for natural gas to make it have shot up. And vegetable growers in the U.K. say that energy prices are so high they can’t afford to heat their greenhouses, meaning less fresh produce in coming months.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is considering expanding the use of ethanol, made from corn, in an attempt to lower fuel prices—but at the risk of raising food prices.

“Food and energy markets are going through the roof at the moment,” said Tim Benton, director of the Environment and Society Programme at Chatham House, the U.K.-based think tank, in a recent call with reporters. “The key question for those of us who are interested in sustainability is whether nature will be sacrificed in order to boost food production or whether climate will be sacrificed in order to boost energy production.”
» Read article      

» More about greening the economy

CLIMATE

elephant
IPCC: We can tackle climate change if big oil gets out of the way
Experts say criticism of oil and gas’s ‘climate-blocking activities’ cut from final draft, reflective of industry’s power and influence
By Amy Westervelt, The Guardian
April 5, 2022

The fossil fuel industry and its influence over policy was the major elephant in the room looming over the release of the third and final report, out this week, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading climate authority. The major source of contention: how do you talk about mitigating climate change without confronting the fossil fuel industry? “It’s like Star Wars without Darth Vader,” says environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, of Brown University.

The first two reports, both released over the last year, highlighted the physical science on climate effects and countries’ vulnerability to further warming. But this third report deals more with the potential solutions, which have been a focal point of controversy in recent years for both the fossil fuel industry and the governments of oil-rich nations.

Social scientists were successful in pushing for more of their research to be included in the IPCC’s reports, with chapters that touch on everything from debunking claims that less developed countries need fossil fuels to help tackle poverty to a rundown of efforts to block climate policy. The report made one thing abundantly clear: the technologies and policies necessary to adequately address climate change exist, and the only real obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests.

The role of the fossil fuel industry is highlighted throughout the report’s nearly 3,000 pages, but researchers note it was mysteriously absent from the “Summary for Policymakers” – traditionally the first part of the report that’s released and often attracts the most media attention. An earlier draft of the summary leaked to the Guardian, however, described the fossil fuel industry and others invested in a high-carbon economy as “vested interests” that have actively worked against climate policy, noting: “Factors limiting ambitious transformation include structural barriers, an incremental rather than systemic approach, lack of coordination, inertia, lock-in to infrastructure and assets, and lock-in as a consequence of vested interests, regulatory inertia, and lack of technological capabilities and human resources.”

Brulle, whose research is cited multiple times in the report, was dismayed to see the cut. “The scientists clearly did their job and provided ample material on climate obstruction activities in the report,” he says. “The political process of creating the Summary for Policymakers ended up editing all of this information out.”
» Read article       

Sycamore Canyon flames
‘A file of shame’: Major UN climate report shows world is on track for catastrophic levels of warming
By Dharna Noor, Boston Globe
April 4, 2022

The world is on track to usher in a devastating level of global warming, warns a major report from the world’s leading climate scientists.

“It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said of the study in a statement.

To avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis, the analysis from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, leaders must make radical, immediate changes. That includes rapidly phasing out the use of fossil fuels.

The world has already warmed by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution, chiefly due to the burning of coal, oil, or gas. The more ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees; crossing that threshold would exacerbate hunger, conflict, and drought globally, destroy at least 70 percent of coral reefs, and put millions at risk of being swallowed by rising seas.

The world has only a 38 percent chance of achieving that goal, the new report says.

The report is the third of three crucial documents from the UN body released over the past eight months. While the first two studies examined the causes and effects of the climate crisis, Monday’s report focuses on what the world can do to fight it.

UN scientists have long warned that expanding fossil fuel infrastructure will make the 1.5-degree target unattainable. But the new report, released Monday, goes even further, showing that even continuing to operate existing infrastructure until the end of their lifespans would put that target out of reach.

“We cannot keep warming below catastrophic levels without first and foremost accelerating the shift away from all fossil fuels, beginning immediately,” said Nikki Reisch, climate and energy Program Director at the Center for International Environmental Law, in a statement.
» Read article       

wrong way
Methane emissions surged by a record amount in 2021, NOAA says
By Emma Newburger, CNBC
April 7, 2022

Global emissions of methane, the second-biggest contributor to human-caused climate change after carbon dioxide, surged by a record amount in 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday.

Methane, a key component of natural gas, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide but doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down. Major contributors to methane emissions include oil and gas extraction, landfills and wastewater, and farming of livestock.

“Our data show that global emissions continue to move in the wrong direction at a rapid pace,” Rick Spinrad, the NOAA administrator, said in a statement. “The evidence is consistent, alarming and undeniable.”

The report comes after more than 100 countries joined a coalition to cut 30% of methane gas emissions by 2030 from 2020 levels. The Global Methane Pledge of 2021 includes six of the world’s 10 biggest methane emitters — the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico. China, Russia, India and Iran did not join the pledge.

Last year, a landmark United Nations report declared that drastically slashing methane is necessary to avoid the worst outcomes of global warming. The report said if the world could cut methane emissions by up to 45% through 2030, it would prevent 255,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits on an annual basis.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said reducing methane is a relatively cheap and easy way to achieve significant climate benefits.
» Read article      

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY

now or never
Now or never: IPCC says wind and solar key to halving emissions by 2030
By Michael Mazengarb, Renew Economy
April 5, 2022

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has backed the continued expansion of the use of wind and solar energy to do the heavy lifting in achieving rapid and necessary reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions – while also delivering some of the cheapest new supplies of energy.

The central role that renewable energy technologies will play in keeping global warming within safe limits has been detailed in the latest working group report of the IPCC, published on Tuesday.

The IPCC has warned “immediate and deep emissions reductions” are necessary across all sectors of the global economy to stem rising greenhouse gas levels, and keep a global warming limit of 1.5 degrees within reach.

According to the IPCC, wind and solar technologies can deliver the most extensive potential cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuels in the global energy system, dwarfing the potential contribution of more costly technologies like carbon capture and storage.

“Large contributions with costs less than US$20 per tonne CO2 come from solar and wind energy, energy efficiency improvements, reduced conversion of natural ecosystems and methane emissions reductions,” the report says.

The IPCC said the dramatic reductions in the cost of wind, solar and battery storage technologies over the last decade meant they were already commercially viable and would be the key to decarbonising most of the world’s energy systems.
» Read article       

Ocean Rebellion theatrical act
IPCC Report Release Delayed as Rich Nations Sought to Weaken Fossil Fuel Phaseout
“I hope Working Group III has the courage to actually call for the elimination of fossil fuels production and use within a Paris agreement compliant timeline,” said one scientist.
By Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams
April 4, 2022

The publication of the third and final part of the United Nations’ latest comprehensive climate assessment, originally scheduled for early Monday morning, was postponed by several hours after a contentious weekend of negotiations in which wealthy governments attempted to weaken statements about green financing for low-income nations and fossil fuel-producing countries objected to unequivocal language about the need to quickly ditch coal, oil, and gas.

The landmark report by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—written by dozens of climate scientists from around the world who synthesized the past eight years of relevant research—is expected to call for a rapid global phaseout of fossil fuels to avoid the planetary emergency’s most dire consequences.

However, a roughly 40-page “summary for policymakers”—a key reference point for governments—was edited with input from U.N. member states. Although it was expected to be finalized on Friday and published early Monday morning, diplomats continued to debate the contents of the document for hours after their Sunday deadline, pushing its release back by several hours.

“One issue is the fundamental, underlying declaration that the world has to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” an unnamed source told CNN on Monday, declining to identify specific nations. “[These objections are] coming from countries with economic interests, from countries that are prioritizing that above what is clearly a global imperative.”

“Scientists want to send the extra-clear message that what needs to happen next is to get off fossil fuels to cut emissions as quickly as possible in this decade,” the source added.
» Read article    

» More about clean energy

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

for rent
Massachusetts apartment retrofit offers model for multifamily energy savings

The owners of a Fall River apartment complex spent two years tightening building envelopes, replacing heating and cooling systems, and installing rooftop solar panels. Now, they hope to replicate the success elsewhere.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
April 5, 2022

A Massachusetts apartment complex has nearly completed an extensive and challenging clean energy overhaul, a process that planners say helped create a playbook for tackling difficult multifamily retrofits.

The owners of the South Winds Apartment Community in Fall River, a small city on the Rhode Island border, spent two years developing and executing a plan to tighten the envelopes of the complex’s 39 buildings, replace climate control systems with heat pumps, and install solar panels on every available rooftop. The changes are expected to avoid more than 3,800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year — equivalent to taking 750 cars off the road — and cut energy costs by 80%.

And the project is just the beginning for Taurus Investment Holdings, the real estate firm that owns the development.

“It all started with South Winds — it’s our flagship project where we really learned how to implement our process,” said Chris Gray, chief technology officer for RENU Communities, a subsidiary of Taurus that executes energy retrofits at the firm’s properties. “We have since undertaken numerous other properties and we have about 3,000 apartment units in our pipeline.”

[…] BlueWave Solar of Boston was brought in to install solar panels on every available roof, a process that presented so many obstacles that it wasn’t clear it could even be done at first.

[…] It was a major investment of time, [Alan Robertson, managing director of solar development at BlueWave] said, but the effort has set a precedent that he hopes will pave the way for more ambitious apartment projects in the future.

“There are a ton of multifamily complexes that were set up similar to this that I think a lot of developers just shy away from,” Robertson said. “Now we have an approved project with the [Department of Energy Resources] that can be a playbook for others.”

Figuring it all out despite the challenges was important to Taurus for reasons both ethical and financial, Gray said. Two of the company founders are from Germany and brought a European-style energy-conscious ethos to the business from the beginning. That mindset has continued to this day.

At the same time, Gray said, it is clear that reducing energy use now will save money in the long run. Already RENU has started work on two more apartment complex retrofits, one in Phoenix, Arizona, and another in Orlando, Florida. More such projects are expected to follow.

“We think this is going to be a requirement of real estate owners going forward,” Gray said, “so we’re trying to get ahead of the curve.”
» Read article    

insulation installer
Biden administration lines up $3 billion so low-income families can retrofit their homes
The move will affect nearly a half million households and lower greenhouse gas emissions
By Julia Kane, Grist
April 1, 2022

Low-income families will be able to lower their utility bills with $3.16 billion in funding for home retrofits made available by the Biden administration on Wednesday. The move will also help the U.S. reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The funding, approved as part of the infrastructure bill that Congress passed last year, will flow to states, tribes, and territories through the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP.

The surge in federal dollars means that the program will be able to retrofit about 450,000 homes by installing insulation, sealing leaks, upgrading appliances to more energy-efficient models, and replacing fossil fuel-powered heating systems with cleaner, electric options. That’s a significant increase; in recent years, the program has retrofitted about 38,000 homes annually.

The boost to WAP comes amidst an embargo on Russian oil, soaring energy prices, and rising inflation — circumstances strikingly similar to those when WAP was created in the 1970s. Congress authorized WAP in 1976, just a few years after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo against the U.S., causing energy prices to spike and inflation to climb. Lawmakers reasoned that one way to achieve energy independence was to reduce energy demand by making buildings more efficient.
» Read article       

CCHPs
Three More Manufacturers Added to Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge
DOE created the challenge to accelerate deployment of cold climate heat pump (CCHP) technologies.
By Logan Caswell, HPAC
February 18, 2022

After successfully launching the Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge this past May, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has added three new manufacturers to the initiative, launched in partnership with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

[…] The nine HVAC manufacturers, in partnering with DOE, NRCan, and the EPA, along with States and other efficiency program and utility stakeholders, will demonstrate the performance of prototypical products and launch field demonstrations and pilot programs to accelerate adoption. Commercialization of products could come as early as 2024.

The next generation of cold climate heat pumps developed under this challenge will have:

  • Increased performance at cold temperatures
  • Increased heating capacity at lower ambient temperatures
  • More efficiency across broader range of operating conditions
  • Demand flexibility (advanced controls to adjust usage on demand)

The DOE initially launched the Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge as part of its Initiative for Better Energy, Emissions, and Equity (E3 Initiative). The E3 Initiative advances the research, development, and national deployment of clean heating and cooling systems that include heat pumps, advanced water heaters, low-to-no global warming potential refrigerants, and smarter HVAC diagnostic tools in residential and commercial buildings.
» Read article     
» Read about the DOE’s Residential Cold-Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge

» More about energy efficiency

ENERGY STORAGE

storage graphic
Lithium-ion roadblocks drive development of US-based alternatives for grid battery storage
By Elizabeth McCarthy, Utility Dive
April 5, 2022

There is a growing focus on emerging battery technologies that use domestic minerals and elements because supply chain constraints are impeding lithium-ion battery storage. According to university, government and industry officials, alternate battery chemistries must and can become cost-competitive.

To help meet growing decarbonization goals, preferred alternatives to lithium-ion need to be long-duration, with at least 10 hours of output, and have minimal or low toxicity, experts agreed at an April 1 session of MIT’s 2022 Energy Conference.

Emerging grid storage technologies in the running include sodium and iron-air batteries, ones using stacks of retired electric vehicle car batteries with considerable life remaining, and those reusing metals from recycled EV batteries.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

MODERNIZING THE GRID

outdated
Grid operator urges slower transition on renewables
Seeks approval from FERC for 2-year extension of pricing rule
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
April 5, 2022

THE NEW ENGLAND power grid operator filed a proposal with federal regulators on Monday seeking more time to come up with a system for incorporating clean energy into the region’s electricity markets.

The grid operator, known as ISO-New England, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to put off until 2025 plans to do away with a 2013 pricing rule intended to prevent subsidized clean energy projects from unfairly squeezing other power generators (most of whom burn fossil fuels) out of the market. ISO-New England had previously planned to do away with the pricing rule next year.

In a statement accompanying the filing, ISO-New England said a longer transition period is warranted because it “will create less risk to the region than an immediate market change could evoke.”

Environmental advocates are opposing the move. “This decision throws an unnecessary lifeline to gas generators that could otherwise be priced out of the market by cost-effective clean energy,” said Melissa Birchard, senior regulatory attorney at Acadia Center.

The arcane issue is attracting attention because it is another example of the tension between those eager to abandon fossil fuels in a bid to deal with climate change and those wary of doing so too quickly out of fear of market disruptions.

ISO-New England oversees the region’s wholesale markets for electricity. In one of those markets, the forward capacity market, ISO-New England forecasts how much electricity the region will need three years in the future and then encourages power generators to bid to supply it. Power plant operators use the promise of this future revenue to build, maintain, and operate their plants.

The forward capacity market is under stress because states like Massachusetts, operating outside the market, have ordered utilities to purchase offshore wind and hydroelectricity, with their ratepayers picking up the cost of the projects.

The challenge for ISO-New England is how to incorporate these ratepayer-subsidized renewable energy projects into the forward capacity market without undermining it. Letting the renewable energy projects into the market could squeeze out other generators needed for the system’s future reliability. Keeping the renewable energy projects out of the market could mean the market may be procuring more power than it actually needs.

