Tag Archives: Weymouth compressor

Weekly News Check-In 2/7/20

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

Boston University professor Nathan Phillips’ hunger strike is focusing attention on the urgency of risks posed to nearby communities by construction activities underway at the proposed Weymouth compressor station site. We offer reporting on Professor Phillips’ demands.

Gas leaks from aging infrastructure – most notably in the Boston area – are in the news. A recent report shows National Grid struggling to keep up with repairs. In news about other pipelines, a proposed seven mile stretch outside Albany known as E37 is facing strong opposition. While National Grid claims it’s necessary to meet future demand, critics maintain the project’s real purpose is to boost the utility’s profits – and that demand for gas is actually declining.

We see tentative steps toward a greener future in legislative news.  Massachusetts could finally set a price on carbon, but Bernie Sanders’ proposed ban on fracking is unlikely to get traction in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Attorney General Maura Healey is advocating for changes to market rules governing New England’s grid operator – giving renewable energy sources a fair shot to compete against fossil fuels.

Author and climate activist Bill McKibben calls out Canada’s hypocritical energy and climate policies, as it pushes to develop ever-larger tar sands oil projects for the export market. Meanwhile, the shipping industry’s hopes of meeting clean transportation emissions targets by switching fuel from oil to liquified natural gas (LNG), have been dashed by recent reporting of substantial methane leaks from converted marine engines.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) doubled down on pipeline developers’ rights to take private land through eminent domain. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry suffers record-low LNG prices in Asia as China locks down against the new coronavirus. All this while Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project tracks methane leaks rampant throughout the Permian Basin, and building coal-fired power plants is a booming business in Japan.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

DEP demands
DEP to meet with Weymouth compressor station opponents
By Chris Van Buskirk, State House News Service, in Wicked Local Weymouth
February 6, 2020

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 4, 2020…..State environmental regulators set up a meeting for later this week with opponents of a natural gas compressor station being built in Weymouth to discuss the status of the cleanup of the contaminated site and address questions regarding oversight of activities at the site.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station requested a meeting with MassDEP officials last week during a visit to the department’s Lakeville office. MassDEP on Friday announced the creation of a temporary air-monitoring station in the project area. Boston University professor Nathan Phillips last Wednesday began a hunger strike in response to “serious public health and safety violations” at the Weymouth compressor station.

Phillips and South Shore activist Andrea Honore visited MassDEP and the governor’s office Tuesday to allege that the department, which approved project permits, had failed to do its job and to raise awareness of the department’s mission to protect the environment. Phillips, who was seven days into his hunger strike on Tuesday, said he would end his strike if three demands were met:

  1. “All dump trucks leaving the site abide by the decontamination procedures described on page 27 of the Release Abatement Measures Plan of November 25, 2019, which require a decontamination pad/station, and other measures to clean tires and exterior vehicle surfaces of site residue.”
  2. “The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection commences comprehensive testing for asbestos in furnace bricks and in the coal ash matrix, across and throughout the vertical profile of the North Parcel.”
  3. “The Baker Administration commits to a date certain, no later than two weeks from the day I began my strike, for the installation and operation of an air quality monitor, as Governor Baker pledged action on “within a couple of days” on Radio Boston on Thursday, January 23, 2020.”

Neither DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg or a representative from Baker’s office met with Phillips or Honore Tuesday. A staff member from Suuberg’s office said he would relay Phillips’s remarks to the commissioner.

Phillips said he is expecting his demands will be met before or at Friday’s meeting.
» Read article     

Audible Cafe FRRACS
Audible Café Speaks with FRRACS Leader Alice Arena
By Judy Eddy, Audible Cafe
February 6, 2020

The Weymouth Compressor Station is part of the proposal for Atlantic Bridge, a SPECTRA Energy pipeline project that pumps fracked gas from fracking fields in the midwest through New England to…where? to whom? Well, that’s a good question. The story has continued to change as the company strives to build this monster. Initially, it was supposed to be for residents in New England. Now, the gas will go to Canada, and then for export. No local benefit at all.

Construction of the 7,700 hp compressor station is now underway, and it is being protested and opposed, both at the site and in the courts. It’s been a long, long fight, and the opposition is NOT going away!
» Read transcript or listen to podcast     

toxic asset
‘Do your job, DEP’: A B.U. professor is on a hunger strike to get officials to take action at the Weymouth compressor station site
By Christopher Gavin, Boston.com
February 3, 2020

On Monday morning, the Boston University earth and environment professor was approximately 118 hours into the hunger strike he says is needed for state officials to act on vehicle decontamination, asbestos testing, air quality monitoring at the Weymouth compressor station site.

Activists and project opponents like Phillips have long expressed their outrage and concerns over Enbridge’s natural gas facility adjacent to the Fore River Bridge, now under construction after securing final approvals last year.

Phillips has been actively engaged in opposition to the project — including with the local community group, Fore River Residents Against Compressor Station, or FRRACS — and was arrested, among others, for civil disobedience at the site in October, he said.

In fact, the strike is something Phillips has considered ever since final permits were signed off last fall.
» Read article     

hunger for justice
Hunger for Justice
By Mothers Out Front – Website Post
February 1, 2020

The company that plans to build the Weymouth compressor station, Enbridge, continues their disastrous construction work in arsenic and asbestos laden soil. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) does not Protect the community.

Now our friend Nathan Phillips is on a hunger strike to get the attention of the DEP and Governor Baker to protect the people of the Fore River Basin. We can back him up with our phone calls, tweets, posts and messages. We are amplifying the call of Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS). Our message is aimed at the two men in our state who have the power to act, who could meet the reasonable demands Nathan has made, but so far have refused to do so.
» Visit website for more information, including call numbers       

State To Install Permanent Air Monitoring Station In Weymouth
By Barbara Moran, WBUR
January 30, 2020


State regulators will install a permanent air monitoring station in Weymouth to detect changes in air quality related to a natural gas compressor station under construction nearby.

The monitoring station will collect data on nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter, ozone, and volatile organic compounds “consistent with EPA monitoring regulations and guidance,” the State Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) said in a statement. The station will also record wind speed, temperature and direction.

Protesters have picketed the construction site a number of times since ground was broken in December, saying that gas released from the station will pollute the surrounding area.

State Senator Patrick O’Connor, who represents Weymouth, said it has taken four years to get the monitoring station approved.

