Tag Archives: plastics

Weekly News Check-In 1/31/20

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

This week we’re sharing a blog post from Maine, arguing that the Weymouth compressor station is of regional concern. Additional news about resistance to fossil fuels includes continuing citizen protests to delay coal trains bound for New Hampshire’s Merrimack Station.

We found climate news on the fading usefulness of natural gas as a bridge fuel – arguing against the need for new infrastructure. At the same time, cutting-edge climate models promise more accurate predictions of global warming, and preliminary results agree strongly with the worst-case scenarios of earlier models. All this while the true extent of methane leaked from extraction and distribution systems is coming into sharper focus.

Integration of clean energy into the electric grid is moving rapidly, but maybe not with the best possible resource mix. An interesting article calls for better strategic planning.

The shipping industry was looking at liquified natural gas (LNG) as a cleaner alternative fuel to improve its emissions. A new report casts doubt on that, with a reminder that it’s a complicated problem.

While the fossil fuel industry swats down near-constant attempts to ban fracking because it threatens climate and public health, the just-passed USMCA trade agreement contains plenty of protections and rewards for gas and oil. The rapidly growing fracking-dependent plastics industry is also walking the line between government support through lax regulations and a growing public backlash based on similar concerns.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

No Compressor Station
The Weymouth Compressor Should Be Of Regional Concern
By Adam Rice, West End News – Blog
January 24, 2020

If we as Mainers become more vocal about the capacity payments taken from our utility bills that prop up the fossil fuel industry and advocate true divestment, we could easily fund clean sources of heat and power over time. With the Weymouth compressor, support from neighboring states will be a powerful thing that helps the whole region move towards measurable progress.
» Read article       

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

no coal no gas
Prof. arrested for blocking coal train in climate protest
Prof. Sabine von Mering was arrested for participating in a train blockade in protest of the use of fossil fuels. The charges were dropped.
By Jen Crystal, The Justice
January 28, 2020

Prof. Sabine von Mering (GRALL, ENVS), a longtime climate activist, was arrested on Dec. 8 for blocking a freight train carrying coal to Merrimack Station, the largest remaining coal power plant in New England, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

This train blockade is part of the “No Coal, No Gas” campaign, which is organizing actions to limit and eliminate fossil fuel infrastructure in New England. Judge Margaret Guzman dismissed the charges against von Mering and others at the protest on Dec. 9, according to the Lowell Sun.

The largest protest of this campaign took place on Sept. 20 at Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire, where 67 people were arrested for trespassing. Von Mering told the Justice in a Jan. 22 interview that she joined the “No Coal, No Gas” campaign following this protest at the request of the Climate Disobedience Center.
» Read article

» More about protests and actions    

CLIMATE

bridge too far
Is Natural Gas Really Helping the U.S. Cut Emissions?
Methane leaks throughout the supply chain make the “cleaner” fuel more damaging to the climate than government data suggests.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
January 30, 2020

Can natural gas be part of a climate change solution?

That’s what the American Petroleum Institute argues in a new campaign it has launched ahead of this year’s elections, pushing back against some Democratic candidates who support bans on new development of oil and gas. The campaign echoes a refrain that supporters from both political parties have pushed for years: that gas is a cleaner fuel than coal and can serve as a bridge to a low-carbon future.

The industry points to data showing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are at their lowest level in decades, as coal power generation has been replaced by gas, which produces about half the carbon dioxide emissions when burned, and by renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

But experts agree that those official figures understate emissions of methane, the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas released in leaks throughout the oil and gas development supply chain. And while there’s uncertainty about how much methane is leaking, several studies show that the benefits of the switch from coal to gas over the last decade are smaller than government data suggests, perhaps substantially smaller.
» Read article

Thwaites Glacier
Temperatures at a Florida-Size Glacier in Antarctica Alarm Scientists
By Shola Lawal, New York Times
January 29, 2020

Scientists in Antarctica have recorded, for the first time, unusually warm water beneath a glacier the size of Florida that is already melting and contributing to a rise in sea levels.

The researchers, working on the Thwaites Glacier, recorded water temperatures at the base of the ice of more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above the normal freezing point. Critically, the measurements were taken at the glacier’s grounding line, the area where it transitions from resting wholly on bedrock to spreading out on the sea as ice shelves.

It is unclear how fast the glacier is deteriorating: Studies have forecast its total collapse in a century and also in a few decades. The presence of warm water in the grounding line may support estimates at the faster range.
» Read article

judges duck and cover
Judges Point Dismissed Youth Climate Plaintiffs to Political System Corrupted by Fossil Fuel Cash
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
January 24, 2020

Fossil fuel influence and money has largely captured political branches of the U.S. government, and yet the Ninth Circuit majority still concludes “that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large.”

In a scathing dissent, District Judge Josephine Staton rebuked this conclusion, warning that deferring to the political branches when they are perpetuating a grave harm would be detrimental to constitutional democracy.

“The majority laments that it cannot step into the shoes of the political branches, but appears ready to yield even if those branches walk the Nation over a cliff,” Staton writes. “This promotes separation of powers to the detriment of our countervailing constitutional mandate to intervene where the political branches run afoul of our foundational principles.”

Several legal experts concurred with Staton’s take that the majority opinion shirks the judiciary’s core function in our system of government.
» Read article      
» Read the decision and dissent    

omnicide
How Does a Nation Adapt to Its Own Murder?
Australia is going up in flames, and its government calls for resilience while planning for more coal mines.
By Richard Flanagan, New York Times Opinion
January. 25, 2020

To describe this terrifying new reality, a terrifying new idea: “omnicide.” As used by Danielle Celermajer, a professor of sociology at the University of Sydney specializing in human rights, the term invokes a crime we have previously been unable to imagine because we had never before witnessed it.

Ms. Celermajer argues that “ecocide,” the killing of ecosystems, is inadequate to describe the devastation of Australia’s fires. “This is something more,” she has written. “This is the killing of everything. Omnicide.”

What does the future look like where omnicide is the norm?

According to the American climatologist Michael Mann, “It is conceivable that much of Australia simply becomes too hot and dry for human habitation.”
» Read article       

worse than you think
Scientists Say Paris Agreement Climate Goals May Now Be Unattainable

By Alex Kirby for Climate News Network, in DeSmog UK
January 23, 2020

The fevered arguments about how the world can reach the Paris climate goals on cutting the greenhouse gases which are driving global heating may be a waste of time. An international team of scientists has learned more about the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) − and it’s not good news.

Teams in six countries, using new climate models, say the warming potential of CO2 has been underestimated for years. The new models will be used in revised UN temperature projections next year. If they are accurate, the Paris targets of keeping temperature rise below 2°C − or preferably 1.5°C − will belong to a fantasy world.

Vastly more data and computing power has become available since the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections were finalised in 2013. “We have better models now,” Olivier Boucher, head of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris, told the French news agency AFP, and they “represent current climate trends more accurately”.

Projections from government-backed teams using the models in the US, UK, France and Canada suggest a much warmer future unless the world acts fast: CO2 concentrations which have till now been expected to produce a world only 3°C warmer than pre-industrial levels would more probably heat the Earth’s surface by four or five degrees Celsius.
» Read article

climate blows up economy
Climate Change Could Blow Up the Economy. Banks Aren’t Ready.
Like other central banks, the E.C.B., which met on Thursday, is scrambling to prepare for what a report warns could be a coming economic upheaval.
By Jack Ewing, New York Times
January 23, 2020

FRANKFURT — Climate change has already been blamed for deadly bush fires in Australia, withering coral reefs, rising sea levels and ever more cataclysmic storms. Could it also cause the next financial crisis?

A report issued this week by an umbrella organization for the world’s central banks argued that the answer is yes, while warning that central bankers lack tools to deal with what it says could be one of the biggest economic dislocations of all time.

The book-length report, published by the Bank for International Settlements, in Basel, Switzerland, signals what could be the overriding theme for central banks in the decade to come.

