Tag Archives: plastic

Weekly News Check-In 3/12/21

banner 18

Welcome back.

Three areas we’re watching closely this week include the Weymouth compressor station, where an upcoming federal review of safety and health concerns has prompted individuals and groups to register as “interveners”.  Also the highly controversial biomass generating plant proposed for Springfield, which was the subject of a blatant greenwashing effort by its Chief Operating Officer, Vic Gatto – we posted a response from Partnership for Policy Integrity that cuts through the misinformation. And landmark climate legislation, now in final form and mostly intact, but temporarily held up by Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate.

For those of you following the big pipeline battles, we have reports on Dakota Access and the Enbridge Lines 3 & 5. Line 3 construction is pushing ahead in Northern Minnesota, drawing fierce protests from indigenous groups.

The movement to divest from fossil fuels has achieved considerable success, but we’re expanding our view to consider other climate-warming business sectors that are cooking the planet with support from big banks and funds. We offer a report on some agricultural practices that fall squarely in this category. Since all that divested money needs a home, a new kind of bank is investing in a greener economy.

Climate modeling predicts that periodic heat + humidity events could make much of the tropics – home to 3 billion people – uninhabitable for humans once we exceed 1.5C temperature rise above the pre-industrial baseline. We pair that with a report on China’s recently released Five Year Plan, with its decidedly unambitious decarbonization policy.

There’s good news for offshore wind in general, and Vineyard Wind in particular. A Massachusetts program that vastly opens up possibilities for energy storage is spreading throughout the New England grid, and heavy shipping is our clean transportation focus this week.

We continue to follow the disturbing developments at the International Code Council, which recently changed rules and locked out municipal officials from voting on updates to the energy efficiency building code.

A combination of distributed energy resources (solar, wind, battery storage) is now cheaper and more resilient than the fossil-fueled “peaker” power plants that electric utilities have traditionally relied on during periods of high demand. We found an article that explores the change in thinking required to make the change happen.

The fossil fuel industry is still struggling to recognize that fracking has been a complete financial disaster. Meanwhile, White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy says the administration has moved beyond immediate consideration of a carbon tax – preferring regulation, incentives, and other actions as more effective ways to draw down fuel consumption and emissions. And we close this section with a disturbingly bullish industry report predicting record growth in deepwater oil extraction in the next five years – multiplying the sort of risks that BP’s Deepwater Horizon demonstrated so spectacularly just eleven years ago.

We recently reported on a permanent fracking ban imposed throughout the Delaware River Basin, which opponents of the planned liquefied natural gas export terminal in Gibbstown, NJ saw as a potentially fatal blow to that project. All eyes are on New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy – who signed the fracking ban in spite of past support for the Gibbstown project – to see if he’s also disturbed by fracking that occurs farther away, in other people’s backyards.

We wrap up with a report on fossil fuel’s petrochemical cousin – plastic  – and its increasing presence in the environment. A new study finds that marine fish ingest the stuff at twice the rate as they did just a decade ago.

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

— The NFGiM Team

 

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth intervenors
Council dealt setback with filing compressor brief
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local
March 9, 2021

Town Solicitor Joseph Callanan said legal precedents don’t allow Town Council to file a legal brief with federal regulators about safety and health concerns posed by a natural gas compressor station in the Fore River Basin.

“Collectively, the Town Council does not have the authority to sue,” he said during a Council meeting, March 8.  “If you do it as individuals, I have no problem with that.”

Councilor-at-large Rebecca Haugh said her colleagues could draft a letter that details their concerns about the compressor station and give it to residents or community groups who seek an intervenor status with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Any intervenor could use that letter,” she said.

Residents and community groups have until Thursday, March 11, to register as an intervenor with FERC. 

The Council could approve the letter when it meets, 7:30 p.m. March 15.

Approval of each councilor’s correspondence would require them to be independent intervenors when filing a brief with FERC.

Callanan said the Council couldn’t represent itself as a legal body partly because Weymouth agreed not to appeal judicial decisions that favored the compressor station owner Enbridge Inc. and its subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission. 

The town’s decision to not appeal the court rulings is part of a $38 million Host Community Agreement that Mayor Robert Hedlund and Enbridge agreed to in October 2020.
» Read article          

» More about the Weymouth compressor station           

 

PIPELINES

DAPL crossroadsDAPL has reached a crucial crossroads. Here’s a guide to North Dakota’s bitter pipeline dispute
If you haven’t followed every turn in the Dakota Access Pipeline’s federal court hearings, here’s an up-to-date primer on the years-long pipeline saga.
By Adam Willis, Inforum
March 10, 2021

In the last four years, the Dakota Access Pipeline has become a defining conflict, not only in North Dakota but for a national reckoning over America’s climate and energy future. But in the years since the smoke of protest clashes near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has cleared, the pipeline dispute has carried on more quietly, with many of the biggest decisions being hashed out in courtrooms in Washington, D.C.