“This is a small victory in what’s been a tremendous war between communities and natural gas energy companies,” he said.
» Read article     

» More about the Weymouth compressor station    

GAS LEAKS

Ngrid gas leaks
Report raises gas utility safety issues: Says National Grid is struggling to address leaks
By Colin A. Young and Bruce Mohl, Commonwealth Magazine
January 31, 2020

A PANEL REVIEWING the physical integrity and safety of the state’s natural gas distribution system found a gap exists between the way gas utilities say their crews perform work on the gas system and the way that work actually happens in the field. It also found that National Grid, the utility serving eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, is struggling to contain leaks on its gas distribution system.

Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems Inc., a company contracted by the Baker administration to examine the safety of natural gas infrastructure in the wake of the September 2018 natural gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley, turned in its final report this week. The report includes specific observations about each of the state’s gas utilities after spending time observing gas work job sites and reviewing gas company manuals, policies, and procedures.

The utility-by-utility analysis indicates National Grid, the state’s largest gas utility serving 116 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts, is lagging in repairing gas leaks. Overall, the report said, 28 percent of the utility’s mains are made of leak-prone materials, a percentage that rises to 41 percent in Boston itself. More than 40 percent of the mains across the National Grid system were installed before 1970, and the miles of mains with discovered leaks on the National Grid distribution system actually increased between 2013 and 2018.
» Read article    
» Read report

» More about gas leaks    

OTHER PIPELINES

E37 Protesters
A Seven-Mile Gas Pipeline Outside Albany Has Activists up in Arms
National Grid says the project is needed to meet rising demand, but opponents see it as a means of connecting two interstate pipelines and boosting their capacities.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
February 3, 2020

Beyond the dispute over whether demand for gas is rising, pipeline opponents argue that smaller segments such as E37 have become an important means for utilities to increase profits.

Robert Wood, an organizer with 350 Brooklyn, a climate change activist group, said E37 is more about National Grid securing another capital investment project and increasing its customer base than it is about meeting rising gas demand.

While regulated utilities do make money on the energy they sell, they don’t control the cost of the fuel and cannot easily raise their rates as market prices fluctuate. “Fuel costs are a straight pass through,” said Michael O’Boyle, director of electricity policy for Energy Innovation, a clean energy advocacy group, “meaning, they don’t earn a margin or a profit on those fuel costs in general.”

Instead, many utilities, including National Grid, rely on capital investment projects to generate the kind of income needed to pay back shareholders and reinvest in company growth, O’Boyle said. When a utility invests in an infrastructure project, like a pipeline, it earns a regulated rate of return on that project.
» Read article     

» More about other pipelines     

LEGISLATION

Senate off the dimeMassachusetts Senate passes economy-wide carbon pricing, net zero emissions target
By Tim Cronin, Climate XChange
January 31, 2020


In a marathon late-night session, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation creating economy-wide carbon pricing, and requiring the state to reach net zero emissions by 2050. In doing so, the Senate doubled down on its commitment to the market-based policy to reduce emissions, which passed the chamber in 2018 but failed to make progress in the House.

The political landscape of climate policy has shifted rapidly in the two years since the Senate last voted for carbon pricing. Increased pressure for climate action, new emissions reduction commitments from policymakers, and growing grassroots support, have all increased the odds that the Senate’s bill, and carbon pricing, will become law.
» Read article     

Bernie's fracking ban
Sanders introduces bill to ban fracking
By Rachel Frazin, The Hill
January 30, 2020


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) this week introduced a bill that aims to ban hydraulic fracking.

The bill was introduced on Tuesday and is titled “a bill to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes,” according to the Library of Congress, though the text of the legislation was not available on the site.

Sanders has called for a ban on fracking while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
» Read article     

Energy Subcommittee Announces Oversight Hearing on the Natural Gas Act
By House Committee on Energy & Commerce
January 29, 2020


Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) announced today that the Energy Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, February 5, at 10 am in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building on the Natural Gas Act. The hearing is entitled, “Modernizing the Natural Gas Act to Ensure it Works for Everyone.”

“The Natural Gas Act is nearly a century old, and it is past time that we take a comprehensive look at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s implementation of it,” said Pallone and Rush. “We must reevaluate the pipeline siting process, which has long favored industry over the rights of landowners.  We must also examine rates, charges, imports, exports and what must be done to dramatically reduce impacts to our climate. It’s time to assess whether the Natural Gas Act is truly serving the needs and interests of all Americans, not just those of the gas industry.”
» Read article    
» Witness list and live webcast available here

FREC yes
Massachusetts AG Healey stokes grassroots effort for clean energy market rules in ISO-NE
By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive
December 13, 2019

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey launched an online effort on Tuesday to educate ratepayers about the region’s grid operator, ISO-New England, including a petition for market rules that promote clean energy.

The office, which also acts as the state’s ratepayer advocate, is trying to increase awareness of market rules and the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL). It’s been in touch with other attorneys general offices and ratepayer advocates in NEPOOL about this initiative.
» Read article    

» Link to the Petition – sign today!    

» More about legislation    

CLIMATE

Lil Justin and The Real Deal
When it comes to climate hypocrisy, Canada’s leaders have reached a new low
A territory that has 0.5% of the Earth’s population plans to use up nearly a third of the planet’s remaining carbon budget
By Bill McKibben, The Guardian
February 5, 2020

Americans elected Donald Trump, who insisted climate change was a hoax – so it’s no surprise that since taking office he’s been all-in for the fossil fuel industry. There’s no sense despairing; the energy is better spent fighting to remove him from office.

Canada, on the other hand, elected a government that believes the climate crisis is real and dangerous – and with good reason, since the nation’s Arctic territories give it a front-row seat to the fastest warming on Earth. Yet the country’s leaders seem likely in the next few weeks to approve a vast new tar sands mine which will pour carbon into the atmosphere through the 2060s. They know – yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair.
» Read article       

ocean heat rising
Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates
Oceans are clearest measure of climate crisis as they absorb 90% of heat trapped by greenhouse gases
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
January 13, 2020


The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet.

The world’s oceans are the clearest measure of the climate emergency because they absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning, forest destruction and other human activities.

The new analysis shows the past five years are the top five warmest years recorded in the ocean and the past 10 years are also the top 10 years on record. The amount of heat being added to the oceans is equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night.

