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Weekly News Check-In 5/29/20

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

This week’s post is all about opposing forces.

Presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden promised to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit if elected – signaling an about-face from the Trump administration’s blanket support for fossil fuel infrastructure build out. We explored further to look broadly at the road to a greener economy – finding obstacles already positioned by financial, corporate, and political interests deeply invested in the high-carbon status quo.

An interesting article describes how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embraced the discredited research findings of contrarian scientist James Enstrom to justify its recent refusal to tighten clean air regulations of fine particulate pollution – ignoring the strong recommendations of credible environmental scientists. Also on the subject of federal regulatory agencies disregarding public interest, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is being challenged by Congress and environmental groups on net metering and gas infrastructure issues.

The idea that the climate crisis can be resolved by simply planting a trillion trees has gained traction recently, especially among groups who see it as a free pass from having to decarbonize the economy. We offer an article that looks under the surface of that appealing message to reveal a much more complicated reality. Spoiler alert: we need to decarbonize the economy and do lots of work on forests.

Along those lines, our clean energy and clean transportation sections offer some looks ahead, and we take a peek backward to review the recent history of high performance batteries.

Last week, we carried an article about solar and wind projects on Federal lands, blindsided by a sudden demand for retroactive rent payments. In a pairing that puts fossil fuel industry influence into perspective, a report shows that public lands managers bypassed normal processes to provide royalty relief for oil and gas companies during the coronavirus pandemic. Life is bland without irony, so we provide links to both stories.

We close with a report on emerging plastics alternatives from sustainable sources like seaweed and mushrooms.

— The NFGiM Team

PIPELINES

XL pull the plug
Biden White House would yank Keystone XL permit
The Monday statement is the first from Biden’s campaign about how he would handle the project.
By Ben Lefebvre, Politico
May 18, 2020

Joe Biden would rescind President Donald Trump’s permit allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline to cross the border into the U.S., a move that would effectively kill the controversial project, his campaign told POLITICO on Monday.

The statement is the first from Biden’s campaign about how the presumptive Democratic nominee would handle the project that has been stalled for over a decade if he wins the White House in November.

Biden’s opposition also raises the stakes for the TC Energy’s efforts to start construction on the cross-border portion of the pipeline this year that would carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the U.S.
» Read article      

» More about pipelines            

GREENING THE ECONOMY

G20 fossil finance
New Report Details How G20 Nations Spend $77 Billion a Year to Finance Fossil Fuels
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, in EcoWatch
May 28, 2020

Even after the world’s largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.

Despite their public commitments to the Paris agreement, “G20 countries continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry even as it makes bad business decisions that hurt people and the planet,” FOE U.S. senior international policy analyst Kate DeAngelis said in a statement.

“Our planet is hurtling towards climate catastrophe and these countries are pouring gasoline on the fire to the tune of billions,” she said. “We must hold G20 governments accountable for their promises to move countries toward clean energy. They have an opportunity to reflect and change their financing so that it supports clean energy solutions that will not exacerbate bad health outcomes and put workers at greater risk.”
» Read article      
» Read the report

bad bet on fossils
Propping Up the Fossil Fuel Industry Is a Bad Bet
The Fed should not be directing money to further entrench the carbon economy.
By Sarah Bloom Raskin, New York Times – Opinion
May 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks. Climate change poses the next big threat. Ignoring it, particularly to the benefit of fossil fuel interests, is a risk we can’t afford.

The Fed is singularly poised to seed strategic investments in future economic stability. Oil, gas and coal companies are set or are seeking to receive billions in federal aid — including at least $3.9 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program and at least $1.9 billion in tax credits tucked into the CARES Act passed by Congress. Their allies in Congress and the administration have lobbied for changes to several of the Fed’s lending programs, including relaxing the Main Street Lending Program. Among those eligible for government assistance are many fossil fuel companies that were in deep financial trouble long before the pandemic began.

These concessions to the fossil fuel industry are a risky investment in the past. The Fed is ignoring clear warning signs about the economic repercussions of the impending climate crisis by taking action that will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when even in the short term, fossil fuels are a terrible investment.
» Read article       

Spain to join group of first movers off oil and gas
By Romain Ioualalen, Oil Change International
May 26, 2020

On May 19, 2020, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved a Draft Bill on Climate Change and Energy Transition which sets out the country’s overarching climate policies. If the law is adopted, Spain will join a growing group of countries and financial institutions putting an end to oil and gas production.

Faced with the twin challenges of an unprecedented economic and social crisis and an ever-worsening climate emergency, governments have a duty to build a resilient economic model that protects their citizens’ future. There is no room in that future for a volatile industry whose products are directly responsible for the climate crisis and that is faced with a bleak future as demand for oil reaches its peak.

While the proposed emissions reductions trajectory is not in line with the cuts required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, Spain’s proposed measures are nonetheless a welcome example of how countries can plan a fossil-free recovery. Under the proposed law, Spain would tackle both the demand for (by promoting electric vehicles, establishing alternative fuel targets for the air transport) and supply of fossil fuels thus highlighting the need to combine both approaches to address fossil fuel lock-in.
» Read article       

far out
Labor Helps Obama Energy Secretary Push and Profit from ‘Net Zero’ Fossil Fuels
By Steve Horn, DeSmog Blog
May 24, 2020

Progressive activists have called for a Green New Deal, a linking of the U.S. climate and labor movements to create an equitable and decarbonized economy and move away from fossil fuels to address the climate crisis. But major labor unions and President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary have far different plans.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the AFL-CIO and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) — a nonprofit founded and run by former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — launched the Labor Energy Partnership. Unlike those calling for a Green New Deal, though, this alliance supports increased fracking for oil and gas, as well as other controversial technologies that critics say prop up fossil fuels. It’s also an agenda matching a number of the former Energy Secretary’s personal financial investments.
Blog editor’s note: There will be headwinds on the way to a greener economy. Not all will originate from the usual suspects – here’s something to keep an eye on.
» Read article       

» More about greening the economy

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

J Enstrom
How a Contrarian Scientist Helped Trump’s EPA Defy Mainstream Science
James Enstrom’s work on particle pollution’s health effects contradicts the findings of dozens of studies, but that hasn’t stopped the agency from relying on it.
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
May 28, 2020

When, last month, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the agency’s decision that it would not raise the standards for air pollution because the science of PM 2.5 was too uncertain to justify doing so, he was relying in part on Enstrom’s work. Enstrom’s research was among the studies cited by Wheeler’s hand-picked committee of science advisers to raise doubts about the PM 2.5 consensus.

More broadly, Enstrom’s work has helped provide the underpinning for the Trump administration’s wide-ranging assault on environmental protection policy, from its retreat on climate change to its current effort to restrict the type of science used by the EPA by disqualifying studies that critics say are some of the most important in human health science.
» Read article       

» More about EPA        

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

net metering and FERC
24 Congressional Democrats urge FERC to reject net metering overhaul
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
May 28, 2020

A group of Democratic senators and representatives on Tuesday wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, urging the regulatory body to shut down a net metering proposal that experts say would effectively overturn the policy nationally.

The proposal at hand would subject any behind-the-meter, or customer-sited, energy generation to FERC jurisdiction, arguing that power production constitutes a wholesale sale. In the letter, Congress Members questioned FERC’s authority to make such a rule and also asked the commission to ask the petitioner, New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), to disclose its members.

“If FERC granted NERA’s petition, it would overturn long-held precedent and give the federal government decision-making power that has long belonged to the states, including the authority to set rates, terms, and conditions for programs,” the letter reads. “These decisions are best left to state regulators.”
» Read article      
» Read the letter

drilled podcast
The U.S. Government Has Been Rubber-Stamping New Oil and Gas Projects—This Lawsuit Hopes to Change That
By Amy Westervelt, Drilled News podcast
May 8, 2020

A lawsuit filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over a small project in Massachusetts could have big implications. It aims to force FERC to comply with an order the courts gave it back in 2017, and that it’s been ignoring ever since: to evaluate the overall emissions and climate change impact of any new energy project. The case has particular relevance right now as FERC has been rapidly approving every project that crosses its desk. Adam Carlesco, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, joins to walk us through the case.
» Listen to podcast       

» More about FERC      

CLIMATE

trillion tree diversion
Can Planting a Trillion Trees Stop Climate Change? Scientists Say it’s a Lot More Complicated
Compared with cutting fossil fuels, tree planting would play only a small role in combating the climate crisis.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
May 27, 2020

It seems simple. Plant enough trees to soak up all the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels and people can forget about global warming and get on with their lives.

Climate scientists and many Democrats on the House committee greeted… proposed tree planting legislation skeptically, saying that the only real climate solution is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.

Forests can only be part of a long-term plan to curb global warming after that happens, Yale evolutionary biologist and ecologist Carla Staver testified at the Trillion Trees Act hearing.

“Our primary focus must be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said, adding that any plausible attempt to limit global warming within our lifespan must also include forest protection and reforestation. “However, it is also crystal clear that tree planting alone will not fix our ongoing climate emergency,” she said.

In February, a coalition of 95 environmental groups sent a letter to Congress opposing the Trillion Trees Act as the “worst kind of greenwashing and a complete distraction from urgently needed reductions in fossil fuel pollution.”
» Read article      
» Read the letter        

seafloor ripples
Antarctic Ocean Reveals New Signs of Rapid Melt of Ancient Ice, Clues About Future Sea Level Rise
A study of seafloor ripples suggests that ice shelves can retreat six miles per year, a quantum increase over today’s rates.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
May 28, 2020

Climate researchers racing to calculate how fast and how high the sea level will rise found new clues on the seafloor around Antarctica. A study released today suggests that some of the continent’s floating ice shelves can, during eras of rapid warming, melt back by six miles per year, far faster than any ice retreat observed by satellites.

As global warming speeds up the Antarctic meltdown, the findings “set a new upper limit for what the worst-case might be,” said lead author Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

The estimate of ice shelf retreat is based on a pattern of ridges discovered on the seafloor near the Larsen Ice Shelf. The spacing and size of the ridges suggest they were created as the floating ice shelves rose and fell with the tides while rapidly shrinking back from the ocean. In findings published today in Science, the researchers estimate that to corrugate the seafloor in this way, the ice would have retreated by more than 150 feet per day for at least 90 days.
» Read article       

9th circuit
Climate Liability Cases Score a Win with 9th Circuit Decision to Keep Them in State Court
By Karen Savage, Drilled News
May 26, 2020

Six California municipalities scored crucial wins on Tuesday when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent their climate liability suits against several fossil fuel companies back to state court, rejecting the companies’ arguments that the cases belong in federal court.

The 9th Circuit is the second appellate court to rule that climate-related lawsuits brought by municipalities across the country belong in state court. The 4th Circuit ruled earlier this year that a case filed by Baltimore against more than two dozen fossil fuel producers and distributors belongs in state court. The 10th Circuit is currently considering whether a suit filed by three Colorado communities belongs in state or federal court, and the 1st Circuit is reviewing the issue in a case filed by Rhode Island.

“I think a lot of plaintiffs were watching very carefully to see what happened in the 9th Circuit to see how this question of jurisdiction was resolved,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.
» Read article

» More about climate     

CLEAN ENERGY

PTC guidelines
US Treasury Gives Renewables More Time to Meet Tax Credit Deadlines
The wind and solar sectors both got something to like in new tax-credit guidelines issued by the Treasury Department.
By Emma Foehringer Merchant, GreenTech Media
May 28, 2020

The U.S. Treasury Department released much-anticipated guidance Wednesday that offers onshore wind and solar projects more time to meet tax credit deadlines.

Wind was the big winner: onshore projects that started construction in 2016 and 2017 will now have five rather than four years to finish projects, while still receiving production tax credit (PTC) benefits. But solar developers got some help too, with the IRS allowing for investment tax credit-qualified equipment bought in 2019 to be delivered into October and providing added assurance that developers will receive benefits as long as they have “reasonable” expectation that equipment will be delivered in the required timeframe.

The guidance, requested by members of Congress and encouraged by the clean energy industry, should offer developers comfort as they recover from extended coronavirus-related shutdowns.
» Read article       

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

morning traffic
States Sue to Block Trump From Weakening Fuel Economy Rules
At stake in the lawsuit is the single biggest effort by the United States to fight the climate crisis.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
May 27, 2020

Led by California, nearly two dozen states sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over its reversal of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, arguing that the move is based on erroneous science, and endangers public health.