“Climate change poses unprecedented challenges to human societies, and our community of central banks and supervisors cannot consider itself immune to the risks ahead of us,” François Villeroy de Galhau, governor of the Banque de France, said in the report.
» Read article      
» Read report: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change

» More about climate    

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

geo surprise
Geothermal’s surprise: Cheap renewables could keep states from achieving climate goals
Planners must think beyond the levelized cost for renewables to the value that each resource brings to the grid.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
January 27, 2020

Surprisingly, the plunging cost of some renewables could keep states from reaching ambitious climate goals if planners fail to recognize the higher value in some higher cost renewables.

States like New York, Massachusetts and California with ambitious 2030 renewables and 2045 emissions reduction mandates are starting to find a tension between cost and value. Offshore wind’s reliability and emissions reduction values have raised its profile, though it remains more expensive than onshore wind. Now California policymakers are beginning to see the potentially extraordinary, but so far unrecognized value of its geothermal resources.

“We overbuilt natural gas and then we built so much solar that we have solar over-generation, so we have fallen in love with batteries,” Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) Executive Director V. John White told Utility Dive. “Batteries are great, but planning is too driven by costs, and not enough by the value in meeting grid needs, and not having a balanced resource portfolio could be the Achilles heel of our climate effort.”
» Read article      

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

LNG bunker bust
LNG fuel fails to deliver GHG emission cuts: report

By Paul Bartlett, Seatrade Maritime News
January 29, 2020

A new report just released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) concludes that using LNG for bunkers may not be as beneficial as previously thought. In fact, on a lifecycle basis, LNG as a marine fuel may have little impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The analysis compares LNG, marine gas oil, very low sulphur fuel oil and heavy fuel oil used in marine engines in the LNG tanker and cruise sectors. However, results varied widely depending on engine technology. High-pressure dual fuel (HPDF) machinery came out top but the ICCT estimates that only 90 of the 750-plus LNG-fuelled ships in service use these engines.

Moreover, using a 20-year global warming potential model and taking into account upstream emissions, combustion emissions and methane slip, there is no climate benefit from using LNG, regardless of engine technology, the analysis concludes. Even HPDF engines emitted more lifecycle GHG emissions than when they used marine gas oil.
» Read article
» Read report       

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

fracking Canada
Birth defects, cancer and disease among potential health risks from fracking for Canadians, doctors warn
By Kieran Leavitt, The Star
January 29, 2020

EDMONTON—Dire health impacts and a damaged environment are among concerns raised in a new review on the fracking of natural gas written by a Canadian non-profit made up of physicians.

Due to the chemicals involved in fracking, the practice’s wide-ranging impacts on humans includes the potential for birth defects, cancer, neurological issues, psychological impacts, disease and illness, reads the review by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).
» Read article      
» Read CAPE report        

crude export ban
‘Like Handing Out Blankets Affected With Smallpox’: US Called to End Oil Exports to Thwart Climate Crisis
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, in DeSmog Blog
January 28, 2020

A new report released Tuesday by Oil Change International and Greenpeace USA found that reinstating the U.S. crude oil export ban Congress lifted in 2015 would slash global carbon emissions by up to 181 million tons of CO2-equivalent each year — a reduction comparable to shuttering dozens of coal-fired power plants.

Given the significant impact it would have in the fight against the global climate crisis, Oil Change and Greenpeace demanded that the next president and Congress commit to reviving the crude oil export ban as part of a broad and just transition away from fossil fuel production, which the Trump administration has worked to increase.

The next president, the groups note, has the “legal authority to reinstate crude oil export restrictions by declaring a national climate emergency.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, have both committed to ending crude oil exports if elected.
» Read article     

» Read report     

Permian Basin Hwy 67
The Hidden Danger Of Radioactive Oil And Gas Wastewater
Because oil and gas waste is exempt from hazardous waste regulations, the trucks that carry it are unmarked and free to travel near schools and reservoirs.
By Terri Langford, Texas Standard
January 27, 2020

Many Texans likely have a basic idea of how oil and gas is produced. The fuels are extracted from the ground and trucked to plants where they’re refined. But many people may be less familiar with the extraction waste, or “brine,” that is trucked away as part of that process.

Brine, a salty substance, is sent to treatment plants or injection wells where it’s then shot back into the Earth. It’s also radioactive, and Justin Nobel’s recent story in Rolling Stone details how little those who transport this material are told about its risks, and how little regulation there is when it comes to moving the radioactive substance.
» Read article    
» Read Justin Nobel’s Rolling Stone article      

murky water
‘We can’t live like this’: residents say a corrupt pipeline project is making them sick
A community in Pennsylvania says clay-colored water appeared during a drilling mud spill, but the pipeline company insists it’s not to blame
By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
January 27, 2020

Every evening, Erica and Jon Tarr load up their car with towels, toiletries and dirty dishes, before driving their two-year-old daughter to a relative’s home to bathe, wash up and eat a meal cooked in clean water.

The Tarrs, who moved into their spacious detached home in semi-rural Pennsylvania last April, have relied upon bottled water and family generosity since June, when their crystalline tap water first turned murky.

Since then, they’ve spent more than $32,000 on new equipment, lab tests, bottled water, repairing pipes and parts damaged by the turbid water. It still isn’t safe, and they don’t know why.
» Read article       

USMCA oil slick
5 Reasons Many See Trump’s Free Trade Deal as a Triumph for Fossil Fuels
The USMCA is a cornucopia of free-trade provisions for oil and gas companies. One environmentalist calls it “a climate failure any way you look at it.”
By Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News
January 24, 2020

The oil and gas industry had qualms when Trump first moved to scrap the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. “Renegotiating NAFTA creates risks,” said the American Petroleum Institute in an August 2017 position paper.

But through lobbying over subsequent months, the industry helped shape a deal better for its interests than NAFTA. The USMCA takes into account the monumental transformations in the North American oil and gas industry since NAFTA—the rise of the Canadian oil sands, the U.S. fracking boom, the opening of Mexico’s long-nationalized industry to private investment—and seeks to maintain them.
» Read article

casing failure
This Problem With Fracked Oil and Gas Wells Is Occurring ‘at an Alarming Rate’
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
January 23, 2020

On February 15, 2018, a fracked natural gas well owned by ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy and located in southeast Ohio experienced a well blowout, causing it to gush the potent greenhouse gas methane for nearly three weeks. The obscure accident ultimately resulted in one of the biggest methane leaks in U.S. history. The New York Times reported in December that new satellite data revealed that this single gas well leaked more methane in 20 days than an entire year’s worth of methane released by the oil and gas industries in countries like Norway and France.

The cause of this massive leak was a failure of the gas well’s casing, or internal lining. Well casing failures represent yet another significant but not widely discussed technical problem for an unprofitable fracking industry.
» Read article       

» More about fossil fuel

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

ban the bags
Booming Plastics Industry Faces Backlash as Data About Environmental Harm Grows:
Environmentalists cite “an incredible disconnect” between government support for plastics manufacturing and evidence of the industry’s pollution and climate impact.
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News
January 24, 2020


Frustrated with the sight of plastic bags and styrofoam containers piling up in its harbor, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, rang in the new year with a promise to start enforcing a ban on single-use plastic containers and utensils.

It’s one of hundreds of similar bans that have been launched across the U.S. and Europe, amid a growing backlash to an industry that is expanding despite increasing evidence of the harm its products can do.

In just the past year, researchers have shown that tiny particles of plastic are pervasive in the environment, even high in the mountains and inside human bodies. Dead whales have washed up with dozens of pounds of plastic waste in their stomachs. And a new awareness of the role the plastics industry plays in climate change is emerging.
» Read article

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 12/13/19

WNCI-2

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bricks and asbestos
Neighbors Want More Asbestos Testing at Compressor Site

By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
December 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on the Weymouth compressor station

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

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

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

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

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

» More about the Granite Bridge Pipeline

ACTIONS & PROTESTS

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

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

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

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

» More on protests and direct actions

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

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

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

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

» More on energy efficiency

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

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

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

Well, here they go.