Hotter oceans lead to more severe storms and disrupt the water cycle, meaning more floods, droughts and wildfires, as well as an inexorable rise in sea level. Higher temperatures are also harming life in the seas, with the number of marine heatwaves increasing sharply.
» Read article  

» More about climate      

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

shipping LNG fuel
Shipping Lines Turn to LNG-Powered Vessels, But They’re Worse for the Climate
Natural gas is cheap and cleaner burning than fuel oil, but methane leaks from ship engines fuels global warming.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
February 1, 2020

Oceangoing ships powered by liquified natural gas are worse for the climate than those powered by conventional fuel oil, a new report suggests. The findings call into further question the climate benefits of natural gas, a fuel the gas industry has promoted as a “bridge” to cleaner, renewable sources of energy but is undermined by emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The most commonly used liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine used by cruise ships and cargo vessels today emits as much as 82 percent more greenhouse gas over the short-term compared to conventional marine fuel oil, according to the report, published earlier this week by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an environmental think tank.
» Read article    
» Read report

» More about clean transportation        

FERC

FERC for PennEast
FERC sides with PennEast in opposing court decision that pipeline builder can’t use eminent domain to take public land
Tom Johnson, NPR State Impact, NJ Spotlight
January 31, 2020

In a step viewed as bolstering the PennEast natural gas pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday sided with the builder in seeking to overturn an adverse federal appeals court ruling halting the proposal from moving forward.

In a 2-1 vote, FERC, in a rare special meeting devoted to only one issue, issued a declaratory order saying a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit threatens to disrupt the natural gas industry’s ability to construct interstate gas pipelines.

The action was denounced as a transparent attempt by the agency to back PennEast’s efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court review the Third Circuit’s ruling by the lone commissioner to vote against the order, James Glick and other pipeline opponents.
» Read article    

» More about FERC         

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Shale Gas Swamps Asia, Pushing LNG Prices to Record Lows
The idling of factories in China due to coronavirus quarantines is weighing on prices already pressured by other bearish factors
By The Wall Street Journal
February 7, 2020

Liquefied natural gas is fetching the lowest price on record in Asia, a troubling sign for U.S. energy producers who have relied on overseas shipments of shale gas to buoy the sagging domestic market.

The main price gauge for liquified natural gas, or LNG, in Asia fell to $3 per million British thermal units Thursday, down sharply from more than $20 six years ago as U.S. deliveries have swamped markets around the world.
» Read article     

pouring it on
Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
February 3, 2020

Just beyond the windows of Satsuki Kanno’s apartment overlooking Tokyo Bay, a behemoth from a bygone era will soon rise: a coal-burning power plant, part of a buildup of coal power that is unheard-of for an advanced economy.

It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.
» Read article     

hunting emissions
The Hunt for Fugitive Emissions in the Permian’s Oilfields
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
January 30, 2020

Meaningful regulation of the fracking industry is a non sequitur to Sharon Wilson, organizer for Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She supports her employer’s efforts to encourage tougher industry regulations, but believes that humankind needs to keep oil and gas in the ground if there is any chance of meeting the benchmarks set by the Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming.

After spending a couple days with Wilson as she monitored for methane leaks at oil and gas industry sites in the Permian oilfields of West Texas, it is easy to understand why she believes that talk of meaningful regulation of the industry lacks meaning itself.

Wilson uses an optical gas imaging (OGI) camera, which makes otherwise invisible emissions visible. With the specialized camera, also used by environmental regulators and industry, she recorded fugitive emissions spewing from nearly every site we visited.
» Read article    

» More about fossil fuels

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Weekly News Check-In 1/31/20

WNCI-9

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

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

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

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

PROTESTS AND ACTIONS

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

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

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

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

» More about protests and actions    

CLIMATE

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

Can natural gas be part of a climate change solution?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about climate    

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

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

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

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

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

» More about clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

By Paul Bartlett, Seatrade Maritime News
January 29, 2020

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» Read report     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about fossil fuel

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

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


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

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

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

» More about plastics in the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 12/6/19

WNCI-1

Welcome back.

Major events are unfolding at the Weymouth compressor station site. Enbridge’s 7,700 horsepower compressor received final approval despite near-universal opposition, well-established evidence of harm, and recent disclosures showing it isn’t even needed. Construction began, resistance escalated, and protesters were arrested.

Climate is generating lots of news. We found reports warning of approaching “tipping points”, beyond which return to our historical climate will not be possible. Better science makes these warnings more urgent. Meanwhile, global carbon emissions hit another record in 2019. If this section had a sound track, it would be like standing next to a fire alarm. We close it out with a story from our archives, showing how the impact of an important 2018 climate report was muted by its release during the distractions of Black Friday.

It’s good to keep in mind that not all clean energy alternatives are equal, and “clean” is a relative term. We found reporting on the negative impact that Canadian hydro power is having on First Nations communities – and why New England should seek better alternatives.

We close with articles from the carbon economy. One describes how the Transportation Climate Initiative is drawing opposition from the oil and gas industry. The divestment movement scored points at a recent Harvard-Yale football game when protesters occupied the field. A scholar discusses how promoters of the fossil fuel industry seem to be moving from denial to a new phase of “climate defiance”. And some good reporting on how the plastics/fracking connection is impacting communities from Pennsylvania to Louisiana.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Lisa Jennings arrested at compressor protest
4 Arrested As Activists ‘Escalate’ Fight Against Weymouth Compressor Station
By Miriam Wasser, WBUR
December 5, 2019

Four South Shore residents affiliated with the activist group Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station (FRRACS) were arrested Thursday outside of the site of a future natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

At least 35 people showed up to the early morning demonstration to protest construction at the site, which began earlier this week. The activists blocked a road leading to the property for more than an hour, preventing a construction vehicle from passing through. Police repeatedly warned the group that anyone who didn’t move would be arrested, and all but four people complied.

“We are escalating [the fight] because we’ve been left no choice,” Alice Arena, Executive Director of FRRACS, said after the protest.