The lawsuit escalates a standoff between President Trump, who has moved to undo a long list of environmental regulations since taking office, and a coalition of Democratic states, which have gone to court to stop him.
» Read article      
» Read the petition     

CAL
California Leads Multi-State Lawsuit Against Trump Admins’ Clean Car Rollback
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
May 27, 2020

A coalition of 23 states plus the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Obama-era clean car standards. Those standards mandated stronger reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from new light-duty cars and trucks — reductions equivalent to corporate average fuel economy improvements of 5 percent annually.

But on March 31 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule requiring only minimal fuel economy increases of 1.5% annually, which the agencies’ own analyses showed would result in more pollution and premature deaths.
» Read article       

» More about clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

better and cheaper
The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas
The economics of cheaper batteries—and why they’re good news for the planet.
By Timothy B. Lee, ARSTechnica
May 22, 2020

In 2010, a lithium-ion battery pack with 1 kWh of capacity—enough to power an electric car for three or four miles—cost more than $1,000. By 2019, the figure had fallen to $156, according to data compiled by BloombergNEF. That’s a massive drop, and experts expect continued—though perhaps not as rapid—progress in the coming decade. Several forecasters project the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of lithium-ion battery capacity to fall below $100 by the mid-2020s.

That’s the result of a virtuous circle where better, cheaper batteries expand the market, which in turn drives investments that produce further improvements in cost and performance. The trend is hugely significant because cheap batteries will be essential to shifting the world economy away from carbon-intensive energy sources like coal and gasoline.
» Read article       

» More about energy storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

public lands fossil giveaway
Ailing Oil Companies Get a Pass on Royalties
Federal public lands managers bypassed normal processes to provide pandemic relief, according to documents obtained by High Country News.
By Nick Bowlin, High Country News, in Drilled News
May 27, 2020

The day after oil futures went negative, Nicholas Douglas, a top-ranking national BLM official, emailed the agency’s Western state directors. This email thread, obtained by High Country News, shows the agency encouraging public-land drilling, despite the continued glut in the global market.

The new policies instruct state offices to let companies apply for lease suspensions and avoid royalty payments, which are the legally mandated taxes on the revenue from resources drilled or mined on public lands. Several BLM state offices confirmed to High Country News that they are carrying out these policies.

These new directives are not outliers. Despite the pandemic, the BLM appears to be encouraging public-lands drilling, rather than pressing operators to shut in wells and not produce oil. In the past few months, the BLM held lease sales in Colorado, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. A September auction could make more than 100,000 acres of public land available for drilling just outside Canyonlands and Arches national parks in Utah. No such aid has been offered to renewable energy industries, which have also suffered in the downturn. Instead, the Interior Department hit solar and wind projects on federal land with large retroactive rent bills in mid-May, Reuters reported.
Blog editor’s note: we recently carried that Reuters story about retroactive rents for green energy installations on public lands. Refresh your memory here.
» Read article      

» More about fossil fuels

PLASTIC ALTERNATIVES

 

tired of plastic
Tired of Plastic? These Businesses Have Ideas for You
Companies are developing alternatives to single-use plastic, and with options including seaweed and mushroom tissue, consumer interest isn’t disappearing, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
By Tatiana Schlossberg, New York Times
May 27, 2020

The pandemic came at a time when momentum was building for a shift away from plastic, with many consumers demanding alternatives or halting use of products (plastic straws) altogether. Although about 72 percent of Americans say they actively try to limit their plastic use, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, the amount of plastic waste per person has remained constant: about 4 ounces per person every day, for a total of about 15.6 million tons in 2017.

But to those who are working on alternatives to single-use plastic, the consumer momentum is not disappearing. In fact, founders of several plastic-alternative companies said that they had seen even more interest from consumers in their products, and a renewed commitment from some of the larger companies they work with to press on.
» Read article      

» More about plastics alternatives

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Weekly News Check-In 1/24/20

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

Concerned citizens and environmental groups continue to speak out against the Weymouth compressor station and also Columbia’s proposed TGP261 upgrade in Agawam. Charlie Baker, in his State of the State address, described his administration as a top-tier climate leader. But the Weymouth compressor station was awkwardly absent from his remarks, and some observers of our regional energy policy were underwhelmed.

Climate is a hot topic at this year’s economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. But while the insurance industry frets over its bottom line after the most expensive year ever for natural disasters and Prince Charles calls for a whole new economic model, the landmark youth climate change lawsuit was thrown out of federal appeals court. We provide a link to that 2-1 decision including the blistering dissent.

We found some interesting news on clean energy, clean transportation, and energy storage. Those generally uplifting stories were chased, unfortunately, by news about risks associated with the booming LNG business.

If you only have time for one article, read this one on the fossil fuel industry. Rolling Stone made a deep dive into the hidden problem of radioactive waste from drilling operations – a remarkable and sobering topic that demands equal parts alarm and action.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

occupy MA-DEP
Weymouth compressor opponents occupy Mass DEP office
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
January 22, 2020

LAKEVILLE – Some members of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station and their allies occupied the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Regional Office Jan. 22 “to call attention to the Department’s failure to ensure clean air, land, and water.”

FRRACS spokeswoman Laura Ashley said a peaceful occupation was done in the main conference room because the agency has not responded to residents’ emails and phone calls about violations of a contamination clean-up plan at the compressor station site, “reporting inconsistencies, and discrepancies.”

Ashley said the residents presented the DEP a letter which requests agency officials to halt the preliminary construction for the compressor station until “serious ongoing lapses of environmental protection” are remedied in the work area.
» Read article

Enbridge poisoning Fore River
Protests Target a ‘Carbon Bomb’ Linking Two Major Pipelines Outside Boston
Climate and community activists are fighting construction of a natural gas compressor station near two ‘environmental justice’ communities.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
January 17, 2020

WEYMOUTH, Massachusetts — After endless public hearings, drawn-out government appeals and fruitless legal proceedings, a band of community and climate activists was left to this: Sitting in the path of a concrete truck at the site where a large natural gas compressor is being built outside Boston.

“The Fore River Basin is already toxically overburdened with close to 10 different polluting facilities within a one mile radius,” said Alice Arena, president and executive director of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station and a Weymouth resident. “It is highly populated, it is [an] environmental justice [community] and it is unconscionable to be adding another polluting facility.”

According to one estimate by an environmental science professor who was involved in the protest, the compressor and pipeline could enable carbon emissions equivalent to more than one million vehicles per year.

By the time police cleared the site Wednesday morning, nine members of Extinction Rebellion Boston and 350 Mass Action had been arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace.

The protest occurred just one week after a federal appeals court invalidated a permit for a similar compressor station slated for the historic African American community of Union Hill, Virginia. The court determined that officials in Virginia failed to adequately consider the health and environmental justice concerns of the surrounding residents.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor

TGP 261 UPGRADE

Agawam TGP 261
Agawam residents speak out over gas pipeline project
By Ryan Trowbridge and Audrey Russo, Western Mass News
January 21, 2020

The Tennessee Gas pipeline company is seeking to put more than two miles of pipeline in the ground, next to already existing gas pipelines in the same area.

It’s a deal residents say could put them in danger.

We spoke with residents who told us their biggest concern with what the town has negotiated with Tennessee Gas is a damage release, which they fear could release the gas company from any liability in the future should the project cause damage.
» Read article

» More about the Tennessee Gas Pipeline upgrade

REGIONAL ENERGY

business as usual goals
Baker’s net-zero goal is business-as-usual
It’s not climate leadership, or even followership
By Craig S Altemose, Commonwealth Magazine
January 22, 2020

In his State of the State address, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker laid out a number of ways he seeks to increase the ambition of our state’s efforts to address climate change: embracing the target of net-zero emissions by 2050, increasing funding for the state’s under-funded public transportation system, calling for the execution of his plan to fund needed climate resilience efforts, and pushing his support for a now beleaguered regional transportation carbon pricing system.

All of these proposals are normatively good things in their own right, but they are neither courageous nor creative. They are the types of things environmentalists have literally been calling for for decades. And in the meantime, decades of time have been squandered. That is not Baker’s fault, but it is his responsibility as the man we chose to lead us in this critical time.

As Thunberg laid out in her recent address to the United Nations, the science Baker is citing as moving him toward the net zero by 2050 goal (which absolutely necessitates a 50 percent reduction in climate pollution by 2030 for it to be relevant), only gives humanity a 50 percent chance of avoiding a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature, something scientists say exceeding would be catastrophic for society and the natural world we rely upon.

As she says: “Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.”
» Read article    
» Read Greta Thumberg’s 2019 UN Climate Action Summit Address    

Kathleen TheoharidesNet-zero target called most aggressive in world: A handful of states, and some countries have similar goal
By Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
January 22, 2020

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S top energy aide said his proposal for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 puts Massachusetts among a very small group of states and countries attempting to limit the impact of climate change.

Kathleen Theoharides, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said Massachusetts is joining Hawaii, New York, and California  in pursuing net-zero emissions by 2050. A number of countries and foreign cities are also pursuing the same target, some on a faster timeline.

Net-zero is an imprecise term. It doesn’t mean the state will cease all greenhouse gas emissions. It means, according to Theoharides, that the state will attempt to reduce emissions as much as possible through the development of renewable, low-emission forms of energy; aggressive energy efficiency programs; and sequestration efforts, including the development of new forests and wetlands. Theoharides said policies could also be developed that would allow polluters to offset their emissions by buying some form of credit, with the proceeds being used to produce more renewable energy generating fewer emissions.
» Read article

» More regional energy issues

CLIMATE

Missouri floodwater
Planet Just Had Costliest Decade for Global Natural Disasters: Insurance Industry Report
The Mississippi Basin floods were among the disasters with a massive price tag.
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
January 22, 2020

The planet just closed out the costliest decade ever for natural disasters, insurance broker Aon said Wednesday.

The economic losses from 2010–2019, according to Aon’s Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2019 Annual Report (pdf), hit nearly $3 trillion. That’s up from 1.8 trillion recorded between 2000 and 2009.

“Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the last decade of natural disasters,” said Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist at Aon’s Impact Forecasting team, “was the emergence of previously considered ‘secondary’ perils—such as wildfire, flood, and drought—becoming much more costly and impactful.”

“Scientific research indicates that climate change will continue to affect all types of weather phenomena and subsequently impact increasingly urbanized areas,” he added.
» Read article    
» Read Aon’s Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2019 Annual Report    

Prince Charles at Davos
Prince Charles: We need a new economic model or the planet will burn
By Mark Thompson and Max Foster, CNN Business
January 22, 2020


Davos, Switzerland (CNN Business)Only a revolution in the way the global economy and financial markets work can save the planet from the climate crisis and secure future prosperity, Prince Charles warned on Wednesday.

“We can’t go on like this, with every month another record in temperatures being broken,” he told CNN in an exclusive interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “If we leave it too long, and we have done, just growing things is going to become difficult.”

The heir to the British throne and lifelong environmentalist was speaking to CNN after he threw down a challenge to the global business and finance elites in Davos to lead a “paradigm shift, one that inspires action at revolutionary levels and pace” to avert the approaching catastrophe.
» Read article

house on fire
Greta Thunberg’s Message at Davos Forum: ‘Our House Is Still on Fire’
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
January 21, 2020

DAVOS, Switzerland — Greta Thunberg on Tuesday punched a hole in the promises emerging from a forum of the global political and business elite and offered instead an ultimatum: Stop investing in fossil fuels immediately, or explain to your children why you did not protect them from the “climate chaos” you created.

“I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing the climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?” Ms. Thunberg, 17, said at the annual gathering of the world’s rich and powerful in Davos, a village on the icy reaches of the Swiss Alps.

Her remarks opened a panel discussion hosted by The New York Times and the World Economic Forum.
» Read article    
» Read full speech transcript       

youth climate suite 0-1
Court Quashes Youth Climate Change Case Against Government
By John Schwartz, New York Times
January 17, 2020

A federal appeals court has thrown out the landmark climate change lawsuit brought on behalf of young people against the federal government.

While the young plaintiffs “have made a compelling case that action is needed,” wrote Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz in a 32-page opinion, climate change is not an issue for the courts. “Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.”

In an interview, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Julia Olson, said she would appeal the ruling. The next step sends the case to the full Ninth Circuit for reconsideration and what is known as an en banc hearing. The case, she said, is “far from over.”
» Blog editor’s note: Judge Staton’s dissent begins, “In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response—yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses.”
» Read article   
» Read opinion and dissent       

proforestation
Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight
Preserving mature forests can play a vital role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, says policy scientist William Moomaw. In an e360 interview, he talks about the importance of existing forests and why the push to cut them for fuel to generate electricity is misguided.
By Fen Montaigne, Yale Environment 360
October 15, 2019

While Moomaw lauds intensifying efforts to plant billions of young trees, he says that preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explains the benefits of proforestation, discusses the policy changes that would lead to the preservation of existing forests, and sharply criticizes the recent trend of converting forests in the Southeastern U.S. to wood pellets that can be burned to produce electricity in Europe and elsewhere.
» Read article

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

A Trump administration ruling could quash Maryland’s renewable energy efforts, regulators say in appeal
By Scott Dance, Baltimore Sun
January 22, 2020

Maryland is challenging a Trump administration ruling that officials say could hinder the state’s efforts to expand renewable energy generation.