With a new president in the White House, DAPL backers and opponents alike have felt that the embattled project may be at another decisive moment. But after a tumultuous year for the pipeline, what has changed, and what is still undecided?
» Read article          

focus on line 3The next big oil pipeline battle is brewing over Line 3 in Minnesota
By Hari Sreenivasan, PBS NewsHour
March 6, 2021

On his first day in office, president Biden signed an executive order to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But now, many people in the Great Lakes region are asking the Administration to halt a different pipeline project they believe poses an even greater threat to indigenous communities and local waterways. And as NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano reports, experts and climate advocates say it’s time to stop oil pipeline projects in the U.S. once and for all.
» Watch report or read article          

oil and water
Between Oil And Water: The Issue With Enbridge’s Line 5
By Jaclyn Pahl, Organization for World Peace
March 3, 2021

Two pipelines have been lying at the bottom of the Great Lakes for six decades. Carrying more than half a million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids every day, Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline passes under the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac—a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Michigan to Lake Huron. The Strait has shallow water, strong currents, and extreme weather conditions (becoming frozen during winter). If a pipe were to rupture, the oil would reach shorelines, accumulate, and jeopardize Great Lakes Michigan and Huron’s ecology. Citing environmental concerns, Michigan state officials have demanded that the Canadian company close Line 5.

Petroleum reaches Line 5 from Western Canada. Starting in Superior, Wisconsin, Line 5 travels east through Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The pipeline runs along the shore of Lake Michigan until it reaches the Straits of Mackinac. Here, the pipeline splits into two, and each is 20 inches (51 centimetres) in diameter. The lines reunite on the southern side of the straits. The pipeline continues south, crossing the border and terminating in Sarnia, Ontario. The oil and natural gas liquids in Line 5 feed refineries in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and Quebec.

Conscious of environmental concerns, on 13 November 2020, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer demanded that Enbridge halt oil flow through the pipeline within 180 days. A 2016 study by the University of Michigan found that more than 700 miles (or roughly 1,100 kilometres) of shoreline in Lakes Michigan and Huron would be compromised by a Line 5 rupture. The Graham Sustainability Institute used computer imaging to model how the oil potentially could spread. According to their findings, the most significant risk areas include the Bois Blanc Islands, places on the north shore of the Straits, and Mackinaw City. Communities at risk include Beaver Island, Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan, and other areas of the shoreline. A pipeline rupture would quickly contaminate Lakes Michigan and Huron’s shorelines and would involve an extensive cleanup.

Enbridge claims Line 5 is in good condition and has never leaked in the past. However, Enbridge has a checkered past when it comes to oil spills. In 2010 an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River (also located in Michigan) and spilled roughly 1 million gallons of crude oil. The spill went undetected for 18 hours, and the United States Department of Transportation fined Enbridge USD 3.7 million. It is one of the largest land-based oil spills in American history. An investigation found the cause of the pipeline breach to be corrosion fatigue due to ageing pipelines. Alarmingly, the pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac is 15 years older than the pipeline that burst in the Kalamazoo River. Additionally, this is not the only time an Enbridge pipeline has leaked oil. Between 1999 and 2013, there have been 1,068 Enbridge oil spills involving 7.4 million gallons of oil.
» Read article          
» Read the 2016 University of Michigan study        

» More about pipelines             

 

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

house on fire
Enbridge pipeline to Wisconsin draws protests
By NORA G. HERTEL, St. Cloud Times, in Wisconsin State Journal
March 8, 2021

PALISADE, Minn. — The air smelled like sage. Fat snowflakes fell among maple and birch trees. And pipeline opponents clutched pinches of tobacco to throw with their prayers into the frozen Mississippi River.

“We’re all made of water,” said Tania Aubid, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “Don’t take water for granted.”

Aubid is a water protector, a resident opponent to the Enbridge Energy Line 3 oil pipeline currently under construction in northern Minnesota. Since November, Aubid has lived at a camp along the pipeline’s route north of Palisade.

The camp in Aitkin County is called the Water Protector Welcome Center. It’s home to a core group of pipeline opponents and a gathering place for others, including 75 students, faculty and their families who visited the site last month.

They held a prayer ceremony along the Mississippi River and talked about what they believe is at stake with the Line 3 replacement project: Minnesota’s fresh water and land, specifically Anishinaabe treaty territory.

“These are my homelands in the 1855 treaty territory,” Aubid said. The camp rests on 80 acres of land owned by a Native American land trust. It abuts the pipeline route.

Aubid spent nine months on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline, where protesters were sprayed with pepper spray, water cannons and some attacked by dogs.

Demonstrators have taken action to disrupt the construction. Three people recently blocked Enbridge worksites in Savanna State Forest, according to a press release on behalf of the water protector group. Eight were arrested in early January near Hill City. In December, activists camped out in trees along the route.
» Read article          

» More about protests and actions        

 

DIVESTMENT

dangerous bet
Big Banks Make a Dangerous Bet on the World’s Growing Demand for Food
While banks and asset managers are promising to divest from fossil fuels, they are expanding investments in high-carbon foods and commodities tied to deforestation.
By Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News
March 7, 2021

As global banking giants and investment firms vow to divest from polluting energy companies, they’re continuing to bankroll another major driver of the climate crisis: food and farming corporations that are responsible, directly or indirectly, for cutting down vast carbon-storing forests and spewing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. 