[…] Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have been pressuring ISO New England to do away with its minimum offer price rule. Their chief complaint is that the rule is too broad, applying to all new resources and not just those resources capable of manipulating market prices.

“The minimum offer price rule appears to act as a barrier to competition, insulating incumbent generators from having to compete with certain new resources that may be able to provide capacity at lower cost,” said FERC commissioners Richard Glick and Allison Clements in a filing in January.

Now FERC will have to decide whether to grant more time to ISO-New England to do away with the minimum price rule or demand swifter action.
» Read article    

» More about modernizing the grid

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

commutersMajor automakers back tough U.S. vehicle emissions rules in court battle
By David Shepardson, Reuters
March 30, 2022

Major U.S. and foreign automakers on Wednesday backed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new tougher vehicle emissions regulations in a court challenge brought by some states and ethanol groups.

Texas and 15 other states have challenged the EPA’s vehicle emissions rules that reverse a rollback of tailpipe rules issued under former President Donald Trump.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, representing nearly all major automakers, said in a court filing the EPA rule “will challenge the industry” but provides automakers with “critically important flexibilities.”

Automakers, the group added, want to ensure “critical regulatory provisions supporting electric vehicle technology are maintained.”

The states are joined by some corn and soybean growers associations, the American Fuel And Petrochemical Manufacturers and others. Corn growers, a Valero Energy subsidiary and other ethanol producers said the new EPA rules revising emission requirements through 2026 “effectively mandate the production and sale of electric cars rather than cars powered by internal combustion engines.”
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

GAS UTILITIES

LNG FSRU
Natural gas investments fuel climate concerns
By Colin A. Young State House News Service
April 4, 2022

BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–The tensions between what some key lawmakers would like to see Massachusetts do enroute to achieving net-zero carbon emissions and the proposals in a utility-driven report on the role natural gas could play in decarbonization were on full display Monday at the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.

Unhappy with the process and the strategies described in the recently-filed Future of Gas report, chairwoman Sen. Cynthia Creem said the Legislature “may have to intervene” in the Baker administration’s study of the future of natural gas as Massachusetts strives to get to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “In my view, reaching net-zero emission requires that the future of gas is largely a future without gas,” Creem, the Senate’s majority leader and chairwoman of the committee, said.

Monday’s hearing revolved around the Future of Gas report, which utility companies put together with consultants as part of a Department of Public Utilities exploration of how natural gas fits into Massachusetts’ energy future and whether the resource might help or hinder the state’s emissions reduction efforts.

State law requires that Massachusetts reduce its emissions by 25 percent by 2020 (preliminary estimates show a 28.6 percent reduction), by 50 percent by 2030, by 75 percent by 2040 and by at least 85 percent by 2050, with tag-along policies to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. All reductions are calculated against the baseline of 1990 emissions levels. “However, Massachusetts is currently doubling down on natural gas through the Gas System Enhancement Plan program, known as the GSEP program,” Creem said. “Under GSEP, ratepayers will pay $20 billion over the next few decades to replace gas pipelines that are inconsistent with our climate mandates.”

A number of people invited to testify Monday echoed Creem’s argument, that ratepayers are going to be on the hook for new gas infrastructure that could become obsolete in the coming decades and that gas utilities are using the GSEP program meant to remedy gas leaks to instead prepare their systems to handle newer fuels like renewable hydrogen or biogas in an attempt to stay in business through a transition away from natural gas. “There’s a stark binary facing us right now,” Caitlin Peale Sloan, vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, said during Monday’s hearing. “Are we going to start to ramp down gas utility infrastructure and invest the billions left to be spent under GSEP into sustainable solutions with low ongoing costs and operating costs? Or are we going to plow ahead and put billions more into the gas system?”
» Read article       

» More about gas utilities

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Equinor graphic
Ottawa Issues ‘Slap in the Face’ to Climate Science, Approves Bay du Nord Offshore Oil Megaproject
By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix
April 6, 2022

[…] In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, voices in Newfoundland and Labrador stressed the economic gains that Equinor has promised if the project goes ahead, in a province facing dire hardship. Without Bay du Nord, “Newfoundland and Labrador is going to suffer for a long, long time,” Brigus, Newfoundland Mayor Shears Mercer told CP. “We’re broke. The province is broke.”

But mid-way through a week that had already seen the IPCC report and the Bay du Nord decision, the reaction through the day Wednesday ranged from rage to tears.

“For the first time in my life I had to choke down tears talking to a journalist about the Canadian government approving the Bay du Nord project. Doubling down on new fossil production while it could not be clearer this is the wrong thing to do is nothing else than heartbreaking,” tweeted Caroline Brouillette, national climate policy manager at Climate Action Network-Canada.

“It hurts to see the work of so many people inside and outside of government undermined by expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, yet again,” Brouillette added. “Moments like these show how inadequate our governments’ (even the most ‘progressive’ ones) response to the crisis are. How unwilling @JustinTrudeau is to be honest with Canadians about the need to plan for a future climate and economy that is safe and sustainable.”

Trudeau “is doubling down on the myth that Canada can be a climate leader while continuing to produce and export vast amounts of climate-destroying fossil fuels,” she added in a release. “The longer our leaders postpone being honest with Canadians about the incompatibility of increased oil production and a climate- and jobs-safe future, the rougher the awakening will be. Today’s decision is a failure of courage.”

“The Government of Canada’s decision to approve a new billion-barrel mega-oil project is a slap in the face to climate scientists, communities across Canada, and the world impacted by the climate crisis,” said Julia Levin, senior climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada. “The planet is on fire and the science is crystal clear. Approving Bay du Nord is another leap towards an unlivable future. The decision is tantamount to denying that climate change is real and threatens our very existence.”
» Read article       

Baytown refinery
ExxonMobil Announces $10 Billion Oil Investment the Same Day IPCC Signals End for Fossil Fuels
The oil giant’s massive plan to drill in Guyana’s waters comes as the UN Secretary General warns of fossil fuels as a “blight on investment portfolios.”
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
April 5, 2022

“Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released part of its latest report on Monday. This scientific summary, focused on how the world can cut greenhouse gas emissions, warns of the extraordinary harm to all of humanity caused by fossil fuels and the need for a rapid energy transition away from oil, gas, and coal, calling for meaningful changes over the next three years. “Such investments will soon be stranded assets, a blot on the landscape, and a blight on investment portfolios.”

That same day, oil giant ExxonMobil made an announcement of its own: a $10 billion final investment decision for an oil and gas development project in the South American nation of Guyana that the company said would allow it to add a quarter of a million barrels of oil a day to its production in 2025.

The IPCC’s call to action was urgent. “We are on a fast track to climate disaster,” Guterres said, reciting a list of consequences that have become all too familiar over the past few years — and warning of worse to come. “Major cities under water. Unprecedented heatwaves. Terrifying storms. Widespread water shortages. The extinction of a million species of plants and animals. This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.”

The IPCC’s report marked the end of an era for fossil fuel producers, some observers said, establishing that, as The Guardian put it, the world has seen “a century of rising emissions [that] must end before 2025 to keep global heating under 1.5C, beyond which severe impacts will increase further, hurting billions of people.”

The disconnect between the two announcements, suggesting two markedly different trajectories for 2025, seems all the more glaring given that ExxonMobil itself has been an active participant in the IPCC “since its inception in 1988,” as the company wrote in a 2021 report. Exxon’s announcement that it plans to continue to pour billions of dollars into nonetheless expanding fossil fuel production — not just in Guyana but around the world — sends a strong message about the direction the company plans to steer, despite the warnings flowing from the IPCC, with consequences for us all.
» Read article     

» More about fossil fuels

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

recoil
How the Recoil From Russian Gas Is Scrambling World Markets
Europe wants 50 billion cubic meters of additional natural gas, but supplies are tight. Prices will rise and other regions might have to do with less.
By Stanley Reed, New York Times
April 4, 2022

Just months ago, Germany’s plans to build a terminal for receiving shiploads of liquefied natural gas were in disarray. Would-be developers were not convinced customers would make enough use of a facility that can cost billions of dollars. And concerns about climate change undermined the future of a fossil fuel like natural gas.

Perceptions have changed. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Kremlin’s threats to sever fuel supplies, the government in Berlin has decided it needs these massive facilities — as many as four of them — to wean the country off Russian gas and act as a lifeline in case Moscow turns off the taps. The cost to the taxpayer now seems to be a secondary consideration.

Most of the gas that Europe buys from Russia to power its electrical utilities is delivered through pipelines, over land or under the sea. Liquefied natural gas provides another way to move gas great distances when pipelines are not an option. Natural gas is chilled to a liquid and loaded on special tankers. It can then be transported to any port with equipment to turn it back into a gas and pump it into the power grid.

“We are aiming to build L.N.G. terminals in Germany,” Robert Habeck, the country’s economy minister, recently said before talks with potential gas suppliers. Mr. Habeck is a politician from the environmentalist Greens but is finding, somewhat to his dismay, that Germany needs the fossil fuel.

[…] Europe’s scramble raises the prospect of a global battle over supplies in a market that analysts say has little slack. Asia, not Europe, is usually the prime destination for liquefied natural gas. China, Japan and South Korea were the leading buyers last year.

The additional gas that Europe is targeting would add around 10 percent to global demand, creating a tug of war with other countries for fuel. That prospect could mean that gas prices that have touched record levels in recent months will remain high, prolonging misery for consumers and squeezing industry.
» Read article       

» More about LNG

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

microplastic body burden
Microplastics found deep in lungs of living people for first time
Particles discovered in tissue of 11 out of 13 patients undergoing surgery, with polypropylene and PET most common
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
April 6, 2022

Microplastic pollution has been discovered lodged deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. The particles were found in almost all the samples analysed.

The scientists said microplastic pollution was now ubiquitous across the planet, making human exposure unavoidable and meaning “there is an increasing concern regarding the hazards” to health.

Samples were taken from tissue removed from 13 patients undergoing surgery and microplastics were found in 11 cases. The most common particles were polypropylene, used in plastic packaging and pipes, and PET, used in bottles. Two previous studies had found microplastics at similarly high rates in lung tissue taken during autopsies.

People were already known to breathe in the tiny particles, as well as consuming them via food and water. Workers exposed to high levels of microplastics are also known to have developed disease.

Microplastics were detected in human blood for the first time in March, showing the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.

“We did not expect to find the highest number of particles in the lower regions of the lungs, or particles of the sizes we found,” said Laura Sadofsky at Hull York medical school in the UK,a senior author of the study. “It is surprising as the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs and we would have expected particles of these sizes to be filtered out or trapped before getting this deep.”
» Blog editor’s note: This article is human-centered, but keep in mind that the negative health effects of microplastics in lungs, other organs, and blood apply equally to every other creature. Aside from the fact that one species has no right to poison every other species, we’re messing with a complex web of life that ultimately sustains us.
» Read article       

» More about plastics, health, and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 8/13/21

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Welcome back.

The municipal power commission seeking to build an already-outdated fossil peaking power plant in Peabody, MA received approval from the Department of Public Utilities to obtain bond funding for the project. By granting approval the MA-DPU ignores the International Energy Agency’s warning against building new gas infrastructure, the emissions reductions requirements of Massachusetts’ own climate roadmap law, and Monday’s hair-on-fire climate report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This bombshell report makes crystal clear that we’ve already waited too long to bring down emissions – and that our very narrow window to salvage a recognizable future is closing fast. The peaker plant’s opponents – environmental, climate, and public health stewards, along with community leaders – are digging in for a fight.

We felt it too – this week’s relentless news of our climate on the brink, floods and fires, suffering and destruction – left us feeling pretty thoroughly pummeled.  Fortunately our friend Danny Jin wrote a piece for The Berkshire Eagle, helping to put each of our individual protests and actions into perspective. While none of us can solve this mess on our own, we can act collectively in ways that truly matter. Thank you Danny, and thanks to all you folks who help us amplify your voices and efforts.

On a hopeful note, Federal legislation in the form of a $3.5Tn “soft” infrastructure bill is moving ahead. If it survives reasonably intact and becomes law, it will put the US on a footing to begin to finally address climate and environmental issues – and signal to the world that time for delay is over. One practical effect at home would be the creation of a vibrant, green economy with a new Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) providing employment for millions of Americans to plant urban trees, manage forests, and make homes more energy efficient and resilient.

Clean energy reporting indicates a need for solar and wind power to quadruple their rate of deployment this decade. California is doing its part by backing a mandate requiring solar panels and battery storage on many new commercial and high-rise multifamily buildings.

Another milestone was met for clean transportation when Factorial Energy’s solid state EV battery cell showed good results in energy density, charging speed, charge-discharge cycles, safety, and cost. Also, a pilot program in Kansas City is installing EV charging stations curbside on city street lights, hoping to make EVs practical for street-parking apartment dwellers.

Meanwhile, on the fossil side of news, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finds itself having to take another look at the Spire STL pipeline in St. Louis to justify whether its construction was actually necessary. This DC Circuit Court case may influence FERC’s approach to future pipeline approvals. And new reporting shows how subsidies to the fossil fuel industry create a can’t-lose situation for polluters.

Now that Massachusetts law bars biomass generating plants from operating near environmental justice communities, the few remaining places that could legally host one of these facilities find the prospect distinctly unappealing. It’s time for complete removal of this dirty energy from the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

We’ll close with a fish story – about one particular individual who was caught in Lake Ontario six years ago and found to have 915 individual man-made particles, including microplastics, synthetic materials containing flame retardants or plasticizers, dyed cellulose fibers, and more—in its body.

button - BEAT News button - BZWI For even more environmental news, info, and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and Berkshire Zero Waste Initiative (BZWI)!

— The NFGiM Team

PEAKING POWER PLANTS

decommish 20MWPeabody power plant gets green light
Department of Public Utilities OKs bonds up to $170M
By Erin Nolan, The Salem News
August 12, 2021

PEABODY — Plans to build a 55-megawatt “peaker” power plant in the city are forging ahead.

According to a decision filed by the Department of Public Utilities Aug. 12, the department approved a request from the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC) for up to $170 million in bonds to fund the construction of the plant.

But according to a press release from the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, these changes aren’t enough to justify a new fossil fuel-burning plant in a community already burdened by air pollution from two existing peaker plants.

“We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of this proceeding,” said Sarah Dooling, Executive Director of MCAN in the release. “DPU’s approval brings MMWEC one step closer to building a power plant that will contribute to local pollution and harm local community members, while highlighting — yet again — how broken DPU processes are. The DPU is meant to serve the people of the Commonwealth by considering safety, security, reliability of service, affordability, equity, and greenhouse gas emission reductions in their decision making. In approving these bonds without requiring further evaluation of the project, DPU has abandoned their mission to promote equity and emissions reductions. MCAN will continue to push for the Baker Administration to do their job and protect vulnerable communities by demanding that the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs re-open the MEPA process for this project and require MMWEC to conduct an environmental impact review.”

