Tag Archives: protest

Weekly News Check-In 1/17/20

WNCI-6

Welcome back.

More Weymouth compressor station protesters have been arrested. They’re drawing attention to the documented failure of Enbridge contractors to follow required steps to avoid spreading soil contaminants through the community.

For those seeking effective actions in support of climate, we offer a report on the biggest banks supporting the fossil fuel industry. Bill McKibben has suggestions about how to deal with them.

The climate includes oceans, and new reports show their life support systems are highly stressed from all the heat they’ve absorbed. Meanwhile in the fact-free alternative universe, the Trump administration gutted NEPA, the 50 year old National Environmental Policy Act – dropping many requirements for environmental review of gas pipelines and other projects.

We found some good news about clean energy alternatives, including a forecast for strong growth in US wind and solar in 2020. Also an interesting story about how gas utilities might transform their business model to provide infrastructure services supporting networked geothermal heating and cooling.

Articles about the fossil fuel industry ping-pong between energy producers pitching their polluting products into their vision of a bright future, and warnings from the financial industry that those investments are looking more and more risky.

We close with three articles from a 6-part series on the biomass-to-energy industry. The reporting shows how European “clean energy” climate goals are leading to massive deforestation in the American southeast and actually increasing carbon emissions. This is a cautionary tale for Massachusetts, given the Baker administration’s attempts to reclassify biomass as a clean renewable energy source.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

no trespassing - Weymouth
Nine more arrested in Weymouth compressor station protest
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
January 16, 2020

It was the third time protesters have been arrested at the construction site since work started in early December and brings the number of people arrested there to 19. In the past, protesters were either released without being charged or had their charges reduced from criminal trespassing to civil infractions.

The compressor station is being built by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Enbridge, and is part of the Atlantic Bridge project, which would expand the Houston company’s pipelines from New Jersey into Canada. Algonquin got the final go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in November after a series of health, safety and environmental reviews.

The protestors said they were responding to the failure of Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Department of Environmental Protection to respond to the community’s advocacy to prevent more industrial environmental hazards from moving to the Fore River Basin.
» Read article

traffic plan
Weymouth council steers for safe compressor truck traffic
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
January 16, 2020

WEYMOUTH- Trucks leaving the construction site of a compressor station in the Fore River Basin often make illegal left turns onto Route 3A, according to a town council letter sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Since the beginning of construction, residents have appeared before the town council to discuss traffic issues,” stated the council in a Jan. 14 letter to FERC. “It has come to our attention that several sub-contractors have not used the designated routes on the traffic plan.”

The letter, addressed to FERC Secretary Kimberly Rose, was written in response to truck movement from the compressor station site by Alice Arena, leader of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station during a Dec. 16 council meeting.
» Read article    

Weymouth assaultedWeymouth and Quincy communities assaulted by Enbridge’s reckless construction practices
By Peter Nightingale, Uprise RI
January 12, 2020

Construction of a fracked gas compressor station in Weymouth, MA, started after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice to Proceed with Construction on November 27, the day before Thanksgiving. A spokesman for the energy company Enbridge at the time wrote in an email: “We remain committed to ensuring construction activities are conducted in compliance with all applicable requirements, with public health and safety as our priority.”

This January 9, Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) held an action in which residents called upon the Massachusetts Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup, because “Enbridge is exposing the community to additional toxins by digging up soil that is saturated with arsenic, oil, coal ash, and asbestos. They are not following any of the steps necessary to limit the exposure of toxins into the air, such as washing off tires before trucks leave the site.”