The Maryland Public Service Commission has asked federal regulators to reconsider a December decision that effectively raises the cost of solar, wind and other renewable energy that receives state subsidies, making it easier for fossil fuels to compete. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling applies to PJM Interconnection, the power grid that covers Maryland, 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

The ruling infringes on the state’s right to ensure it can keep the lights on under energy and environmental policies as it sees fit, said Jason Stanek, chairman of the Public Service Commission. Maryland and many other states in PJM and across the country subsidize renewable energy to help it compete with coal, gas and other fossil fuels, aiming to speed adoption of the technology and drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

Stanek said the federal commission’s decision could effectively bar solar and wind farms from participating in PJM’s regular auctions. In the auctions, power plants are paid upfront for promises to help the grid meet power needs three years in the future, and the cheapest bids win.

The federal ruling could take away much of the economic advantage renewable energy providers enjoy in those auctions because of state subsidies.
» Read article

SF city bldg gas ban
SF bans natural gas in new city buildings, plans all construction ban
By Mallory Moench, San Francisco Chronicle
January 17, 2020

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to ban gas appliances in new and significantly renovated city buildings. It’s just the beginning, officials say: The board also passed a law to give incentives for all-electric construction, paving the way for a possible gas ban in all new buildings this year.

“I look forward to collaborating with environmental advocates, labor unions, developers and all stakeholders to end the use of natural gas in new buildings in San Francisco,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who plans to introduce the follow-on legislation, said in a statement.

Tuesday’s action is the latest in a controversial wave of laws across the Bay Area to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by phasing out gas. San Francisco’s Environment Department said buildings produced 44% of the city’s emissions in 2017, the most recent year data were available.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

old yeller
Making Yellow School Buses a Little More Green
Some school districts are replacing diesel buses with electric models to benefit students and the environment. But the change is expensive so utilities like Dominion Energy are helping offset the cost.
By Ellen Rosen, New York Times
January 22, 2020

A small but growing number of school districts are beginning to replace older fossil fuel models with new electric buses. Motivated by evidence of the harmful effects of particulate emissions on both students’ health and performance and in an effort to reduce fuel costs and save on maintenance, a few innovative districts are making the transition.

The biggest obstacle is the significantly higher cost of electric buses, which can be at least two to three times as expensive as replacement buses powered by diesel or another alternative fuel (there are also costs associated with installing charging equipment). Districts are getting help to offset the extra costs from sources including grants and legal settlements. And several utilities, motivated by environmental concerns as well as the potential to help lighten the electrical grid load, have stepped up to help hasten the process.
» Read article

» More about clean transportation

ENERGY STORAGE

oak ridge thermal storage
Grid – Below-ground balancing
By Oak Ridge National Laboratory
January 6, 2020

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers created a geothermal energy storage system that could reduce peak electricity demand up to 37% in homes while helping balance grid operations.

The system is installed underground and stores excess electricity from renewable resources like solar power as thermal energy through a heat pump. The system comprises underground tanks containing water and phase change materials that absorb and release energy when transitioning between liquid and solid states.
» Read article

» More about energy storage

LNG

LNG risks
Climate and Health Risks of Liquified Natural Gas

By Physicians for Social Responsibility – white paper
November, 2019

The U.S., having entered the LNG export market in the past few years, is now rap-idly building out its export capacity.

As of May 2019, there were 10 LNG export terminals in North America pro-posed to FERC, as well as several more projects in pre-filing stages. This is in addition to 14 import/export terminals, most of them in the Gulf of Mexico, that have already been approved by either FERC or the Maritime Administration/ U.S. Coast Guard.

This expansion would increase polluting and potentially dangerous extraction and transport processes, while sinking billions of dollars into infrastructure that would lock the U.S. into greenhouse emissions for decades to come and squeeze out clean, safe, health-protective renewable energy sources.
» Read PSR white paper

» More about liquified natural gas

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

hot stuff everywhere
America’s Radioactive Secret
Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America
By Justin Nobel, Rolling Stone Magazine
January 21, 2020

“Essentially what you are doing is taking an underground radioactive reservoir and bringing it to the surface where it can interact with people and the environment,” says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear-forensics scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Us bringing this stuff to the surface is like letting out the devil,” says Fairlie. “It is just madness.”
» Read article     https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/oil-gas-fracking-radioactive-investigation-937389/

check it out
1982 American Petroleum Institute Report Warned Oil Workers Faced ‘Significant’ Risks from Radioactivity
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
January 22, 2020

Back in April last year, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency decided it was “not necessary” to update the rules for toxic waste from oil and gas wells. Torrents of wastewater flow daily from the nation’s 1.5 million active oil and gas wells and the agency’s own research has warned it may pose risks to the country’s drinking water supplies.

On Tuesday, a major new investigative report published by Rolling Stone and authored by reporter Justin Nobel delves deep into the risks that the oil and gas industry’s waste — much of it radioactive — poses to the industry’s own workers and to the public.

“There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream,” Nobel, who also reports for DeSmog, wrote, “the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity.”
» Read article

plastic production risingA surge of new plastic production is on the way
By Beth Gardiner, Yale Environment 360 via GreenBiz
Friday, January 17, 2020

As public concern about plastic pollution rises, consumers are reaching for canvas bags, metal straws and reusable water bottles. But while individuals fret over images of oceanic garbage gyres, the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries are pouring billions of dollars into new plants intended to make millions more tons of plastic than they now pump out.

Companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell and Saudi Aramco are ramping up output of plastic — which is made from oil and gas and their byproducts — to hedge against the possibility that a serious global response to climate change might reduce demand for their fuels, analysts say. Petrochemicals, the category that includes plastic, account for 14 percent of oil use and are expected to drive half of oil demand growth between now and 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says (PDF). The World Economic Forum predicts plastic production will double in the next 20 years.
» Read article    
» Read IEA Report The Future of Petrochemicals, 2018 

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 11/15/19

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

It was a tough week for the many activists, public officials, and concerned citizens in Weymouth and beyond who oppose the planned compressor station – which just cleared its last major regulatory hurdle even as more information emerged showing it isn’t needed. The fight isn’t over yet – with several more lawsuits coming. These are expensive, but you can help.

Elsewhere, the way construction permits were granted for the Mariner East pipelines through Pennsylvania has raised enough questions to spark an FBI investigation.

We found disturbing news for the climate. The International Energy Agency predicts that carbon emissions won’t peak until 2040. That’s ten years beyond our deadline to have cut emissions by 45% relative to 2010, according to the October 2018 UN-IPCC report. There’s also a fascinating New York Times editorial considering how science managed to under-predict the pace of climate change. And we bid a fond and grateful farewell to Greta Thunberg, who set  sail again on Wednesday bound for Spain.

On the business side, the outlook continues to favor renewable energy and clean transportation. Titans of the fossil fuel industry are spending time in court – increasing drawn along the path that took down big tobacco years ago. But polluters have their enablers, and the Trump Administration is preparing to further limit the role of science at the Environmental Protection Agency.

We close with two articles about plastics. First, some investigative reporting that exposed Coca-Cola’s campaign against recycling, and a story from Indonesia about toxic pollution from plastic waste – some of it from the U.S.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Alice Arena at protest
Officials see dwindling chances for stopping compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
November 14, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Local officials and activists are assessing what legal and procedural tools they can use to try to stop construction of the proposed 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station in Weymouth days after it cleared a key regulatory hurdle this week.

The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management on Tuesday issued its decision that the project is consistent with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act. That approval is the last of four that the project needs, and has received, from the state, other than a contamination cleanup plan.

Town Solicitor Joseph Callanan acknowledged that the odds of stopping construction of the compressor station are low, but he and attorneys from the law firm Miyares and Harrington are considering its legal options.

“When we started four years ago, there was a less than 10 percent chance of success in stopping this, and now it’s a lot less,” Callanan said. “We’ve filed 19 lawsuits and are about to file another three, so the opportunities to stop it are getting fewer and fewer, but we’re still trying.”

The compressor station proposal is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the Houston company’s pipelines from New Jersey into Canada.
» Read article         

Weymouth Compressor Station Clears Final Regulatory Hurdle
By Craig LeMoult, WGBH
November 12, 2019

A controversial proposal to build a natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River in Weymouth cleared a final regulatory hurdle on Tuesday.

The state office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) approved a permit for the project, which has been bitterly opposed by community and environmental activists, as well as many elected officials.

“Based upon our review of applicable information, we concur with your certification and find that the activity as proposed is consistent with the CZM enforceable program policies,” CZM director Lisa Berry Engler wrote in a letter approving the project.

Opponents have contended that the natural gas compressor station will emit a range of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in a community that’s already overburdened by environmental hazards.

Margaret Bellafiore of the advocacy group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station noted that while the CZM decision can’t be appealed, appeals are still pending on other permits needed for the final approval of the station.
» Read article         

Hedlund says dwindling demand for pipeline capacity warrants compressor review
The Weymouth mayor sent a letter to a state regulator last week saying the review is necessary because two companies that planned to use a pipeline connected to the proposed compressor station have pulled out.
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
November 11, 2019

Hedlund sent a letter to Lisa Berry Engler, director of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, on Friday saying that the justification for allowing a compressor station in a coastal zone was “already factually tenuous and, in the town’s view, legally inadequate,” but new information about natural gas capacity and demand warrants further review from the state.

The compressor station proposal is part of Enbridge’s Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the Houston company’s pipelines from New Jersey into Canada.

Hedlund said two companies that had signed on to ship natural gas made available through the Atlantic Bridge project have withdrawn and assigned their rights to the gas to National Grid. But National Grid has stated it does not need the compressor station to deliver the gas.

“In addition, other project shippers have stated that the Weymouth compressor station is not necessary for their use of the increased capacity generated by the project,” Hedlund wrote.
» Read article         

» More on the compressor station

OTHER PIPELINES

AP: FBI eyes how Pennsylvania approved pipeline
Marc Levy, The Associated Press in WITF
November 12, 2019

(Harrisburg) — The FBI has begun a corruption investigation into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to issue permits for construction on a multibillion-dollar pipeline project to carry highly volatile natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned.

FBI agents have interviewed current or former state employees in recent weeks about the Mariner East project and the construction permits, according to three people who have direct knowledge of the agents’ line of questioning.

All three spoke on condition of anonymity because they said they could not speak publicly about the investigation.

The focus of the agents’ questions involves the permitting of the pipeline, whether Wolf and his administration forced environmental protection staff to approve construction permits and whether Wolf or his administration received anything in return, those people say.

The Mariner East pipelines are owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer LP, a multibillion-dollar firm that owns sprawling interests in oil and gas pipelines and storage and processing facilities. At a price tag of nearly $3 billion, it is one of the largest construction projects, if not the largest, in Pennsylvania history.
» Read article        

» More about other pipelines

CLIMATE

carbon peak 2040
Global Carbon Emissions Unlikely to Peak Before 2040, IEA’s Energy Outlook Warns
The world’s reliance on fossil fuels remains ‘stubbornly high’ when drastic changes are needed to slow climate change, the report says.
By Anjli Raval, Financial Times
November 13, 2019

Carbon emissions are set to rise until 2040 even if governments meet their existing environmental targets, the International Energy Agency warned, providing a stark reminder of the drastic changes needed to alleviate the world’s climate crisis.

In its annual World Energy Outlook, released on Wednesday, the IEA said a rapid reduction in emissions would require “significantly more ambitious policy action” in favor of efficiency and clean energy technologies than what is currently planned. Until then, the impact of an expanding world economy and growing populations on energy demand would continue to outweigh the push into renewables and lower-carbon technologies.

“The world needs a grand coalition encompassing governments, companies, investors and everyone who is committed to tackling the climate challenge,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director. “In the absence of this, the chances of reaching climate goals will be very slim.”
» Read article        

Oregon youth climate case
In Oregon and Five Other States, Youth Are Making Legal Cases for Climate Action
By Lee van der Voo, DeSmog Blog
November 13, 2019

The Oregon Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday, November 13 to decide the fate of one of a half dozen state-level climate lawsuits filed on behalf of American youth. The plaintiffs in the Oregon case, appealing a state appellate court decision in January, charge that the state has a public trust obligation to protect the atmosphere on behalf of future generations.