Mireille Bejjani, a Massachusetts Community Organizer for the nonprofit Community Action Works, called the DPU’s decision “insulting to Peabody residents who are concerned for their health and our climate.”

In the press release, Bejjani also noted that the decision comes only days after the United Nations released a report which warns that the world will continue to see climate change-induced disasters for years to come.
» Read article             

» More about peaker plants          

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Old Parana RiverDown about climate change? Here are four ways local organizers say you can do something about it
By Danny Jin, The Berkshire Eagle
August 9, 2021

A Monday report from U.N. scientists forecasts a bleak future for the planet if people continue burning coal, oil and gas.

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Scrolling through such gloomy projections can lead to a sense of “climate despair,” a condition of feeling helpless against impending doom.

But, people are not powerless. An individual in Berkshire County cannot singlehandedly stop climate change, an effort that will require action from governments across the world. But, local organizers say, there are actions that everyday people can take to shake off defeatism and hold those in power accountable.
» Read article             

» More about protests and actions         

LEGISLATION

time up
UN climate report raises pressure on Biden to seize a rare moment
The US president may have only one chance to pass legislation to confront the crisis: ‘We can’t wait’
By Oliver Milman, The Guardian
August 10, 2021

A stark UN report on how humanity has caused unprecedented, and in some cases “irreversible”, changes to the world’s climate has heaped further pressure on Joe Biden to deliver upon what may be his sole chance to pass significant legislation to confront the climate crisis and break a decade of American political inertia.

The US president said the release on Monday of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed that “we can’t wait to tackle the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction keeps mounting.”

The IPCC report, developed over the past eight years by scientists who combed over more than 14,000 studies, shows that the US, like the rest of the world, is running out of time to avoid disastrous climate impacts, with a critical global heating threshold of 1.5C to be breached far earlier than previously expected, potentially within a decade.

“This is not a future problem, it’s a problem now. I’m literally seeing climate change out of my window, climate change is in my lungs,” said Linda Mearns, an IPCC report co-author located in Boulder, Colorado, which has been baked in extreme heat and wildfire smoke in recent weeks.

Mearns, who has been involved in IPCC reports since 1990, said the latest iteration was “very thorough and disturbing” and demanded a strong response. “I’m not sure what will be required for people to get it, but my hope is that it will galvanize everyone in Glasgow to meet their agreements,” she added in reference to UN climate talks between world leaders in October.

Much of that global action will hinge upon the response mustered by the US, the world’s second-largest carbon emitter. Biden’s narrow window of opportunity to drastically cut emissions is dependent upon the contents of a $3.5tn bill that Democrats hope to pass before midterm elections next year, when the party may well lose control of Congress.

“Congress didn’t pass a climate bill in 2009 and it’s taken over a decade to get us back to serious climate legislation,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This summer is the best chance we have ever had to pass a big climate bill. This is it. President Biden is poised to become the climate president we need. But there are no more decades left to waste.”
» Read article             
» Read about Obama’s 2009 attempt to pass climate legislation                

» More about legislation                 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

CCC support
Reconciliation could create a new kind of climate job
Energy and resiliency projects need more boots on the ground
By Justine Calma, The Verge
August 4, 2021

If Democrats and progressives have their way, tens of thousands — or even millions — of Americans could soon find work planting urban trees, managing forests, and making homes more energy efficient and resilient to the ravages of climate change. They’d form a new “Civilian Climate Corps” that lawmakers and activists are hoping to fund through the budget reconciliation process.

For more than a decade, different proposals have floated around for a new civilian mobilization focused on climate adaption. Recently, the idea has picked up significant momentum. The most ambitious proposal yet was introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in April. Joe Biden proposed a more pared down Civilian Climate Corps as part of his American Jobs Plan in March, drawing on a range of previous proposals. Most recently, lawmakers have pushed for some form of the corps to be included in upcoming budget reconciliation negotiations, sending a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in July.

The proposals differ in size and scope, but each would put people to work on federally funded projects that can minimize the toll climate change takes on the US. That might mean installing solar panels in Philadelphia, tending to sustainable urban farms in New York City, or building new career pathways for former coal communities in Appalachia. The Climate Corps would be overseen by a new body within the White House, and would also bolster the work of federal agencies like FEMA that already partner with other corps programs. And as the government establishes a new funding stream, the hope is that communities will find new projects and ways to adapt.
» Read article             
» Read the letter to House and Senate leadership             

KS and client
‘A literal return to the earth’: is human composting the greenest burial?
California may legalize human composting, a process in which the body breaks down into soil over the course of about 30 days
By Dani Anguiano, The Guardian
August 12, 2021

Is there a greener way to honor those who have died?

Humans have caused unprecedented and irreversible changes to the climate in our time on Earth – pollution that continues even in death. But, across the US, some are posing an alternative: human composting.

Traditional after-death options such as burial and cremation can be tough on the environment, either by taking up land and emitting chemicals into the ground or by using fossil fuels and gas.

That’s why California lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow for human composting, or the natural organic reduction of human remains to soil.

It’s not the first state to do so. Washington state legalized natural organic reduction in 2020, allowing the human soil to be used in a forest as well as given to families.

Colorado has enacted similar legislation – restricting the soil from being used to grow crops that people will eat – as has Oregon. Delaware, Hawaii and Vermont are considering natural organic reduction bills.

Recompose, a Seattle-based company, was the first company in the US to get into the human composting business.

“The natural organic reduction allows a literal return to the earth,” said Anna Swenson, an outreach manager with Recompose. “Some people like the idea of being in a forest when they die. That’s what I’ve chosen for myself.”

The process saves about a metric ton of CO2 per person, according to Recompose, either by preventing it from entering the atmosphere or removing it, sequestering some carbon in the soil. That’s the equivalent of about 40 propane tanks, Swenson said. “You can picture a backyard of 40 propane tanks and for every person that adds up,” she said.

Cremation relies on fossil fuels, and ​​emits millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year, while the burial of embalmed bodies can cause chemicals to seep into the earth. “As a body degrades the soil becomes contaminated, and material can leach into the groundwater,” said Francis Murray, an associate professor of environmental science at Murdoch University, to Vice.

Recompose has worked with 60 families in Washington and has been at capacity since it opened in December.
» Read article              

» More about greening the economy               

CLIMATE

Elvia Island on fire
Major climate changes inevitable and irreversible – IPCC’s starkest warning yet
Report warns temperatures likely to rise by more than 1.5C bringing widespread extreme weather
By Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
August 9, 2021

Human activity is changing the Earth’s climate in ways “unprecedented” in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, with some of the changes now inevitable and “irreversible”, climate scientists have warned.

Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and bringing widespread devastation and extreme weather.

Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown, with every fraction of a degree of further heating likely to compound the accelerating effects, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science.

The comprehensive assessment of climate science published on Monday, the sixth such report from the IPCC since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-review studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

World leaders said the stark findings must force new policy measures as a matter of urgency, to shift the global economy to a low-carbon footing. Governments from 197 countries will meet this November in Glasgow for vital UN climate talks, called Cop26.
» Read article             
» Read the IPCC report       

no B plan
Global Climate Panel’s Report: No Part of the Planet Will be Spared
A new IPCC science assessment, coming before COP26 in November, called for immediate action and showed that this summer’s extremes are only a mild preview of the decades ahead.
By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News
August 9, 2021

Amidst a summer of fires, floods and heat waves, scientists on Monday delivered yet another reminder that burning more fossil fuels in the decades ahead will rapidly intensify the impacts of global warming. Only pulling the emergency brake right now on greenhouse gas emissions can stop the planet from heating to a dangerous level by the end of the century, the scientists’ report concluded.  

The report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, is the first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed in 2022. It was approved Aug. 6 by 195 member governments of the IPCC.

The report, by the panel’s Working Group I, assesses the physical science of climate change. It found that global warming is worsening deadly extremes like droughts and tropical storms and that every part of the planet is affected.
» Read article                        

please panicScientists Warn That the Earth Is Literally Dying
“Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
By Dan Robitzski, Futurism
July 28, 2021

A team of scientists just took the planet’s vitals and delivered a grim prognosis: the damage that humanity is causing may be terminal.

In other words, the planet is in really, really bad shape — out of the 31 metrics of ecological health that a team of prominent scientists from a long list of universities around the world looked at, 18 are facing all-time poor results, they told Agence France-Presse. The researchers behind the update are among the 14,000 experts who have now signed a statement saying the planet is in a state of emergency. Thanks to a “business as usual” approach to managing our pale blue dot, they conclude in a report slated for publication in the journal BioScience, we as a global society are approaching many environmental tipping points — and have already blown past several others.

Atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide levels are at a record high. Arctic ice and glaciers are at an all-time low. Sea levels and oceanic temperatures are at their highest, as is the rate of deforestation in the Amazon.

The list of standout ecological horrors continues — and University of Exeter Global Systems Institute director Tim Lenton warned AFP that the damage is already making the climate “behave in shocking, unexpected ways.”

The problem, the experts say, is that focusing too much on any single issue might become a wild goose chase. They say that the overall problem, more than any single factor or hazard, is humanity’s winner-take-all approach to planetary stewardship.

“We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a stand-alone issue — global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system,” Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple told AFP. “Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet.”
» Read article                       
» Read the climate emergency statement          

» More about climate                       

CLEAN ENERGY

quadruple time
Solar and wind should quadruple this decade in response to ‘code red’ IPCC climate warning
By Jules Scully, PV Tech
August 9, 2021

A landmark new climate report from the United Nations “must sound a death knell” for coal and fossil fuels, according to secretary-general António Guterres, who is calling for a rapid increase in solar capacity and renewable energy investment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, published today, finds that unless immediate and large-scale action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

The research says greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900, and warns that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming.

Describing the report as a “code red for humanity”, Guterres called for immediate action on energy and urged governments to end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy. 

“By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple, and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century,” he said.
» Read article                       

» More about clean energy                         

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Van Nuys Airport
California Panel Backs Solar Mandate for New Buildings
The state’s Energy Commission voted to require commercial and high-rise multifamily projects to have solar power and battery storage.
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
August 11, 2021

LOS ANGELES — California regulators voted Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commercial structures as well as high-rise residential projects, the latest initiative in the state’s vigorous efforts to hasten a transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

The five-member California Energy Commission approved the proposal unanimously. It will now be taken up by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in an overall revision of the building code in December.

The energy plan, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, also includes incentives to eliminate natural gas from new buildings and to make it easier to add batteries to existing solar systems in single-family homes.

“The future we’re trying to build together is a future beyond fossil fuels,” David Hochschild, the chair of the Energy Commission, said ahead of the agency’s vote. “Big changes require everyone to play a role. We all have a role in building this future.”

The commercial buildings affected by the plan include hotels, offices, medical offices and clinics, retail and grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces like theaters, auditoriums and convention centers.

The provisions would supplement requirements that took effect last year mandating that new single-family homes and multifamily dwellings up to three stories high include solar power.
» Read article                       

» More about energy efficiency              

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

FactorialCapacity Retention Milestone Achieved for 40-Ah Solid-State EV Battery
In a major breakthrough, Factorial Energy reached a capacity retention rate of 97.3% after 675 cycles for a 40-Ah cell at 25°C.
By Murray Slovick, Electronic Design
August 10, 2021

For electric vehicles (EVs) to capture more than just 4% of global car sales, buyers need to see dramatic price and performance improvements in the underlying battery systems. Liquid electrolytes perform effectively over a wide temperature range (from below 0°C to about 100°C). But they pose disadvantages: high flammability, capacity loss, electrolytic decomposition at high voltages limiting the use of high-voltage cathode materials, thermal runaway, and risk of leakage. 

Solid-state batteries don’t exhibit these drawbacks, allowing for higher operating temperatures due to better thermal stability. Thus, they’ve become an emerging option for next-generation EV traction batteries. Compared to EVs using conventional lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, those installed with solid-state batteries are expected to have a significantly higher range due to the high battery density.

Factorial Energy, headquartered in Woburn, Mass., announced capacity retention testing results of the company’s 40 amp-hour (Ah) solid-state cell technology. The company’s initial round of cell cycle behavior testing at 25°C demonstrated a 97.3% capacity retention rate after 675 cycles. These numbers are important because solid-state electrolytes are generally slow at transporting lithium ions—ionic diffusion in a solid tends to be orders of magnitude slower than ionic diffusion in a liquid. Therefore, batteries that cycle with adequate rate capability are hard to build.

A battery is judged on five metrics: how much energy it packs, how fast it charges, how many charge-discharge cycles it lasts, how safe it is, and how much it costs. Factorial says its solid-state battery technology can improve energy density, safety, charging rates, and costs over existing batteries.
» Read article                    

streetlight charging
Could streetlight-based charging help apartment dwellers go electric?
By Stephen Edelstein, Green Car Reports
August 6, 2021

The Kansas City Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) will install streetlight-based EV charging stations under a pilot program evaluating curbside charging.

First spotted by photovoltaics industry trade journal PV Magazine, the program calls for installation of 240-volt Level 2 charging stations integrated with streetlight poles at locations throughout the Missouri city.

The program began its design phase in 2018, then ran through a feasibility analysis, which ended in 2020. The MEC is now conducting community outreach and beginning charging-station installations, which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Charging at these stations will cost the same $0.22 per kilowatt-hour as at existing Kansas City public charging stations, according to an information page on the MEC’s website. Usage data will be recorded and analyzed to help inform future charging-infrastructure planning, according to the MEC.

Streetlight-based charging stations could help address the lack of charging options in urban areas. Most EV owners charge their cars at home, but that isn’t an option for apartment dwellers, who may not even have a driveway for garage space to park their cars.
» Read article                      

» More about clean transportation                

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

manufactured shortageFERC requests more evidence of reliability impacts as Spire STL pipeline seeks temporary approval
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
August 10, 2021

The Spire case has the potential to mark a significant shift in how FERC views the need for new gas infrastructure, according to some environmentalists. In its ruling vacating FERC’s 2018 approval of the pipeline, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that FERC ignored “plausible evidence of self-dealing” in its assessment of the project.

For the pipeline to continue operating, it will need to secure a temporary certificate of public convenience and necessity from FERC, something the company says is necessary to maintain reliable service to the project’s 650,000 customers. 

FERC, in its response to the request, asked the company to provide more detail on whether the company could meet service requirements without the pipeline, and to back up more thoroughly its claims that the pipeline provided essential reliability services during the February cold snap that led to widespread outages across the Midwest and Texas. Spire, in its comments, had claimed that not allowing the pipeline to remain in service could place “lives at risk.”

In comments supporting the company’s bid, Missouri officials, businesses and labor groups agreed that shutting down the pipeline could harm reliability of the local grid.

But EDF, in comments filed Thursday, argued the company’s application “is fraught with inaccuracies, lacking in key information, and should be scrutinized carefully by the Commission and rejected in part.”