Next in line: Cambridge, and then Newton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on clean energy

REGIONAL ENERGY

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

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

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

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

» More about regional energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about the fossil fuel industry

PLASTICS RECYCLING

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

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

But hey, most of it is recyclable, right?

Well, not really.
» Watch video

» More about plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 9/27/19

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

In local news, Columbia Gas is the center of unwelcome attention in Lawrence, as emergency crews responded to a large gas leak from a new high-pressure line – installed as part of the reconstruction following last year’s gas leaks and explosions. The Weymouth compressor station was declared a threat to human health in a new report by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the folks in Charlton are struggling in their ongoing fight against a proposed LNG plant. The Constitution Pipeline will likely head to court before being built.

Looking a little farther away, we found news of a recent fracked gas well explosion in Louisiana that will likely burn for weeks before being extinguished.

In climate news, countries around the world are focusing on regulating pollutants like methane and HFCs – short lived but powerful greenhouse gasses. Reducing emissions of these pollutants could slow the pace of climate change during our longer drive to eliminate carbon emissions. Sadly, United States energy and environmental policies are currently moving sharply counter to this initiative. Climate activist Greta Thunberg attended the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York and was not impressed.

We also found interesting news on clean energy alternatives, energy storage, and the divestment movement. The fossil fuel industry seems to be mounting a defense against charges that it refuses to embrace decarbonization by making token investments in clean energy while hoping to extend the fossil fuel era as long as possible.

A court case against FERC has questioned its approval of eminent domain to take private property prior to pipeline approval.

We wrap up with news of a fascinating study of the effects of plastic on human health. It’s everywhere, it’s nasty, and mounting evidence shows we’re passing its consequences along to our children.

— The NFGiM Team

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER

Lawrence gas leakAbout 400 people evacuated in Lawrence after ‘major’ gas leak discovered, two schools closed
By Emily Sweeney and Michael Levenson, Boston Globe
September 27, 2019

LAWRENCE — A major gas leak forced hundreds of Lawrence residents to evacuate Friday as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and officials searched for the cause of the problem, which came a year after a series of natural gas-fueled fires and explosions rocked the city.

Residents, some of whom were evacuated in the predawn hours by Lawrence first responders, were rattled. They said they feared they were facing a repeat of the disaster last year in Lawrence and two neighboring communities that killed a Lawrence man and left many residents homeless for months.

Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas, told reporters at the 7 a.m. press conference that his company did not have a crew working in the area. “We were not doing work in that area,” Kempic said. He identified the primary location for the leak as the intersection of South Broadway and Salem Street.

He said the affected line is new, having been replaced following the Sept. 13, 2018, natural gas disaster that caused 130 fires and explosions and killed Leonel Rondon, an 18-year-old Lawrence man.
» Read article     

UPDATE: Columbia Gas ‘unprepared,’ with ‘catastrophic’ results, NTSB reports
By Jill Harmacinski  jharmacinski@eagletribune.com
September 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board said the company was not prepared to handle such a disaster Sept. 13, 2018, and had no maps of the gas system available for first responders, despite overseeing the system for 100 years. Additionally, the NTSB reported, company officials were difficult to reach as the disaster was occurring and for hours afterward.

The NTSB also said plans to upgrade the cast-iron gas line system did not include upgrades to “gas sensing lines.”

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said “results were not simply unacceptable. For a whole region, they were catastrophic.”
» Read article     

Columbia Gas Should Pay $33 Million for Non-Compliance: Lawrence Mayor
Rivera said the utility knew since at least July 30 that properties may still have abandoned service lines requiring additional inspection
By Young-Jin Kim and State House News Service
September 13, 2019

Lawrence, Massachusetts Mayor Dan Rivera is calling on authorities to levy a hefty fine on Columbia Gas for failing to fully comply with a restoration plan following last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

In sharply worded statement Thursday, Rivera said the utility knew since at least July 30 that properties may still have abandoned service lines requiring additional inspection. He said Columbia Gas should pay $1 million for every day it failed to act.

“This lack of transparency costs us time otherwise spent fixing the problem,” Rivera said in a statement.

“Not only does this slow down the process of road restoration work that Lawrence was about to begin, it once again puts our back against a wall to fix a gas problem with the impending cold weather.”
» Read article     

MA NEWS: Gas Safety Report Released – Rolling The Dice
By Debbie New, Mothers Out Front blog post
September 13, 2019

On the anniversary of the “catastrophic failure in the gas distribution system that caused explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley” on September 13, 2018, Mothers Out Front remembers the community’s sacrifices and strength in overcoming the complete disruption of their energy system and their lives. We are proud to be a part of Gas Leak Allies newly released report Rolling the Dice: Assessment of Gas Safety in Massachusetts as “this report is the response of citizens and scientists motivated by a desire for a safe, healthy, and just energy system.”
» Read blog post    
» Read “Rolling The Dice – Assessment of Gas System Safety in Massachusetts” report

» More Merrimack Valley gas disaster articles

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth: Soil Testing Meeting Rescheduled Concerning Proposed Compressor Station
By Amy Leonard, WATD FM News
September 25, 2019

After a “data dump,” a meeting between concerned parties and the company hired to do soil testing at the proposed compressor station site in Weymouth is rescheduled from tonight to October 10th.

Margaret Bellafiore is the representative for The PIP or Public Involvement Program- which is a group formed with the DEP and participants must be notified of all matters regarding contamination and clean up at the site.

Bellafiore was granted her request to reschedule the meeting which will be open to the public and take place October 10th at 7:00 at the Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth.
» Read article     

Greater Boston PSR demands an immediate halt to Weymouth Compressor construction, calling it a danger to health, a danger to safety, and a danger to our Massachusetts community
Physicians for Social Responsibility
September 23, 2019

The report—a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the human health impacts of soil, groundwater, air and noise pollution that will result from the compressor station—concludes that the project is dangerous to human health and that no regulatory framework can make this facility safe for the surrounding community or for residents of the Commonwealth.

The report specifically addresses:

  • Health risks related to existing soil and groundwater contamination at the proposed site;
  • Health risks of cumulative exposure to air toxics associated with the proposed compressor station;
  • Noise pollution generated by the proposed compressor station.

Greater Boston PSR calls on Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to halt the construction of the compressor station in Weymouth.
» Read press release   
» Download report here

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

LNG NEWS

Charlton legal expenses go up 300% in fight against proposed pot farm, LNG plant
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
Sep 13, 2019

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, has applied for state Energy Facilities Siting Board approval to produce about 250,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas per day and store it in a 2-million-gallon tank at 304 Southbridge Road (Route 169).

Since the Siting Board decides whether the $100 million project will go forward, the Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered as interveners in the hearings.

To do so, the town must hire legal counsel and consultants to prepare its testimony. Those legal and consulting fees are expected to reach $300,000, Peter J. Boria said at the joint meeting Wednesday.
» Read article     

Charlton’s lawyer for LNG plant resigns
By Debbie LaPlaca, Worcester Telegram
September 10, 2019

Liberty Energy Trust, operating under Northeast Energy Center LLC, seeks to site a natural gas liquefaction plant on 12 acres at 304 Southbridge Road (Route 169), near Millennium Power.

The company has applied for state Energy Facilities Siting Board approval to produce about 250,000 gallons of LNG per day, store it in a 2-million-gallon tank, and load it into trucks.

The applicant is also asking the state Department of Public Utilities to grant exemptions from Charlton zoning bylaws.

The Charlton Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Health have registered as interveners in the state hearings. As such, they were required to hire legal representation and file their testimony by Aug. 5. Seemingly unaware of what was required, they collectively missed the deadline.

Selectmen appointed members of the three boards and other town officials to an LNG Advisory Committee and earmarked $130,000 for the costs of legal counsel and consultants to intervene in the Siting Board’s hearings.

Selectmen at a joint meeting with the LNG committee and finance committee on Aug. 12 hired special legal counsel Miyares and Harrington LLC to represent the town.