The case, Chernaik v. Brown, is being closely watched by legal, governmental, and advocacy interests from across the state, who have argued its merits and advocated for climate remedies on behalf of youth. In June, as previously, dozens of public agencies, advocacy groups, a regional chapter of the NAACP, and two local governments filed friend of the court briefs in support of the plaintiffs.

The case is one in dozens filed across America against the federal and state governments on behalf of youth. It is part of a largely pro-bono effort coordinated by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, in partnership with attorneys nationwide and also abroad. The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Crag Law Center.

The legal theory underpinning Chernaik v. Brown and other youth climate litigation derives from the public trust doctrine — the concept that natural resources are held in trust by governments that must protect them. It dates back to Roman times but has been asserted in American courts, mostly in cases to do with navigable waterways, and notoriously when the Supreme Court stopped the state of Illinois from giving the shore of Lake Michigan to a railroad company.
» Read article        

Greta TGoodbye, America: Greta Thunberg to Sail Again After Climate Talks Relocate
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
November 12, 2019

Greta Thunberg is sailing across the Atlantic, again. It’s much sooner than she had planned, but not before making her mark in the United States.

Ms. Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, was scheduled to set sail from Hampton, Va., on Wednesday morning. This time, she will hitch a ride with an Australian couple that sails around the world in a 48-foot catamaran called La Vagabonde and chronicles their travels on YouTube.

La Vagabonde will take roughly three weeks to reach Spain, where Ms. Thunberg hopes to arrive in time for the next round of United Nations-sponsored climate talks.

“I decided to sail to highlight the fact that you can’t live sustainably in today’s society,” Ms. Thunberg said by phone from Hampton on Tuesday afternoon. “You have to go to the extreme.”
» Read article        

Telling Stories to Battle Climate Change, With a Little Humor Thrown In
The women who make the podcast “Mothers of Invention” stand apart in the field of climate communication.
By Tatiana Schlossberg, New York Times
November 10, 2019

In 1991, when a cyclone and flooding hit Bangladesh, 90 percent of the victims were women. In New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina displaced over 83 percent of poor, single mothers. In Senegal, a 35 percent decline in rainfall means that women, often responsible for fetching water for their families, have to walk farther to collect enough.

Around the world, women — predominantly poor black, brown and indigenous women — are disproportionately affected by climate change. They live intimately with climate chaos that can seem distant or abstract in space and time from the lives of many in the global North.

For some, statistics like the ones above are enough. For most people, the catalyst for caring, let alone taking action, is stories — the lived experience of others who can translate their own narrative into something more essential about what it is to live with climate change.

The women who make the podcast “Mothers of Invention” already know all of this, which makes them stand apart in the field of climate communication.
» Read article
» Podcast       

How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong
Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.
By Eugene Linden, New York Times Opinion
Mr. Linden has written widely about climate change.
November 8, 2019

In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group of thousands of scientists representing 195 countries, said in its first report that climate change would arrive at a stately pace, that the methane-laden Arctic permafrost was not in danger of thawing, and that the Antarctic ice sheets were stable.

Relying on the climate change panel’s assessment, economists estimated that the economic hit would be small, providing further ammunition against an aggressive approach to reducing emissions and to building resilience to climate change.

As we now know, all of those predictions turned out to be completely wrong. Which makes you wonder whether the projected risks of further warming, dire as they are, might still be understated. How bad will things get?
» Read article          

CCCM pie chartExposing the Networks of Climate Action Opposition, It’s Not Just Oil…
By Emily Storz, Drexell University News Blog
October 22, 2019

The analysis shows a strong influence from several organizations in the Coal/Rail/Steel sector that include the National Mining Association, the Association of American Railroads, Norfolk Southern and Peabody Energy. Surprisingly, the electrical utility sector was also highly influential, with Edison Electric Institute, Southern Company and Detroit Edison notably participating within the network. Caterpillar, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau, the United Mine Workers, and the National Association of Manufacturers and the Conservative Movement organizations were found to be more peripheral within this network.

“The dramatic 1988 testimony of James Hansen established the reality and dangers of increased carbon emissions; followed by the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change set the stage for climate change politics,” said Brulle. “And as a result, we also saw the organization of the Climate Change Counter Movement, and it mobilized to map an entire political movement that was focused on debasing climate science and works to block climate action.
» Read article        

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY

Natural Gas or Renewables? New Orleans Choice Is Shadowed by Katrina
By Ivan Penn, New York Times
November 8, 2019

Utility companies are investing tens of billions of dollars in natural-gas plants, insisting that renewables aren’t ready to serve as the primary source of electricity, while environmentalists and many states are pushing back against that argument.

In Virginia, Dominion Energy has proposed as many as 13 new natural-gas plants. In Florida, TECO Energy won approval to replace a coal-fired power plant with natural gas, even as a bigger utility in the state is building the world’s largest energy storage facility as part of a big investment in renewable sources. In California, the power-plant developer AES received approval in 2017 to build new gas-power plants in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, despite protests from residents and consumer advocates calling for carbon-free energy sources.

But as cities and states increasingly issue mandates for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by the middle of the century, California and Arizona are planning or have built renewable-energy projects for less than the cost of natural-gas plants like the one approved in New Orleans.
» Read article           

France Declares All New Rooftops Must Be Topped With Plants Or Solar Panels
By Emily Murray, Healthy Holistic Living
November 7, 2019

In this time of doomsday-like predictions where our environmental health is concerned, it’s all hands on deck. We are coming to the conclusion, hopefully not too late, that every little bit of conservation counts.

There is a shift in general consciousness that’s begun to happen. We’re becoming aware of the impact we humans have, and the myriad ways we make that impact. With the purchase of a plastic water bottle as opposed to a reusable one. Using grocery store bags instead of bringing your own. Buying new when used would be perfectly acceptable. These are a few examples of shifts that have started taking place. We see now, how easy it is to carry our own bottle, or our own bag, or shop consignment.
» Read article           

Farms can harvest energy and food from same fields
By John Fialka, Climatewire
November 6, 2019


In 2008, J. David Marley, an engineer who owned a construction firm in Amherst, Mass., had an idea. He had just finished building a large solar array on the rooftop of his downtown office building.

The labor and effort to put it up there, he had learned, was much more expensive than if he had built the solar array on the ground.

In heavily populated Massachusetts, farmland is relatively rare and only 10% of its food is homegrown. If he had put his solar arrays in a farm field, Marley wondered, what would they do to food production?

After more than a decade of experimentation, a study written last month by 11 scientists has given us an answer. In many cases, farmers and the nation’s future food supplies will benefit from having solar arrays in their fields, especially as climate change introduces more drought and searing temperatures to agricultural areas.
» Read article      

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

eBus assembly
U.S. Electric Bus Demand Outpaces Production as Cities Add to Their Fleets
Cities are still working through early challenges, but they see health and climate benefits ahead. In Chicago, two buses save the city $24,000 a year in fuel costs.
By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News
November 14, 2019

In the coastal city of Gulfport, Mississippi, the state’s first fully-electric bus will soon be cruising through the city’s downtown streets.

The same goes for Portland, Maine—it just received a grant to buy that state’s first two e-buses, which are set to roll out in 2021. And Wichita expects to have Kansas’ first operating electric bus picking up passengers as early as this month after receiving a federal grant.

As cities and states across the country set ambitious mid-century climate change goals for the first time and as prices for lithium-ion batteries plummet, a growing number of transit agencies are stepping up efforts to replace dirtier diesel buses with electric ones.
» Read article           

Electric cars are changing the cost of driving
By Michael J. Coren, Quartz
November 8, 2019

Few have driven a Tesla to the point at which the vehicle really starts to show its age. But Tesloop, a shuttle service in Southern California comprised solely of Teslas, was ticking the odometers of its cars well past 300,000 miles with no signs of slowing.

The company’s fleet of seven vehicles—a mix of Model Xs, Model 3s and a Model S—are now among the highest-mileage Teslas in the world. They zip almost daily between Los Angeles, San Diego, and destinations in between. Each of Tesloop’s cars are regularly racking up about 17,000 miles per month (roughly eight times the average for corporate fleet mileage). Many need to fully recharge at least twice each day.

It’s difficult to know how representative this data is of Teslas overall, given that Tesloop’s fleet is small, but it likely includes a large share of the highest-mileage Teslas on the road—several are nearing 500,000 miles. Finding conventional vehicles to compare is virtually impossible since most fleet cars are typically sold off after 100,000 miles.

But the implications could be huge. Every year, corporations and rental car companies add more than 12 million vehicles in Europe and North America to their fleets. Adding EVs to the mix could see those cars lasting five times longer—costing a fraction of conventional cars over the same period—while feeding a massive new stream of used electric cars into the marketplace.
» Read article      

Financial Disclosures Show Why Toyota and GM Sided With Trump’s Clean Car Rollbacks to Preserve Profits
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
November 8, 2019

The announcement by the Toyota and General Motors group was “not surprising, but it’s disappointing,” according to Don Anair, deputy and research director for the Clean Transportation program at Union of Concerned Scientists.

Anair told DeSmog that the companies were putting profit before good policy.

“The auto industry was rescued during the recession, and agreed to standards to make cars cleaner, but now they’re trying to weasel out of the promises they’ve made, and to the commitments they’ve made to customers, too,” said Anair. “Many automakers are falling back on a familiar, bad pattern of intransigence, using the same tactics they used to try and avert smog controls, seat belts, and air bags. If the Trump administration gets their way, it’s going to be bad for drivers and for the climate, and the automakers who have sided with Trump shouldn’t get credit for caring about climate when they’re enabling the federal government to take us backwards.”
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

big oil on trial
As New York Takes Exxon to Court, Big Oil’s Strategy Against Climate Lawsuits Is Slowly Unveiled
By Dan Zegart, DeSmog Blog
November 8, 2019

On the same day as the House Oversight subcommittee hearing, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed suit against Exxon, launching a much broader attack on its alleged climate-related wrongdoing than the New York action, which was brought under the state’s potent Martin Act and focuses on fraud against investors.

During the congressional hearing, the subcommittee chairman Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin noted that the industry’s tactics have changed over a period of decades. Many climate science deniers no longer claim global warming isn’t happening, but question the human contribution, or point to the failure of giant emitters like China and India to curb their emissions, claiming that any progress in the U.S. is futile.

Although Massachusetts is taking aim at ExxonMobil for spending millions through at least 2009 to directly fund “fringe groups” challenging the scientific consensus on climate, Attorney General Healey’s lawsuit is the first to dedicate a separate section to these new, more indirect tactics, noting that the fossil fuel industry now goes to great lengths to avoid the appearance of funding denial or obstructing progress.
» Read article           

Chesapeake Energy’s Stock Falls Below $1 But Driller Plans to Spend Over $1 Billion on More Fracking
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
November 6, 2019

At its peak in 2008, Chesapeake was valued at roughly $37 billion. But after more than a decade of aggressive drilling and fracking and land acquisition, as the stock market closed today, the company’s market capitalization was $1.48 billion.

The price of West Texas Intermediate oil this year has averaged over $56 a barrel (lower than last year, but higher than the average price in 2017, 2016, or 2015, following several years when oil averaged close to $100 a barrel).

For drivers, that has translated to gas prices that have stayed between $2 and $3 a gallon on average this year, according to data from GasBuddy.com.

For shale drilling companies, those prices have seemed catastrophically low.
» Read article           

» More on the fossil fuel industry

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
November 11, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking.

A new draft of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, would require that scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency could consider an academic study’s conclusions. E.P.A. officials called the plan a step toward transparency and said the disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently.

“We are committed to the highest quality science,” Andrew Wheeler, the E.P.A. administrator, told a congressional committee in September. “Good science is science that can be replicated and independently validated, science that can hold up to scrutiny. That is why we’re moving forward to ensure that the science supporting agency decisions is transparent and available for evaluation by the public and stakeholders.”

The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements. And, unlike a version of the proposal that surfaced in early 2018, this one could apply retroactively to public health regulations already in place.

“This means the E.P.A. can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths,” said Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association.
» Read article      

» More about the E.P.A.

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Coke bottles
Leaked Audio Reveals How Coca-Cola Undermines Plastic Recycling Efforts
Sharon Lerner, The Intercept
October 18, 2019

For decades, Coca-Cola has burnished its public image as an environmentally caring company with donations to recycling nonprofits. Meanwhile, as one of the world’s most polluting brands, Coke has quietly fought efforts to hold the company accountable for plastic waste.