Any emergency that may exist if the pipeline is shut down is a problem of Spire’s “own making,” given the pipeline was put into operation in the midst of legal challenges, according to EDF, and therefore the company should not be able to reap any financial benefits if the pipeline does secure temporary authorization.

Before the pipeline was placed into service, the region had adequate gas capacity, EDF argued, but the company took other assets out of service once the pipeline was approved by FERC, leaving the region more reliant on the pipeline. EDF urged Spire to disclose why those facilities were taken offline and whether they can be brought back into service.
» Read article             

» More about FERC          

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Lufkin
Follow the money: US subsidizes oil and gas so investors never lose
Finally, we have the numbers and they’re not pretty, detailing how it doesn’t matter what price fuel is.
By María Paula Rubiano A., Grist
August 9, 2021

It’s not a secret that subsidies for fossil fuels get in the way of decarbonization. Nations from the G20 group —including the U.S. — have pledged to phase out inefficient tax breaks for the fossil fuels industry. 

And yet, every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. But there are few concrete numbers that quantify the impact of these subsidies in the nation’s efforts to meet its climate goals. So Ploy Achakulwisut, a climate policy researcher at the Stockholm Environmental Institute, embarked on a project to put a tag on it.

Her team found that, as Achakulwisut puts it, “these [subsidies] are either bad or bad.” 

Her research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a number on the effects that 16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on 1,000 new U.S. oil and gas production fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper shows that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 percent in oil, 87 in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60 percent and 74 percent of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable. The authors estimate that by helping the industry stay profitable in either scenario, these subsidies could add 150 million tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere in 2030. 

“We have to reduce emissions, but we also have to stop doing things that increase emissions; these things go hand in hand,” said Daniel Bresette, director of the non-profit Environmental and Energy Study Institute, and who wasn’t involved in the study. “This report helps demonstrate how what we’re doing now is exacerbating the [high-emissions] situation that we’re in right now.”
» Read article                    

PA crackdown support
New Poll Shows Pennsylvania Voters Want a ‘Crackdown’ on Fracking
As the promised benefits of fracking fail to materialize and the environmental costs mount, Pennsylvania voters of all demographics favor more regulation.
By Nick Cunningham, DeSmog Blog
August 5, 2021

Pennsylvania voters have become increasingly disillusioned with the fracking industry, with weak and declining support across all demographics, according to a new poll. By wide margins, voters in the Keystone State want “a serious crackdown on fracking operations.”

The poll, conducted by Data for Progress for the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI), an Appalachian-focused think tank, shows that large majorities of voters in Pennsylvania — including from large swathes of Republicans — are concerned about pollution from fracking, oppose subsidies to the industry, and support a range of new regulations.

The declining support for fracking is “an extension of trends that have been underway for some time,” Eric de Place, a research fellow at ORVI, told DeSmog. “Men, women, age groups, Republicans, Democrats, Independents … there is not a demographic that doesn’t support a crackdown on fracking,” he said.

On a long list of additional questions, large majorities favored more restrictions, more oversight, and less state support for the natural gas industry, which for years has enjoyed political backing at multiple levels despite signs of waning approval from Pennsylvania residents.

For example, by a 74 to 14 percent margin, respondents favored greater setback distances for fracking operations from homes, schools, hospitals, and other buildings. By a 79 to 9 percent margin, respondents favored mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in drilling, and the same margin supported a comprehensive health response from the state to address the effects of living near drilling sites.

Currently, Pennsylvania exempts fracking fluids from being classified as hazardous waste, a designation that would change how and where fracking waste is handled. Yet 69 percent of those polled support classifying fracking fluids in this way, compared to 21 percent that do not.
» Read article                       

» More about fossil fuels                      

BIOMASS

leaky shield
State wants to expose 5 South Shore towns to wood-burning power plants
The large-scale plants that would be eligible for state incentives under the newest proposed regulations burn 1,200 tons of wood per day.
By Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger
August 5, 2021

State-subsidized wood-burning power plants would be allowed in five South Shore towns if proposed state regulations are adopted. 

Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury and Kingston are among 35 Massachusetts communities that could be affected by the plan.

 A new map proposed by the state Department of Energy Resources would protect the other 90 percent of the state’s 351 communities from state-subsidized “biomass” power plants, which critics say can cause pollution.

State Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, and six other legislators sent a letter to state officials asking the Department of Energy Resources to stop considering wood-burning power plants as clean energy sources eligible for state subsidies.

“I honestly think the administration is trying to get out of incentivizing these power plants, but the way they did it left 35 communities vulnerable,” O’Connor said in a telephone interview.

The map would create a 5-mile buffer around environmental justice communities, preventing biomass projects in those areas from qualifying for the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard incentive program.

The map would leave stretches of land along the coastline in Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield and Duxbury, as well as a sliver of Kingston, eligible for a state-subsidized wood-burning power plant. Communities in Western Massachusetts and half of Truro also would be eligible.

O’Connor said the broad definition of what makes an environmental justice community is a good thing, but leaving a few slivers in the state open to such projects defeats the purpose.
» Read article                       
» Read the letter to DOER              

» More about biomass                 

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

anglers
Record Levels of Harmful Particles Found in Great Lakes Fish
By Andrew Blok, Environmental Health News, in EcoWatch
August 12, 2021

A record-setting fish was pulled from Hamilton Harbor at the western tip of Lake Ontario in 2015 and the world is learning about it just now.

The fish, a brown bullhead, contained 915 particles—a mix of microplastics, synthetic materials containing flame retardants or plasticizers, dyed cellulose fibers, and more—in its body. It was the most particles ever recorded in a fish.

“In 2015 we knew a lot less about microplastics and contamination in fish. I was expecting to see no particles in most fish,” Keenan Munno, then a graduate student at the University of Toronto, told EHN. Every sampled fish had ingested some particles. Munno’s 2015 master’s work has spun out into six years’ worth of research, including the new Conservation Biology paper that reports these findings.

The findings point to the ubiquity of microplastics and other harmful human-made particles in the Great Lakes and the extreme exposure some fish experience—especially those living in urban-adjacent waters. While direct links between microplastics and fish and human health are still an issue of emerging science, finding plastics within fish at such high amounts is concerning.
» Read article                      
» Read the Conservation Biology paper          

» More about plastics in the environment         

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Weekly News Check-In 10/16/20

banner 17

Welcome back.

We took a break last week, but the news kept coming. Events are unfolding rapidly around the Weymouth compressor station, but fortunately WBUR’s Mariam Wasser published another of her excellent “explainer” articles. She pulls all the complicated pieces together and provides much-appreciated clarity.

Elsewhere on the pipeline beat, Eversource Energy has completed its purchase of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. And while they’re still committed to pumping volatile, explosive gas under our streets and into our homes, their message is “this time it will be different.” In the interest of fair and balance reporting, we offer a sobering report about problems with anti-corrosion coatings on natural gas pipes.

We’re catching up on the big-picture impact of recent climate-related lawsuits with an excellent summary article from Dana Drugmand in DeSmog Blog. Closer to home, we found useful information on the health effects of indoor gas use – particularly gas ranges used in non-ventilated kitchens.

Those of us looking forward to a green, sustainable economy apparently have like-minded friends in Helsinki. We found an uplifting article from Finland’s capital, describing a whole population that’s embracing and working toward sustainability.

Our climate section opens with another warning about what will happen if we don’t get our act together quickly, and then follows with potentially hopeful news that China has made its first significant climate policy announcement, committing the country to net-zero by 2060. While that’s too slow, it’s an important beginning.

New York City took a big step toward clean energy when its utility agreed to work with environmental organizations and communities to replace six highly-polluting “peaking” power plants with low- or non-emitting alternatives. That means battery storage, charged during off-peak hours by some combination of conventional and renewable sources. Elsewhere in this section, we look at the complicated issues around hydropower, the down-side of solar in the smoke-choked west – and close with a study showing that reliance on nuclear power actually slows the deployment of renewable power sources.

We found an article describing a financing model for energy efficiency improvements that allows property owners to pay for improvements over time through utility savings. Energy Efficiency as a Service (EEaaS) has been around for decades, but now seems primed for broad application.

Utility Dive’s Kavya Balaraman wrote an extensive 4-part series covering all aspects of energy storage, and we give that whole section to her this week. Taken together, it’s an excellent tour of past, present, and future developments.

The electric vehicle community could see improvements in charging station accessibility and reliability soon, based on a new agreement between EV Connect, vehicle manufacturers, and other partners.

A lot of press lately has focused on cleaning up the fossil fuel industry mess that will inevitably be left behind as we move beyond carbon. It’s a good thing to talk about now, since the industry appears to be actively maneuvering to stick taxpayers with the huge bill. We include cautionary reports from Venezuela and Ecuador, where oil booms went bust without sufficient environmental regulations or remediation.

The South Korean government is defending its renewable energy subsidies for biomass in court. A potentially game-changing suit was brought by the country’s solar industry along with a Canadian citizen who’s trying to stop the clearcutting of British Columbia’s ancient forests to supply wood pellets. The suit charges that biomass burning has “worsened air pollution, accelerated climate change, and stunted the growth of the Korean solar energy sector.”

We close with an article describing a recent study that concludes there is currently 15.5 million tons of microplastics on the ocean floor.

button - BEAT News  For even more environmental news and events, check out the latest newsletters from our colleagues at Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)!

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth compressor explained
The Controversial Natural Gas Compressor In Weymouth, Explained
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
October 13, 2020

For the last five years, a coalition of South Shore towns, politicians and local activists have tried to block the construction of a natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth. They’ve waged public awareness campaigns, challenged the project’s environmental permits in court, and even resorted to civil disobedience. Meanwhile, the company building the compressor station cleared every legal and regulatory hurdle in its way, and construction has moved forward.

The Weymouth compressor itself is a complicated project that involves multiple state and federal agencies and private companies — and that’s before you factor in all the litigation and local controversy the facility has generated.

WBUR published an explainer about the compressor station in June 2019, but given how much has happened since then, we felt it was time for an update. So once again, whether you’ve been reading about the issue for years and have questions, or are just hearing about the project for the first time, here’s what you need to know:
» Read article               

 

evacuation planWeymouth compressor station evacuation plan in the works
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 7, 2020

A new compressor station in the Fore River Basin has a federal operation permit, but an evacuation plan for residents during a potential emergency at the site remains unknown, according to compressor foes.

“It is simply unacceptable that this compressor station has received its final operating permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but we still have no safety and evacuation plan available to the vulnerable residents,” said Alice Arena, leader of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station during a Town Council Meeting, Oct. 5.

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund said an evacuation plan is “being finalized.”

“We anticipate it will be done before that station is fully operational,” he said.

The compressor station was scheduled to begin service, Oct. 1, but natural gas leaks on Sept. 11 and Sept. 30 have delayed the facility from being put into use.
» Read article               

 

FRRACS want clarity
Weymouth compressor foes want clarity on gas leaks
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 7, 2020

The Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station want Town Council to determine whether Enbridge Inc. properly notified the police and fire departments when natural gas leaks occurred at the compressor station, Sept. 11 and Sept. 30.

“We are asking the council…to request, review, and report on the police and fire 911 records for Friday, Sept. 11 and Wednesday, Sept. 30,” said FRRACS leader Alice Arena during an Oct. 5 council meeting.

According to Enbridge spokesman Maxwell Bergeron, the leaks forced an emergency shutdown of the compressor, and they are under investigation by the company.

Arena said FRRACS wants the council to obtain an investigative report about the gas leaks from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“We ask the Council to make this report available to the public,” she said.
» Read article               

 

FBI may investigateLynch: FBI To Investigate Possibility of Cyberattack At Weymouth Compressor
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
October 02, 2020

The FBI has been asked to investigate whether a “cyber intrusion” triggered this week’s emergency shutdown at a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

The cause of the emergency shutdown on Sept. 30 — the second that month — is still unknown, though it seems to have originated in the plant’s electrical system, said U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch.

“Because this is an international pipeline, and because of the national security implication, the FBI has been asked to take a look at any possible cyber intrusion that might have triggered the release,” Lynch said.

The FBI declined to comment on whether it was conducting an investigation involving the station.

The plant has been shut down since Sept. 30, and will remain so until an independent safety analysis is done and officials with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sign off on a re-start plan.

Lynch also submitted a request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday, asking the agency to revoke the station’s certificate of public convenience and necessity, which would effectively pull the plug on the project. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey made the same request earlier in the week.
» Read article               

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

 

PIPELINES

William Akley
‘Safe and reliable’: Eversource says Agawam, Longmeadow pipeline projects necessary after acquiring Columbia Gas
By Jim Kinney, MassLive
October 13, 2020

Proposed natural gas pipeline work in Longmeadow and Agawam could help Eversource — now the owner of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts — end leaks from aging cast-iron pipes in Springfield and address other reliability and safety issues.

But the projects — which are opposed by environmentalists and some living in those towns — need a more thorough review now that Eversource is owner of the system, said Bill Akley, the company’s president of gas operations.

Akley spoke at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at what is now an Eversource Gas maintenance depot, formerly a Columbia Gas facility, in Springfield.

Eversource was celebrating the completion of its purchase of the former Columbia Gas of Massachusetts for $1.1 billion. State regulators approved the purchase last week. The federal government had already given an OK.

Also there, uninvited, were members of the Columbia Gas Resistance Campaign, a group opposing pipelines.

Susan Grossberg, a campaign member from Agawam, questioned how the pipeline projects fit with Eversource’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2030.
» Read article               

 

degraded coatings
Too Much Sun Degrades Coatings That Keep Pipes From Corroding, Risking Leaks, Spills and Explosions
Pipeline installation delays leave pipes stored longer than recommended aboveground, where UV light can deteriorate the coatings that prevent corrosion.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
October 11, 2020

For natural gas pipeline developers hunting for a good deal on a 100-mile section of steel pipe, a recent advertisement claimed to have just what they are looking for.

Following the cancelation of the proposed Constitution natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania and New York, a private equity firm recently offered a “massive inventory” of never-used, “top-quality” coated steel pipe.

What the company didn’t mention is that the pipe may have sat, exposed to the elements, for more than a year, a period of time that exceeds the pipe coating manufacturers’ recommendation for aboveground storage, which could make the pipe prone to failure.

Long term, aboveground pipe storage has become commonplace as pipeline developers routinely begin construction activity on pipeline projects before obtaining all necessary permits and as legal challenges add lengthy delays.

Whether canceled or stalled, overdue oil and gas pipelines across the country may face a little-known problem that raises new safety concerns and could add additional costs and delays.

Fusion bonded epoxy, the often turquoise-green protective coating covering sections of steel pipe in storage yards from North Dakota to North Carolina, may have degraded to the point that it is no longer effective. The coatings degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun while the pipes they cover sit above ground for years.