These agricultural investments, largely unnoticed and unchecked, represent a potentially catastrophic blind spot.

“Animal protein and even dairy is likely, and already has started to become, the new oil and gas,” said Bruno Sarda, the former North America president of CDP, a framework through which companies disclose their carbon emissions. “This is the biggest source of emissions that doesn’t have a target on its back.”

By pouring money into emissions-intensive agriculture, banks and investors are making a dangerous bet on the world’s growing demand for food, especially foods that are the greatest source of emissions in the food system: meat and dairy. 

Agriculture and deforestation, largely driven by livestock production, are responsible for nearly one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, livestock production alone could consume nearly half the world’s carbon budget, the amount of greenhouse gas the world can emit without blowing past global climate targets. 

“It’s not enough to divest from fossil fuel,” said Devlin Kuyek, a senior researcher at GRAIN, a non-profit organization that advocates for small farms. “If you look at emissions just from the largest meat and dairy companies, and the trajectories they have, you see that these companies and their models are completely unsustainable.”

Those trajectories could put global climate goals well out of reach.
» Read article          

» More about divestment             

 

GREENING THE ECONOMY

Atmos Financial
Climate Fintech Startup Atmos Financial Puts Savings to Work for Clean Energy
Atmos joins a wave of financial startups pushing big banks to stop lending to new-build fossil fuel projects.
By Julian Spector, GreenTech Media
March 10, 2021

Money doesn’t just sit in savings accounts doing nothing. Banks recirculate deposited cash as loans — for cars, homes, even oil pipelines — and pay customers interest for the service.

Startup Atmos Financial ensures that the money its customers deposit will only go to clean energy projects, rather than funding fossil fuel infrastructure. 

“Banks lend out money, and it’s these loans that create the society in which we live,” said co-founder Ravi Mikkelsen, who launched the service on January 12. “By choosing where we bank, we get to choose what type of world we live in.”

Atmos is one entrant working at the intersection of two broader trends in finance: the rise of fintech, in which startups compete to add digital services that traditional banks lack; and the movement to incorporate climate risk and clean energy opportunities into the world of finance. Climate fintech takes aim at the historical entanglement between major banks and the fossil fuel industry to create forms of banking that don’t lead to more carbon emissions.

“It’s a space that’s starting to see more activity,” said Aaron McCreary, climate fintech lead at New Energy Nexus and co-author of a recent report on the sector. “They’re picking up customers. They’re offering products and services that aren’t normalized in Bank of America or Wells Fargo.”
» Read article          

» More on greening the economy            

 

LEGISLATION

Senate stands pat
Senate stands pat on climate change legislation

Bill rejects major amendments proposed by Baker
By Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine
March 10, 2021

THE SENATE is preparing to pass new climate change legislation that accepts some minor technical changes proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker but rejects compromise language the governor proposed on several contentious issues.

The Senate bill stands firm in requiring a 50 percent reduction in emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2030, even though the governor had said the 50 percent target would end up costing Massachusetts residents an extra $6 billion. The governor had proposed a target range of 45 to 50 percent, with his administration having the flexibility to choose the end point.

The Senate bill also doesn’t budge on the need for legally binding emission goals for six industry subsectors, although officials said the bill will grant some limited leeway to the administration in a case where the state meets its overall emission target but misses the goal in one industry subsector.

The bill also rejects compromise language put forward by the administration on stretch energy codes used by municipalities to push through changes in construction approaches.

Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the chamber’s point person on climate change, said it would make no sense to back down on the 50 percent emission reduction goal for 2030 given that the Biden administration is preparing to adopt roughly the same goal next month on Earth Day. Barrett said John Kerry, Biden’s climate czar, is expected to adopt the 50 percent target as a national goal by 2030. The national goal uses a different base year than Massachusetts, but Barrett said the outcomes are very similar.
» Read article          
» What’s behind Baker’s $6B cost claim?              

ITC for storage
Investment tax credit for energy storage a ‘once in a generation opportunity towards saving planet’
By Andy Colthorpe, Energy Storage News
Image: Andy Colthorpe / Solar Media.
March 10, 2021

A politically bipartisan effort to introduce investment tax credit (ITC) incentives to support and accelerate the deployment of energy storage in the US could be a “once in a generation opportunity” to protect the future of the earth.

The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act would open up the ITC benefit to be applied to standalone energy storage systems. The ITC has transformed the fortunes of the US solar industry over the past decade but at present, the tax relief can only be applied for energy storage if batteries or other storage technology are paired with solar PV and installed at the same time.

Moves to push for an ITC have been ongoing since at least 2016. Yesterday, politicians from across the aisle in Congress put forward their bid to introduce it once more. Representatives Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Republican Vern Buchanan from Florida’s 16th Congressional District and Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon’s 3rd district introduced the Act which would apply the standalone ITC for energy storage at utility, commercial & industrial (C&I) and residential levels.

“The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act would encourage the use of energy storage technologies, helping us reach our climate goals and create a more resilient and sustainable future,” Congressman Mike Doyle said.