Joe Herosy of Quincy, Lisa Jennings of Weymouth, Laura Burns of Hingham and Jerry Grenier of Weymouth were arrested and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, according to Norfolk County District Attorney’s office. The charges were converted to civil infractions, of which all four were found responsible. The infractions will be placed on file for the next 30 days, according to the DA’s office.
» Read article

Weymouth construction protest
Four protesters arrested at Weymouth compressor site
About 30 protesters gathered at 50 Bridge St., where crews had begun preliminary work on a station that will allow for the expansion of a natural gas pipeline from New Jersey into Canada.
By Jessica Trufant and Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
December 5, 2019

Four protesters were arrested Thursday after they refused to move out of the way of crews preparing for the construction of a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station that recently received final approval despite the fierce opposition of nearby residents and elected officials.

The protesters were among a group of about 30 people who gathered near the base of the Fore River Bridge on Thursday morning and blocked construction crews for several hours while waving signs and chanting “Go home, Enbridge.”

Police arrested four protesters when they refused to move just before 9 a.m., when police ushered protesters behind temporary barricades to allow workers to start their day.

Joe Herosy, Lisa Jennings, Laura Burns and Jerry Grenier were arrested after blocking a truck from leaving a construction staging area and refusing to get out of the way. The criminal charges were later dropped at Quincy District Court.
» Read article

keep fighting4 arrested as protesters block entrance as work begins at Weymouth compressor station
WCVB Channel 5 News
December 5, 2019

Protesters waving signs and chanting “Go home Enbridge” blocked construction crews Thursday morning in Weymouth at the site of a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station fiercely opposed by nearby residents and elected officials alike.

After nearly five years of protests and standoffs, opposition letters and lawsuits, construction started Wednesday on the Algonquin Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Enbridge.

About 30 protestors had gathered at 50 Bridge St., where just days earlier crews had begun preliminary work on a station that will allow for the expansion of a natural gas pipeline from New Jersey into Canada.

Four protesters were arrested. Protestors sang and unfurled a banner reading “Fore River residents say no more toxins” in front of a large truck, the Patriot Ledger reported.
» Read article

construction begins
Work starts at Weymouth compressor station site
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
December 4, 2019

After nearly five years of protests and standouts, opposition letters and lawsuits, construction has started on a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River.

Just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, several men in hard hats could be seen walking the property as a nearby construction vehicle sat idle. Two police officers sat in cruisers outside the fenced-in property, and a few passing drivers craned their necks to get a look at the action. Workers posted notices from the state Department of Environmental Protection several hours later, along with no-trespassing signs.

Opponents of the project have taken to social media to share photos of machinery and workers arriving at the site. On Tuesday, protesters held signs that read “Poison your own kids” and “Go home.”
» Read article

Compressor construction could begin Tuesday
By Joe DiFazio, The Patriot Ledger
November 27, 2019

After years of legal fights, protests and political lobbying, construction on a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth could begin as early as Tuesday.

The proposed 7,700-horsepower station has been met by vociferous protest from residents and lawmakers, but multinational energy transportation company Enbridge and its subsidiary Algonquin appear ready to start building after a last go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A company hired by Enbridge has told residents that it could start clean up work on the Fore River site on Tuesday, but Enbridge itself would not confirm Wednesday when work would start.
» Read article         

Weymouth gas project gets final federal OK
By Danny McDonald, Boston Globe
November 27, 2019

Federal energy officials gave final approval Wednesday to a controversial natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, a decision that drew sharp rebukes from local advocates who say the station will pose health and safety risks to the community.

The Federal Energy Regulator Commission granted Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s request to start the construction of the station, which is planned for a four-acre parcel on the banks of the Fore River.

Algonquin is a subsidiary of Enbridge, a $126 billion energy giant, and construction for the Weymouth project is expected to begin in early December, according to a company spokesman. The station will be part of a larger Enbridge project that aims to distribute high pressure gas more than 1,000 miles, from New York to Maine and into the Canadian Maritimes.
» Read article

» More about the Weymouth compressor station

CLIMATE

meltwater rivulets - GreenlandClimate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
December 4, 2019

In a recent commentary in the journal Nature, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research in Germany and other institutions warned that the acceleration of ice loss and other effects of climate change have brought the world “dangerously close” to abrupt and irreversible changes, or tipping points. Among these, the researchers said, were the collapse of at least part of the West Antarctic ice sheet — which itself could eventually raise sea levels by four feet or more — or the loss of the Amazon rainforest.

“In our view, the consideration of tipping points helps to define that we are in a climate emergency,” they wrote.
» Read article          
» Read Original Article in Nature

pump jack
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Hit a Record in 2019, Even as Coal Fades
By Brad Plumer, New York Times
December 3, 2019

Emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from fossil fuels hit a record high in 2019, researchers said Tuesday, putting countries farther off course from their goal of halting global warming.

The new data contained glimmers of good news: Worldwide, industrial emissions are on track to rise 0.6 percent this year, a considerably slower pace than the 1.5 percent increase seen in 2017 and the 2.1 percent rise in 2018. The United States and the European Union both managed to cut their carbon dioxide output this year, while India’s emissions grew far more slowly than expected.

And global emissions from coal, the worst-polluting of all fossil fuels, unexpectedly declined by about 0.9 percent in 2019, although that drop was more than offset by strong growth in the use of oil and natural gas around the world.
» Read article

Warming Waters, Moving Fish: How Climate Change Is Reshaping Iceland
By Kendra Pierre-Louis,
Photographs by Nanna Heitmann, New York Times

November 29, 2019

“Fish,” said Gisli Palsson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland, “made us rich.” The money Iceland earned from commercial fishing helped the island, which is about the size of Kentucky, become independent from Denmark in 1944.

But warming waters associated with climate change are causing some fish to seek cooler waters elsewhere, beyond the reach of Icelandic fishermen. Ocean temperatures around Iceland have increased between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years. For the past two seasons, Icelanders have not been able to harvest capelin, a type of smelt, as their numbers plummeted. The warmer waters mean that as some fish leave, causing financial disruption, other fish species arrive, triggering geopolitical conflicts.

Worldwide, research shows the oceans are simmering. Since the middle of last century, the oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. To beat the heat, fish are moving toward cooler waters nearer the planet’s two poles.
» Blog editor’s note: Capelin also provide food for nesting Atlantic puffins and other seabirds. As capelin move farther from established nest sites on Iceland’s shores, birds must fly farther to hunt. Eventually it’s too far and breeding colonies collapse.
» Read article

UN report - catastrophe
‘Bleak’ U.N. Report Finds World Heading to Climate Catastrophes
By Somini Sengupta, New York Times
November 26, 2019

Four years after countries struck a landmark deal in Paris to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to avert the worst effects of global warming, humanity is headed toward those very climate catastrophes, according to a United Nations report issued Tuesday, with China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, having expanded their carbon footprints last year.