In an Aug. 29 letter to selectmen, Attorney J. Raymond Miyares quit.
» Read article     

» More LNG articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Will the Constitution Pipeline get built?
The fight over the controversial pipeline is heading for federal court.
By ZACH WILLIAMS, City & State New York
September 8, 2019

Last week, federal regulators overruled a New York state agency’s decision to block the Constitution Pipeline, a controversial natural gas link from Pennsylvania. But that’s not the final word.

Until just a few weeks ago, there were good reasons to believe that a proposed natural gas pipeline linking Schoharie County in the Capitol Region to northern Pennsylvania would never get built. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation had rejected the proposed project, called the Constitution Pipeline, in 2016 because of its potential to harm water quality. In 2017, a federal court ruled that the state was within its rights to do so under the federal Clean Water Act. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene last year.

Despite these setbacks, the Oklahoma-based Williams Companies never gave up on its effort to build the 125-mile pipeline through the Catskills. It has been helped by the Trump administration, which made several moves this year to weaken the ability of states to block fossil fuel projects, including executive orders and proposed federal rules changes. “We can’t get energy because New York doesn’t allow the pipelines to go through,” Trump said during a mid-August visit to western Pennsylvania, which is experiencing a boom in natural gas production due to the rise of fracking technology. “The radical left wants to do to America what they’ve done to New York: raise prices, kill jobs and leave our nation less independent and far less secure.” Two weeks later, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose members are appointed by the president, issued an Aug. 28 ruling that gave Williams a waiver to override state approval because the state had purportedly taken too much time to make a decision on the company’s original application for a permit.
» Read article   

» More articles about other pipelines

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

blowout LA
Fracked Gas Well Blowout in Louisiana Likely to Burn for the Next Month
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
September 12, 2019

A fracked natural gas well in northwest Louisiana has been burning for two weeks after suffering a blowout. A state official said the fire will likely burn for the next month before the flames can be brought under control by drilling a relief well.

Experts have voiced concerns over the pollution being released, especially given the length of time this fossil fuel well has been leaking and burning.

“Blowouts are (unintended) large, uncontrolled pollutant sources with potentially significant health and environmental consequences,” Gunnar W. Schade, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University, told me via email after viewing the drone video obtained by DeSmog. “Blowouts need to be shut down as soon as possible.”

Sharon Wilson, Texas coordinator of environmental advocacy group Earthworks, outlined what happens during well blowouts like this.

“The gas is under pressure so if they lose control, the gas, frack fluid, produced water, and oil/condensate all blast out of the hole,” Wilson said during a call after viewing the video. “They have to get specialized teams to come shut the well in.”
» Read article

» More articles about what can go wrong 

CLIMATE

Dozens of Countries Take Aim at Climate Super Pollutants
Methane, HFCs and other short-lived climate pollutants are many times more potent than carbon dioxide but don’t last as long. Cuts could have a powerful impact.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
September 25, 2019

Environment ministers from dozens of countries agreed this week to speed up their efforts to reduce a class of greenhouse gases that, until now, has been largely overlooked in international climate agreements but could play a crucial role in limiting the worst effects of climate change.

“We can avoid about 0.6 degrees [Celsius (about 1°F)] of warming between now and mid-century by taking action on short-lived climate pollutants,” Dan McDougall, a senior fellow at the Climate and Clean Air Coalition said. The estimate is based on a 2011 United Nations Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization assessment that looked at 16 measures to cut black carbon and methane emissions across the agriculture, energy, transportation, industry, buildings and waste management sectors.

Reducing black carbon and methane also has tremendous health benefits by improving local air quality.

Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to accelerate, and global CO2 emissions are not expected to peak until after 2030, according to a World Meteorological Organization report released Sunday for this week’s UN Climate Action Summit.

The report found that countries’ commitments, which have so far focused largely on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, would have to be increased fivefold from current levels of emissions reductions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F), a goal of the Paris accord. What’s more, many countries are not meeting their current commitments.

Roughly half of the world’s G20 nations, which account for around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had fallen short of achieving their commitments under the Paris Agreement, according to a 2018 UN report. An updated draft of the UN report released Saturday found that the G20 as a whole remains off track for meeting current Paris commitment pledges as too few of the countries had made transformative climate policy commitments.
» Read article     

The World’s Oceans Are in Danger, Major Climate Change Report Warns
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
September 25, 2019

Earth’s oceans are under severe strain from climate change, a major new United Nations report warns, threatening everything from the ability to harvest seafood to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people living along the coasts.

Rising temperatures are contributing to a drop in fish populations in many regions, and oxygen levels in the ocean are declining while acidity levels are on the rise, posing risks to important marine ecosystems, according to the report issued Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking.
» Read article     

The US Is Exporting a Fracked Climate Catastrophe
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
September 23, 2019

According to climate scientists, limiting the worst impacts of climate change means weaning the world off of fossil fuels, not ramping it up. But two factors, the U.S. “fracking revolution” that helped boost domestic oil and gas production to record levels combined with lifting the 40-year-long ban on exporting crude oil in 2015, are complicating that vision.

In June, the United States displaced Saudi Arabia as the top exporter of crude oil, a stunning development for a country that only started exporting crude in 2016. That month, the U.S. exported over 3 million barrels of crude oil per day. To put that in perspective, the U.S. consumed 20.5 million barrels per day in 2018. That means that each day, the U.S. was pumping out of its borders a volume of oil equivalent to about 15 percent of its 2018 daily consumption.

This expansion can be directly linked to the production of oil via hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) that has driven the U.S. oil production boom over the past decade. In addition to driving U.S. crude oil expansion, this much-lauded “fracking revolution” also was responsible for essentially the entire increase in global oil production last year, when the U.S. contributed 98 percent of that increase.

Without the shale boom, the world would likely be facing much higher oil prices and the potential for stagnating or even declining production (aka peak oil), both of which would help to hasten the needed energy transition to mitigate climate change.
» Read article     

Greta T at UN
At U.N. Climate Summit, Few Commitments and U.S. Silence
By Somini Sengupta and Lisa Friedman, New York Times
September 23, 2019

The United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday was meant to highlight concrete promises by presidents, prime ministers and corporate executives to wean the global economy from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

But despite the protests in the streets, China on Monday made no new promises to take stronger climate action. The United States, having vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the pact among nations to jointly fight climate change, said nothing at all. A host of countries made only incremental promises.

The contrast between the slow pace of action and the urgency of the problem was underscored by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, who excoriated world leaders for their “business as usual” approach. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she said, her voice quavering with rage. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
» Read article     

anaerobic digester - Chicago
Where’s the Waste? A ‘Circular’ Food Economy Could Combat Climate Change
An ice company’s wastewater can feed a produce garden. Spent grain from a brewery goes to compost. Local, shared, recycled. Welcome to the future of food.
By Eduardo Garcia, New York Times
September 21, 2019

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global linear production system that relies on chemicals and fuel to produce and transport food over great distances is to blame for between 21 percent and 37 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, proponents of the circular model argue that cooperation among various groups in the food-production system can significantly reduce energy consumption and waste.
» Read article

» More climate articles  

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

The Hamptons Love Green Energy. But That Wind Farm?
The transmission line would go through an area where homeowners include the billionaire Ronald Lauder and Marci Klein, daughter of Calvin Klein.
By Debra West, New York Times
September 14, 2019

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — This affluent enclave on the East End of Long Island is steeped in eco-conscious pride, with strict water quality and land preservation rules and an abundance of electric cars on the roads.

So at first, many happily embraced a plan for an offshore wind farm that would help lead the way as New York State sets some of the most ambitious green energy goals in the country.

But then came word that the project’s transmission cable was going to land in Wainscott, one of the most exclusive slices of the already exclusive Hamptons, where homeowners include the likes of the cosmetics billionaire Ronald Lauder and Marci Klein, a former longtime producer of “Saturday Night Live” and the daughter of Calvin Klein.