“Cost-effective energy storage is essential for adding more renewable energy to the grid and will increase the resiliency of our communities. This bill would promote greater investment and research into energy storage technologies, bolster the advanced energy economy, and create more clean energy jobs.”
» Read article          

» More about legislation           

 

CLIMATE

TW 35C
Global Warming’s Deadly Combination: Heat and Humidity
A new study suggests that large swaths of the tropics will experience dangerous living and working conditions if global warming isn’t limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
March 8, 2021

Here’s one more reason the world should aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the international Paris Agreement: It will help keep the tropics from becoming a deadly hothouse.

A study published Monday suggests that sharply cutting emissions of greenhouse gases to stay below that limit, which is equivalent to about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit of warming since 1900, will help the tropics avoid episodes of high heat and high humidity — known as extreme wet-bulb temperature, or TW — that go beyond the limits of human survival.

“An important problem of climate research is what a global warming target means for local extreme weather events,” said Yi Zhang, a graduate student in geosciences at Princeton University and the study’s lead author. “This work addresses such a problem for extreme TW.”

The study is in line with other recent research showing that high heat and humidity are potentially one of the deadliest consequences of global warming.

“We know that climate change is making extreme heat and humidity more common,” said Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who was not involved in the study. “And both of those things reduce our ability to live in a given climate.”

Dr. Kopp, who was an author of a study published last year that found that exposure to heat and humidity extremes was increasing worldwide, said a key contribution of the new work was in showing that, for the tropics, “it is easier to predict the combined effects of heat and humidity than just how hot it is.”

Ms. Zhang, along with two other Princeton researchers, Isaac Held and Stephan Fueglistaler, looked at how the combination of high heat and high humidity is controlled by dynamic processes in the atmosphere. They found that if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees, the wet-bulb temperature at the surface can approach but not exceed 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 degrees Fahrenheit, in the tropics.

That region, a band roughly 3,000 miles from north to south that encircles Earth at the Equator, includes much of South and East Asia, Central America, Central Africa. It is home to more than 3 billion people.

Above a wet-bulb temperature of 35 Celsius, the body cannot cool down, as sweat on the skin can no longer evaporate. Prolonged exposure to such conditions can be fatal, even for healthy people. Lower but still high wet-bulb temperatures can affect health and productivity in other ways.
» Read article          

Xi baby steps
China’s Five Year Plan disappoints with “baby steps” on climate policy
By James Fernyhough, Renew Economy
March 8, 2021

On Friday the Chinese government released some long-awaited detail on its latest five year plan, and it was not the news many were hoping for – especially after President Xi Jinping’s surprise promise to go “carbon neutral” by 2060.

Rather than following up that 2060 pledge with a radical, immediate action to curb emissions, the plan contains no absolute emissions targets, and is light on any detail of comprehensive, workable strategies to make China’s energy sector emissions free.

Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst as the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, describes it as “baby steps towards carbon neutrality”.

“The overall five-year plan just left the decision about how fast to start curbing emissions growth and displacing fossil energy to the sectoral plans expected later this year – particularly the energy sector five-year plan and the CO2 peaking action plan. The central contradiction between expanding the smokestack economy and promoting green growth appears unresolved,” he wrote on Friday.

The most ambitious emissions reduction policy in the document was a target to reduce emissions intensity by 18 per cent by 2025. Given over the last five years China’s emissions intensity has fallen by 18.8 per cent, this looks like a “business as usual” approach.

China’s emissions have carried on rising over the last five years even with emissions intensity reduction – Myllyvirta puts it at an average of 1.7 per cent a year – and look likely to continue. China already contributes close to 30 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
» Read article          

» More about climate                     

 

CLEAN ENERGY

Vineyard Wind permiit moving
Biden’s interior acts quickly on Vineyard Wind
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, on WWPL.com
March 8, 2021

Federal environmental officials have completed their review of the Vineyard Wind I offshore wind farm, moving the project that is expected to deliver clean renewable energy to Massachusetts by the end of 2023 closer to becoming a reality.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said Monday morning that its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management completed the analysis it resumed about a month ago, published the project’s final environmental impact statement, and said it will officially publish notice of the impact statement in the Federal Register later this week.

“More than three years of federal review and public comment is nearing its conclusion and 2021 is poised to be a momentous year for our project and the broader offshore wind industry,” Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said. “Offshore wind is a historic opportunity to build a new industry that will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, reduce electricity rates for consumers and contribute significantly to limiting the impacts of climate change. We look forward to reaching the final step in the federal permitting process and being able to launch an industry that has such tremendous potential for economic development in communities up and down the Eastern seaboard.”

The 800-megawatt wind farm planned for 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard was the first offshore wind project selected by Massachusetts utility companies with input from the Baker administration to fulfill part of a 2016 clean energy law. It is projected to generate cleaner electricity for more than 400,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts, produce at least 3,600 jobs, reduce costs for Massachusetts ratepayers by an estimated $1.4 billion, and eliminate 1.68 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
» Read article          

protective suitsInside Clean Energy: 10 Years After Fukushima, Safety Is Not the Biggest Problem for the US Nuclear Industry
Proponents want atomic energy to be part of the clean energy transition, but high costs are a major impediment.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
March 11, 2021

Today is an uncomfortable anniversary for the nuclear industry and for people who believe that nuclear power should be a crucial part of the transition to clean energy.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami led to waves so high that they engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, wrecking the backup generators that were responsible for cooling the reactors and spent fuel. What followed was a partial meltdown, evacuations and a revival of questions about the safety of nuclear power.