“The summary findings are bleak,” the report said, because countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions even after repeated warnings from scientists. The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”
» Read article
» Read report

CA oil field
The New Climate Math: The Numbers Keep Getting More Frightening
Scientists keep raising ever-louder alarms about the urgency of tackling climate change, but the world’s governments aren’t listening. Yet the latest numbers don’t lie: Nations now plan to keep producing more coal, oil, and gas than the planet can endure.
By Bill McKibben, Yale Environment 360 – Opinion
November 25, 2019

Scientists have a fairly exact idea of how much carbon dioxide we can still emit and stay south of the red lines we’ve drawn (red lines, it should be pointed out, that we haven’t crossed yet even though we’ve already lost most of the sea ice in the Arctic, intensified the world’s patterns of drought and flood and fire, and turned the ocean 30 percent more acidic. We’re already in great trouble). That estimate of how much we can still sort of afford to burn represents our “carbon budget,” and it’s not very large (it’s not very large because when scientists issued their first dire warnings 30 years ago we paid no attention). Meeting that budget would require — well, it would require budgeting. That’s kind of what the world’s nations did in Paris, when they set out targets and made pledges. Sadly, the pledges didn’t meet the targets: no nation committed to cutting the use of fossil fuels fast enough to dramatically slow down the warming. If you want to use a dieting metaphor, we were unwilling to rein in our appetites in any significant way.

But of course there’s another way at this problem. Along with reducing demand, you could also work to reduce supply. If we didn’t have more coal and oil and gas than we could burn, we would, ipso facto, be more likely to stay on our diet. Sadly, the world’s governments have never made any serious attempt to restrict the production of coal and oil and gas — instead, they’ve offered endless subsidies to spur the endless overproduction of fossil fuels.

One good sign came last week, when California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a temporary ban on fracking in the state. That drew most of the headlines, but the real news was buried in the language of the announcement, which said Sacramento would henceforth be in the business of “managing the decline” of oil production. It took a mighty effort of the state’s environmental justice groups to produce that sentence, but it was worth the sweat: California may be the first really significant oil producer to concede it was going to have to leave a lot of carbon in the ground.
» Read article

black friday report
A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday
In a massive new report, federal scientists contradict President Trump and assert that climate change is an intensifying danger to the United States. Too bad it came out on a holiday.
By Robinson Meyer, the Atlantic
November 23, 2018

On Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, the federal government published a massive and dire new report on climate change. The report warns, repeatedly and directly, that climate change could soon imperil the American way of life, transforming every region of the country, imposing frustrating costs on the economy, and harming the health of virtually every citizen.

Most significantly, the National Climate Assessment—which is endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, and 10 other federal scientific agencies—contradicts nearly every position taken on the issue by President Donald Trump. Where the president has insisted that fighting global warming will harm the economy, the report responds: Climate change, if left unchecked, could eventually cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and kill thousands of Americans to boot. Where the president has said that the climate will “probably” “change back,” the report replies: Many consequences of climate change will last for millennia, and some (such as the extinction of plant and animal species) will be permanent.

The report is a huge achievement for American science. It represents cumulative decades of work from more than 300 authors. Since 2015, scientists from across the U.S. government, state universities, and businesses have read thousands of studies, summarizing and collating them into this document. By law, a National Climate Assessment like this must be published every four years.

It may seem like a funny report to dump on the public on Black Friday, when most Americans care more about recovering from Thanksgiving dinner than they do about adapting to the grave conclusions of climate science. Indeed, who ordered the report to come out today?

It’s a good question with no obvious answer.
» Blog editor’s note: year-old news, but still relevant.
» Read article

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

The hidden costs of New England’s demand for Canadian hydropower
By VTD Editor, Vermont Digger
December 1, 2019

New England’s appetite for hydroelectricity has stimulated a juggernaut industry across the Northern border — 62% of the energy Canada produces is from hydropower, amounting to a $37 billion contribution to Canada’s GDP and 135,000 jobs, according to a 2015 report from the Canadian Hydropower Association.

The environmental impacts of that energy are tied up in more than 900 large dams on Canada’s waterways, with 14 of its largest 16 rivers dammed, according to International Rivers, a nonprofit advocacy group.
» Read article

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

TCI graphicTransportation Climate Initiative Draws Opposition from Oil and Gasoline Business Groups
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
November 23, 2019

As California continues to battle the Trump administration over the state’s authority to set stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, a coalition of East Coast states is facing a potential battle of its own, with opposition emerging to the states’ plan to tackle transportation emissions.

That plan, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), seeks to curb transportation-sector greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-invest program. The 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states plus the District of Columbia are modeling it after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a similar cap-and-trade scheme for the power sector.

A public comment period has been open since October, when a framework for a draft regional policy proposal was released. Various individuals, interests, and entities in the petroleum industry — from small gas station owners to large trade associations — weighed in with concerns and ardent opposition to the proposal.

In Pennsylvania, almost all of the comments expressed opposition to the program, many from small oil and fuel companies using almost identical language.

Other negative comments on the proposal came from citizens describing it as hike in the gas tax. A large number of these comments were from people in Maine and Massachusetts, where there appear to be active campaigns pushed by dark money groups and supported by the states’ Republican parties.
» Read article

» More on clean transportation

DIVESTMENT

Harvard-Yale divestment protest
Climate Change Protesters Disrupt Yale-Harvard Football Game
Demonstrators stormed the field during halftime and caused the game to be delayed for about an hour.
By Britton O’Daly, New York Times
November 23, 2019

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Climate change activists stormed the field at the Yale-Harvard football game on Saturday afternoon, disrupting the game at halftime in a protest to call attention to the universities to divest their investments in fossil fuels.