The compromised coatings leave the underlying pipes more prone to corrosion and failures that could result in leaks, catastrophic spills or explosions. Degraded coatings were implicated in an oil spill from a failed pipeline near Santa Barbara, California in 2015. Toxic compounds may also be released as the coating breaks down, raising concerns that the pipes could pose a health threat to those who live near the vast storage yards holding them.
» Read article               

» More about pipelines       

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

climate suit update
Fossil Fuel Companies Keep Getting Sued Over Climate Impacts. Here’s Where the Cases Stand
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
October 7, 2020

September saw a flurry of new lawsuits filed by cities and states against major fossil fuel companies over the climate crisis and the resulting impacts that are already being felt. After Hoboken, New Jersey sued Big Oil and its largest trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, on September 2, back-to-back lawsuits came the following week from Charleston, South Carolina and the state of Delaware. Connecticut then followed with a lawsuit singularly targeting ExxonMobil, which remains one of the largest oil companies in the world and appears determined to double down on its core fossil fuel business despite knowing decades ago about the climate consequences of using its products. 

These climate lawsuits seek to hold companies like Exxon accountable for spending decades misleading the public on climate risks. Those dangers, projected long ago, have literally hit home in recent months with scorching heat, “record breaking” storms battering the Gulf Coast, and unprecedented and devastating wildfires burning millions of acres in the western U.S.

“Long before Trump entered office, oil and gas CEOs predicted this would be the result of their unfettered industry,” Greenpeace USA Climate Campaign Director Janet Redman said in a late August press release responding to the landfall of Hurricane Laura. “Climate denial is not a victimless crime, and it’s time for the fossil fuel industry to be held accountable.”

The current wave of climate accountability lawsuits started three years ago with a handful of coastal California communities, and has since burgeoned to include nearly two dozen communities across the country so far that are taking the fossil fuel industry to court. Six attorneys general are currently suing Exxon for alleged climate deception, litigation that has started to garner comparisons to the state lawsuits targeting Big Tobacco firms for lying about the health risks of smoking.

The climate cases have not yet made it to trial, with the exception of a securities fraud lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General against Exxon. A judge dismissed that case following a trial held last October, finding that Exxon did not deceive its investors over climate risks to its business. Since then, attorneys general have filed several new cases alleging that major oil companies such as Exxon misled consumers in violation of state consumer protection laws.

“These companies were not simply reckless in the pursuit of profits,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who sued BP, Chevron, Exxon, and Shell in June, explained during a recent online briefing. “Their deceptive advertisements and misleading claims violated the D.C. Consumer Protection law.”

One legal expert who is following these climate cases told DeSmog that these consumer protection cases may have an easier path towards trial in state courts. “These are straight-up state consumer rights laws,” Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School (and this writer’s former law professor) said. “So those [cases] are going to go straight to trial I think.”
» Read article               

» More about protests and actions       

 

HEALTH EFFECTS OF INDOOR GAS USE

kill your gas stove
Kill Your Gas Stove
It’s bad for you, and the environment. If you can afford to avoid it, you probably should.
By Sabrina Imbler, The Atlantic
October 15, 2020

Most Americans these days use electric stoves, but approximately a third cook primarily with natural gas, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Many of these cooks swear by the blue flame, which can supercharge a cast-iron pan in a way that would put an electric coil to shame. Cooking over a fire may seem natural enough, but these stoves should be a hotter topic: Given advances in induction technology, concerns about the climate, health anxieties, or some combination of the three, should anyone be using one?

If you can afford to avoid it, probably not.

On the air-quality front, at least, the evidence against gas stoves is damning. Although cooking food on any stove produces particulate pollutants, burning gas produces nitrogen dioxide, or NO2,, and sometimes also carbon monoxide, according to Brett Singer, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who studies indoor air quality. Brief exposures to air with high concentrations of NO2 can lead to coughing and wheezing for people with asthma or other respiratory issues, and prolonged exposure to the gas can contribute to the development of those conditions, according to the EPA.
» Read article             

» More about health effects of indoor gas use        

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

sustainable Helsinki
Helsinki Makes Sustainability a Guiding Principle for Development
By Dorn Townsend, New York Times
October 14, 2020

HELSINKI, Finland — When his tour as the American ambassador to Finland ended in 2015, Bruce Oreck decided to linger. Part of the draw was a business opportunity. In a neighborhood just north of the city center, Mr. Oreck paid about 11 million euros for a vast, abandoned, century-old train factory.

He has been transforming the site into a market and community center that he intends to be a model of green building and consumerism. But Mr. Oreck, who was a New Orleans tax lawyer and professional bodybuilder before he became an Obama political appointee, said he had stayed because he was enchanted by something besides the potential for real estate success.

“You don’t hear about it unless you spend time here, but something is happening in Helsinki that isn’t happening almost anywhere else,” Mr. Oreck said. “Helsinki is a city full of people waiting for the revolution. They really want to make the world a better place, and they’re trying to lead by example. Which is a paradox, because Finns are decidedly not showy people.”

The qualities Mr. Oreck is referring to are sometimes summed up by the term sustainability. In the world’s second-most northern capital, sustainability has moved from concept to guiding principle. It’s rare for a day to pass without hearing a form of the word deployed multiple times as an environmentally friendly noun, adjective or adverb.

But Helsinki has a parallel goal: The city has endorsed measures it hopes will earn it recognition as the world’s most functional city.

In Helsinki this aspiration will be judged against a measurable and widely shared benefit: New master-planned communities must integrate features allowing inhabitants to enjoy an extra hour of free time each day.
» Read article                             

 

diversity and inclusion initiative
Solar firms unite to launch diversity and inclusion initiative
By Jules Scully, PV Tech
October 13, 2020

A group of trade organisations and solar companies have launched a new initiative that aims to improve diversity and inclusion in the industry.

The ‘Renewables Forward’ partnership will see stakeholders share corporate practices and policies as well as invest in under-resourced and minority communities in the US. The goal is to identify tangible ways to collaborate and drive a larger industrywide partnership between CEOs and solar organisations.

Founding members include Capital Dynamics, Cypress Creek Renewables, EDF Renewables, Generate Capital, Mosaic, Nautilus Solar Energy, New Columbia Solar, Nextracker, Sol Systems and Volt Energy, as well as the Solar Energy Industries Association and The Solar Foundation.

“From a mission perspective, the lack of diversity in solar means that whole segments of the American population are simply not participating in climate solutions and are being left out of the economic opportunities that these jobs create,” said Dan Shugar, CEO of Nextracker. “Words are good, but we are overdue in our industry to do better in terms of minority and gender representation.”

Renewables Forward’s initial efforts include coordinating an educational and fundraising programme to support US civil rights organisations the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Urban League.

Gilbert Campbell, CEO of solar project developer Volt Energy, said: “Our diversity issue is not simply a hiring problem, but an issue of education, access, political voice, environmental impact, community protection and sustainability.

“We cannot commit to building a better, more sustainable future without committing both to address the inequities of the past and to build a solution that elevates opportunity for all Americans.”
» Read article                            

 

casting doubt
Fishing industry group casts doubt on offshore wind’s job creation promises
Wind advocates counter that a recent report obscures the potential for long-term employment as the industry continues to grow.
By Lisa Prevost, Energy News Network
October 12, 2020

While offshore wind developers are promising tens of thousands of U.S. jobs from wind farm development along the East Coast over the next decade, the commercial fishing industry is sowing doubt about the projections. 

An economic analysis commissioned by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a fishing industry coalition, concludes that “a surprisingly low” number of new positions will be permanent, and that the bulk of jobs will be created overseas. 

“The claim that the huge investments on offshore wind would provide significant job and economic benefits in the U.S. has been grossly inflated,” wrote the report’s author, Janet Liang, an economist with Georgetown Economic Services, a consulting firm. 

Wind industry representatives are not convinced by the findings, however. So long as Eastern Seaboard states can provide sufficient training to help businesses and workers capitalize on wind industry opportunities, the economic benefit is bound to be substantial, said Liz Burdock, chief executive and president of the Business Network for Offshore Wind. 

“The number that I point to, which is based on annual aggregate data, is what’s happened in Europe, where offshore wind sustains 40,000 jobs,” Burdock said. “I feel fairly confident that we’re going to hit or exceed that number with what we have in the pipeline now.” 

The Georgetown report comes as federal regulators near a long-awaited decision on Vineyard Wind, which is poised to become the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm. Fishing industry interests are imploring regulators to fully consider the impacts on fisheries. While state economic development officials tout offshore wind as an economic boon, some in the fishing industry feel the projections don’t take into account the potential damage to their sector.
» Read article                     

» More about greening the economy        

 

CLIMATE

human cost of disasters
‘Uninhabitable Hell:’ UN Report Warns of Planet’s Future for Millions Without Climate Action
By Jordan Davidson, EcoWatch
October 13, 2020

A new report from the United Nations found that political leaders and industry leaders are failing to do the necessary work to stop the world from becoming an “uninhabitable hell” for millions of people as the climate crisis continues and natural disasters become more frequent, as Al-Jazeera reported.

The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019 was released Monday to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which falls on Oct. 13, according to a statement from the office behind the report.

The bulk of the disasters were climate-related, as there were sharp increases in the number of floods, storms, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires in the last two decades, according to CNN.

The report found that the world is on a worrying trend line as natural disasters become more frequent and more expensive. In the last 20 years, there were more than 7,300 natural disasters worldwide, accounting for nearly $3 trillion in damages. That’s almost double the prior two decades when there were just over 4,200 natural disasters that totaled $1.6 trillion in economic losses, according to the statement.

“It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction,” said UNDRR chief Mami Mizutori and Debarati Guha-Sapir of Belgium’s Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, in a joint foreword to the report, as CNN reported.

“It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming.”
» Read article                   
» Read the report             

 

China sets a marker
China Has Surprised the World With Climate Action Announcement
By Hao Tan, Elizabeth Thurbon, John Mathews, Sung-Young Kim, The Conversation, in EcoWatch
October 8, 2020

China’s President Xi Jinping surprised the global community recently by committing his country to net-zero emissions by 2060. Prior to this announcement, the prospect of becoming “carbon neutral” barely rated a mention in China’s national policies.

China currently accounts for about 28% of global carbon emissions – double the U.S. contribution and three times the European Union’s. Meeting the pledge will demand a deep transition of not just China’s energy system, but its entire economy.

Importantly, China’s use of coal, oil and gas must be slashed, and its industrial production stripped of emissions. This will affect demand for Australia’s exports in coming decades.

It remains to be seen whether China’s climate promise is genuine, or simply a ploy to win international favor. But it puts pressure on many other nations – not least Australia – to follow.
» Read article               

» More about climate           

 

CLEAN ENERGY

goodbye NY peakers
New York says goodbye to 6 dirty power plants and hello to working with communities
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
October 15, 2020

New York’s latest move toward its aggressive decarbonization goals makes good on the promise of a more equitable transition. On Tuesday, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), a publicly owned power utility, announced an agreement to work with environmental justice groups on a plan to transition six natural gas–fired power plants in New York City to cleaner technologies.

These are not just any power plants. The six facilities in question are “peaker plants,” designed to fire up only during times of peak demand, like hot summer days when New Yorkers are cranking up their air conditioners — and air quality is already compromised.

Peaker plants typically operate less than 10 percent of the time, but they have an outsized effect on communities and the environment. Of the city’s 16 peaker plants, most of them are at least 50 years old, and some run on especially dirty fuels like oil or kerosene. These old plants are disproportionately located in communities of color in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens that are simultaneously burdened with other health risks like heat vulnerability. In addition to emitting carbon dioxide that is heating up the planet, they release harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and tiny, easily inhalable particles that contribute to respiratory issues.

Residents in these communities also feel the burden year-round on their energy bills. A recent report estimated that New Yorkers pay $450 million per year to run the city’s peaker plants no more than a few hundreds hours. The report was authored by the newly formed PEAK Coalition, an alliance of five leading environmental justice groups working to replace fossil fuel peaker plants with renewable energy and battery storage.

Now NYPA has agreed to bring PEAK into the fold as it studies ways to transition its six plants to cleaner technologies. In a memorandum of understanding, the two parties agreed to “evaluate the potential to replace existing peaker units” and “augment or otherwise install renewable and battery storage systems” on these sites and in surrounding communities.
» Read article              
» Read the PEAK Coalition report on peaker plants       
» Read the memorandum of understanding          
» Read the press release              

 

Hoover DamEnvironmentalists and Dam Operators, at War for Years, Start Making Peace
Facing a climate crisis, environmental groups and industry agree to work together to bolster hydropower while reducing harm from dams.
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
October 13, 2020

The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but contentious source of renewable power.

The United States generated about 7 percent of its electricity last year from hydropower, mainly from large dams built decades ago, such as the Hoover Dam, which uses flowing water from the Colorado River to power turbines. But while these facilities don’t emit planet-warming carbon dioxide, the dams themselves have often proved ecologically devastating, choking off America’s once-wild rivers and killing fish populations.

So, over the past 50 years, conservation groups have rallied to block any large new dams from being built, while proposals to upgrade older hydropower facilities or construct new water-powered energy-storage projects have often been bogged down in lengthy regulatory disputes over environmental safeguards.

The new agreement signals a desire to de-escalate this long-running war.

In a joint statement, industry groups and environmentalists said they would collaborate on a set of specific policy measures that could help generate more renewable electricity from dams already in place, while retrofitting many of the nation’s 90,000 existing dams to be safer and less ecologically damaging.
» Read article              
» Read the joint statement            

 

CANADA-ECONOMY-ENERGY-FOREST-WATER

Aerial view of Hydro-Quebec’s Romaine 1 hydroelectric dam in Havre St. Pierre, Quebec, October 3, 2018. – On a frigid night, the roar of heavy machinery chipping away at rock echoes through Canada’s boreal forest: in the far north of Quebec province, four massive hydroelectric dams that will produce power for US markets are nearing completion. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Clement SABOURIN (Photo by LARS HAGBERG/AFP via Getty Images)

New York and New England Need More Clean Energy. Is Hydropower From Canada the Best Way to Get it?
Two massive projects, requiring hundreds of miles of transmissions lines, have left Indigenous communities in Canada, and some U.S. activists, up in arms.
By Ilana Cohen, InsideClimate News
Photo: Hydro-Quebec’s Romaine 1 hydroelectric dam in Havre St. Pierre, Quebec. Credit: Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images
October 4, 2020

 

With only months until developers start making both projects on-the-ground realities, they have seized public attention within, and beyond, their regions.

Officials and transmission line proponents say importing Canadian hydropower offers an immediate and feasible way to help decarbonize electricity portfolios in New York and New England, supporting their broader efforts to combat climate change. 

But some environmental activists say hydropower has a significant carbon footprint of its own. They fear the projects will make states look “greener” at the expense of the local environment, Indigenous communities, and ultimately, the climate. 

“We’re talking about the most environmentally and economically just pathway” to decarbonization, said Annel Hernandez, associate director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. “Canadian hydro is not going to provide that.” 