Ten years later, it would be easy to look at the moribund state of nuclear power in the United States and in much of the rest of the world and conclude that the Fukushima incident must have played a role. But safety concerns that Fukushima highlighted, while important, are not the main factors holding back a nuclear renaissance. The larger problem is economics, and the reality that nuclear power is substantially more expensive than other sources.

Indeed, one of the remarkable things about Fukushima’s legacy in the United States isn’t how much things have changed in the nuclear industry, but how little.

The high costs of nuclear power are part of why Gregory Jaczko, who was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Fukushima disaster, thinks that new nuclear plants are not likely to be a substantial part of the energy transition.

“If we need nuclear to solve climate change, we will not solve climate change,” he told me, adding that much of the talk of nuclear as a climate solution is “marketing P.R. nonsense.”
» Read article          

 » More about clean energy            

 

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

NBI on codes
New ICC framework sidelines local government participation in energy code development
NBI strongly opposes changes, which make action on climate “non-mandatory”
By New Buildings Institute
March 4, 2021

The International Code Council (ICC) announced today a new framework that changes the essential nature of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) development process from a model energy code to a standard. The change, described in vague terms in the ICC material, is impactful because it reduces the opportunity for cities and states to shape future versions of the IECC, even though they must subsequently adopt and implement it.

New Buildings Institute (NBI) opposes this outcome, which NBI staff testified against during an ICC Board of Directors meeting on this proposed change in January. NBI, a national nonprofit organization, has been working with jurisdictions and partners to support development and advancement of model energy codes for over 20 years, including participating in the IECC development process.

To update the 2021 IECC, thousands of government representatives voted loud and clear in favor of a 10% efficiency improvement that will reduce energy use and carbon emissions in new construction projects. These voters answered the call of the ICC for increased participation in the development process and took seriously their role as representatives of their jurisdiction’s goals and interests around climate change. Now, government officials will lose their vote, and instead appointed committees will make the determination of efficiency stringency for new homes and commercial buildings with no directive toward improvements needed to address the current climate crisis. Buildings account for 40% of the carbon emissions in the United States. The nation cannot address climate change without addressing buildings.

“The published changes to the code’s intent fundamentally stall progress on advancing efficiency and building decarbonization and fail to meet the need of the moment as the impacts from climate change bear down upon us,” said Kim Cheslak, NBI Director of Codes. “In addition to reducing governmental member involvement, the changes adopted by ICC will ensure that measures directly targeting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the achievement of zero energy buildings in the IECC will only be voluntary, and subject to the approval of an unidentified Energy and Carbon Advisory Committee and the ICC Board of Directors. We have seen the make-up of committees have a detrimental impact all too often in previous code cycles when industry interests fight efficiency improvements from inside black-box processes,” Cheslak said.
» Read article          

» More about energy efficiency            

 

ENERGY STORAGE

connected solutions
A new program is making battery storage affordable for affordable housing (and everyone else)
By Seth Mullendore, Utility Dive
March 9, 2021

The battery storage market for homes and businesses has been steadily growing over the past few years, driven by falling battery prices, demand for reliable backup power and the potential to cut energy expenses. However, the uptake of customer-sited battery storage has not been equally distributed across geographic regions or customer types, with higher-income households driving residential sales and larger energy users with high utility demand charges leading the commercial sector. This has left many behind, particularly lower-income households and small-commercial properties, like community nonprofits and affordable housing providers.

However, a battery storage program first launched in Massachusetts, and now available in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire, is beginning to transform the landscape for battery storage in homes, businesses and nonprofits. Unlike most battery storage programs and incentives, the design of the program, known as ConnectedSolutions in Massachusetts, focuses on supporting the energy needs of the regional electric grid instead of limiting the benefits to individual facilities.

A 2017 study published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Clean Energy Group found that up to 28% of commercial customers across the country might be on a utility rate with high enough demand charges to make battery storage economical, which has been the primary driver for commercial markets. That represents around 5 million commercial customers, which is a lot, but it also represents an upper boundary of potential customers.

Even with high demand charges, a property needs to have a peaky enough energy profile — one with spikes in energy usage when power-intensive equipment is operating such as a water pump — in order for battery storage to cost-effectively manage and reduce onsite demand. Many customers, like multifamily affordable housing for instance, have energy usage profiles with broad peaks lasting multiple hours that would be difficult to economically manage with batteries.