Audio from a meeting of recycling leaders obtained by The Intercept reveals how the soda giant’s “green” philanthropy helped squelch what could have been an important tool in fighting the plastic crisis — and shines a light on the behind-the-scenes tactics beverage and plastics companies have quietly used for decades to evade responsibility for their waste.
» Read article      

» More on recycling plastics

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND ENVIRONMENT

plastic fuel - toxic tofu
To Make This Tofu, Start by Burning Toxic Plastic
Plastic waste from America, collected for recycling, is shipped to Indonesia. Some is burned as fuel by tofu makers, producing deadly chemicals and contaminating food.
By Richard C. Paddock, New York Times
November 14, 2019

TROPODO, Indonesia — Black smoke billows from smokestacks towering above the village. The smell of burning plastic fills the air. Patches of black ash cover the ground. It’s another day of making tofu.

More than 30 commercial kitchens in Tropodo, a village on the eastern side of Indonesia’s main island, Java, fuel their tofu production by burning a mix of paper and plastic waste, some of it shipped from the United States after Americans dumped it in their recycling bins.

The backyard kitchens produce much of the area’s tofu, an inexpensive and high-protein food made from soy that is an important part of the local diet. But the smoke and ash produced by the burning plastic has far-reaching and toxic consequences.
» Read article

» More on plastics, health, and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 8/30/19

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

Opposition to the planned Weymouth compressor station continues, while in a disturbing twist of events the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) breathed new life into the Constitution Pipeline, considered defeated in New York three years ago. And as these things go, the Dakota Access Pipeline recently applied to double its capacity, bringing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe back into the fight.

In climate news, the Trump Administration wants to roll back regulations on methane emissions, and InsideClimate News published a great explainer on what the United Nation’s 2030 deadline for cutting fossil fuel emissions means scientifically.

We’re reporting more innovations in clean energy alternatives, and news about clean transportation ranges from the sublime (Alice, the electric airplane!) to the way far out (huge zeppelins).

In fossil fuel industry news, we’re following growing awareness in South Portland, Maine that their petroleum product storage tanks and export terminals are the likely source of worrisome benzine levels recently picked up at air monitoring stations around town. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing a rule change that would remove a key right of states to contest pipeline projects on concerns about water pollution (article references Constitution Pipeline – see above).

We conclude with a terrific article from Vox.com that considers the effectiveness of plastic bag bans, and offers guidance on the best policies.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch talks Weymouth compressor station, healthcare and Trump in Braintree
By Audrey Cooney, Wicked Local Braintree
August 27, 2019

At a town hall event in Braintree last week, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch discussed efforts to stop construction of the Weymouth compressor station, his opposition for Medicare for All and his views on how to stop President Donald Trump from winning reelection.

In response to a question about the proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth on the banks of the Fore River, Lynch said his position has not changed in the two years since the project was announced.

“I just think it’s unnecessary,” he said.

In April, Lynch filed Pipeline and Compressor Safety Verification Act of 2019, a bill specifically meant to stop construction of the Weymouth compressor station that “prohibits the construction and operation of specified natural gas projects until certain Massachusetts state agencies certify that such projects do not pose a danger to surrounding residential communities and the general public,” according to the bill’s text.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates energy projects that cross state lines, is an egregious example of a government agency and private industry going against the best interest of residents, Lynch said. FERC is funded by the energy companies it oversees.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

OTHER PIPELINES

FERC puts Constitution Pipeline back on track, finding New York waived water authority
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
August 29, 2019

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has found that New York waived its water quality authority for Williams’ Constitution Pipeline, giving new life to a natural gas project stalled since April 2016 when state regulators denied a permit.

The 124-mile project is designed to ship up to 650 MMcf/d of northeastern Pennsylvania gas production to interconnections with the Iroquois Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline in upstate New York.

The commission, by a 4-0 vote late Wednesday, reversed its earlier finding — that the New York review could not be waived — in light of a recent DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Hoopa Valley v. FERC. The Hoopa case had involved a hydropower project for which states and PacifiCorp agreed to defer the Clean Water Act’s one-year statutory deadline by annually withdrawing and resubmitting the water permit.
» Read article

Feds clear way for Constitution Pipeline in New York over state’s objection
By Chad Arnold, Albany Bureau, Democrat & Chronicle
August 29, 2019

ALBANY – Federal regulators allowed the Constitution Pipeline to move forward Wednesday, ruling New York took too long to deny a key permit that had been blocking construction of the proposed natural-gas line.

The decision handed down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the state Department of Environmental Conservation waived its right to reject the necessary water-quality permit for the pipeline because the state agency failed to act in a timely manner.

The ruling comes three years after DEC denied the pipeline builder’s permit application for failing “to meet New York state’s water quality standards.”

It clears the way for Williams Partners LP, the gas company heading the project, to move ahead with the Pennsylvania-to-New York line, though the state is likely to challenge the decision.

The 124-mile, 30-inch-wide pipeline would carry from Pennsylvania across New York’s Southern Tier, cutting through eastern Broome County and Delaware County en route to Schoharie County, west of Albany.
» Read article

Why the Mountain Valley Pipeline is uniquely risky
By Jacob Hileman, Virginia Mercury – Opinion
August 22, 2019

Since 1997, FERC has approved no fewer than 46 new natural gas mega-pipelines, defined here as pipelines that are at least 24 inches in diameter, more than 100 miles long, and not installed along pre-existing utility corridors.

A review of the landslide hazard information contained in the environmental impact statements (EIS) for this set of pipelines reveals 22 of them – almost half – do not traverse any high landslide risk areas at all. The remaining 24 pipelines cross anywhere from 0.2 to more than 200 miles of high risk terrain.

Out of all these mega-pipeline projects, MVP finds itself infamously at the top of the list, having routed 225 miles of the pipeline – 74 percent of its total length – across high landslide risk terrain.
» Read article

Columbia Gas Denied Right to Take Public Land for Potomac Pipeline
By Anne Meador, DC Media Group
August 21, 2019

The TransCanada subsidiary had filed a lawsuit against the state of Maryland in June in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to force access to the Maryland Rail Trail, a necessary piece to construct a 3.7-mile pipeline from Fulton County, Pa., through a thin slice of Maryland. In January, the Maryland Board of Public Works, which included Governor Larry Hogan, denied Columbia Gas an easement.

Columbia Gas’s lawsuit was unusual in that a private company tried to use the power of eminent domain to take public land. It claimed that power by virtue of the permit granted to the project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The judge denied Columbia Gas injunctive relief because it found no substantive case, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls said in a statement delivered by live stream after the ruling. Private industry doesn’t have the right to file an eminent domain case against the state of Maryland, the judge found, because the state has sovereign immunity, he said.

Opponents of the pipeline project were jubilant outside the courthouse following the judge’s ruling.
» Read article

Standing Rock protesters
Standing Rock Asks Court to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline as Company Plans to Double Capacity
Several of the Democrats running for president are now pledging to revoke permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines if elected.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
August 20, 2019

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is asking a judge to throw out a federal permit for the Dakota Access oil pipeline, arguing that the government shut the tribe out of a court-ordered second environmental review and ignored its concerns.

The challenge comes as Energy Transfer, the company behind the pipeline, is now seeking to double how much oil the pipeline can carry. The Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) passes under the Missouri River, the tribe’s water supply, just upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation.

The Army Corps of Engineers “never engaged with the Tribe or its technical experts, shared critical information, or responded to the Tribe’s concerns,” the tribe writes in a legal motion filed Friday in federal court. “The result is an irretrievably flawed decision, developed through a process that fell far short of legal standards. With DAPL’s proposal to double the flow of the pipeline, the unexamined risks to the Tribe continue to grow.”
» Read article

» More pipeline articles

CLIMATE

methane emissions
E.P.A. to Roll Back Regulations on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
August 29, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency, in a proposed rule, will aim to eliminate federal government requirements that the oil and gas industry put in place technology to inspect for and repair methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities.

The proposed rollback is particularly notable because major oil and gas companies have, in fact, opposed it, just as some other industries have opposed the Trump administration’s other major moves to dismantle climate change and other environmental rules put in place by President Barack Obama.
» Read article

What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?
It doesn’t mean the world can wait until 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or that chaos will erupt in 2030. Here’s what the science shows.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
August 27, 2019

We’ve been hearing variations of the phrase “the world only has 12 years to deal with climate change” a lot lately. But where does the idea of having 11 or 12 years come from, and what does it actually mean?

Basics physics and climate science allow scientists to calculate how much CO2 it takes to raise the global temperature—and how much CO2 can still be emitted before global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F) compared to pre-industrial times.

Scientists worked backward from that basic knowledge to come up with timelines for what would have to happen to stay under 1.5°C warming, said Scott Denning, who studies the warming atmosphere at Colorado State University.

“They figured out how much extra heat we can stand. They calculated how much CO2 would produce that much heat, then how much total fuel would produce that much CO2. Then they considered ‘glide paths’ for getting emissions to zero before we burn too much carbon to avoid catastrophe,” he said.

“All this work gets summarized as ‘in order to avoid really bad outcomes, we have to be on a realistic glide path toward a carbon-free global economy by 2030.’ And that gets translated to something like ’emissions have to fall by half in a decade,’ and that gets oversimplified to ’12 years left.’
» Read article

On David Koch’s Passing and the Koch Network’s Ongoing War on Clean Energy
By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog
August 26, 2019

We will leave the mourning to his family and friends, and the condemning to those who were immediately impacted by his efforts — a massive group, considering the far-reaching impacts of climate change, which are already being felt across all continents and latitudes.

Though many reports, obituaries, and commentaries on his death have portrayed David as an equal partner in the “Koch brothers” tandem, longtime Koch historians have noted that his brother Charles was the driving force in many of the Koch network’s activist and political efforts.

The constellation of think tanks and front groups and citizen advocacy organizations — and the foundations and dark money groups that support them — will continue to do Charles Koch’s bidding.
» Read article

Heat Deaths Jump in Southwest United States, Puzzling Officials
By Christopher Flavelle and Nadja Popovich, New York Times
August 26, 2019

The long-term health effects of rising temperatures and heat waves are expected to be one of the most dangerous consequences of climate change, causing “tens of thousands of additional premature deaths per year across the United States by the end of this century,” according to the federal government’s Global Change Research Program. The effect could be even more severe in other parts of the world, potentially making parts of North Africa and the Middle East “uninhabitable.”

The increase in deaths also illustrates how climate change can exacerbate other challenges. Experts say the death toll is likely to reflect the growing ranks of vulnerable groups, and the failure to protect those groups from global warming.
» Read article

fracking rig
Fracking may be a bigger climate problem than we thought
The mysterious recent spike in methane emissions? It just might be US fracking.
By David Roberts, Vox.com
August 16, 2019

When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the chain between cause and effect is frustratingly long and diffuse. Reduced emissions today won’t show up as reduced climate impacts for decades.

But with methane, the chain of causation is much shorter and simpler. Reduced emissions have an almost immediate climate impact. It’s a short-term climate lever, and if the countries of the world are going to hold rising temperatures to the United Nations’ target of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial baseline, they’re going to need all the short-term climate levers they can get.

In the real world, though, the news about methane is bad and getting worse. It turns out that a mysterious recent spike in global methane levels that’s putting climate targets at risk may be coming from US oil and gas fracking. If that’s true, it’s bad news, because there’s lots more shale gas development in the pipeline and the Trump administration is busy rolling back regulations on the industry.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Rocky Mountain Power prepares to operate largest US residential battery demand response project
Sonnen and the utility are partnering to build a virtual power plant at the new 600-unit apartment complex, with 12.6 MWh of energy capacity from a 5.2 MW solar array.
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
August 27, 2019

Each of the 600 apartment units will come with efficient appliances and a Sonnen battery — powered by solar panels on top of all 22 buildings in the complex. RMP will manage the batteries as a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) capable of operating as a grid resource. Once fully operational, the utility says Soleil Lofts will be the largest residential battery demand response project in the United States.
» Read article

Haddad: Federal delay of Vineyard Wind ‘discouraging’; Anbaric committed to Brayton Point
By Peter Jasinski, The Herald News, in South Coast Today
August 26, 2019

The proposed $2.8 billion, 800-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard hit a delay when the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that a cumulative impacts analysis was needed before the project will be issued a required permit. The decision has put the project’s end date in question, with some speculating that a decision on the permit might not be made until next December.

Brayton Point had been touted by the likes of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey as becoming a potential hub for New England’s wind energy industry earlier this year. Plans are ongoing to convert the former coal-fired power plant property at Brayton Point into a site where businesses affiliated with Vineyard Wind could open.