Soon a push to protect the planet was out and the imperative to protect a golden plot of sand was in. Homeowners organized and hired an army of lawyers, lobbyists, public relations experts and engineers to argue their case.
» Read article 

» More clean energy alternative articles   

ENERGY STORAGE

As battery fires spark ongoing concerns, NFPA releases standards to address risks
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
September 17, 2019

The exponential growth of energy storage around the world has also put a spotlight on the technology’s safety record. Multiple fires at residential storage installations in South Korea last year as well as the fire earlier this year in Arizona have shown the potential dangers associated with battery storage.

In response to increasing demand for the technology, the NFPA decided in 2016 to start developing NFPA 855.

“While energy storage systems provide countless benefits and applications, the technologies do not come without risk. NFPA 855 aims to mitigate risk and ensure that all installations are done in a way that takes fire and life safety into consideration,” Brian O’Connor, a professional engineer and NFPA staff liaison for NFPA 855, said in a statement.

NFPA 855 establishes requirements for ESS installation settings, size and separation of systems, and fire suppression and control systems.
» Read article  

battery storage site
Nothing standing in the way of energy storage’s ‘explosive growth’: Navigant
By HJ Mai, Utility Dive
September 16, 2019

“Nothing really does seem to be standing in the way of its explosive growth,” Ricardo Rodriguez, research analyst for distributed energy storage at Navigant Research, told Utility Dive.

The market research company in its latest report identified close to 2,100 energy storage projects globally. And international storage markets are anticipated to grow exponentially over the next decade, a second report from Rethink Technology Research found.

“There are really five primary drivers for storage today,” Rodriguez said. “They are changing rate structures, [electric vehicle] charging integration, solar PV integration, resiliency/backup power, and to some degree, business model innovation. But I think the biggest driver of growth going forward — outside of cost — is likely to be the development of new market opportunities and value streams that are opened up by favorable federal and state regulations.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued a recent order to allow utility companies to pay commercial property owners if they agree to rely upon their energy storage systems during peak events. The order was a landmark state regulation in the energy storage space, according to Rodriguez.

“I think it was one of the first orders in the nation to incentivize behind the meter battery storage,” he said.
» Read article   

» More energy storage articles

DIVESTMENT

First Major U.S. Insurer Begins Divestment from Fossil Fuels
By Elana Sulakshana, Truthout
September 12, 2019

It seems like every day there is a new story of a pipeline spilling crude oil or an oil refinery exploding. How do fossil fuel companies continue to operate such hazardous infrastructure in communities despite the immediate and long-term harm they cause? One piece of the answer is the coverage and financial support they get from insurance companies.

We may not immediately consider insurance as a key driver of climate change, but insurance companies provide a crucial service to dangerous fossil fuel projects: insurance coverage for everything from explosions to car accidents. But now, that may be changing.

Earlier this summer, Chubb, the largest commercial insurance company in the U.S., announced a new policy to address climate change. Saying that it “will not underwrite risks related to the construction and operation of new coal-fired plants,” the company has become the first major U.S. insurer to adopt a policy restricting coal insurance.
» Read article

» More divestment articles   

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

oil giants defense
Oil Giants, Under Fire From Climate Activists and Investors, Mount a Defense
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
September 23, 2019

On Monday, as world leaders gathered at the United Nations climate summit and discussed the urgency of slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, 13 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies presented their defense at a forum across town. But most of their proposals appeared designed to perpetuate the use of oil and gas for decades to come, rather than transition quickly to cleaner options.
» Read article     

Cheap Renewables Could Make 90% of Proposed Gas Power Plants — and Many Pipelines — Obsolete by 2035
By Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog
September 13, 2019

A lot has changed when it comes to power generation in the past 16 years. In 2003, if you flipped on a light switch most places in the U.S., odds were you were setting into motion the final link in a chain of events that started in a coal mine or a mountain-top removal project. The U.S. got more than half of its electricity from burning coal that year, followed distantly by nuclear and gas. Coal had a long-standing reputation for being a cheap, if dirty, way to get things done.

By now, natural gas — made cheap by the rush to drill shale wells and with its own dirty reputation from globe-warming methane leaks and fracking pollution — has overtaken coal as the primary source of power in America.

But that isn’t the biggest change underway when it comes to where our electrical power will come from just 16 years from now.

That shale revolution, like coal, could see its economic advantage swept away by 2035, as renewable energy choices offer electrical utilities options that not only produce no climate-changing exhaust but are also rapidly falling in price.
» Read article   

US EPA Proposes Rule Narrowing States’ Ability to Block Pipeline Projects
The National Law Review
Friday, August 30, 2019

On August 7, 2019, US EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the Agency’s newest proposal to amend the Clean Water Act (CWA) to streamline permitting of energy projects. Specifically, the proposed rule would amend the regulations concerning Section 401 of the CWA. It represents US EPA’s first comprehensive effort to promulgate federal rules governing the implementation of Section 401 of the CWA.

When announcing the proposed rule, Administrator Wheeler stated: “[T]he United States has become the number one oil and gas energy producer in the world, while at the same time continuing to improve our air quality.” He then noted, “Our proposal is intended to help ensure that states adhere to the statutory language and intent of Clean Water Act. When implemented, this proposal will streamline the process for constructing new energy infrastructure projects that are good for American families, American workers, and the American economy.”
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles

FERC NEWS

Court agrees with Oberlin, orders agency to explain pipeline decision
By MARK GILLISPIE, Associated Press
September 11, 2019

CLEVELAND — The nation’s top appeals court has ruled that a federal agency must explain why it approved a pipeline sending substantial quantities of natural gas to Canada and allowed the energy companies to force U.S. citizens to sell property so construction could begin.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed with Oberlin, Ohio, and other plaintiffs Friday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to justify giving owners of the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline credit for gas shipped to Canada to prove the project’s need.

FERC officials declined to comment Tuesday about the ruling.

Opponents long argued it was unlawful for the pipeline owners, Canada’s Enbridge Inc. and Detroit’s DTE Energy, to force U.S. citizens to sell property under legal threat so the 255-mile-long pipeline stretching across northern Ohio and into Michigan could be built.
» Read article   

» More FERC articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

plastic breakdown illustration
Our plastics, our selves

What’s plastic doing to our bodies? This all-female team is investigating.
By Eve Andrews, grist.org
February 6, 2019

The samples that eXXpedition collected will help us understand how plastic might pick up other pollutants, like pesticides and industrial waste, and transfer them to humans through the food chain. In parallel with that work, the team also wrote about its experiences to raise awareness, and began developing ideas for both policy and technology to address this giant plastic dilemma.

One major mystery within that dilemma: what all these bits of plastic might be doing to us. For every tidbit of understanding we gain about the health consequences of chemicals released by plastics, there remains a Gyre-sized quantity of unknowns. But a growing body of evidence suggests some chemicals commonly found in many plastics are associated with everything from breast and prostate cancer, to underdeveloped genitalia and low sperm count in men, to obesity.

In particular, some of the substances that stick to plastics, seep out of them, or are released when they decay are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), meaning that they interfere with the normal function of hormones in the human body. Some may contribute to cancer. They may also cross from a pregnant woman’s body into her fetus, potentially changing the way a baby develops.

It’s that last potential consequence of plastic junk that made Penn decide to found eXXpedition as an all-women’s endeavor. Men get these chemicals inside them as well, of course. “For women,” she said, “it felt like it was a greater significance because we’re passing them on to the next generation.”
» Read article 

» More about plastics in the environment and health

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Weekly News Check-In 7/5/19


Welcome back.

Each week we scour news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. Here’s a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – from local to global.

This edition includes articles on climate, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, the Weymouth compressor station, Granite Bridge Pipeline, the fossil fuel industry, electric utilities, and the plastics/fracking connection.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE

Anchorage, Alaska Hit 90 Degrees for First Time on July 4th
By Olivia Rosane, Eco Watch
July 5, 2019

“At 5pm this afternoon, #Anchorage International Airport officially hit 90 degrees for the first time on record,” NWS Anchorage tweeted Thursday afternoon.