The ConnectedSolutions program model solves this problem by compensating battery systems for reducing systemwide peak demand, which is when utilities pay the most for electricity — high costs that get passed on to all customers. A major benefit of this approach is that it creates a revenue stream for battery storage projects that is in no way dependent on a customer’s utility rate structure or how and when the customer uses electricity. Any customer of a regulated utility in a state where a program like ConnectedSolutions is available can participate and get the same economic benefit, regardless of whether that customer represents a large factory, a small community center, or a single-family household.
» Read article          

» More about energy storage                  

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

MaerskThe world’s first ‘carbon-neutral’ cargo ship is already low on gas
By Maria Gallucci, Grist
March 8, 2021

When shipping giant Maersk announced last month it would operate a “carbon-neutral” vessel by 2023, the Danish company committed to using a fuel that’s made from renewable sources, is free of soot-forming pollutants — and is currently in scarce supply.

“Green methanol” is drawing interest from the global shipping industry as companies work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb air pollution in ports. The colorless liquid can be used as a “drop-in” replacement for oil-based fuels with relatively minor modifications to a ship’s engine and fuel system. It’s also easy to store on board and, unlike batteries or tanks of hydrogen, it doesn’t take away too much space from the cargo hold.

Maersk’s plan to run its container ship on sustainably sourced methanol marks a key milestone for the emerging fuel. Cargo shipping is the linchpin of the global economy, with tens of thousands of vessels hauling goods, food, and raw materials across the water every day. The industry accounts for nearly 3 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, a number that’s expected to rise if ships keep using the same dirty fuels, according to the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, the United Nations body that regulates the industry.

The IMO aims to reduce total shipping emissions by at least 50 percent from 2008 levels by 2050, and to completely decarbonize ships by the end of this century. The policy is accelerating efforts to test, pilot, and scale up more sustainable fuels.

Methanol, or CH₃OH, is primarily used to make chemicals for plastics, paints, and cosmetics. It’s also considered a top candidate for cleaning up cargo ships in the near term, along with liquefied natural gas — a fuel that produces little air pollution but ultimately results in higher emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Long term, however, the leading contenders are likely to be ammonia and hydrogen, two zero-carbon fuels in earlier stages of development.
» Read article          

» More about clean transportation        

 

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

DER services
‘A total mindshift’: Utilities replace gas peakers, ‘old school’ demand response with flexible DERs
Utility-customer cooperation can balance renewables’ variability with flexibility without using “blunt” demand response or natural gas.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
March 8, 2021

Utilities and their customers are learning how their cooperation can provide mutual benefits by using the flexibility of distributed energy resources (DER) to cost-effectively balance the dynamics of the new power system.

The future is in utilities investing in technologies to manage the growth of customer-owned DER and customers offering their DER as grid services, advocates for utilities and DER told a Jan. 25-28 conference on load flexibility strategies. And there is an emerging pattern of cooperation between utilities and customers based on the shared value they can obtain from reduced peak demand and system infrastructure costs, speakers said.

“The utility of the future will use flexible DER to manage system peak, bid into wholesale markets, and defer distribution system upgrades,” said Seth Frader-Thompson, president of leading DER management services provider EnergyHub. “The challenge is in providing the right incentives to utilities for using DER flexibility and adequate compensation to customers for building it.”

Customers need to know the investments will pay off, according to flexibility advocates. And utilities must overcome longstanding distrust of DER reliability to take on the investments needed to grow and manage things like distributed solar and storage and electric vehicle (EV) charging, they added.

“It will require a total mind shift by utilities away from old school demand response,” said Enbala Vice President of Industry Solutions Eric Young. “Many utility executives have never envisioned a system where thousands of assets can be controlled fast enough to ensure they get the needed response.”

Customer demand for DER and utilities’ need for flexibility to manage their increasingly variable load and supply are rapidly driving utilities toward cooperation, conference representatives for both agreed. And though technology, policy and market entry barriers remain, an understanding of how new technologies make flexible resources reliable and cost-effective is emerging.
» Read article          

» More about electric utilities             

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

next time for sure
Analysis: Some Fracking Companies Are Admitting Shale Was a Bad Bet — Others Are Not
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
March 5, 2021

Energy companies are increasingly having to face the unprofitable reality of fracking, and some executives are now starting to admit that publicly. But the question is whether the industry will listen — or continue to gamble with shale gas and oil.

In February, Equinor CEO Anders Opedal had a brutally honest assessment of the Norwegian energy company’s foray into U.S. shale. “We should not have made these investments,” Opedal told Bloomberg. After losing billions of dollars, Equinor announced last month that it’s cutting its losses and walking away from its major shale investments in the Bakken region of North Dakota.

Meanwhile, at CERAweek, the oil and gas industry’s top annual gathering held the first week of March, the CEO of Occidental Petroleum (OXY), Vicki Hollub, told attendees: “Shale will not get back to where it was in the U.S.”

“The profitability of shale,” she said, “is much more difficult than people ever realized.”

Admissions of questionable profits and the end of growth from a top CEO charts new territory for the shale industry. These comments come after a decade of fracking which has resulted in losses of hundreds of billions of dollars.

But despite the unsuccessful investments and fresh warnings, some companies continue to promise investors that the industry has finally figured out how to make profits from fracking for oil and gas. While not a new argument, these companies are offering new framing — a “fracking 4.0” if you will — focused on new innovations, future restraint, and real profits.