A group of about 70 protesters took to the field just before 2 p.m. after the game’s halftime show. They were then joined by others from the stands.
» Read article

» More on divestment

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

climate defianceFight or Switch? How the Low-carbon Transition Is Disrupting Fossil Fuel Politics
By Cara Daggett, Virginia Tech, in DeSmog Blog
November 29, 2019

As the Trump administration works to weaken regulations on fossil fuel production and use, a larger struggle is playing out across multiple industries. Until recently, oil companies and their defenders generally reacted to calls for regulating carbon emissions by spreading doubt and promoting climate denialism. However, I believe this approach is becoming less effective as climate change effects worsen and public demands for action intensify worldwide.

As a scholar who focuses on the politics of energy and the environment, I see growing anxiety among corporate elites. Some fossil fuel defenders are embracing a new strategy that I call climate defiance. With a transition to a low-carbon economy looming, they are accelerating investments in fossil fuel extraction while pressuring governments to delay climate action.

Climate defiance is leading to some surprising clashes between the Trump Administration, bent on extreme deregulation and extraction, and many other companies who recognize that the fossil fuel economy is unsustainable, even if they have not embarked upon a green transition. Climate change is sparking this self-reflection, which is writing a new chapter in global warming politics.
» Read article

» More on the fossil fuel industry

THE PLASTICS/FRACKING CONNECTION

Cracker view
Pennsylvania Communities Grow Wary of Worsening Air Pollution as Petrochemical Industry Arrives
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
November 27, 2019

Like Washington County residents in Pennsylvania, residents in St. John the Baptist Parish asked the state to do a health study. And like in Pennsylvania, the State of Louisiana has downplayed the community’s concerns until this past August announcing plans to research cancer rates in the area.

In both states, pushback against the intertwined natural gas and petrochemical industries is being framed by some as a conflict between jobs and the environment. But environmental advocates call this a false narrative, pointing to the job potential of the renewable and energy efficiency sectors, which are growing in the United States and around the world, according to the sustainability nonprofit Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
» Read article

Beaver County ethane cracker
With Coal’s Decline, Pennsylvania Communities Watch the Rise of Natural Gas-fueled Plastics
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
November 22, 2019

For Beaver County, just northwest of Pittsburgh, the construction of Royal Dutch Shell’s towering new plastics factory overshadows the closure of the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, the state’s largest coal power station, located along the same stretch of Ohio River in western Pennsylvania.

The juxtaposition of these two projects, in which one powerful fossil fuel supply rises as the other falls, reflects the broader pattern of changing energy sources in America. A growing chorus agrees the expansion of the natural gas industry, which feeds plastics and petrochemical plants like Shell’s, is moving the U.S. in the wrong direction to prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change.
» Read article

» More on the plastics/fracking connection

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Weekly News Check-In 11/15/19

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on the compressor station

OTHER PIPELINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about other pipelines

CLIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on climate

CLEAN ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about clean transportation

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More on the fossil fuel industry

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

» More about the E.P.A.

PLASTICS RECYCLING

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

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

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

» More on recycling plastics

PLASTICS, HEALTH, AND ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

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

» More on plastics, health, and the environment

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Weekly News Check-In 11/1/19

WNCI-5

Welcome back.

On the local scene, we’re following the Weymouth compressor station, a proposed pipeline replacement/enlargement in Ashland, and continuing consequences to Columbia Gas for last year’s disaster in the Merrimack Valley.

With the Trump administration attempting to relax safety rules for oil transport by rail, we’re keeping a close eye on virtual pipeline news. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts legislature is considering the 2050 Roadmap Bill (H.3983), to address climate change and pivot away from fossil fuels.

Reporting on climate includes a new study illuminating what types of forests sequester the most carbon. And Canadian youth have now joined others in suing their government for climate inaction that threatens their future. Progress toward that future is highlighted in stories on energy efficiency, clean energy alternatives, clean transportation, and battery storage.

We come into the home stretch with a routine basket of news about fossil fuel bankruptcies, denials, and deceptions, and a warning that the promoters of biomass appear to have a tailwind because of favorable changes to legislation and regulations – in spite of warnings from the science and environmental communities. Heads up, Massachusetts – the Baker administration is trying very hard to classify biomass as clean, renewable, and carbon neutral.

We close this week with a notable advancement in plastics recycling from startup Carbios. They have developed a way to biologically break down many types of plastic and then make new plastic without degradation.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth compressor protesters
Planning agency seeks review of Weymouth compressor study
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, reprinted in The Patriot Ledger
October 28, 2019

BOSTON — Five months after it became clear that a study clearing the way for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth was based on incomplete data, the regional planning agency that produced it is seeking an outside review to determine if its conclusions were in error.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council announced last week that it had hired London-based Public Health by Design to re-examine its health impact assessment, which found that there would be “no substantial changes in health” for Weymouth and the surrounding communities as a result of the gas plant’s operations. The assessment’s findings have been cited by the Baker administration in approvals of project permits.

In May, amid a contentious appeal process over an air-quality permit the state issued, the Department of Environmental Protection revealed that the data used in the MAPC’s work was less than two-thirds of what regulators had originally sought. The MAPC soon said that its original conclusions could not be assumed to remain valid.
» Read article     

compressor site WBUR
With Permits Upheld, Weymouth Compressor Opponents Plan Legal Challenge
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service, on WBUR
October 25, 2019

Massachusetts’ lead environmental regulator upheld wetlands and waterways permits for a natural gas compressor station, drawing renewed promises of a legal challenge from opponents.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg on Thursday announced that the two permits would go forward after facing an appeal from opponents in the community, an expected step after the DEP’s hearing officer earlier this week recommended allowing the approval to stand.

On Friday morning, the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station said it would appeal the decision to Superior Court, arguing the permits in fact violate environmental regulations. The group had said earlier it would challenge Suuberg’s decision.
» Read article     

» More on Weymouth compressor station

ASHLAND PIPELINE

Ashland residents rally against Eversource natural gas pipeline project
By Cesareo Contreras, MetroWest Daily News
October 3, 2019

ASHLAND- Deeply troubled over Eversource’s plan to replace a 3.7-mile natural gas line that runs through town, Joel Arbeitman can’t help but feel that the state’s review system has taken away residents’ power to decide what should happen in their town.

“Right now, we have this case in front of the Energy Facilitates Siting Board. We don’t get to decide what happens in our community. They do. We could go to court. We can fight, but ultimately, they decide and that’s a problem,” Arbeitman said Wednesday in Ashland’s Senior Community Center.