As the nation’s fastest-warming state, Alaska is dramatically impacted by the climate crisis. Its temperatures are rising at twice the global average and its springs average two to five degrees warmer than they did 50 years ago, according to The New York Times.

The warming is melting sea ice on the Bering and Chukchi Seas, which disappeared weeks ahead of normal this year in some places. This, in turn, leads to warmer surface ocean temperatures as the dark water absorbs more sunlight. Surface temperatures are currently ranging from four to 10 degrees above normal.
» Read article

Restoring forests could capture two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere
By Mark Tutton, CNN
July 5, 2019

The researchers identified ecosystems around the world that would naturally support some level of tree cover, but have become “degraded” — deforested for timber, for example, or turned into farmland that has since been abandoned. They excluded areas that are currently used as urban or agricultural land, or that would naturally be grasslands or wetlands, because these ecosystems can themselves be valuable carbon stores, as well as supporting biodiversity.

They concluded that there’s enough suitable land to increase the world’s forests by about a third. That would give the planet more than a trillion extra trees and 900 million hectares of additional tree canopy, an area about the size of the United States.
» Read article

Heat Wave Nudged the Planet to Its Hottest June, European Forecasters Say
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
July 3, 2019

The heat wave that smothered much of Europe at the end of June helped raise average global temperatures to a record for the month, a European weather forecasting agency has said.

The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts said Tuesday that global temperatures for June were about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.1 degree Celsius, higher than the previous record for the month, set in 2016. Europe itself was even warmer, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 2016 record.
» Read article

June was hottest ever recorded on Earth, European satellite agency announces

Experts say climate change contributed to record-breaking temperatures across Europe
By Conrad Duncan, The Independent
July 2, 2019

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, the EU‘s satellite agency has announced.

Data provided by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts on behalf of the EU, showed that the global average temperature for June 2019 was the highest on record for the month.
» Read article

Alaska’s heat wave fuels dangerous smoke, melts glaciers
By Yereth Rosen, Reuters
July 1, 2019

Record warmth and near-record warmth in most of the state has created flammable conditions from the Canadian border in the east to the Bering Sea coast in the west. In all, there were 354 wildfires covering 443,211 acres in Alaska as of Sunday morning, according to state and federal fire managers. Melting glaciers and mountain snowfields are bloating rivers and streams across a large swath of south central Alaska.
» Read article

Freak summer hailstorm buries Mexico’s Guadalajara city in 1.5 metres of ice
Governor blames climate change for extreme weather after heavy storm
By Conrad Duncan The Independent
July 1, 2019
Guadalajara hail storm

Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, Jalisco’s governor, suggested that the extreme weather had been caused by climate change after evaluating the damage yesterday. “I witnessed scenes that I had never seen before: the hail more than a metre high, and then we ask ourselves if climate change is real,” he wrote on Twitter.
» Read article

Senators target 50% national renewable energy standard by 2035, zero-carbon by 2050
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
June 27, 2019

Under the bill, each new kilowatt-hour of renewable energy would be eligible for a renewable energy credit from the federal government and the Secretary of Energy would be required to submit a plan to Congress aiming to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Solar, wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, biomass, landfill gas, incremental hydropower and hydrokinetic energy all qualify as renewable resources under the bill.
Blog editor’s note: the bill includes biomass, which is environmentally destructive, carbon-emitting, and far from clean. Removing that energy source is a necessary amendment to this proposed legislation.
» Read article

New York City declares a climate emergency, the first US city with more than a million residents to do so
By Scottie Andrew and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
June 27, 2019

New York City officials declared a climate emergency in an effort to mobilize local and national responses to stall global warming.

It’s the largest city in the US, with over 8.62 million inhabitants.

The New York City Council passed the legislation Wednesday, calling for an immediate response to the global climate crises. The bill referenced several reports on the state of global warming and its impact, imparting that extreme weather events brought about by rising temperatures demonstrates that the planet is “too hot to be a safe environment.”
» Read article

New England Coastal Waters Warming More Than Anywhere Else In U.S.
By Lexi Peery, WBUR
June 27, 2019

Waters off the coast of New England have warmed up more than any other coastal areas in the United States — up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1901. That’s according to a new analysis of recently collected federal ocean data by the independent research nonprofit Climate Central.

Their report also notes that fresh and salt waters across the United States are warming 40% faster than expected.
» Read article

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change
By Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico
06/23/2019

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.
» Read article

Report: Sea level rise to hit Cape Cod hard
By Doug Fraser, Cape Cod Times
June 20, 2019

Adapting to the changing landscape and massive ecosystem shifts of a world that is heating up rapidly is the most dramatic economic and social struggle in history, the executive director of The Center for Climate Integrity said Wednesday.

Richard Wiles was speaking at a telephone press conference introducing a report that he said conservatively estimated $400 billion in costs to coastal communities nationwide to deal with sea level rise in the next 20 years. Barnstable County ranked the highest in the state, and the third highest nationally, with an estimated $7.04 billion in estimated costs to protect public infrastructure from sea level rise.
» Read article

Kuwait with 52.2 degree was the hottest in the world yesterday
(126F)
By Kwt Today
June 6, 2019

Kuwait was the hottest country in the world, with the temperature hitting 52.2 degrees Celsius in the shadow, in the region of Matraba in North Kuwait, yesterday.
» Read article

» More climate articles 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

VRF Program Closure
By Peter McPhee, Program Director, Renewable Thermal, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
June 28, 2019

On June 28, 2019, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced the closure of our Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pump program. Over the last two years we’ve supported 110 large commercial buildings in transitioning from fossil fuel heating to highly efficient heat pumps. In doing do, we’ve helped demonstrate that the technology, industry, and market exists today for VRF heat pumps.

We started down this pathway two years ago with one primary question in mind: how do we decarbonize heating in commercial buildings? Commercial building heating makes up nearly 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and we wanted to test an approach for reducing commercial building emissions to near zero by 2050. Because Massachusetts is legally mandated to reduce state-wide emissions 80% by 2050, this is a problem we need to solve.
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Climate Change Denialists Dubbed Auto Makers the ‘Opposition’ in Fight Over Trump’s Emissions Rollback
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
July 2, 2019

In the early months of the Trump administration, automakers pleaded for — and appeared set to receive — some relief from fuel economy standards that they said were too difficult to meet.

But newly released government emails show how a coalition of groups that reject established climate science quickly muscled into the picture, urging the administration to go much further and roll back the rules entirely and characterizing the automakers as their opponents in achieving that goal.
» Read article

Alice, 9-Seat Electric Airplane, Gets Its 1st Buyer — Cape Air
By Nicolas Zart, Clean Technica
June 27th, 2019

Alice electric airplane
Our friends at Eviation unveiled the first “fully operational” Alice, an electric airplane commuter, at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France. Furthermore, Eviation secured a high note thanks to Cape Air becoming its first official customer.
» Read article

Canada Signals a Willingness to Challenge Trump on His Clean-Car Rollback
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
June 26, 2019

Traditionally, Canada has aligned its auto emissions standards with federal rules in the United States. However, several analysts said they saw Wednesday’s announcement as a clear step toward a more concrete shift in which Canada could potentially switch to the environmentally stricter standards of California and other states. Such a move could undercut Mr. Trump’s efforts to weaken environmental policy by creating a much larger market for cleaner cars, thereby making it more economically viable for auto manufacturers to build cars to the higher standards.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

ATLANTIC BRIDGE PIPELINE / WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Compressor station opponents say they’ll go to court
By Chris Lisinski / STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE in Wicked Local Weymouth
July 2, 2019

Weymouth protest photo
Slamming a “broken process” unfolding at the Department of Environmental Protection, about 50 environmental activists protested Tuesday outside the State House and called for an independent investigation into the administration’s permitting of a controversial natural gas compressor station.