The Wakefield-based company Anbaric has already announced its plans to build a $645 million energy conversion and storage facility that would serve as the “plug-in” between offshore wind farms and the power grid on the mainland.

“The project is an important first step to building this industry in southern New England,” the company said in the statement. “As for Anbaric, we remain focused on Brayton Point and working with the state and stakeholders to issue request for proposals that create the necessary transmission infrastructure to create a first-class wind industry on the SouthCoast and beyond.”
» Read article

Bay State Wind submits second proposal for wind farm in Martha’s Vineyard
By Douglas Hook, MassLive
August 26, 2019

The proposed wind farm is an 84-turbine, 800-megawatt farm, 14 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Mass.

This could power up to 500,000 homes, create up to 1,200 new jobs within the commonwealth during construction and up to 10,800 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the project.
» Read article

Solar panels could be cash crop for farmers
By Jay Greene, Craine’s Detroit Business
August 25, 2019

Despite some criticism from some fellow farmers and massive red tape before power generation starts, Forell and Kraynak used a change in [Michigan] Public Act 116 that allows them to keep their long-term agricultural tax incentives while renting their land for solar power development under the state Farmland and Open Space Preservation program.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Alice - Eviation
6 electric aviation companies to watch
By Shane Downing, GreenBiz
August 20, 2019

Although a day when travelers can crisscross the world in all-electric commercial jets may seem a lifetime away, roughly 45 percent of global flights are under 500 miles, putting almost half of all flights within the range of an electric motor. In a place such as the United States, where the aviation industry contributes 12 percent of all carbon emissions, that’s a big opportunity to reduce emissions.
» Read article

zeppelin
Zeppelins stopped flying after the Hindenburg disaster. Now scientists want to bring them back.
The proposed airships would move cargo more efficiently than oceangoing freighters — and produce far less pollution.
By Jeremy Deaton, NBC News
August 19, 2019

The age of huge, ocean-crossing zeppelins came to an end in 1937, when the Hindenburg — the largest craft of its type ever built — erupted in flames while landing in New Jersey. Dozens died.

Now, more than 80 years later, the giant airships may be poised for a comeback — not for passenger service, but as an environmentally friendly means of delivering goods around the globe.

As proposed in a recent scientific paper, the new airships would be 10 times bigger than the 800-foot Hindenburg — more than five times as long as the Empire State Building is tall — and soar high in the atmosphere. They’d do the work of traditional oceangoing cargo ships but would take less time and generate only a fraction of the pollution.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Air Monitoring Reveals Troubling Benzene Spikes Officials Don’t Fully Understand
Residents in South Portland, Maine, packed a meeting to find out about the noxious fumes fouling the air they breathe. The news, one official said, was bad.
By Sabrina Shankman, InsideClimate News
August 23, 2019

With 120 petroleum storage tanks scattered along the city’s shores and a regular stream of tankers coming and going, it’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry has a big presence here. But no one really started asking questions about the health implications of the fumes until March, when the city learned that Global Partners was being fined by the EPA for violating the Clean Air Act. Its tanks, which contain asphalt and bunker fuel, had the potential to emit twice the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than its permit allowed.

It wasn’t long before the city learned that a second company, Sprague, had been issued a notice of violation for the same thing.

City leaders, caught off-guard by the announcement of a settlement between the EPA and Global Partners, jumped into action. They met with the state and the companies, and they  launched the air monitoring program to start to understand the scope of the problem.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

epa pipeline rule
EPA proposes rolling back states’ authority over pipeline projects
By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill
August 9, 2019

Democrats, environmentalists and state officials have lambasted a new proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would limit states’ ability to stall the construction of pipelines.

The regulation targets a portion of the Clean Water Act known as Section 401, which states have used to block controversial pipeline projects, arguing they pose a risk of contaminating drinking water.

The Trump administration proposal would cement guidance issued in June that critics say seeks to limit states’ influence over controversial pipeline projects.

The Clean Water Act essentially gives states veto power over large projects that cut through their rivers and streams, giving them a year to weigh permits and determine how projects would impact their water quality.

Democratic-held states are already vowing to take legal action if the rule is finalized.

States have recently sidelined two large projects using the certification process through the Clean Water Act, actions that contradict the energy dominance strategy promoted by the Trump administration.

New York denied a certification for the Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile natural gas pipeline that would have run from Pennsylvania to New York, crossing rivers more than 200 times. Washington state also denied certification for the Millennium Coal Terminal, a shipping port for large stocks of coal.
» Read article

» More EPA articles

PLASTICS BANS

Do plastic bag taxes or bans curb waste? 400 cities and states tried it out.
And will it work for plastic straws?
By Matthew Zeitlin, Vox
August 27, 2019

Plastic bags are forever. The thin sacks that hold our groceries, toothpaste, and takeout meals have little hope of being recycled, and instead just might be reused as liners for our trash cans or containers for our dogs’ waste, after which they find themselves either blown into storm drains and rivers or hopelessly clogging landfills. According to one 2009 estimate, some 100 billion of these bags were used a year in the United States and somewhere between 500 million and 1.5 trillion worldwide.

More than 400 laws and ordinances across the country ban or tax plastic bags, according to Jennie Romer, an attorney at the Surfrider Foundation and a leading advocate and expert on plastic bag policies. The bans actually started outside the United States, with Bangladesh banning them countrywide in 2002 and Pakistan announcing recently that it, too, will ban single-use plastic bags. “Our slight change in habits will do miracles for future generations,” one politician wrote.

While a straightforward ban may seem like the most effective way to stop people from using plastic, researchers and consultants suggest another strategy is working better: a tax on all non-reusable bags, which may or may not be combined with an outright ban on some plastic.
» Read article

» More plastics ban articles

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Weekly News Check-In 8/9/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news we uncovered this week – from local to global.

Please read our featured article by Tristan Alston – a bright and articulate young person with a thorough grasp of the issues we face together in a changing climate.

This edition includes articles from the Weymouth compressor station fight, an update on Columbia Gas settlements for last September’s disaster in Merrimack Valley, a Liberty Utilities dog and pony show to sell folks on the Granite Bridge pipeline project, and an interesting twist in the proposed Charlton LNG plant. We also noticed recent developments in what we call the Regional Energy Chess Game, and added a new section to keep track of protests and actions.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for people living near gas pipelines and refineries. We include some of their stories in What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Big picture articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, fossil fuel industry news, and a growing awareness of the gas leaks problem. We also found interesting articles on plastics and biomass.

— The NFGiM Team

FEATURED ARTICLE (OPINION)

Time is of the essence: A call for intergenerational innovation and justice
By Tristan Alston, Berkshire Edge
August 7, 2019

I fear for my future—for the utter destruction of our physical world, and the violence, suffering and injustice that will inevitably follow. As a young person, a member of the youth so frequently charged with leading the many fights of today, I am fearful. I am fearful that the inaction of those who came before me and the seeming indifference of those around me will soon be too great a fissure to overcome. I am fearful that both my parents and I will have to face the full force of the Earth’s rebellion, and that my children of the future will never even have the chance.

The current trends of environmental degradation and disruption are intergenerational, both in origin and ensuing effect. Thus, the united force fighting to protect our planet, our health and our future must be intergenerational as well.
» Read article

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

State delays key review for Weymouth compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
August 6, 2019

A state agency has further delayed its review of a proposed 7,700-horsepower compressor station, making it even less likely that the gas company will start construction on the project this year.

The state Office of Coastal Zone Management was scheduled this month to wrap up its review of the compressor station proposed by Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge. But in a letter to the company, Robert Boeri, acting assistant director for the state agency, said vetting is still ongoing to determine whether the proposal is consistent with the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
» Read article  

Key deadline for approval of Weymouth compressor station pushed back
By Chris Lisinksi, State House News (in Boston Globe)
August 2, 2019

State regulators pushed back a key deadline in the approval process for a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, adding several more weeks to the review process as they await a different department’s decision on appealed permits.

The Office of Coastal and Zone Management wrote to Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of energy giant Enbridge, last month requesting another stay to its federal consistency review period. The current stay ends Monday, and CZM asked to extend that to Aug. 15 with the review to be completed by Sept. 5.
» Read article

Residents want new firm for soil testing at Weymouth site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
July 31, 2019

Residents fighting a proposed natural-gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River are calling for an independent firm with no ties to the gas company to do additional hazardous waste soil testing and analysis on the land where the station would be built.

Weymouth resident Margaret Bellafiore recently sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection asking that officials assign an independent environmental consulting firm with no ties to Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge, to do additional testing ordered by the state. Bellafiore and other opponents of the project have argued that the company now doing the review, TRC Environmental Corporation, has ties both to state regulators and Algonquin.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS MERRIMACK VALLEY

Columbia Gas settles class-action lawsuits, but is it enough to rebuild the community?
WWLP-22News
July 29, 2019
» View boadcast video

Columbia Gas settles class action lawsuits related to gas disaster
By Breanna Edelstein, Eagle Tribune
July 29, 2019

Lawyers spearheading multiple class-action lawsuits following the Merrimack Valley gas disaster last September have reached an agreement in principle with Columbia Gas on behalf of residents and businesses in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

According to a statement Monday morning from a Columbia Gas spokesperson, Columbia Gas and its parent company NiSource have agreed to pay $143 million to thousands of residents and businesses impacted by the gas explosions from Sept. 13, 2018.
» Read article 

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

Liberty Utilities Seeks To Quell Natural Gas Fears At ‘Science Fair’ For N.H. Pipeline Proposal
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
August 1, 2019

The gas on Granite Bridge is expected to come from hubs in Ontario and Tennessee, supplied largely by fracking operations in places like Pennsylvania.

The fuel would travel through the buried pipeline in gas form – but it’s more efficient to store as liquid.

Liberty wants that LNG storage to happen in a large proposed tank that would sit in an old quarry in Epping.

Part of the goal of this event was for Liberty to show they plan to do all this safely – even as protestors outside and lawns nearby carried signs reading “All pipelines leak,” “No tank in my backyard” and “Granite Bridge? Granite bomb!”
» Read article

Presidential candidate Inslee weighs in on NH dispute, opposes Granite Bridge project
Proposed pipeline would transport fracked natural gas between Manchester, Exeter
By John DiStaso, WMUR Channel 9
July 27, 2019

“It is long past time for the U.S. to end its dependence on fossil fuels,” Inslee said in a statement provided first to WMUR. “In New Hampshire, we have an opportunity to begin that transition now, by preventing Liberty Utilities from cementing its reach across New Hampshire through the Granite Bridge pipeline. This pipeline would raise costs for consumers, threaten our public health, and weaken our planet. It’s time to stand with local New Hampshire leaders fighting the pipeline’s construction.”
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge pipeline articles

CHARLTON LNG PLANT

Millennium Power distances self from proposed natural gas plant in Charlton
By Brian Lee, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
August 6, 2019

The potential siting of a $100 million facility to handle 250,000 gallons per day of liquid natural gas near a power plant continues to receive significant attention by town and state officials.

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks approval from the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to develop a plant that would liquefy, store and load natural gas into trucks. The company also seeks exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

The plant would be on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road, near Millennium Power, which publicly distanced itself from the project in an intervenor filing to the state board.

Earlier this week, lawyers for Millennium Power told the state siting board that the company has nothing to do with Northeast Energy Center’s proposal, despite suggestions to the contrary.

In a letter by Millennium Power’s attorney to the state siting board, the proposal by NEC indicates it wants to use Millenium Power’s property.
» Read article

Southbridge hires lawyer to address LNG plant proposed in Charlton
By Brian Lee, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
July 21, 2019

The Town Council has hired a lawyer to represent the town’s interest in a proposed and controversial $100 million liquid natural gas plant along Charlton’s energy corridor on Route 169.

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks to construct an LNG plant on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road, Charlton, near Millennium Power, close to the Southbridge town line. The company wants to develop a plant that will liquify, store and load natural gas into trucks. The company is seeking exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

Approval has been sought from the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board, an independent board that reviews proposed large energy facilities.
» Read article

» More LNG articles

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

Coal, nuclear could see [winter] boost in New England as new tariff goes into effect
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
August 8, 2019

The Inventoried Energy Program will compensate resources for their on-site fuel supply during the winter months of 2023-2024 and 2024-2025, impacting the 14th and 15th ISO-NE Forward Capacity Auctions. While energy storage systems, hydropower and natural gas plants could participate in the new program, the plan will most benefit nuclear plants and fossil fuel plants with a large stock of fuel supply.
» Read article

» More regional energy chess game articles

ACTIONS & PROTESTS

Wendell Forest protesters ‘pushed closer to risking arrest’
By David McLellan, Greenfield Recorder
August 2, 2019

Pleas for the state to halt the logging project in Wendell State Forest have gone unheeded, and protesters, citing concerns about climate change, say they are now willing to risk arrest by physically stopping the project.