Arbeitman was one of at least 30 people who attended Wednesday’s session during which a student documentary “Under Pressure” about last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions was screened. Eversource’s local pipeline project was the central focus during the question-and-answer portion of the night’s discussion.

The company is looking to decommission a six-inch 3.7-mile gas line that runs through Ashland and Hopkinton and place new 12-inch pipes alongside them. The company said the project is needed to improve line pressure and better serve customers in Greater Framingham. The easement intersects through the property of more than 80 Ashland homes, two parcels owned by the town, the Chestnut Street Apartments and a number of environmentally sensitive areas, including portions of the wetlands and the conservation-restricted Great Bend Farm Trust.
» Read article     

FSU professor: Eversource pipe proposal is not necessary
Metro West Daily
April 13, 2019

Lawrence McKenna, an earth and environmental science associate professor at Framingham State University, recently completed a report on the pipeline project. He says he sees some flaws, which he relayed to Ashland selectmen earlier this month.

McKenna’s takeaway: There is no immediate need for pipes to be replaced and doubled in size. In fact, current piping “is reliable at the 99.999% level,” he said.

“Ashland has time, because there is no emergency,” McKenna told the Daily News. “Ashland has time to have a vigorous honest debate about where this pipeline should go and why.”

Eversource officials declined to address the professor’s findings, noting that their proposal is still being reviewed by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB).
» Read article  

» More on Ashland pipeline

COLUMBIA GAS – MERRIMACK VALLEY

North Andover Selectmen Ask For Town Voice In Columbia Gas Audit
By Christopher Huffaker, The Patch
October 29, 2019

North Andover’s selectmen are asking the state to give them more of a role in oversight of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions restoration work. On Oct. 2, the state ordered that Columbia Gas pay for an audit of all gas pipeline work they’ve done since the deadly explosions. North Andover asked in a letter sent that the engineering firm Environmental Partners, which they partnered with alongside Andover and Lawrence following the accident, participate in the audit.

“It is important that the towns have a voice and independent oversight in this process. We hope that this work will begin soon so that we have a final determination on whether the work completed was done correctly,” Town Manager Melissa Rodrigues wrote on behalf of the selectmen.
» Read article  

» More on Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley 

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

oil train explosion
Four States, Led by New York, Challenge Trump Admin Over Oil Train Safety Rule
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 29, 2019

On October 23, New York Attorney General Letitia James, joined by attorneys general from Maryland, New Jersey, and California, sent a letter of support to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) over a Washington state law that would limit the volatility of oil transported by train through the state.

That oil originates in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana, where trains help take the place of scarce pipelines in order to move fracked crude oil to Washington’s refineries and ports along the coast. North Dakota and Montana have fought back against Washington’s law, which was passed in May, and filed a petition to PHMSA in protest just two months later.

Spurred by safety concerns about oil trains derailing and exploding, the Washington law would cap the vapor pressure of crude oil moved by rail at 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi) and would be triggered by a rise in oil train traffic in the state.
» Read article     

tanker train
California Attorney General pushes back on regulation of trains carrying flammable oil being retained at the federal level
By David C. Lester, RT&S
October 28, 2019

Several states are pushing back on the notion that regulation of crude oil trains in the United States belongs in the hands of the federal government, as opposed to being regulated by the states.  The Sierra Times reports that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation, and expressed support of the State of Washington efforts to retain state control with laws that limit the vapor pressure level in cars that are carrying very flammable crude oil by rail.

Interestingly, North Dakota and Montana are opposed to these Washington state laws, and the Attorney General’s letter expressed opposition to the position of these two states.  The transportation of crude oil by rail is relatively safe, but an accident can have disastrous consequences. The railroads have made efforts to minimize the impact of oil train derailments by building stronger tank cars that are better equipped to retain leaks and prevent fires.

However, if things go wrong, as they have in past years before stronger tank cars were in place, all bets are off as to the level of havoc that can be wrought by derailments.  In fact, many refer to these trains as “bomb trains,” as violent explosions and intense heat can result from derailments. Trains moving in California often pass areas that are among California’s very sensitive ecological areas, as well as highly populated communities.  Several states have noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has not been active in keeping communities safe, and have failed to enact more robust standards, putting areas through which the trains pass at risk.
» Read article     

LNG on trains for export
Trump Admin Proposes New Rule to Allow Shipping Flammable LNG by Rail
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 25, 2019

While the DOT press release announcing the rulemaking emphasizes safety (the word or a variant is repeated no fewer than eight times), the actual document proposing this new rule details a worrisome scenario for what could happen if a train of LNG tank cars derails, breaching and releasing the liquefied fossil fuel — what PHMSA calls “Scenario 3”:

“Although Scenario 3 has a low probability, a breached inner tank during a transportation accident could have a high consequence because of the higher probability of a fire due to the formation of a flammable gas vapor/air mixture in the immediate vicinity of the spilled LNG. This probability is based on the likelihood of ignition sources (sparks, hot surfaces, etc.) being generated by other equipment, rail cars, or vehicles involved in a transportation accident that could ignite a flammable vapor cloud.”

According to PHMSA, the derailment of a train full of LNG could have “high consequences” — as in, a major fire or explosion — but because the agency says there are lower odds that it would happen, the public should feel assured this proposed transportation mode, using DOT-113 rail tank cars, is safe.
» Read article     

» More on virtual pipelines

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

A roadmap for combatting climate change
Let’s build on Global Warming Solutions Act
By Joan Meschino and Alyssa Rayman-Read, CommonWealth Magazine
October 26, 2019

Massachusetts has been a leader in the fight against climate change. Yet, several alarming reports by top climate scientists have made it clear that this fight is just beginning. If we are serious about safeguarding the character and nature of our communities, we must take action now. We need a bold commitment to addressing the climate crisis that includes concrete steps for reaching net-zero carbon emissions while promoting a just transition to a clean energy economy.