Residents of the Fore River region, near the Weymouth site of the proposed station, gathered with members of about half a dozen advocacy groups, where they attempted to tie Gov. Charlie Baker personally to the issue and, alleging conflicts of interest, implored Auditor Suzanne Bump or Attorney General Maura Healey to step in.

The protest came less than a week after a DEP hearing officer suggested upholding an air-quality permit for the facility despite a chaotic appeal process that saw the department reveal it had failed to disclose relevant testing data from the site.
» Read article

» More Atlantic Bridge / Weymouth Compressor Station articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

The dog ate my homework: How utilities avoid least-cost planning
By D. Maurice Kreis, Opinion, InDepthNH
June 27, 2019

Regardless of how urgent a problem you consider climate change, from a ratepayer standpoint it’s bad news if a natural gas utility is not considering the full extent to which so-called “non-pipeline alternatives” can substitute cost-effectively for more pipelines and more gas.  Examples include geographically targeted energy efficiency, heat pumps, and thermal storage.  Even if these resources cannot entirely eliminate Liberty’s need to expand its supply portfolio, experience in other jurisdictions has shown that the modular nature of these resources allows a utility to defer a project into the future, buying time to see if forecasted growth in demand actually materializes.
» Read article

» More Granite Bridge Pipeline articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

America’s liquefied natural gas boom may be on a collision course with climate change
By Matt Egan, CNN Business
July 1, 2019

The US energy industry is scrambling to build dozens of expensive export terminals that can be used to ship cheap natural gas to China and other fast-growing economies that want to move away from coal.

While those investments make sense today, they will likely be derailed in the longer run by a combination of plunging renewable energy costs and rising climate change concerns, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a network of researchers tracking fossil fuel projects.
» Read article

Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous
By William Limpert, Editorial, Roanoke Times
June 30, 2019

The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight.

We should all be concerned when state and federal agencies fail to act to protect the public, without proof there is no risk, and while making vague and evasive statements to support their inaction. Likewise for the pipeline industry.
» Read article

U.S. Oil Companies Find Energy Independence Isn’t So Profitable
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
June 30, 2019

In the last four years, roughly 175 oil and gas companies in the United States and Canada with debts totaling about $100 billion have filed for bankruptcy protection. Many borrowed heavily when oil and gas prices were far higher, only to collectively overproduce and undercut their commodity prices. At least six companies have gone bankrupt this year, and Weatherford International, the fourth-leading oil services company, which owes investors $7.7 billion, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection on Monday.
» Read article   

» More fossil fuel industry articles

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Diversifying the Northeast power mix: Is offshore wind + storage key to the region’s reliability?
As more New England states roll out offshore wind mandates, bringing the technology to scale is a portfolio priority.
By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
July 2, 2019
Offshore wind and battery storage are about to come into the Northeastern power mix in a big way.

With more states requiring offshore wind targets, almost 18 GW are mandated to come online by 2035 in states across New England. But how that intermittent capacity will fit into an increasingly clean energy mix, how it will impact system reliability and whether the region’s utilities are ready for more change, remains in question.
» Read article

» More electric utilities articles

PLASTICS/FRACKING CONNECTION

Boom Goes the Plastics Industry
With demand for oil expected to slow, oil companies seek a lifeline in plastics
By Antonia Juhasz, Sierra Magazine / Sierra Club
June 30, 2019

ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco, among the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, are betting big on plastics. In its latest investor report, ExxonMobil acknowledged a sharp decline in demand for gasoline. The company expects it will help fill the gap with chemicals and predicts a 30 percent increase in demand by 2025. A recent investor article released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch was titled “Oil’s Future Paved With Plastic.”

This pivot is already well underway. The excess of oil and gas has contributed to a frenzy of pipeline construction geared toward shipping ever greater quantities of fossil fuels to the coasts, where facilities distill the chemical building blocks needed for plastic production. The American Chemistry Council reports that since 2010, plans for 333 new chemical-manufacturing projects have been announced in the United States, representing more than $200 billion in capital investments; the industry association notes that “much of the investment is geared toward export markets for chemistry and plastics products.” A great deal of the build-out is along the Gulf Coast, led by Chevron, Phillips 66, and ExxonMobil. Shell Oil and other companies are building chemical-production capacity on the East Coast and along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
» Read article

» More plastics/fracking connection articles

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Weekly News Check-In 6/21/19


Welcome back.

We scour many news outlets for articles related to energy, climate, and the transition to a carbon-free economy. We also cover related issues, like plastics and biomass. What follows is a distillation of the most interesting and useful news uncovered this week – ranging in scope from global to local.

Click any Read Article link to go directly to the published source. To explore related articles on the No Fracked Gas in Mass website, click the HEADINGS above the articles.

Look for a fresh reading list every week.

— The NFGiM Team

CLIMATE NEWS

E.P.A. Finalizes Its Plan to Replace Obama-Era Climate Rules
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
June 19, 2019

The Trump administration on Wednesday replaced former President Barack Obama’s effort to reduce planet-warming pollution from coal plants with a new rule that would keep plants open longer and undercut progress on reducing carbon emissions.

The rule represents the Trump administration’s most direct effort to protect the coal industry. It is also another significant step in dismantling measures aimed at combating global warming, including the rollback of tailpipe emissions standards and the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
» Read Article 

Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early
Matthew Green, Reuters
June 18, 2019

Scientists are concerned about the stability of permafrost because of the risk that rapid thawing could release vast quantities of heat-trapping gases, unleashing a feedback loop that would in turn fuel even faster temperature rises.
» Read Article 

Climate change: Arctic permafrost now melting at levels not expected until 2090
Series of ‘anomalously warm summers’ caused ground to thaw, researchers say
By Alessio Perrone, The Independent
June 15, 2019
A “series of anomalously warm summers” has dramatically accelerated melting rates at three sites despite average annual ground temperatures remaining low. Ponds and hillocks have formed as a result.
» Read Article  

Half of Greenland’s Surface Started Melting This Week, Which Is Not Normal
By Brian Kahn, Gizmodo
June 13, 2019

A major warm spell has caused nearly half the surface of the Greenland ice sheet to start melting, something that’s highly unusual for this time of year. And while this spike may pass, the gears could already be in motion for record-setting melt on the ice sheet’s western flank.
» Read Article 

U.S. Climate Change Litigation in the Age of Trump: Year Two—A New Sabin Center Working Paper
By Dena Adler, Climate Law Blog, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
June 7, 2019

The Trump Administration is losing on climate in the courts. More than two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change-related regulatory rollback brought before the courts has yet survived legal challenge.   Nevertheless, climate change is one arena where the Trump Administration’s rollbacks have been both visible and real. In total, the Sabin Center’s U.S. Climate Deregulation Tracker identifies a total of 94 actions taken by the executive branch in 2017 and 2018 to undermine and reverse climate protections.
» Read Article 

 

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS  

‘This Pipeline Will Not Be Built,’ Indigenous and Climate Leaders Tell Trudeau After Canada Approves Trans Mountain Expansion
The federal government’s decision on the dirty energy project came just a day after the House of Commons voted to declare a climate emergency
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
June 19, 2019
Climate activists and Indigenous groups held an emergency rally in downtown Vancouver Tuesday night in response to the government’s announcement and are planning a march in solidarity with the Tiny House Warriors—who, for years, have challenged Kinder Morgan and now the Canadian government by constructing small structures in the pipeline’s proposed path—for Saturday.

“It is our basic responsibility as settlers to support Indigenous struggles. Indigenous people worldwide are on the frontline against resource developments that are pushing our biosphere to the brink of climate and ecological collapse,” said march organizer Bobby Arbess. “We must help stop the massive expansion of tar sands driving the Trans Mountain project. It represents a lethal tipping point that is not morally acceptable in a climate emergency.”
» Read Article 
On Monday, Canada declared a ‘climate emergency.’ On Tuesday, it approved a pipeline expansion.
By Emily Rauhala, Washington Post
June 18, 2019
The move will be welcomed by the country’s struggling oil sector and the many Canadians whose fortunes are tied to it. Landlocked Alberta produces four-fifths of Canadian crude but struggles to get it abroad, and so must settle for selling at steep discounts against global benchmarks — hitting the province hard.