Construction of the Weymouth compressor station started after five years of protests and in despite numerous pending court appeals. To allow construction to start under these circumstances is standard procedure of FERC. Indeed the same happened in 2015 when Spectra Energy (since then taken over by Enbridge) expanded the compressor station on Wallum Road in Burrillville. Construction in both locations is part of Enbridge’s project to transport fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania via Canada to the world market.
» Read article    

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

Want to Do Something About Climate Change? Follow the Money
Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America are the worst offenders.
By Lennox Yearwood Jr. and Bill McKibben, New York Times Opinion
January 11, 2020

JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only offender, but it is among the worst. In the last three years, according to data compiled in a recently released “fossil fuel finance report card” by a group of environmental organizations, JPMorgan Chase lent over $195 billion to gas and oil companies.

For comparison, Wells Fargo lent over $151 billion, Citibank lent over $129 billion and Bank of America lent over $106 billion. Since the Paris climate accord, which 195 countries agreed to in 2015, JPMorgan Chase has been the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels by a 29 percent margin.

This investment sends a message that’s as clear as President Trump’s shameful decision to pull America out of that pact: Short-term profits are more important than the long-term health of the planet.

Mr. Yearwood and Mr. McKibben are part of the organizing team at StopTheMoneyPipeline.Com.
» Read article    
» Read “Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2019”

» More about protests and actions

CLIMATE

blob victims
‘Scale of This Failure Has No Precedent’: Scientists Say Hot Ocean ‘Blob’ Killed One Million Seabirds
The lead author called the mass die-off “a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams
January 16, 2020


On the heels of new research showing that the world’s oceans are rapidly warming, scientists revealed Wednesday that a huge patch of hot water in the northeast Pacific Ocean dubbed “the blob” was to blame for killing about one million seabirds.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by a team of researchers at federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and universities. They tied the mass die-off to “the blob,” a marine heatwave that began forming in 2013 and grew more intense in 2015 because of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño.
» Read article     

bleached coral
2019 Was a Record Year for Ocean Temperatures, Data Show
By Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times
January 13, 2020

The past 10 years have been the warmest 10 on record for global ocean temperatures. The increase between 2018 and 2019 was the largest single-year increase since the early 2000s, according to Dr. Hausfather.

Increasing ocean temperatures have harmed marine life and contributed to mass coral reef bleaching, the loss of critical ecosystems, and threatened livelihoods like fishing as species have moved in search of cooler waters.

But the impacts of warming oceans don’t remain at sea.

“The heavy rains in Jakarta just recently resulted, in part, from very warm sea temperatures in that region,” said Dr. Trenberth, who also drew connections between warming ocean temperatures to weather over Australia. The recent drought there has helped to propel what many are calling the worst wildfire season in the nation’s history.
» Read article

sixth extinction 2030
UN draft plan sets 2030 target to avert Earth’s sixth mass extinction

Paris-style proposal to counter loss of ecosystems and wildlife vital to the future of humanity will go before October summit
By Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian
January 13, 2020

Almost a third of the world’s oceans and land should be protected by the end of the decade to stop and reverse biodiversity decline that risks the survival of humanity, according to a draft Paris-style UN agreement on nature.

To combat what scientists have described as the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the proposal sets a 2030 deadline for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and wildlife that perform crucial services for humans.

The text, drafted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, is expected to be adopted by governments in October at a crucial UN summit in the Chinese city of Kunming. It comes after countries largely failed to meet targets for the previous decade agreed in Aichi, Japan, in 2010.
» Read article

rogue's gallery
Fossil Fuel Interests Applaud Trump Admin’s Weakening of Major Environmental Law
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
January 10, 2020

Industry groups including oil and gas trade associations were quick to pile on the praise following President Trump’s announcement Thursday, January 9 of major overhauls to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The 50-year-old bedrock environmental statute requires federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of major actions or projects, and has been a key tool for advocacy groups to challenge harmful infrastructure, from fossil fuel pipelines to chemical plants.

And in the Trump administration’s hasty efforts to assert “energy dominance,” judges have halted fossil fuel projects on grounds that the government did not adequately consider how those projects contribute to climate change.