In February, for instance, as fracking pioneer Chesapeake Energy emerged from bankruptcy the company’s CEO Doug Lawler told Bloomberg: “What we see going forward is a new era for shale.”

Meanwhile, Enron Oil and Gas (EOG) — considered one of the best fracking companies — lost over $600 million in 2020. Despite this, the company is now touting “innovations” it has made to help create future profits along with promises of new profitable wells — part of an industry annual ritual promising new technologies and new acreage that will finally deliver profits to their investors.
» Read article          

Gina McCarthy
The Petroleum Industry May Want a Carbon Tax, but Biden and Republicans are Not Necessarily Fans
The new administration has made clear that its approach to reducing emissions will involve regulation, incentives and other government actions.
By Marianne Lavelle and Judy Fahys, InsideClimate News
March 8, 2021

The largest U.S. oil industry trade group is considering an endorsement of carbon taxes for the first time. But the biggest news may be how little that is likely to matter, as U.S. climate policy moves decisively in an entirely different direction.

The American Petroleum Institute confirmed that its member companies are trying to arrive at a consensus about carbon pricing—a position that almost certainly will involve trade-offs, including less government regulation, in exchange for the industry’s support of taxes or fees.

Economists have long favored making fossil fuels more expensive by putting a price on carbon as the most simple and cost-effective way to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Most big oil companies, including ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and Chevron, endorse carbon pricing, although they have done little to push for it becoming policy. But API’s move for an industry-wide position comes just as the Biden administration has made clear that it is moving forward with regulation, investment in clean energy research and deployment and a broad suite of other government actions to hasten a transition from energy that releases planet-warming pollution.

Unsurprisingly, many view the API move as a cynical effort to stave off a looming green  onslaught. “The American Petroleum Institute is considering backing a carbon tax — but only to prevent ambitious regulation of greenhouse emissions,” tweeted the Center for Biological Diversity.

The White House had no immediate comment on the news. But for now, anyway, there is little sign that the Biden administration is prepared to surrender regulatory authority on climate in exchange for a tax. Biden’s team includes avowed advocates of carbon taxes—most notably, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. But the unmistakable message from the White House is that it will pursue a government-led drive for action on climate change, not a market-driven approach where taxes or fees do most of the work of weaning the nation off fossil fuels. The administration clearly has been influenced by political and economic thinkers who argue that pricing carbon may be necessary for reaching the goal of net zero emissions, but it would be more politically savvy—and ultimately, more effective—to start with other action to mandate or incentivize cuts in greenhouse gas pollution.

“The problem with doing taxes or even a cap-and-trade program as your first step is that produces a lot of political resistance,” said Eric Biber, a professor at the University of California’s Berkeley Law school. “Basically, you’ve made an enemy of everyone who makes money off of carbon. And if you win, you’re probably only going to get a small tax.”

He and other experts agree that a small tax won’t drive the kind of investment or economic transformation needed to achieve Biden’s ambitious goal of putting the nation on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, and his interim target of carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.
» Read article          

deepwater trending
Offshore Oil & Gas Projects Set For Record Recovery
By Tsvetana Paraskova, Oil Price
March 5, 2021

Operators are expected to commit to developing a record number of offshore oil and gas projects over the next five years, with deepwater projects set for the most impressive growth, Rystad Energy said in a new report this week.

The energy research firm has defined in its analysis a project as ‘committed’ when more than 25 percent of its overall greenfield capital expenditure (capex) is awarded through contracts.

Offshore oil and gas development is not only set to recover from the pandemic shock to prices and demand, which forced operators to slash development expenditures and delay projects. It is set for a new record in project commitments in the five-year period to 2025, according to Rystad Energy.

Offshore oil has already started to show signs of emerging from last year’s crisis, as costs have been slashed since the previous downturn of 2015-2016. Deepwater oil breakevens have dropped to below those of U.S. shale supply, making deepwater one of the cheapest new sources of oil supply globally, Rystad Energy said last year.
» Read article          
» Read the Rystad Energy report              

» More about fossil fuel              

 

LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS

Gibbstown LNG opposition
Foes of South Jersey LNG plan say new frack ban might help their cause
Murphy under pressure to ‘walk the talk’ and say how he would ‘prevent’ construction of export terminal for fracked gas
By Jon Hurdle, NJ Spotlight News
March 9, 2021

A historic decision to ban fracking for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin is raising new questions about plans for a South Jersey dock where fracked gas would be exported in liquid form.

On Feb. 25, Gov. Phil Murphy and the governors of Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware voted at the Delaware River Basin Commission to formally block the controversial process of harvesting natural gas, on the grounds that it would endanger water supplies for some 15 million people in the basin. Murphy’s vote on that ban is prompting opponents of the dock to ask whether they now have a better chance of stopping the project that he has so far supported.

Critics argue that building the dock at Gibbstown in Gloucester County would be at odds with the new policy made explicit in that vote because it would stimulate the production of fracked gas that could contaminate drinking water and add to greenhouse gas emissions even though the gas would be coming from northeastern Pennsylvania outside the Delaware River Basin.