The Wendell State Forest Alliance — a group affiliated with nonprofit conservation group RESTORE: The North Woods — has held signs on the side of Route 2, held rallies at the Wendell State Forest Ranger Station and garnered over 1,500 signatures on an anti-logging petition over the last year.

Their issue is with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) project to selectively log a roughly 80-acre old oak stand off Brook Road in Wendell State Forest. The state agency says it is protecting long-term forest health, but protesters say the project is counterproductive in fighting climate change.

The harvesting of the oak stand is set to begin imminently, with gates erected and permits posted near the logging site, and the Wendell State Forest Alliance says it’s not giving up.
» Read article 

Climate Leaders Ask for Massive Public Turnout at Upcoming Global Strikes
By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams via EcoWatch
July 25, 2019

Organizers of upcoming global climate strikes hope their demands for a rapid end to business as usual and a swift start to climate justice will be too loud to ignore.

The strikes, which are set for Sept. 20 and 27 — with additional actions slated for the days in between — are planned in over 150 countries thus far, and over 6,000 people have already pledged to take part.

It has the potential to be the biggest climate mobilization yet, said organizers.
» Read article   

» More actions & protests articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG

Blast zone aftermath - KY
Kentucky: 1 dead, 5 hospitalized in gas line rupture, fire
Associated Press via WHDH
August 1, 2019

A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

The 30 inch (76 centimeter) wide pipeline moves natural gas under high pressure, so the rupture at about 1 a.m. caused a tremendous amount of damage in the immediate area, authorities said. Firefighters were still working to douse the flames hours later, with trucks repeatedly refilling their tanks and returning to the scene.

County Emergency Management Director Don Gilliam said the flames reached about 300 feet in the air and could be seen throughout Lincoln County.

The explosion was so huge that it showed up on radar, according to a tweet from WKYT-TV meteorologist Chris Bailey.
» Read article

Woman burned in Ky. pipeline blast tried to report concerns about potential problem.
By Bill Estep, Kentucky.com
August 2, 2019

Coulter, whose mobile home was about 200 feet from the where the pipeline ruptured, said she felt the ground in the neighborhood shake twice, most recently about 10 days ago.

The episodes were brief, but the shaking was strong enough to knock pictures off the walls, she said.

There are railroad tracks at the back of the neighborhood, but Coulter said she has lived near the railroad most of her life and is sure a train wasn’t the cause of the shaking.

It also gave her cause for concern that her dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Jordan, kept sniffing around the area of the pipe. It was unusual for him to do that, Coulter said.

“I think that maybe there was something going on underground,” she said.
» Read article

One dead in Kentucky, at least five injured after gas line explosion shoots fireball into sky
Witnesses compared the blast to a bomb going off, and one said windows rattled from the force.
By Phil Helsel, NBC News
August 1, 2019

One person is dead and at least five were injured in central Kentucky after a gas line ruptured and produced a fireball that could be seen around the region early Thursday.

The 30-inch gas line in Lincoln County breached around 150 feet from a mobile home park around 1:40 a.m., said Don Gilliam, the director of Lincoln County Emergency Management.

The person who died was identified by the Lincoln County coroner as Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, of Stanford, Kentucky. Authorities said she is believed to have left her home after the explosion and was overwhelmed by extreme heat.
» Read article

Deadly Kentucky gas pipeline explosion, fire felt “like an atomic bomb went off”
CBS News
August 1, 2019

A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of dozens of people from a nearby mobile home park, authorities said.

Several structures caught fire in the area of the Indian Camp Trailer Park and were put out, CBS Lexington affiliate WKYT-TV reported.

“We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped,” said Jodie Coulter, who lived less than 200 yards from the blast. Coulter suffered third-degree burns on both her arms as she ran from her burning home.
» Read article

‘We Are Deeply Sorry’: Columbia Gas Takes Responsibility For Washington County [PA] Explosion
By John Shumway, KDKA, Pittsburg CBS Local
August 1, 2019

According to Columbia Gas, work was being done on an ongoing project in the area and the home where the explosion happened was on a different street from all the other homes associated with the project.

“While our processes are designed to catch such anomalies; unfortunately, the combination of our review process, including our initial project design process and our additional secondary field survey that we completed, we did not identify that fact that the home was connected to the section of gas main that was being upgraded,” Huwar said.

Because of that, a necessary pressure regulator was never added to the home, resulting in the blast.
» Read article  
» Blog editor’s note: echoes of Columbia’s Merrimack Valley disaster last September. Work done on a system the gas company doesn’t fully understand with resulting consequences born by the public.

» More on what could go wrong

CLIMATE

Climate Change Is Taking a Bigger Toll on Our Food, Water, and Land Than We Realized
A new United Nations report finds that some of the direst effects on the Earth’s land are already underway.
By Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones
August 8, 2019

The changing climate has already likely contributed to drier climates in South and East Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, reducing the food and water supply. In 2015, about 500 million people lived in dry areas that experienced desertification in recent decades as a result of human activities. Those problems are only going to get worse as climate change continues to take its toll.

“Global warming has led to shifts of climate zones in many world regions, including expansion of arid climate zones and contraction of polar climate zones,” the IPCC says in the report, released Thursday. With high confidence, it adds, “Climate change has already affected food security due to warming, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”
» Read article

Global food supply threatened
Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
August 8, 2019

The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply.
» Read article

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises
By Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai, New York Times
August 6, 2019

“We’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future,” said Betsy Otto, who directs the global water program at the World Resources Institute. “The picture is alarming in many places around the world.”

Climate change heightens the risk. As rainfall becomes more erratic, the water supply becomes less reliable. At the same time, as the days grow hotter, more water evaporates from reservoirs just as demand for water increases.
» Read article

Greenland is melting in a heatwave. That’s everyone’s problem
By Sheena McKenzie, CNN
July 31, 2019

Extreme heat bowled over Europe last week, smashing records in its wake. Now, the heatwave that started in the Sahara has rolled into Greenland — where more records are expected to crumble in the coming days.

That means the heatwave is now Greenland’s problem, right? Not quite. When records fall in Greenland, it’s everyone’s problem.

Greenland is home to the world’s second-largest ice sheet. And when it melts significantly — as it is expected to do this year — there are knock-on effects for sea levels and weather across the globe.
» Read article

July will be the warmest month ever recorded in Boston
By Dave Epstein Globe Correspondent
July 31, 2019

If you went back 100 years, the average number of days Boston would reach 90 degrees was around eight. That number has increased by 50 percent and now stands around 12.

When you look at 30-year averages, the month we’ve just experienced is similar to what a typical summer would be like around Norfolk, Virginia, not Southern New England.
» Read article

The most important event on the planet right now? Arctic Climate Chaos.
Patreon.com
July 30, 2019

1. Arctic Sea Ice is currently at record lows in the Northern Hemisphere and at or near record lows within the Arctic Basin itself.

2. The Greenland Ice Sheet is forecast to lose 40 gigatonnes of ice in a matter of days, enough to raise global sea levels at least a tenth of a millimeter.

3. The fires in the Arctic are reaching apocalyptic levels.

4. Large emissions of methane gas appear to be venting from the Arctic Basin.

5. The conditions favorable for extensive melting of sea ice, Greenland ice and the production of further large fires (namely, very abnormal heat and drying of vegetation/peat) will continue over Greenland, much of Alaska and Central Siberia for at least the next two weeks.
» Read article

Amazon deforestation

Under Brazil’s Far Right Leader, Amazon Protections Slashed and Forests Fall
By Letícia Casado and Ernesto Londoño, New York Times
July 28, 2019

The destruction of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has increased rapidly since the nation’s new far-right president took over and his government scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, ranching and mining.

Protecting the Amazon was at the heart of Brazil’s environmental policy for much of the past two decades. At one point, Brazil’s success in slowing the deforestation rate made it an international example of conservation and the effort to fight climate change.

But with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has been fined personally for violating environmental regulations, Brazil has changed course substantially, retreating from the efforts it once made to slow global warming by preserving the world’s largest rain forest.

While campaigning for president last year, Mr. Bolsonaro declared that Brazil’s vast protected lands were an obstacle to economic growth and promised to open them up to commercial exploitation.

Seven months into his term, that is already happening.
» Read article

CNN to host climate crisis town hall with 2020 Democratic candidates
By Kyle Blaine, CNN
July 25, 2019

The 2020 Democratic field has been united in promising to combat climate change, with many candidates unveiling policy proposals to address the threat posed by a warming planet. President Donald Trump has pledged to leave the Paris climate accord and has said he does not believe government reports that cast grave warnings about the effects of climate change.

The most prominent proposal put forth by Democrats and backed by multiple presidential candidates has been the Green New Deal, the renewable-energy infrastructure investment plan proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The climate town hall will follow a similar format to ones CNN held earlier this year in Austin, Texas, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC, in which Democratic candidates appeared back-to-back across the course of the evening.
» Read article  

US Cities Boost Clean Energy Efforts but Few on Track to Meet Climate Goals
Scorecard of 75 large US cities reveals the top 10, including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
July 24, 2019

US cities are ramping up their clean energy efforts, notably with stricter energy-saving rules for buildings, but only a few cities appear on track to meet their community-wide climate goals, according to the 2019 City Clean Energy Scorecard, released today by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  For the first time, the ACEEE Scorecard tracks policy efforts to advance renewable energy in addition to energy efficiency, because both are needed to build a clean energy future and address climate change. It is the most comprehensive national report that tracks city progress toward climate goals.
» Read article  
» Download report

Protecting Water Resources in a Climate-changed Connecticut River Valley
UMass Amherst
July 23, 2019

In a new project funded by the Commonwealth, environmental conservation professor Timothy Randhir is developing a planning tool to support and improve community and agency decisions in the Connecticut River watershed. It will provide a broad look at possible future effects of climate change on water resources and other ecosystem services like soil health, and the “heat island” effect.
» Read article

Moody’s Buys Climate Data Firm, Signaling New Scrutiny of Climate Risks
By Christopher Flavell, New York Times
July 24, 2019

Moody’s Corporation has purchased a controlling stake in a firm that measures the physical risks of climate change, the latest indication that global warming can threaten the creditworthiness of governments and companies around the world.

The rating agency bought a majority share in Four Twenty Seven, a California-based company that measures a range of hazards, including extreme rainfall, hurricanes, heat stress and sea level rise, and tracks their impact on 2,000 companies and 196 countries. In the United States, the data covers 761 cities and more than 3,000 counties.

“We are taking these risks very seriously,” said Myriam Durand, global head of assessments at Moody’s Investors Service, who said the purchase would allow its credit analysts to be more precise in their review of climate related risks. “You can’t mitigate what you don’t understand.”
» Read article

Extinction Rebellion protesters confront politicians at US Capitol
By David Smith, The Guardian
July 23, 2019

Protesters from the climate crisis group Extinction Rebellion have brought disruption to Capitol Hill in Washington, superglueing themselves to doorways to block politicians and staff.

Just after 6pm, six activists stood in doorways to a tunnel connecting the Cannon office building to the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent members of Congress attending an evening vote.

A total of 17 activists were arrested and charged with crowding and obstructing, according to US Capitol police. Several were also charged with defacing public property.

Demonstrators said their goal was to force a House and Senate concurrent resolution on the climate emergency – currently on hold – to receive immediate attention.
» Read article  

House Democrats Offer an Alternative to the Green New Deal
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
July 23, 2019

An influential group of Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday set an ambitious target for United States greenhouse gas emissions, calling for a reduction to net-zero by 2050.

The goal, intended to slow the pace of global warming, does not include either a legislative or regulatory plan. It would very likely require rigorous new curbs on fossil fuels over the coming decades and steep increases in wind, solar and other renewable sources of power.

The initiative does not go as far as the Green New Deal. That Democratic plan calls for achieving carbon neutrality within a decade and supplying 100 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources while also creating millions of high-wage jobs.

Analysts described the announcement Tuesday as an effort by centrist Democrats to reclaim the climate agenda while treating global warming with the urgency that scientists say it demands.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Massachusetts looks to follow California with solar mandate for new homes
A pair of bills would require solar panels on new buildings but include exemptions for shaded or nonviable properties.
By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News
August 7, 2019

“Our building sector is going to be one of the toughest sectors to fully decarbonize,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts director for environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center. “We don’t want to miss any opportunities on buildings we’re going to be living with for the next 50 or 80 years.”