For the fossil fuel industry, these court rulings, and the environmental law underpinning them, are an annoying setback. The industry has long been irked by NEPA, especially when it is used to delay petroleum-related projects because of climate concerns.

On Thursday, the Trump administration announced major revisions to the NEPA statute that shrink the scope and timeline of environmental review. Under new regulations proposed by the Center for Environmental Quality, the White House agency that implements NEPA, “cumulative effects” — such as how fossil fuel expansion contributes to climate change — would not need to be considered.
» Read article     

» More about climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

big wind parts
Three-Quarters of New US Generating Capacity in 2020 Will Be Renewable, EIA Says
2020 will be a record year for U.S. renewables construction as 6 gigawatts of coal capacity goes offline, according to new government figures.
By Jeff St. John, GreenTech Media
January 14, 2020

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has confirmed what it and industry watchers predicted a year ago — that wind and solar power will expand on their already-large share of new U.S. generation capacity in 2020.

According to EIA data released Tuesday, wind and solar will make up 32 of the 42 gigawatts of new capacity additions expected to start commercial operation in 2020, respectively, dwarfing the 9.3 gigawatts of natural-gas-fired plants to come online this year.

EIA’s numbers also break records for both wind and solar in terms of annual capacity additions. The 18.5 gigawatts of wind power capacity set to come online in 2020 surpasses 2012’s record of 13.2 gigawatts and pushes total U.S. production well past the 100-gigawatt milestone set in the third quarter of 2019.
» Read article

networked geothermal
How A Climate Change Nonprofit Got Eversource Thinking About A Geothermal Future
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
January 13, 2020

“Geothermal ground source heating has been around a long time, and it has usually been installed one house by one house individually,” she said. “It works. However, it is a fairly high up-front cost, and you have to have the means and motivation to be able to do it.”

Magavi, a clean energy advocate, said she asked herself: Who already digs holes and puts pipes in the ground, has big money and is motivated to find a new business model? Her answer: natural gas distribution companies.

“The idea is that a gas utility takes out its leaky gas pipe and, instead of putting in new gas pipe, we put in a hot water loop,” Magavi said. “If we’re going to invest in infrastructure, let’s invest in infrastructure for the next century. Let’s not invest in infrastructure that was hot in 1850.”

HEET commissioned a study to investigate if there were a way to make geothermal energy appealing to both utilities and environmentalists.

Under a networked system, homes and businesses would own the geothermal heat pumps, while Eversource would own and manage the system of pipes, sensors and pressure regulators, Conner said. That would convert the gas utility into a networked, thermal management company.
» Read article

» More about clean energy

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

business as usual
U.S. Energy Industry Looks for Clarity in China Trade Deal
Oil and gas companies may see an export revival from the accord, but they seek commitments that tariffs will be dropped.
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
January 15, 2020

On paper, China and the United States should fit nicely as energy trading partners. China is a fast-growing energy market, while the United States is a fast-growing energy exporter. China is trying to clean up the air of its polluted cities by burning less coal, and the United States is producing an enormous surplus of cleaner-burning natural gas. So any sign of an improvement in trade relations was viewed positively by executives.

Jack Fusco, chief executive of Cheniere Energy, the liquefied natural gas exporter with perhaps the most to gain from the deal, characterized it as “a step in the right direction that will hopefully restore the burgeoning U.S. L.N.G. trade with China.”
» Blog editor’s note: this is a window into the gas industry’s world – one that ignores the climate effects of continued natural gas production and consumption. To Big Gas, the object is to displace Big Coal. Decarbonization can wait until the gas runs out.
» Read article

boiler Bob2020 outlook: Natural gas faces regulatory, environmental scrutiny but still wants role in carbon-free grid
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
January 15, 2020

“We see a really strong role for natural gas now and in the future,” Natural Gas Supply Association Executive Vice President Patricia Jagtiani told Utility Dive. “Not only through the way it currently has contributed to reducing carbon emissions, but through its partnership with renewable energy, and how we work together to make each other more reliable and affordable.”