And the fracked gas would be transported in a round-the-clock procession of trucks or trains in a region that has finally rejected the technique of harvesting natural gas, which has been blamed for tainting water with toxic drilling chemicals, and industrializing many rural areas where gas wells are built.

If successful, the port project would provide new global market access for the abundant gas reserves of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the richest gas fields in the world, whose development since the mid-2000s has been hindered by low prices and a shortage of pipelines. The Pennsylvania gas would be sold in liquid form to overseas markets, especially in Asia, where prices are much higher than in the U.S.
» Read article          

» More about LNG              

 

BIOMASS

Markey-Warren biomass letter
Palmer Renewable Energy can’t greenwash its emissions away (Guest viewpoint)
By Mary S. Booth, MassLive | Opinion
March 8, 2021

Mary S. Booth is the director of Partnership for Policy Integrity

Vic Gatto’s Guest Viewpoint (Feb. 26) touting the benefits of the controversial wood-burning power plant he wants to build in East Springfield is packed full of fallacies and misinformation. Gatto begins by claiming that the plant will generate “clean green power” but the truth is that clean energy never comes out of a smokestack. He wants you to believe that just because the plant has a permit, it won’t pollute.

For twelve years, the people of Springfield and surrounding communities have made their opposition to this plant clear. Springfield residents already suffer from disproportionately high rates of asthma and heart attack hospitalizations, poor air quality, and inadequate access to health care, according to state environmental health tracking data. Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has written that “The proposed biomass facility in Springfield would jeopardize the health of an environmental community already deemed the nation’s ‘asthma capital.’” The people of Springfield have fought hard to clean up other sources of air pollution in their community — like the Mount Tom coal plant, another facility that claimed to use “state of the art” pollution controls — and are tired of being treated as an environmental sacrifice zone.

In addition to downplaying the health risks, Gatto continues to make unsubstantiated claims about the climate benefits of his project. Gatto claims that burning “waste” wood such as tree trimmings will result in less greenhouse gas pollution “compared to allowing it to decompose to methane on the ground.” This is false – and not supported in the DOER studies Gatto cited. Burning a ton of green wood releases about a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere instantaneously. That same ton of wood, if left to decompose naturally, would gradually emit carbon dioxide over a span of 10-25 years, returning some of the carbon to the soil and forest ecosystem. Methane – a much more potent climate-warming gas – is only created when oxygen is not available. In fact, the 30-foot high, 5,000 ton wood chip pile that Palmer will be allowed to store on site under its operating permit will be far more likely to create the kind of low-oxygen conditions that produce methane than chipping wood trimmings and leaving them in the forest to decompose.

While the Palmer developers have prevailed so far in the courts, they need access to lucrative state and federal renewable energy subsidies in order to make their project financially viable. In this, they have found a willing partner in Gov. Charlie Baker and his top advisor, DOER Commissioner Patrick Woodcock. At Palmer’s request, and over the objection of citizens, environmental groups, and elected officials across the state, the Baker Administration is planning to roll back Massachusetts’ existing science-based protections so that polluting biomass power plants like Palmer will qualify for millions of dollars each year through the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Instead of wasting clean energy incentives on biomass energy, the Baker Administration should be directing those subsidies towards truly green, clean, and carbon-free energy generation. The public can weigh in directly, by going to www.notoxicbiomass.org and sending Governor Baker a strong message that Massachusetts residents do not want to subsidize Palmer’s polluting power. Springfield residents will be harmed first and worst by this proposal, but we all lose if we allow our clean energy dollars to support false climate solutions like biomass energy.
» Read article          

» Read Mr. Gatto’s greenwash piece          
» Read Attorney General Healey’s comments on proposed changes to the Renewable Portfolio Standard               

» More about biomass            

 

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

chinook
New Study Shows Fish Are Ingesting Plastic at Higher Rates
By Tara Lohan, EcoWatch
March 8, 2021

Each year the amount of plastic swirling in ocean gyres and surfing the tide toward coastal beaches seems to increase. So too does the amount of plastic particles being consumed by fish — including species that help feed billions of people around the world.

A new study published in the journal Global Change Biology revealed that the rate of plastic consumption by marine fish has doubled in the last decade and is increasing by more than 2% a year.

The study also revealed new information about what species are most affected and where the risks are greatest.

The researchers did a global analysis of mounting studies of plastic pollution in the ocean and found data on plastic ingestion for 555 species of marine and estuarine fish. Their results showed that 386 fish species — two-thirds of all species — had ingested plastic. And of those, 210 were species that are commercially fished.

Not surprisingly, places with an abundance of plastic in surface waters, such as East Asia, led to a higher likelihood of plastic ingestion by fish.

But fish type and behavior, researchers found, also plays a role. Active predators — those at the top of the food chain, like members of the Sphyrnidae family, which includes hammerhead and bonnethead sharks — ingested the most plastic. Grazers and filter‐feeders consumed the least.
» Read article          
» Read the Global Change Biology study            

» More about plastics in the environment               

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

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

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

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

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

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

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!

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

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


» Learn more about Pipeline projects
» Learn more about other proposed energy infrastructure
» Sign up for the NFGiM Newsletter for events, news and actions you can take
» DONATE to help keep our efforts going!