But many Canadians have protested the expansion proposal out of concern for oil spills and the continuing promotion of climate-changing fossil fuels. They question whether this is the moment to increase Canadian shipments of oil.
» Read Article 

Australia, in a Victory for Coal, Clears the Way for a Disputed Mine
By Somini Sengupta
June 13, 2019
Plans for a fiercely contested coal mine in northeastern Australia received a long-awaited government green light on Thursday, less than a month after conservative politicians who champion coal triumphed in national elections.
» Read Article 

 

BIOMASS NEWS

New Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership reaches starting line
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
June 19, 2019

Blog editor’s note: Environmental groups will be keeping an eye on developments here, especially in light of Baker Administration support for commercial biomass interests.
» Read Article 

 

UTILITIES NEWS – ELECTRIC

Utilities are ‘the new cyber battlefield,’ as US ramps up pressure on Russia’s electric grid
Robert Walton, Utility Dive
June 18, 2019

The United States has increased efforts to insert malicious code into Russia’s electric grid, a development the The New York Times warned “enshrines power grids as a legitimate target” in the nations’ cold war of cyber one-upmanship.

While President Trump denied the story on Twitter, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said it meant a cyberwar between the two countries is a “hypothetical possibility.”

With utilities in the cross-hairs of malicious actors, experts say there are health, safety and economic risks for those who rely on the grid, particularly if escalation continues.
» Read Article 

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid
By David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times
June 15, 2019

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
» Read Article 

The rise of EVs could overwhelm the grid, but PG&E has a better plan
A new framework gives utilities a way to identify and seize electrification value with managed charging
Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive
June 13, 2019

The power demand from the 20 million electric vehicles (EVs) expected to be on U.S. roads by 2030, up from today’s 1.1 million, could overwhelm the nation’s grids.

But the coming EV load could deliver great value to utilities and their customers if it is shifted away from high-priced peak demand periods. That would increase utilities’ electricity sales without adding stress to their grids, while also lowering drivers’ charging costs. Investing in the communications systems and planning needed to properly manage charging can deliver transportation electrification’s full value, stakeholders told Utility Dive.

EVs are the biggest “electric load opportunity for utilities” since the 1950s air conditioning explosion, a May 2019 Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) study reports. But without proper planning to integrate that load, “EVs could lead to grid constraints and increased transmission and distribution peaks” that require new “peaker plants, unplanned grid upgrades, and other costly solutions.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

Another Deceptive Letter Bashing the Electric Car Tax Credit Circulating Congress, Courtesy of FreedomWorks
By Ben Jervey, DeSmog Blog
June 16, 2019

As the Drive America Forward Act, which would lift the cap on electric cars eligible for the credit, has gained co-sponsors across party lines, those industries most threatened by the widespread adoption of EVs are clearly fighting back, through the media and in these letters to Congress, as well as extensive lobbying on Capitol Hill. Without fail, these efforts to skew public and political opinion on the tax incentives include these deceptive talking points and oil-funded reports deployed in Rep. Mooney’s letter.

As Elliot Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists recently wrote for Common Dreams, the “oil and gas industry’s anti-EV tax credit campaign is a prime example of how fossil fuel interests construct a disinformation echo chamber to drown out government efforts to address the climate crisis.”

Negin continues:

“This is basically how it works: The industry underwrites a network of faux free-market groups to surreptitiously advocate on its behalf; it pays seemingly independent think tanks to publish deceptive studies; and it bankrolls the campaigns of federal legislators, who then cite industry-funded studies and invite industry-funded spokespeople to testify before Congress.”
» Read Article 

 

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES NEWS

North Adams, Williamstown teaming up to educate residents on benefits solar energy
By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle
June 18, 2019
» Read Article 

 

NATURAL GAS HEALTH RISKS

Physicians call for halt to natural gas fracking projects
By Jeffrey Mize, The Columbian
June 19, 2019

Two physicians groups have issued a 145-page report calling for an immediate halt to projects involving hydraulically fracked natural gas in the Northwest.

“Fracked Gas: A Threat to Healthy Communities” identifies six major projects, including a proposed $2 billion plant at the Port of Kalama to convert natural gas into methanol for export to Asia.
» Read Article 

 

ATLANTIC BRIDGE NEWS

Confused About The Weymouth Compressor? Here’s What You Need To Know
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
June 19, 2019

For the last few years, a coalition of South Shore towns and local activists have worked to block the construction of a natural gas compressor station in North Weymouth. The project involves multiple permits and court cases at the state and federal level, making it hard for even the most avid news consumer to follow. Blog editor’s note: This excellent reporting untangles a complex story and illuminates a critical local battle against gas infrastructure expansion.
» Read Article 

Compressor foes state their case at hearing
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
June 17, 2019
The compressor station proposal has drawn strong local opposition from officials and residents who said the plant would vent pollution and toxic gases and that it could explode in the densely populated and industrialized neighborhood. There are more than 1,000 homes near the proposed site.
» Read Article 

Weymouth residents fight proposed compressor station near Fore River bridge
By Julie Leonardi, Boston 25 News
June 17, 2019

Residents in Weymouth continue to fight against a proposed natural gas compressor station near the Fore River bridge.
» Read Article

 

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Kempic “confident” disasters won’t happen again
By Jessica Valeriani, Andover Townsman
June 13, 2019
He credits his confidence to two features the utility has been including in their restoration work. The first is a regulator at each house which shuts off gas, preventing over-pressurization. The second feature is an excess flow valve, located right on the service lines. Kempic said the valve shuts off gas automatically if a line is unintentionally struck by digging equipment.

Blog editor’s note: Begs the question… why weren’t/aren’t these safeguards already required standard equipment? If Columbia Gas built cars, would they be expressing renewed confidence in the safety of their product because from now on, vehicles will be provided with brakes and steering?
» Read Article 

 

TALES OF VICTORY

Invenergy Defeated, Power Plant Denied Permit
CLF and Burrillville residents prevail against energy giant
By Jake O’Neill, Conservation Law Foundation
June 20, 2019
Rhode Island’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) decided today that it would not grant a permit necessary for the construction of Invenergy’s fossil fuel plant in Burrillville. After years of legal challenges from CLF and residents, the plant will not be built.

“This is a huge victory for Rhode Island and for the health of our communities,” said CLF Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer. “In the face of climate emergency, opening a fossil fuel plant that will spew carbon pollution for decades is simply reckless. After years of lies and misinformation, Invenergy’s efforts to pave over a forest to build this dirty plant have been dealt a substantial loss. Today’s decision is proof that communities can stand up to big gas and win.”
» Read Article 

 

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret
A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations
By Erin McCormick, Bennett Murray , Carmela Fonbuena , Leonie Kijewski, Gökçe Saraçoğlu , Jamie Fullerton, Alastair Gee and Charlotte Simmonds, The Guardian / United States of Plastic
June 17, 2019
“People don’t know what’s happening to their trash,” said Andrew Spicer, who teaches corporate social responsibility at the University of South Carolina and sits on his state’s recycling advisory board. “They think they’re saving the world. But the international recycling business sees it as a way of making money. There have been no global regulations – just a long, dirty market that allows some companies to take advantage of a world without rules.”
» Read Article 

As the world grapples with plastic, the U.S. makes more of it — a lot more
By Center for Public Integrity
June 13, 2019
Plastic waste is piling up, increasing amounts of it going to landfills as U.S. recycling programs — dependent on Asian countries that no longer want our scrap — struggle to adjust. In March the United Nations, “alarmed” by the environmental and public health consequences of plastic items intended to be used once and thrown away, urged countries to “take comprehensive action.”

Against this backdrop, the United States is about to make a whole lot more of the stuff.
» Read Article 


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