But an increased push on climate and clean energy goals means more states, cities and utilities are aiming for carbon-free power mixes in the next few decades, and some industry observers worry utilities are over-purchasing on natural gas — and will soon be left with the same stranded asset burdens that now plague the coal industry.

There are $70 billion worth of planned natural gas plants in the pipeline through 2025 and 90% of those investments are more expensive than clean energy portfolios, which include a combination of demand response, energy efficiency, storage and renewables, according to a September 2019 report from the Rocky Mountain Institute. Seventy percent of those investments will be rendered uneconomic by 2035, posing a serious question for investors and utilities about the prudence of some of those buildouts, and that question will only grow more urgent in 2020, according to the report’s authors.
» Read article

BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink: Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance
In his influential annual letter to chief executives, Mr. Fink said his firm would avoid investments in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk.”
By Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times
January 14, 2020

Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”

The firm, he wrote, would also introduce new funds that shun fossil fuel-oriented stocks, move more aggressively to vote against management teams that are not making progress on sustainability, and press companies to disclose plans “for operating under a scenario where the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees is fully realized.”
» Read article

pipeline stop-ped
Editorial: Vir. gas pipeline ruling reverberates in Bay State
Greenfield Recorder Editorial
January 14, 2020

Many in Franklin County think the prospect of a natural gas pipeline through our towns is not dead, but only resting until the price of natural gas goes up enough to make it look profitable to a utility. Indeed, with heightened tension in the Middle East, the price of crude oil has already risen — and with it the renewed specter of a natural gas pipeline through our area. That’s why a court ruling in Virginia against Dominion Energy for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline is reverberating through the Bay State.

Last week’s court ruling vacating a permit for a natural gas compressor station in Virginia, as reported by State House News Service, is being analyzed in Weymouth, where a natural gas compressor station has been opposed by residents. In a ruling issued last Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board did not sufficiently consider the consequences a proposed natural gas compressor station would have on the predominantly African-American community near its site.

Whether the case in Virginia relies more on Virginia law than Federal law remains to be seen. But any ruling on behalf of local factors and environmental justice is good news for Franklin County in the event that a natural gas pipeline should arise, vampire-like, from its defunct state.
» Read article

DoJ on industry team
Emails Reveal U.S. Justice Dept. Working Closely with Oil Industry to Oppose Climate Lawsuits

DOJ attorneys describe working with industry lawyers as a ‘team,’ raising questions about whether government was representing the American people.
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
January 13, 2020

In early 2018, a few months after the cities of Oakland and San Francisco sued several major oil companies over climate change, attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice began a series of email exchanges and meetings with lawyers for the oil companies targeted in the litigation.

Legal experts say the conversations raise questions about the federal government’s objectivity and whether the Department of Justice, in these cases, was acting in the best interest of the country’s people.
» Read article

the price of coalAustralia’s Fires Test Its Winning Growth Formula
The country’s vulnerable environment and growing dependence on China have raised questions about the sustainability of its economic success.
By Keith Bradsher and Isabella Kwai, New York Times
January 13, 2020

Australia’s leaders face growing pressure to address climate change, as scientists blame the country’s increasingly hot and dry conditions for the disastrous blazes. That would mean reckoning with Australia’s dependence on providing China and other countries with coal.

The fossil fuel, used to fire many of the world’s power plants and steel mills, is one of Australia’s biggest exports. Coal is also one of the biggest sources of climate change gases, and produces most of Australia’s own electricity.
» Read article

» More about fossil fuels

BIOMASS

NC to Drax
SLOW BURN (Part 3): World’s largest wood pellet maker both welcomed and condemned in NC
By Richard Stradling, The News & Observer
January 03, 2020

Tractor-trailer trucks carrying timber arrive one after another at a factory in Northampton County, where logs are piled up to 35 feet high in rows as long as two football fields. Still more trucks come, carrying sawdust and wood chips from lumber mills or from shredded limbs and small trees those mills won’t buy.