To that end, environmental groups opposing Canadian hydropower say New York and New England should seize the moment to expedite local development of wind and solar power.
» Read article               

 

filtered sunlightCalifornia’s solar energy gains go up in wildfire smoke
Pollution from wildfires blocked sunlight and coated solar panels
By Justine Calma, The Verge
October 1, 2020

Smoke from California’s unprecedented wildfires was so bad that it cut a significant chunk of solar power production in the state. Solar power generation dropped off by nearly a third in early September as wildfires darkened the skies with smoke, according to the US Energy Information Administration. 

Those fires create thick smoke, laden with particles that block sunlight both when they’re in the air and when they settle onto solar panels. In the first two weeks of September, soot and smoke caused solar-powered electricity generation to fall 30 percent compared to the July average, according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees nearly all utility-scale solar energy in California. It was a 13.4 percent decrease from the same period last year, even though solar capacity in the state has grown about 5 percent since September 2019.
» Read article              

 

no nukes here
Nuclear power hinders fight against climate change
Countries investing in renewables are achieving carbon reductions far faster than those which opt to back nuclear power.
By Paul Brown, Climate News Network
October 6, 2020

Countries wishing to reduce carbon emissions should invest in renewables, abandoning any plans for nuclear power stations because they can no longer be considered a low-carbon option.

That is the conclusion of a study by the University of Sussex Business School, published in the journal Nature Energy, which analysed World Bank and International Energy Agency data from 125 countries over a 25-year period.

The study provides evidence that it is difficult to integrate renewables and nuclear together in a low-carbon strategy, because they require two different types of grid. Because of this, the authors say, it is better to avoid building nuclear power stations altogether.

A country which favours large-scale nuclear stations inevitably freezes out the most effective carbon-reducing technologies − small-scale renewables such as solar, wind and hydro power, they conclude.

Perhaps their most surprising finding is that countries around the world with large-scale nuclear programmes do not tend to show significantly lower carbon emissions over time. In poorer countries nuclear investment is associated with relatively higher emissions.
» Read article              
» Obtain the study            

» More about clean energy                           

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

EEaaS
Cities push ahead on Energy Efficiency as a Service as private sector plays catch up
Forms of EEaaS have existed for decades as alternative funding mechanisms in cities. Now, as technologies accelerate and COVID-19 continues, the private sector wants in.
By Chris Teale, Utility Dive
October 5, 2020

The proliferation of new technologies has transformed areas of mobility and software into comprehensive service offerings to bolster operations. Now, public sector entities are leading the charge on a tech-driven service offering that’s been bubbling under the surface for decades: Energy Efficiency as a Service (EEaaS).

Under EEaaS, businesses and governments can underwrite the up-front costs of energy efficiency upgrades, then pay for them with the savings they get from those upgrades over the course of a long-term financial contract. Those upgrades are typically in the areas of lighting, air conditioning (HVAC) and energy management.

As an alternative funding mechanism, forms of EEaaS have existed for decades. But in contrast to typical innovation trends, the public sector is pushing ahead on EEaaS as private companies try to catch up.
» Read article              

» More about energy efficiency                  

 

ENERGY STORAGE

lithium and moreTo batteries and beyond: Lithium-ion dominates utility storage; could competing chemistries change that?
The industry is growing increasingly comfortable with lithium-ion, but its limitations open up a space for other technologies to compete in the storage mix.
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
October 15, 2020

Lots of utilities are coming out with carbon goals, and renewables are going to play a big part in that, said Zachary Kuznar, managing director of energy storage, microgrid and CHP development at Duke Energy.

“As you put more and more solar and wind on the grid, the batteries are going to be, in my opinion, kind of an essential resource to help smooth out that intermittency,” Kuznar said. 

“But also, as we get more into some of these more long-duration technologies, like flow batteries and others, I think it’s going to be a critical piece to potentially offset the need to build some kind of future peaking plants.”
» Read article              

 

long-duration energy storage
To batteries and beyond: Compressed air, liquid air and the holy grail of long-duration storage
Proponents of the technologies are looking to carve out a niche for themselves in the market. In both cases, a key draw is duration.
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
October 14, 2020

In 1991, generation and transmission cooperative PowerSouth — then known as the Alabama Electric Cooperative — started operating a 110 MW compressed air energy storage (CAES) plant in McIntosh, Alabama.

The project was the first of its kind in the U.S., and had a 26-hour duration. It essentially served as a peaker plant, to smooth demand between the low weekday loads and high weekend peaks that came from having a predominantly residential load, according to Bobby Bailie, business development director for energy storage at Siemens Energy. Bailie used to work for Dresser-Rand, the company that built the equipment at the McIntosh plant, which was acquired by Siemens in 2015.

Nearly three decades later, the McIntosh plant is still the only operational utility-scale CAES plant in the U.S. But more recently, utilities and developers have taken a renewed interest in the technology for a completely different reason: the ability to store large amounts of renewable energy for long periods of time.
» Read article              

 

pumped hydro storageTo batteries and beyond: In a high-renewables world, pumped hydro storage could be ‘the heavy artillery’
Experts say pumped hydro is notoriously difficult to site. But as more renewables come online, the industry is eyeing new locations and fresh technologies.
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
October 13, 2020

 

“You just can’t keep bringing on more and more solar and wind, and just have it then stop when the sun goes down,” [Jim Day, CEO of Daybreak Power] said. “With pumped storage, they were all built some decades ago and they haven’t been built since then, because there was no demand for it…. But there is now, and there will be more and more and more in the coming years.”

Pumped storage hydropower accounted for around 95% of commercial energy storage capacity in the U.S. as of 2018, with around 21.6 GW of installed capacity around the country. Facilities traditionally include two reservoirs, at different elevations; they draw power by pumping water to the upper reservoir, and generate it by passing that water through a turbine. But experts say it’s notoriously difficult to find suitable locations for the pumped hydro plants, which are large, rely on specific geographies like mountains, and have prolonged permitting and development timelines that can stretch to a decade. 

“Pumped storage is very difficult to site. It has a lot of environmental issues with it,” said Glenn McGrath, leader of the electricity statistics, uranium statistics and product innovation team at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In 2017, the National Hydropower Association issued a white paper looking at the challenges and opportunities tied to developing new pumped storage, and noted that past projects have generally required constructing a minimum of one dam on main stem rivers, which could affect the local ecology. According to the report, developing “closed-loop” projects — built in areas not connected to river systems — could reduce those concerns.
» Read article             
» Read the NHA white paper       

 

 

hydrogen storageTo batteries and beyond: With seasonal storage potential, hydrogen offers ‘a different ballgame entirely’
The ability to provide weeks — or even months — of storage could give power-to-gas technologies an edge as renewables grow on the grid, some experts think.
By Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive
October 12, 2020

Jack Brouwer started thinking about the potential of using hydrogen to store massive amounts of energy around 12 years ago.

The idea was this: take inexpensive or excess renewable energy, run it through an electrolyzer to create hydrogen, store that hydrogen for as long as needed, and then use fuel cells to convert it back into electricity. Brouwer, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Irvine, took the idea to the U.S. Department of Energy, and tried to convince the agency that the technology was essential to achieving carbon policy goals and supporting a renewables-heavy grid.

But the agency didn’t move forward with the idea so Brouwer and a group of his students began researching the issue. In 2013, they published a paper that looked at the potential of using large-scale compressed gas to store energy and smooth out intermittent wind resources. That paper caught the attention of some people at Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) — the nation’s largest gas utility — who reached out, saying they too had been thinking about the potential of hydrogen and wanted to talk, Brouwer said in an interview.

The discussion led to a demonstration project that was set up at UC Irvine’s campus in 2016, Brouwer said, that made renewable hydrogen from solar power using an electrolyzer — “and then taking that renewable hydrogen, injecting it into our natural gas grid and then delivering it, through our natural gas grid, to a natural gas combined cycle plant to make partially decarbonized electricity from it.”

It ran for four years. By the end, Brouwer’s vision for the technology had crystallized: transforming the natural gas delivery system into a renewable hydrogen delivery system, and using it as a cost-effective way to introduce massive amounts of storage.

“If you need to store terawatt hours of energy — which is what the grid will need if it’s 100% renewable — it’s going to be way cheaper to store it in the form of hydrogen,” Brouwer said.
» Read article             
» Read the 2013 paper        

» More about energy storage               

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

EV charge partnership
Electric vehicle firms partner to ramp up charging station access, reliability
By Chris Teale, Utility Dive
October 14, 2020

Electric vehicle (EV) charging management company EV Connect announced its Partner Program on Wednesday to expand access to EV charging stations and improve their maintenance. BTCPower, EVBox and EVoCharge were named the initial program partners.

Through the new EV Connect Manufacturer Portal, the partners can provide manufacturers with insight into charging stations’ performance, meaning maintenance can be managed more quickly and proactively, in a bid to ensure that charging station availability is not affected by downtime. The companies will be able to keep track of stations’ performance data, EV Connect CEO Jordan Ramer said, meaning they can “proactively fix stations before they break.”

For EV users, Ramer said the partnership can help expand charging station access by improving reliability at those stations and reducing downtime for maintenance issues. Meanwhile, cities and site owners looking to manage EV charging infrastructure will benefit from reduced maintenance and operating costs as issues can be more easily tracked and fixed, Ramer said.
» Read article              

» More about clean transportation                   

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

planned abandonmentWith Bankruptcies Mounting, Faltering Oil and Gas Firms Are Leaving a Multi-billion Dollar Cleanup Bill to the Public
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 15, 2020

Amid a record wave of bankruptcies, the U.S. oil and gas industry is on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars in environmental cleanup obligations.

Even the largest companies in the industry appear to have few plans to properly clean up and plug oil and gas wells after the wells stop producing — despite being legally required to do so. While the bankruptcy process could be an opportunity to hold accountable either these firms, or the firms acquiring the assets via bankruptcy, it instead has offered more opportunities for companies to walk away from cleanup responsibilities — while often rewarding the same executives who bankrupted them. 

The results may be publicly funded cleanups of the millions of oil and gas wells that these companies have left behind. In a new report, Carbon Tracker, an independent climate-focused financial think tank, has estimated the costs to plug the 2.6 million documented onshore wells in the U.S. at $280 billion. This estimate does not include the costs to address an estimated 1.2 million undocumented wells.

Greg Rogers, a former Big Oil advisor, and co-author of a previous Carbon Tracker report on the likely costs of properly shutting down shale wells, suggested to DeSmog that oil and gas companies have factored walking away from their cleanup responsibilities into their business planning.
» Read article        
» Read background article from 10/4              
» Read the Carbon Tracker report       

 

airborne radioactivity
Airborne radioactivity increases downwind of fracking, study finds
Particles released by drilling could damage the health of nearby residents, say scientists
By Damian Carrington, the Guardian
October 13, 2020

The radioactivity of airborne particles increases significantly downwind of fracking sites in the US, a study has found.

The Harvard scientists said this could damage the health of people living in nearby communities and that further research was needed to understand how to stop the release of the radioactive elements from under the ground.

The radioactivity rose by 40% compared with the background level in the most affected sites. The increase will be higher for people living closer than 20km to the fracking sites, which was the closest distance that could be assessed with the available data.

The scientists used data collected from 157 radiation-monitoring stations across the US between 2001 and 2017. The stations were built during the cold war when nuclear war was a threat. They compared data with the position and production records of 120,000 fracking wells.

“Our results suggest that an increase in particle radioactivity due to the extensive [fracking development] may cause adverse health outcomes in nearby communities,” the team concluded.
» Read article        

 

end of an eraVenezuela, Once an Oil Giant, Reaches the End of an Era
Venezuela’s oil reserves, the world’s largest, transformed the country and the global energy market. Now its oil sector is grinding to a halt. Will it ever recover?
By Sheyla Urdaneta, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Isayen Herrera, New York Times
Photographs by Adriana Loureiro Fernandez
October 7, 2020

CABIMAS, Venezuela — For the first time in a century, there are no rigs searching for oil in Venezuela.

Wells that once tapped the world’s largest crude reserves are abandoned or left to flare toxic gases that cast an orange glow over depressed oil towns.

Refineries that once processed oil for export are rusting hulks, leaking crude that blackens shorelines and coats the water in an oily sheen.

Fuel shortages have brought the country to a standstill. At gas stations, lines go on for miles.

Venezuela’s colossal oil sector, which shaped the country and the international energy market for a century, has come to a near halt, with production reduced to a trickle by years of gross mismanagement and American sanctions. The collapse is leaving behind a destroyed economy and a devastated environment, and, many analysts say, bringing to an end the era of Venezuela as an energy powerhouse.

In Cabimas, a town on the shores of Lake Maracaibo that was once a center of production for the region’s prolific oil fields, crude seeping from abandoned underwater wells and pipelines coats the crabs that former oil workers haul from the lake with blackened hands.

When it rains, oil that has oozed into the sewage system comes up through manholes and drains, coursing with rainwater through the streets, smearing houses and filling the town with its gaseous stench.

Cabimas’s desolation marks a swift downfall for a town that just a decade ago was one of the richest in Venezuela.
» Read article              

 

sangre del diablo
Blood of the Devil

A brief history of oil colonialism in Ecuador, and what happened in the decades leading up to a landmark lawsuit against Texaco in the 1990s.
By Karen Savage and Amy Westervelt, Drilled News
October 2, 2020

Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians have been locked in legal battle with the oil major Chevron for decades. In recent years media attention has been focused on the lawyers in this case, but to understand what’s at stake we need to go back and look at what actually happened in Ecuador as the original defendant in this case, Texaco, began to explore for oil there.

Texaco began its search for Ecuadorian oil in March 1964, when the junta, the military government that had seized power the previous year, granted the firm a concession agreement. The initial agreement gave TexPet, Texaco’s Latin American subsidiary, the right to explore for oil in the Oriente region (in the eastern side of the country, covered primarily by rainforest).

Three years later, in the northern region of the concession that was home to the Indigenous A’i, or Cofán people, Texaco found what it was looking for deep under the rainforest: a vast, untapped reservoir of crude. Texaco and the government expanded their concession agreement, making a subsidiary named TexPet the “consortium operator” in charge of exploration and development of new oil fields.

TexPet’s operations in the A’i ancestral lands eventually expanded to include 15 fields, 18 production facilities, and 316 wells, as well as hundreds of miles of pipelines connecting them.

Texaco’s discovery made bold national headlines and mesmerized government officials, who anticipated that the black gold would line Ecuador’s coffers…and possibly their own pockets.