Massachusetts is about one-fourth of the way to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Most of this progress has come from reducing carbon in the electricity sector. Now, buildings are a major target for efforts to further lower the numbers.

One of the bills (SB 1957) working its way through the Legislature calls for rooftop solar panels on new residential and commercial construction. The second bill (SB 1995) would require panels be put on new or renovated state-owned buildings. Both measures include exceptions for buildings where shading or positioning issues prevent solar from being a viable option. Projects would also be able to meet the requirements of the rules by showing they would generate an equivalent amount of power using a different renewable energy system.
» Read article
» Read Senate Bill S1995    
» Read Senate Bill S1957     

Here’s The First American Airport Powered Entirely By Solar Energy
By Dan Q. Dao, Forbes Magazine
July 30, 2019

Tennessee’s fourth-largest city is once again turning heads by claiming a first in the sustainability sector. Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport announced that it had hit a much-anticipated milestone in becoming the first airfield in the United States powered by 100% solar energy.

The end result of an ambitious project that started seven years ago, the airport’s 2.64-megawatt solar farm was completed with about $5 million of funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. That investment is expected to be earned back in under 20 years, as a renewable energy stream brings down the facility’s overall costs of operation. According to a press release, the installation measures about the size of 16 football fields—eight long and two wide.
» Read article

In Push For Massachusetts Clean Energy Targets, Advocates Point To Pioneer Valley Initiatives
By Paul Tuthill, WAMC
July 24, 2019

Environmental advocates and community leaders are highlighting steps cities and towns in western Massachusetts have taken toward a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

A report released this week by Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center profiled innovative programs undertaken in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and other communities.

The release of the report coincided with a Beacon Hill hearing on a bill to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
» Read article   

» More energy alternatives articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

Kinder Morgan ordered to pay Hill Country landowner nearly $250,000 in property damages
By Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle
August 8, 2019

In a Thursday morning decision, the three-member panel of the panel of Blanco County Special Commissioners ordered Kinder Morgan to pay landowner Matthew Walsh $233,500 in damages for the company’s proposed Permian Highway Pipeline project.

Kinder Morgan is seeking to build the $2 billion pipeline to move 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to the Katy Hub near Houston but faces stiff opposition along the proposed route through the picturesque Texas Hill Country.

A company appraisal valued the 50-foot easement on Walsh’s land at $16,707 but the Blanco landowner got legal help from the Texas Real Estate Advocacy and Defense Coalition and filed a claim stating that the overall damage to the appraised value of his 53-acre property was $261,663. Walsh claimed the pipeline project would delay building a home on the property and selling the land in the future.

“I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare since I heard about the pipeline coming through my land last October,” Walsh said in a statement released by the , a nonprofit group opposed to the project. “Kinder Morgan’s initial offer was insultingly low. I hope that other landowners will hear my story and join me in fighting for fair compensation.”
» Read article

Kentucky pipeline blast 8-2019
Explosions in Three States Highlight Dangers of Aging Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
August 6, 2019

On August 1, for the third time in as many years, Enbridge’s Texas Eastern Transmission gas pipeline exploded. This tragic incident in central Kentucky killed a 58-year-old woman, Lisa Denise Derringer, and injured at least five others. Flames towered 300 feet high when the 30-inch diameter pipe ruptured at 1 a.m. and forced at least 75 people to evacuate.

“We opened the backdoor and it was like a tornado of fire going around and around and he said we were trapped,” survivor Jodie Coulter, 53, told CBS News, describing her efforts to flee on foot. Coulter, whose house was within 600 feet of the pipeline, suffered third-degree burns on her arms. “It felt like we were standing next to a blow torch.”

This explosion joins a string of others in the past several weeks involving America’s aging fossil fuel infrastructure — including a network of 2.6 million miles of pipelines, roughly half of which are over 50 years old, and over 130 oil refineries, many of which are 50 to 120 years old.
» Read article

How this Southern Tier group is trying to work around New York’s fracking ban
Jeff Platsky, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
August 2, 2019

A Tioga County landowners group appears willing to press ahead in challenging New York’s hydrofracking ban by using an unconventional method of natural gas drilling designed to circumvent the prohibition.

Tioga County Partners wants to drill on a 53-acre site in Barton using gelled propane, an arcane process that skirts the existing drilling ban.

Due to explosion risks, propane fracks — also known as “gas fracks” — typically use robotics to keep workers out of the “hot zone” during operations. The technology is still developing and has not been widely used, especially in places where water is available.

The pending environmental review requires an extensive site analysis under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, a time-consuming, expensive process that provides opportunity for significant challenges from opponents.
» Read article
The Fracking Industry Is in Debt. Retirement Funds Are Helping Bail It Out.
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmogBlog
July 31, 2019

Outside observers have specifically warned that pension plans that invest in shale companies might wind up with regrets.

While the shale drilling industry’s financial instability may not be so large as to pose an overall risk to the financial system, “I think there’s risk to pension plans that are pouring their money into private equity firms, which in turn are pouring billions into shale companies,” Bethany McLean, author of the book Saudi America: The Truth about Fracking and How It’s Changing the World, told E&E News in a September 2018 interview. McLean is also widely credited as the first financial reporter to take a critical look at energy company Enron before its collapse.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

GAS LEAKS

The Leaks That Threaten the Clean Image of Natural Gas
U.S. energy companies are scrambling to reduce methane emissions—both unintended and deliberate—that equate to exhaust from 69 million cars a year and contribute to global warming
By Rebecca Elliott, Wall Street Journal
August 8, 2019

In the U.S. alone, the methane that leaks or is released from oil and gas operations annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 69 million cars, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis using conversion formulas from the Environmental Protection Agency and emissions estimates for 2015 published last year in the journal Science.
» Read article

State regulators want better reporting of lost gas
By Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Times
August 7, 2019

Utility companies are required to report the so-called “lost and unaccounted for gas” to state regulators annually, but environmental groups say the industry estimates belie the full scope of the problem.

Proposed rules being considered by the state Department of Public Utilities, which go before a public hearing next Thursday, would require publicly regulated utilities to report lost gas in a more uniform and transparent manner. The rules, set to go into effect in January, would require both private and municipal gas companies to report to the state how much gas is lost, why it is lost, and how much it is costing consumers.

“Nobody really knows how much gas is lost from leaks, some of which are literally gushing,” said Audrey Schulman, executive director of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Boston-based nonprofit that advises communities about gas leaks. “Right now, the utilities are doing it their own way, so we don’t know how big the problems are or where to put resources towards fixing them.”
» Read article     https://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/state-regulators-want-better-reporting-of-lost-gas/article_8c20756a-d985-5937-b39c-47979e1de1e8.html

Gas leaks in Boston produce twice as much methane as previously known, study finds
By David Abel and Aidan Ryan, Boston Globe
August 1, 2019
Boston and other older cities in the Northeast are responsible for as much as twice the amount of methane — among the most potent of greenhouse gases — than previously estimated by federal authorities, a new study found.

The combined emissions of the six cities, which include Providence, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., exceed those from some of the nation’s largest producers of natural gas, including the Four Corners region in the West and the Bakken Shale in the Dakotas, according to the study, which included researchers from Harvard University.
» Read article

» More gas leaks articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

66 people sent for medical attention after ExxonMobil refinery explosion in Texas
The facility processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene, materials used to make plastic and industrial products.
By Associated Press and Doha Madani, NBC News
July 31, 2019
Authorities say 66 people were sent for medical evaluation after an explosion and fire at an ExxonMobil oil refinery in Texas on Wednesday.

The fire began after an explosion just after 11:00 a.m. at an ExxonMobil plant in Baytown, about 25 miles east of Houston. The facility processes light hydrocarbons including propane and propylene, materials used to make plastic and industrial products.

Right after the explosion, the fire sent large plumes of black smoke into the sky. By Wednesday afternoon, the smoke had lessened. The fire was not fully extinguished by Wednesday evening, but authorities lifted a shelter-in-place order that impacted approximately 5,000 people in the area once the blaze was contained.
» Read article

We’re Up to a Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute
Return to Now
May 11, 2019

Globally, humans are purchasing a million plastic bottles every single minute, according to a report by Euromonitor International.

That’s 20,000 bottles every second and almost half a trillion bottles a year.

Only 7% of them are recycled into new bottles, according to The Guardian.

Although some trendy companies are turning them into t-shirts, shoes and other articles of polyester clothing, the vast majority end up in landfills or the ocean.
» Read article  
» Read reference study

» More plastics, health & environment articles

BIOMASS

Environmental groups accuse state of ‘deeply flawed’ review of biomass changes; call for more input
By Peter Goonan, Springfield Republican
August 6, 2019

The organizations said they “write seeking to help the (Governor) Baker administration correct course and to ensure that the RPS assists the state in complying with the Commonwealth’s climate mandates, rather than promoting technologies that will actually increase emissions.”
» Read article

Enviro Advocates Call Out MA Gov. Baker For Promoting Dirty Fuels As Renewable Energy
Partnership for Policy Integrity
August 2, 2019

Last Friday marked the close of a three-month public comment period on the Baker Administration’s proposal to overhaul rules that establish what electric power generation resources qualify for renewable energy subsidies. Massachusetts clean energy advocates sent a letter yesterday to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides sharply criticizing these proposed regulatory changes that would, among other things, significantly increase rate-payer subsidies for wood-burning power plants and garbage incinerators.
» Read article
» Read letter to Secretary Theoharides
» Read related Joint Stakeholder letter

Scientists say Dartmouth College’s biomass plan is a bad idea
By TIM CAMERATO, Valley News
July 25, 2019

A group of prominent scientists and Dartmouth College alumni are urging the school to cancel its plans to build a biomass plant to heat the downtown Hanover campus as part of its $200 million “green energy” plan.

Burning wood chips could “substantially” increase the college’s carbon emissions and worsen the effects of climate change, the scientists said in a letter to the Dartmouth community dated July 5.

“We urge you to avoid making a heavy investment in a mistaken assumption that a wood-fired heating plant will be of benefit to the College or the world,” they wrote in the letter.

It was signed by George Woodwell, a 1950 Dartmouth graduate and founder of the nonprofit Woods Hole (Mass.) Research Center; William Schlesinger, a 1972 graduate and emeritus dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment; and John Sterman, a 1977 alumnus, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of its Sustainability Initiative.

The three argue that carbon dioxide released from wood-burning plants is greater than the fuel oil Dartmouth currently relies on. The carbon content of wood is about 30% greater than fuel oil and 80% higher than natural gas, they said.
» Read article

How to fight climate change? Save existing forests
Guest column by William R. Moomaw, Bob Leverett, Robert A. Jonas and Monica Jakuc Leverett, Daily Hampshire Gazette
July 24, 2019

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that we only have until 2030 to reduce the difference between the amount of carbon dioxide we emit from all sources (including fossil fuels, biomass burning and land use change) and the rate that natural systems like forests and oceans can remove it from the atmosphere.

While it is important to plant new trees for the longer term, waiting decades for them to grow will not help us to meet our short-term goals.

Allowing existing trees to continue growing and sequestering carbon is essential. This simple concept is explained in a peer-reviewed paper published by the journal “Frontiers in Forests,” authored by Drs. William R. Moomaw, Susan A. Masino and Edward K. Faison. The paper’s title says it all: “Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good.”

Proforestration means “growing existing forests intact to their ecological potential,” and is contrasted with afforestration (planting new forests) and reforestration (replacing forests on deforested or recently harvested lands) that take much longer to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in their early years than older forests do as they continue growing.
» Read article   

Europe’s renewable energy policy is built on burning American trees
Biomass energy is inadvertently making the climate crisis worse.
By Saul Elbein, Vox.com
March 4, 2019

As they steadily wean themselves off coal, European Union nations are banking on wood energy, or “biomass,” to meet their obligations under the Paris climate agreement.

That’s because in 2009, the EU committed itself to 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and put biomass on the renewables list. Several countries, like the United Kingdom, subsidized the biomass industry, creating a sudden market for wood not good enough for the timber industry. In the United States, Canada, and Eastern Europe, crooked trees, bark, treetops, and sawdust have been pulped, pressed into pellets, and heat-dried in kilns. By 2014, biomass accounted for 40 percent of the EU’s renewable energy, by far the largest source. By 2020, it’s projected to make up 60 percent, and the US plans to follow suit.
» Read article 
» Blog editor’s note: this article closely tracks the excellent documentary “Burned – Are Trees the New Coal?” by Alan Dater and Lisa Merton. More info and viewing access here.

» More biomass articles

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