The logs and chips will be ground up, dried and turned into cylindrical pellets about as big around as a pencil. Every day of the year, barring any breakdowns at the plant, a truckload of these pellets leaves about every 24 minutes for the Port of Chesapeake in Virginia, where they’re loaded onto ships bound for Europe to be burned for heat and electricity.

John Keppler, the CEO of the mill’s owner, Enviva, calls this an environmentally friendly solution to climate change, and he’s not alone. Ten years ago, the European Commission directed its member countries to derive 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 and said the burning of biomass such as wood pellets was one way to meet that goal.
» Read article

SLOW BURN (Part 2): From Poland to NC, activists plea for reduced carbon dioxide
By Justin Catanoso, The News & Observer
January 03, 2020

Just over a year ago, people from 196 countries were gathering in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Climate scientists and environmental activists approached the meeting with something close to desperation. They viewed it as perhaps their last best chance to repair what they saw as an obvious policy flaw that allows nations to greatly underreport their emissions of carbon dioxide — the gas most responsible for climate change.

Peg Putt, a former member of Tazmania’s parliament and now a carbon emissions expert with the international Climate Action Network, was one of the activists in Katowice. She pleaded with delegates from around the world to consider her research.

“We’ve published a new report,” Putt said, brandishing a six-page, full-color pamphlet titled, “Are Forests the New Coal?”

“Countries are going from burning coal to burning wood pellets in their power plants,” Putt said. They say that by doing so they are eliminating all of the carbon dioxide that would have come from the coal. They don’t have to measure the carbon dioxide they are adding when they burn wood pellets because the European Union has declared wood pellets to be “carbon neutral” — as if they gave off no gas at all.

That decision, Putt said, is “not doing anything for the environment. It’s actually making things worse.”
» Read article

SLOW BURN: Europe uses tons of NC trees as fuel. Will this solve climate change?
By Saul Elbein, The News & Observer
January 03, 2020

From the outskirts of Selby, a 1,200-year-old former coal-mining town in northern England, you can see the smokestack and the dozen cooling towers of the Drax Power Station, the largest power plant in the United Kingdom.

For much of its 45-year-history, Drax burned coal mined from the nearby Selby coalfield. But the last coal mine closed in 2004 and now Drax says it has gone green — with help from the trees of North Carolina.

Thousands of acres’ worth of North Carolina trees have been felled, shredded and baked into wood pellets, which have mostly replaced coal as Drax’s fuel.

In 2009, members of the European Union agreed to obtain 20% of their energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

About half of those “renewables” are the familiar ones: wind, solar, tidal, hydropower. But the other half is biomass: energy derived, ultimately, from plants. In the case of Drax and other converted coal plants in Denmark and the Netherlands, biomass means energy that comes from trees.
» Read article

» More about biomass

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Weekly News Check-In 12/20/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS

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


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

No one was injured or arrested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and direct action

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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


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

The following year he found two.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candidate Trump
Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

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

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

» More on clean energy alternatives

ENERGY STORAGE

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

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

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

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

» More on energy storage

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
December 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on fossil fuels

PLASTICS, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on plastics in the environment

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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 8/9/19

WNCI-3

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

FEATURED ARTICLE (OPINION)

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

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

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

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS MERRIMACK VALLEY

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

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

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

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

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

GRANITE BRIDGE PIPELINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More Granite Bridge pipeline articles

CHARLTON LNG PLANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More LNG articles

REGIONAL ENERGY CHESS GAME

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

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

» More regional energy chess game articles

ACTIONS & PROTESTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More actions & protests articles

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on what could go wrong

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon deforestation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More energy alternatives articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More fossil fuel industry articles

GAS LEAKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More gas leaks articles

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More plastics, health & environment articles

BIOMASS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More biomass articles

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