But the inhabitants of the region knew better, because by the late 1960s, Texaco and its frenzied search for oil, or sangre del diablo, “blood of the devil,” as locals came to call it, had already taken a devastating toll on Indigenous tribes including the Cofán, Secoya, Siona, Huarani, Sansahuari, Kichwa, Rumipamba, and Tetete.
» Read article               

» More about fossil fuels                

 

BIOMASS

Korea biomass suit
Korean solar industry makes unprecedented legal challenge to “green” credentials of biomass energy

Canadian citizen joins suit against Korean government alleging irreparable harm to forests and climate from use of British Columbia wood pellets
By Adam Eagle and Joojin Kim, Partnership for Policy Integrity
September 27, 2020

Solar developers in South Korea are filing a potentially game-changing lawsuit against their national government today (midday Korea Standard Time, 28 September), citing unconstitutional renewable energy subsidies to wood burning that have worsened air pollution, accelerated climate change, and stunted the growth of the Korean solar energy sector. The case represents the first national-level lawsuit challenging the status of wood-burning as renewable energy.

Joining as a plaintiff in the case is a Canadian citizen who represents ancient forests of British Columbia that are being harvested to make wood pellets burned in South Korea, the UK, and Europe.  The suit represents the first time a non-Korean plaintiff has challenged the Korean government for failing in their climate duties and breaching human rights. Other plaintiffs in the case include residents of Korea who live near plants burning biomass and who are affected by the resulting air pollution.

Korea already has some of the most polluted air in the world. Last year, South Korea passed emergency powers to combat the ‘social disaster’ of air pollution leading to the temporary closure of a quarter of its coal-fired power plants.  Joojin Kim, managing director of Seoul-based Solutions For Our Climate, the organization coordinating the case, said: “Data from the plant operators themselves show that biomass plants can emit even more air pollution per megawatt-hour than coal plants, yet the Korean government is increasingly dependent on bioenergy to meet our renewable energy goals, stunting the growth of vital zero-emissions technologies like solar power.”

In addition to conventional air pollutants, burning biomass for electricity generation emits more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than burning coal, and multiple scientific studies have found that slow forest regrowth cannot come close to compensating for the excess greenhouse gases in time to meet emissions reduction targets. Bioenergy generation received nearly 40% of total renewable energy subsidies issued between 2014 and 2018 in Korea, the highest among renewable energy sources according to research by Solutions for Our Climate.
» Read article               

» More about biomass             

 

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

ocean floor plasticsNew Study: 15.5 Million Tons of Microplastics Litter Ocean Floor
By Jordan Davidson, EcoWatch
October 6, 2020

Microplastics can be found everywhere from Antarctica to the Pyrenees. A significant amount of plastic waste ends up in the ocean, but very little has been known about how much ends up on the ocean floor — until now.

A new study has found that the ocean floor contains nearly 15.5 tons of microplastics, CNN reported.

Researchers from Australia’s government science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), examined microplastics on the ocean floor near the Great Australian Bight, a large expanse that comprises the bulk of the country’s southwest coastline.

The researchers used a robotic submarine to gather and analyze samples taken from six locations up to 236 miles off the coast, and up to almost 10,000 feet deep, reported CNN.

The results, which were published Monday in Frontiers in Marine Science, revealed about 35 times more plastic at the bottom of the ocean than floating at the surface. In 51 samples taken between March and April 2017, researchers found an average of 1.26 microplastic pieces per gram of sediment, a concentration that’s up to 25 times greater than any previous deep-sea study, CNN reported.
» Read article              
» Read the research article          

» More about plastics in the environment  

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Weekly News Check-In 7/17/20

banner 04

Welcome back.

Last week’s news was all about pipeline projects scuttled by fierce popular resistance, smart litigation, and economic reality. This week, proponents of big gas/oil and business-as-usual struck back by further slashing environmental regulations in the hope of greasing the skids for future projects. And with the Dakota Access Pipeline held up indefinitely, a lot more volatile crude may soon be moving by rail on trains and track near you – having never effectively addressed all those “bomb train” safety issues.

Some of the biggest banks financing fossil fuel projects are prime targets of the divestment movement. Many are also backing Rocky Mountain Institute’s new Center for Climate-Aligned Finance. The Center’s mission is to guide banks operating in carbon-heavy sectors, with the goal of achieving global net-zero emissions by 2050. Conflict of interest? Environmental organizations will be watching closely.

The Biden campaign released an ambitious plan that aims to green the economy while rescuing it from the Covid-19 collapse. And while the climate reels from unchecked methane emissions – posting another record – scientists are launching a new satellite system supported by artificial intelligence and machine learning to pinpoint and track global carbon emissions in real time. This will allow direct measurement for the first time – and presents an opportunity for effective management and stronger international agreements.

Some good news in clean energy involves the rescue of rooftop solar net metering from an attempt by the shadowy New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) to move policy decisions from State to Federal jurisdiction. And now that natural gas is no longer seriously considered a clean bridge fuel, we’re facing the tricky question of how best to trim back its role in generating power and heating buildings. Massachusetts, New York, and California are leading the way.

Energy storage and clean transportation are increasingly synergistic. Expect to see robust growth in both sectors, with topped-up EVs providing storage services to the grid, and retired EV batteries finding their way into stationary storage installations – especially now that a new generation of lithium-ion batteries is expected to last much longer than a typical vehicle’s life on the road.

The fossil fuel industry is promoting “renewable” natural gas, derived from non-fossil methane sources. We offer an analysis of this niche fuel, and how it’s being used as cover for the continued use of fossil methane. Also a must-read article from the Times, discussing the huge and growing problem of methane leaks from abandoned oil and gas wells, at a time when fracking companies are failing and leaving cleanup costs to taxpayers.

The wood pellet industry is booming, thanks to policies in both Europe and the U.S. that treat woody biomass as a carbon neutral fuel. A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency may make the problem worse, and that’s bad news for the climate and forests.

We reported last week that plastics industry lobbyists had pounced on the opportunity presented by uncertainty around modes of disease transmission in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis – convincing states to roll back municipal plastic bag bans in the interest of public safety. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has now reinstated those bans, since we now understand that Covid-19 transmission from surfaces is a low risk. We close with a report on plastics in the environment – everywhere.

— The NFGiM Team

OTHER PIPELINES

orange is the new stupid
President Trump just made it harder to stop new pipelines
Trump moved to speed up the permitting process for major infrastructure projects
By Justine Calma, The Verge
July 15, 2020

President Trump today gutted the National Environmental Policy Act, a move that many environmental advocates worry will make it harder for people to have a say in how major infrastructure projects would affect them. The new rules speed up permitting for large infrastructure projects like pipelines and highways by truncating the environmental review process.

Environmental reviews are designed to figure out if a project will significantly change the environment around the project in some way. The process can take years and involves scientific studies, intense analysis, and time for the public to comment on the proposals. The new rules, first proposed in January, limit the timeline for environmental reviews to two years — even though the process frequently takes twice as long. The changes would also allow projects that aren’t primarily federally funded to bypass the environmental reviews entirely. The revised rules also permit federal agencies to ignore climate change when making their assessments.

NEPA helped Native American tribes and pipeline opponents secure recent victories. A federal judge decided in March that the US Army Corps of Engineers violated NEPA in granting a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and earlier this month ordered the pipeline to shut down pending an environmental review. Pipeline opponents successfully asserted in 2018 that developers of the Keystone XL pipeline violated NEPA.

While today’s changes won’t affect pipeline decisions that have already been made, environmental advocates and attorneys argue that it will become harder for people to contest a major new infrastructure project in the future.
» Read article          

Return of the Bomb Trains
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
July 12, 2020

On July 6th Reuters published an article on the potential for a resurgence of moving crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota across the country by rail, due to a judge’s decision to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline over permit issues.

July 6th also was the 7th anniversary of the disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec when a train full of Bakken oil from North Dakota derailed and exploded — resulting in 47 fatalities and the destruction of much of downtown Lac-Mégantic.

And while the timing was just coincidence, it is a stark reminder of the dangers of moving Bakken crude (and Canadian crude) oil by rail and the risks that a resurgence of this industry poses to the 25 million people living along the tracks these oil trains traverse.

After the Lac-Mégantic disaster, regulators in Canada and the U.S. worked to put in place new safety regulations to prevent another such disaster from happening. However, as we have documented here on DeSmog and in my book Bomb Trains: How Industry Greed and Regulatory Failure Put the Public at Risk, the oil and rail industries have effectively blocked or forced the repeal of any meaningful safety regulations.

Regulations for modern electronically controlled pneumatic brakes were repealed by the Trump administration. State regulations to require the volatile Bakken oil to be stabilized to remove the natural gas liquids in the crude oil that make it so dangerous were overruled by the Trump administration.

There still are no regulations about rail track wear and replacement even though track failure is a leading cause of train derailments and is suspected of causing the two most recent oil train derailments that resulted in large spills and fires. There still are no regulations on the length of the trains, even though longer trains derail more often and train operators — the men and women driving the trains — say that longer trains are harder to operate.

And the new tank cars that were supposed to be safer have failed in every major oil and ethanol train derailment they have been involved in to date.
» Read article          

» More about pipelines              

DIVESTMENT

RMI bedfellows
JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs back launch of climate finance center
By Dan Ennis, Utility Dive
July 15, 2020

The Rocky Mountain Institute, a clean energy nonprofit, launched the Center for Climate-Aligned Finance on Thursday with financial backing from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs.

With the goal of cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, the center aims to collaborate with banks to design guidance for working with carbon-heavy sectors such as steel or utilities, and to help banks determine which climate benchmarks and data to follow.

Banks are increasingly seeing the value — not just in optics but in revenue — of environmentally responsible investment.

Paul Bodnar, chair of the center and managing director of the institute, said the Poseidon Principles, which encourage financing of more environmentally friendly shipping vehicles, influenced the center’s creation.

“One sector provides the lifeblood that powers all the others, and that is finance,” he told American Banker.

Climate activists indicated the center is an initiative to watch.

“It could drive real steps toward banks aligning with 1.5°C,” Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior climate and energy campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement emailed to Banking Dive, referring to a goal of limiting global temperature increase. “But it could also be used as an excuse for banks to keep supporting the world’s worst climate polluters.

“The four founding partner banks include three of the top four fossil banks in the world, and together are responsible for more than $700 billion in fossil financing since Paris,” he added. “The four of them bank a clear majority of the companies doing the most to expand oil, gas and coal.”
» Read article           https://www.utilitydive.com/news/jpmorgan-bank-of-america-wells-fargo-goldman-sachs-back-launch-of-climat/581599/

» More about divestment      

GREENING THE ECONOMY

build back better
Biden’s $2 Trillion Climate Plan Promotes Union Jobs, Electric Cars and Carbon-Free Power
The former vice president linked a new green economy with America’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, saying the nation needs to “Build Back Better.”
By Marianne Lavelle, James Bruggers, Ilana Cohen, Judy Fahys, and Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
July 15, 2020

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion clean economy jobs program Tuesday that marked a significant expansion in his plan for tackling climate change, with jobs-creation and environmental justice as its pillars.

With a blue “Build Back Better” placard on his lectern, the former vice president sought to signal that the coronavirus crisis will not displace the imperative to act on climate. Instead, he framed the immediate and long-term crises as linked, requiring the same sort of government intervention: a massive program to ramp up electric vehicles, carbon-free power and energy efficiency throughout the economy.
» Read article          

» More about greening the economy            

CLIMATE

TRACE by COP-26
The entire world’s carbon emissions will finally be trackable in real time
The new Climate TRACE Coalition is assembling the data and running the AI.
By David Roberts, Vox
July 16, 2020

There’s an old truism in the business world: what gets measured gets managed. One of the challenges in managing the greenhouse gas emissions warming the atmosphere is that they aren’t measured very well.

“Currently, most countries do not know where most of their emissions come from,” says Kelly Sims Gallagher, a professor of energy and environmental policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. “Even in advanced economies like the United States, emissions are estimated for many sectors.” Without this information “you cannot devise smart and effective policies to mitigate emissions,” she says, and “you cannot track them to see if you are making progress against your goals.”

The lack of good data also complicates international climate negotiations. “It’s frustrating that nearly three decades after countries committed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to publish national GHG emissions inventories, we still don’t have recent, comprehensive, and consistent inventories for all countries,” says Taryn Fransen of the World Resources Institute.

The ultimate solution to this problem — the killer app, as it were — would be real-time tracking of all global greenhouse gases, verified by objective third parties, and available for free to the public.

When countries began meeting under the UNFCCC in the mid-1990s, that vision was speculative science fiction. It was basically regarded as science fiction when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. But science moves quickly — in particular, artificial intelligence, the ability to rapidly integrate multiple data sources, has advanced rapidly in recent years.

Now, a new alliance of climate research groups called the Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition has launched an effort to make the vision a reality, and they’re aiming to have it ready for COP26, the climate meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021 (postponed from November 2020). If they pull it off, it could completely change the tenor and direction of international climate talks.
» Read article          

no peak for methane
Global Methane Emissions Reach a Record High
Scientists expect emissions, driven by fossil fuels and agriculture, to continue rising rapidly.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 14, 2020

Global emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, soared to a record high in 2017, the most recent year for which worldwide data are available, researchers said Tuesday.

And they warned that the rise — driven by fossil fuel leaks and agriculture — would most certainly continue despite the economic slowdown from the coronavirus crisis, which is bad news for efforts to limit global warming and its grave effects.

The latest findings, published on Tuesday in two scientific journals, underscore how methane presents a growing threat, even as the world finds some success in reining in carbon dioxide emissions, the most abundant greenhouse gas and the main cause of global warning.

“There’s a hint that we might be able to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions very soon. But we don’t appear to be even close to peak methane,” said Rob Jackson, an earth scientist at Stanford University who heads the Global Carbon Project, which conducted the research. “It isn’t going down in agriculture, it isn’t going down with fossil fuel use.”
» Read article          

number cooker
G.A.O.: Trump Boosts Deregulation by Undervaluing Cost of Climate Change
The Government Accountability Office has found that the Trump administration is undervaluing the cost of climate change to boost its deregulatory efforts.
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 14, 2020

A federal report released on Tuesday found the Trump administration set a rock-bottom price on the damages done by greenhouse gas emissions, enabling the government to justify the costs of repealing or weakening dozens of climate change regulations.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s nonpartisan investigative arm, said the Trump administration estimated the harm that global warming will cause future generations to be seven times lower than previous federal estimates. Reducing that metric, known as the “social cost of carbon,” has helped the administration massage cost-benefit analyses, particularly for rules that allow power plants and automobiles to emit more planet-warming carbon dioxide.
» Read article          
» Obtain GAO report          

Maureen Raymo
She’s an Authority on Earth’s Past. Now, Her Focus Is the Planet’s Future.
The climate scientist Maureen Raymo is leading the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia. She has big plans for science, and diversity, too.
By John Schwartz, New York Times
July 10, 2020

Columbia University is taking new steps to make climate change, which has been studied there for decades, an even more prominent part of the school’s mission. And Maureen Raymo is a big part of that.

On July 1, Dr. Raymo, one of the world’s leading oceanographers and climate scientists, became interim director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Founded in 1949 and perched on hills overlooking the Hudson River 18 miles north of Manhattan, the observatory has been one of the world’s leading centers of scientific exploration into earth sciences and climate change. It was a Lamont researcher, Wallace Broecker, who brought the term “global warming” to public attention in a landmark 1975 paper.

And while there are more women represented at Lamont today than when Dr. Raymo was a graduate student there in the 1980s, she comes to her leadership position at a time when addressing other issues of diversity and equity in the field, and within the institution, is overdue.

Having experienced discrimination in her own career, she said an important way to address it is to “get into a position where you can change things.” She has dedicated fans among Lamont students, who value not just her scientific prowess but also her attention to social justice issues.
» Read article          

rescue debate
A Rescue Plan for the Planet? Watch Our Debate Here.
A virtual event with eight speakers and one question: Has Covid-19 created a blueprint for combating climate change?
By The New York Times
July 10, 2020

The devastation of Covid-19 has forced swift and startling change around the globe. To combat the coronavirus, governments poured money into rescue programs, companies adapted their goals and production, central banks permitted exceptional stimulus packages and many societies mobilized to shield the most vulnerable.

The New York Times hosted a debate on July 9, 2020, to explore the hard-earned lessons of Covid-19 and how to apply them to climate change. Have these dramatic actions against the coronavirus given us a blueprint for mobilization against climate change? Is this an opportunity for a new path forward that puts accelerated climate solutions at its center?
» Watch debate          

» More about climate               

CLEAN ENERGY

NERA path still open
FERC shuts down petition to upend net metering, McNamee signals issue could return
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
July 17, 2020

The New England Ratepayers Association’s (NERA) petition was opposed by a wide swath of industry leaders, environmentalists, bipartisan government officials, legal experts and others. In total, almost 50,000 groups and individuals issued comments in opposition, while just 21 supported it.

“NERA’s petition to attack rooftop solar investments and gut energy savings during a health and financial crisis was ill-conceived,” Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, said in a statement. Vote Solar and Solar United Neighbors drove over 20,000 comments in opposition to the petition by the filing deadline.

FERC dismissed the NERA petition on the grounds that the group was unable to point to a particular harm.

Instead, NERA “asked the commission to make certain jurisdictional determinations regarding energy sales from rooftop solar facilities, and other distributed generation located on the customer side of the retail meter,” said Chatterjee. “Declaratory orders to terminate a controversy, or remove uncertainty, are discretionary. We exercise that discretion today and find that the issues presented in the petition do not warrant a generic statement from the commission at this time.”

But NERA saw the commission’s order and the two commissioner’s concurrence statements as a sign the issue could be raised again.

“While we are disappointed by FERC’s decision to dismiss our [p]etition on procedural grounds this issue is far from resolved,” Marc Brown, president of NERA, said in a statement. “FERC demonstrably leaves the door open for NERA to address the concerns raised by the Commissioners in its order.”
» Read article          

scripting the endgameThe Natural Gas Divide
States are confronting the future of gas in buildings — and facing a set of high-stakes questions.
By Emily Pontecorvo, Grist
July 15, 2020

In early June, the attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, filed a petition with state utility regulators advising them to investigate the future of natural gas in the Commonwealth. Healey described the urgent need to figure out how the gas industry, which helps heat millions of homes throughout freezing Northeastern winters, fits into the state’s plan to zero-out its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — especially considering the fuels burned for indoor heating and hot water are responsible for about a third of the state’s carbon footprint.

Eliminating emissions from this sector means venturing into uncharted waters. While many states are rapidly developing wind and solar farms to cut carbon from their electric grids, few are tackling the thornier challenge of reducing the gas burned in buildings. Officials in California and New York, which both have binding economy-wide net-zero emissions laws, have recently come to the same conclusion as Healey: Meeting state climate goals is going to require changes to the way gas utilities are regulated. Earlier this year, both states opened up precisely the kind of investigation that Healey is requesting in Massachusetts.

Natural gas, a fossil fuel, has long been called a “bridge” to a cleaner energy future because burning it has a much lower carbon footprint than burning coal or oil. But research has called that narrative into question by showing that methane leaking across the natural gas supply chain raises its climate impact significantly. Recent developments have called the economics of natural gas into question, too: In early July, the developers of the high-profile Atlantic Coast Pipeline decided to abandon the project after an onslaught of lawsuits made the pipeline too expensive to build.

California, Massachusetts, and New York haven’t decided whether — or to what extent — natural gas can remain in their energy mixes. But the point of these investigations is much larger than those questions. There’s no established roadmap for managing the transition to zero-emissions buildings, and there are serious consequences to getting it wrong — huge cost burdens on residents, mass layoffs and bankruptcies at utilities, and of course, climate disaster.
» Read article          

pushing 2836
Massachusetts lawmakers face pressure to pass 100% renewable bill this session
Gov. Charlie Baker supports a goal of net-zero by 2050, but a growing list of stakeholders say that’s not good enough.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network
Photo By Timothy Vollmer, Flickr / Creative Commons
July 15, 2020

As the end of Massachusetts’ state legislative session draws near, activists, municipal officials, businesses, and civic organizations are urging lawmakers to take action on a bill that would require a 100% renewable electricity transition by 2045 — and making plans for next steps if the measure is not passed this year.

“We want to make sure that this year does not go by without strong and decisive action on clean energy at the Statehouse,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in January committed to a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Many, however, argue that this target will be impossible to hit without stronger measures to accelerate the switch to renewable energy. If current standards are not changed, the transition to clean energy would not be complete until the turn of the next century.

To address this disparity, state Rep. Marjorie Decker and state Rep. Sean Garballey sponsored a bill (H.2836) that calls for all the state’s electricity to be renewably sourced by 2035, and all energy used for transportation and heating to be renewable by 2045.
» Read article          
» Read Bill H.2836

» More about clean energy               

ENERGY STORAGE

energy storage second life
California Awards $10.8M to Reuse EV Batteries in Solar & Microgrid Projects
By Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge
July 15, 2020

The California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded $10.8 million to four projects that will explore repurposing used batteries from electric vehicles (EV), partly to support microgrids.

The awards approved in meetings in June and July stemmed from a solicitation for research and development projects showing how used batteries could cost-effectively integrate solar at small-to-medium commercial buildings.

With a goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, the commission is looking for ways to give degraded car batteries a second life. Typically, EV batteries are retired when they lose 70 percent to 80 percent of their capacity. However, they can be used for other applications like energy storage.
» Read article          

841 upheld
‘Enormous Step’ for Energy Storage as Court Upholds FERC Order 841, Opening Wholesale Markets
Federal regulators — not utilities and states — get to decide how batteries engage in transmission-scale power markets, the appeals court rules.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
July 10, 2020

In a victory for the energy storage industry, a federal appeals court has upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 841, clearing the way for transmission grid operators across the country to open their markets to energy storage, including aggregated batteries connected at the distribution grid or behind customers’ meters.

Friday’s court opinion (PDF) declared that FERC has jurisdiction over how energy storage interacts with the interstate transmission markets it regulates, even if those systems are interconnected to the grid under regulations set by the states.

The court also rejected arguments by utility groups and state utility regulators seeking to opt out of allowing energy storage resources (ESRs) to participate under Order 841, which allows for units as small as 100 kilowatts to access wholesale markets.

Instead, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with FERC’s contention that “[k]eeping the gates open to all types of ESRs — regardless of their interconnection points in the electric energy systems — ensures that technological advances in energy storage are fully realized in the marketplace, and efficient energy storage leads to greater competition, thereby reducing wholesale rates.”
» Read article          
» Read the Circuit Court opinion

» More about energy storage             

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

dig this
Next Up for Electrification: Heavy-Duty Trucks and Construction Machinery
Electrified transport is not just about cars anymore, as California’s landmark Advanced Clean Trucks regulation shows.
By Justin Gerdes, GreenTech Media
July 13, 2020

Electric models of work trucks, commercial vehicles, and construction machinery are hitting the market in greater numbers than ever before, and policymakers are growing increasingly optimistic about the sector. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s powerful air quality regulator, voted last month to require that every new truck sold in the state by 2045 be zero-emission, with truck makers forced to begin the transition in 2024.

Part of the challenge in electrifying transportation is simply getting enough good models on the market to attract customers and foster competition. In that realm, things are advancing: By 2023, there will be 19 all-electric or hydrogen fuel cell versions of heavy-duty trucks in production in North America, up from five Class 8 models available today, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

In Europe, meanwhile, there are early signs of progress on electrifying off-road construction equipment, with electric versions of excavators, loads and dumpers now available from a range of manufacturers including Hitachi, Komatsu and Volvo. Oslo launched the world’s first zero-emission construction site last year, and Norway’s capital city has mandated that by 2025 all public construction sites will operate only zero-emission construction machinery.
» Read article        

» More about clean transportation             

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

greenwashing RNG
Report: Push for Renewable Natural Gas Is More Gas Industry ‘Greenwashing’
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
July 14, 2020

“Renewable natural gas,” or RNG, is an alternative gas fuel that comes from landfills, manure, or synthetic processes. That’s opposed to the fossil gas that drillers traditionally pump out of underground reserves in oil and gas fields.

With “renewable” in the name, it may sound like a promising alternative to the fossil-based “natural” gas commonly used for heating and cooking in buildings. According to a new report from Earthjustice and Sierra Club, however, these fuels pitched as “renewable ” and environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil gas amount to a PR campaign meant to distract from efforts to convert the building sector to all electric power.

The report, published July 14, argues that RNG is an example of fossil fuel industry greenwashing and is not a viable solution for simply replacing fossil gas in buildings. According to the report, RNG is touted by gas utilities for the purpose of countering building electrification policies that restrict the use of gas in buildings for uses like heating, hot water, and cooking. Converting buildings to all-electric usage is recognized as a key climate strategy to shift away from fossil fuels, because electricity can be generated from a variety of sources that do not produce globe-warming emissions.
» Read article          
» Read the report

MDC methane leak
Fracking Firms Fail, Rewarding Executives and Raising Climate Fears
Oil and gas companies are hurtling toward bankruptcy, raising fears that wells will be left leaking planet-warming pollutants, with cleanup cost left to taxpayers.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 12, 2020

Oil and gas companies in the United States are hurtling toward bankruptcy at a pace not seen in years, driven under by a global price war and a pandemic that has slashed demand. And in the wake of this economic carnage is a potential environmental disaster — unprofitable wells that will be abandoned or left untended, even as they continue leaking planet-warming pollutants, and a costly bill for taxpayers to clean it all up.

Still, as these businesses collapse, millions of dollars have flowed to executive compensation.

The industry’s decline may be just beginning. Almost 250 oil and gas companies could file for bankruptcy protection by the end of next year, more than the previous five years combined, according to Rystad Energy, an analytics company. Rystad analysts now expect oil demand will begin falling permanently by decade’s end as renewable energy costs decline, energy efficiency improves, and efforts to fight climate change diminish an industry that has spent the past decade drilling thousands of wells, transforming the United States into the biggest oil producer in the world.

The environmental consequences of the industry’s collapse would be severe.
» Read article          

» More about fossil fuels                   

BIOMASS

pellet boom
The Wood Pellet Business is Booming. Scientists Say That’s Not Good for the Climate.
Trump’s EPA is expected to propose a new rule declaring burning biomass to be carbon neutral, as industry looks to expand its domestic markets.
By James Bruggers, InsideClimate News
July 13, 2020

In rural Southern towns from Virginia to Texas, mill workers are churning out wood pellets from nearby forests as fast as European power plants, thousands of miles away, can burn them.

On this side of the Atlantic, new pellet plants are being proposed in South Carolina, Arkansas and other southern states. And Southern coastal shipping ports are expanding along with the pellet industry, vying to increase deliveries to Asia.

While the United States has fallen into a coronavirus-induced recession that dealt a blow to oil, gas, and petrochemical companies, for biomass production across the South, it’s still boom time.

The industry has exploded, driven largely by European climate policies and subsidies that reward burning wood, even as an increasing number of scientists call out what they see as a dangerous carbon accounting loophole that threatens the 2050 goals of the Paris climate agreement.

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency, acting at the direction of the U.S. Congress, is expected to propose securing that loophole with a new rule that details how burning biomass from forests can be considered carbon neutral, at least in the United States.

The industry wants to see regulations that will keep their businesses growing, including expanding U.S. energy markets that now barely exist. But some scientists and environmental groups argue that new EPA rules that are favorable to the industry would put the climate at further risk, along with forest ecosystems across biologically rich landscapes.
» Read article        

» More about biomass              

PLASTIC BAG BANS

reusable bags OK again in MA
Environmental groups hail Baker’s lift on reusable bags, and plastic bag ban suspension
By Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle
July 11, 2020

Shoppers once again can bring their own reusable bags to grocery stores and pharmacies and no longer will have the option to use single-use plastic bags in places with municipal bans on them.

Environmental groups are thrilled. They have been wary of what they say is an opportunistic plastics industry that, early on, used the coronavirus pandemic to stoke fear about the safety of reusable bags in an attempt to kill plastic bag bans.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday rescinded his March 10 emergency order that temporarily lifted the ban on plastic bags supplied in stores to protect the public and essential workers from infection with the coronavirus, back when there was less certainty about the risk of catching the virus from touching surfaces.
» Read article       

» More about plastic bans             

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND ENVIRONMENT

serious situation
‘Our life is plasticized’: New research shows microplastics in our food, water, air
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay
July 15, 2020

In 1997, Charles Moore was sailing a catamaran from Hawaii to California when he and his crew got stuck in windless waters in the North Pacific Ocean. As they motored along, searching for a breeze to fill their sails, Moore noticed that the ocean was speckled with “odd bits and flakes,” as he describes it in his book, Plastic Ocean. It was plastic: drinking bottles, fishing nets, and countless pieces of broken-down objects.

“It wasn’t an eureka moment … I didn’t come across a mountain of trash,” Moore told Mongabay. “But there was this feeling of unease that this material had got [as] far from human civilization as it possibly could.”

Moore, credited as the person who discovered what’s now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, returned to the same spot two years later on a citizen science mission. When he and his crew collected water samples, they found that, along with larger “macroplastics,” the seawater was swirling with tiny plastic particles: microplastics, which are defined as anything smaller than 5 millimeters but bigger than 1 micron, which is 1/1000th of a millimeter. Microplastics can form when larger pieces of plastics break down into small particles, or when tiny, microscopic fibers detach from polyester clothing or synthetic fishing gear. Other microplastics are deliberately manufactured, such as the tiny plastic beads in exfoliating cleaners.

“That’s when we really had the eureka moment,” Moore said. “When we pulled in that first trawl, which was outside of what we thought was going to be the center [of the gyre], and found it was full of plastic. Then we realized, ‘Wow, this is a serious situation.’”

Plastic waste isn’t just leaking into the ocean; it’s also polluting freshwater systems and even raining or snowing down from the sky after getting absorbed into the atmosphere, according to another study led by Steve and Deonie Allen. With microplastics being so ubiquitous, it should come as no surprise that they are also present in the food and water we drink.
» Read article       

» More about plastics in the environment      

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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.”
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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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