That is why 59 legislators in the Massachusetts House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, have signed onto the 2050 Roadmap Bill (H.3983). Developed with input from a diverse group of stakeholders, including labor and business leaders, local officials, environmentalists, and our utilities, the 2050 Roadmap Bill is a bold response to the crisis currently at our doorstep. The bill gives us a plan for steadily reducing our carbon pollution, while ensuring that the opportunities and benefits of a cleaner, healthier, more just economy are enjoyed by everyone in Massachusetts.
» Read article    
» Read 2050 Roadmap Bill (H.3983)

» More legislative news

CLIMATE

forest damage - Peru
In the Fight Against Climate Change, Not All Forests Are Equal
By Henry Fountain, New York Times
October 30, 2019

Forests are a great bulwark against climate change, so programs to reduce deforestation are important. Those efforts usually focus on stopping the destruction in areas where it is already occurring.

But a new study suggests these programs would do well to also preserve forests where deforestation and degradation haven’t begun. Gradual loss of these largely pristine, intact forests has a much greater climate impact than previously accounted for, the researchers said.

Immediate clearing of intact forests, what might be considered “classic” deforestation, over that period accounted for about 3 percent of global emissions from deforestation in all tropical forests, the researchers said. But when they looked at other, more gradual types of loss and disturbance — forests that had been opened to selective logging for firewood, for example, or road-building that exposed more trees to drying or windy conditions — they found that the carbon impact increased sixfold over the period.
» Read article    
» Read study

A Couple A’s, One F: Again, A Mixed Environmental Report Card For Baker
By Bruce Gellerman, WBUR
October 29, 2019

Six of the state’s leading environmental organizations gave Gov. Charlie Baker mixed grades on environmental issues.

Each year, the groups release a report card assessing the administration’s performance in nine categories. While Baker enjoyed two A’s and two B’s in this year’s report, he also earned two C’s, two D’s and an F.

“The takeaway is a mixed record on environmental issues,” said Nancy Goodman, vice president for policy at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
» Read article    
» Read report

Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050, New Research Shows
By Denise Lu and Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 29, 2019

Rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought, according to new research, threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities.

The authors of a paper published Tuesday developed a more accurate way of calculating land elevation based on satellite readings, a standard way of estimating the effects of sea level rise over large areas, and found that the previous numbers were far too optimistic. The new research shows that some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by midcentury.
» Read article     

Secret Deal Helped Housing Industry Stop Tougher Rules on Climate Change
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 26, 2019

A secret agreement has allowed the nation’s homebuilders to make it much easier to block changes to building codes that would require new houses to better address climate change, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The agreement shows that homebuilders accrued “excessive power over the development of regulations that governed them,” said Bill Fay, head of the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition, which has pushed for more aggressive standards. Homes accounted for nearly one-fifth of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions nationwide last year.

The consequences of the [2002] deal between the code council and homebuilders are easiest to measure when it comes to energy efficiency, which came under the influence of the homebuilders’ agreement in 2011.

Until that point, the model building codes had drastically improved the energy efficiency of new homes with each new three-year edition. The 2009 and 2012 development cycles together reduced homeowners’ annual energy costs by 32 percent, according to an analysis by the Department of Energy.

Then, after energy-efficiency codes fell under the agreement between the code council and the homebuilders, that momentum ground to a halt. The 2015 codes, the first to be negotiated after the change, reduced residential energy use and costs by less than 1 percent, the Energy Department found. Savings from the 2018 codes were less than 2 percent.
» Read article     

children's climate lawsuit Canada
15 Canadian Kids Sue Their Government for Failing to Address Climate Change
The young plaintiffs are already dealing with effects of wildfires, flooding and thawing permafrost. They say the government is contributing to the climate crisis.
By Phil McKenna, InsideClimate News
October 25, 2019

Fifteen children and teenagers from across Canada sued their government on Friday for supporting fossil fuels that drive climate change, which they say is jeopardizing their rights as Canadian citizens.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Vancouver, is the latest from young climate advocates around the globe who are increasingly leading public protests and filing legal challenges to make their concerns about their future in a warming world heard.

“The federal government is knowingly contributing to the climate crisis by continuing to support and promote fossil fuels and through that they are violating our charter rights,” said Sierra Robinson, 17, a youth climate activist and plaintiff in the case from Vancouver Island, Canada.
» Read article    
» Read complaint

» More on climate

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

City of Cambridge and Eversource Launch Building Energy Retrofit Program
Eversource News Post
October 28, 2019

The City of Cambridge and Eversource announced a new energy efficiency initiative, called the Cambridge Building Energy Retrofit Program, which targets buildings that are over 25,000 square feet or 50 units for energy-saving improvements. The program, which will proactively connect building owners and facility managers to energy efficiency services, incentives, and technical support, aligns with Cambridge’s Net Zero Action Plan to reduce building greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“In Cambridge, buildings account for 80% of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The Cambridge Building Energy Retrofit program helps large buildings access the resources they need to make energy efficiency upgrades that will reduce their energy use and cut their carbon footprint – an important step in furthering our Net Zero Action Plan,” said Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development.
» Read article     

» More on energy efficiency

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Mayflower Wind location
Mayflower Wind Picked For 800-Megawatt Project Off Of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service, on WBUR
October 30, 2019

An offshore wind development that boasts it will deliver “the lowest cost offshore wind energy ever in the U.S.” has been selected by state utilities, in coordination with the Baker administration, to deliver about 800 megawatts of clean power to Massachusetts.

Mayflower Wind, a joint venture of Shell and EDPR Offshore North America, was the unanimous choice of the administration and three utilities to build an array of wind turbines approximately 26 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 20 nautical miles south of Nantucket, state energy officials announced Wednesday.
» Read article     

» More on clean energy

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

‘General Motors better wake up’ before China takes EV market, former California Gov. Brown tells Congress
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
October 30, 2019

The Trump administration’s efforts to prevent California from enforcing implementing its own fuel standards is a national threat to the electric vehicle market, say EV advocates. Some 15 states, representing almost 40% of the automobile industry, have adopted California’s standard, which also provides a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency that states rely on in part to provide zero emissions vehicle rebates.

“The California waiver is important. It means California can set higher standards. It means California can be a laboratory of energy innovation, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” said Brown.

Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen in July struck a deal with California that loosened the emissions standard for those four companies, while awarding them additional EV credits to meet those standards. As a result, automakers agreed to cooperate with those emissions benchmarks.

But the president, reportedly incensed by that deal, announced in September he would be revoking California’s ability to implement its own standards, and his Department of Transportation shortly after filed a proposal to act on his directive.
» Read article     

General Motors Sides With Trump in Emissions Fight, Splitting the Industry
Along with Toyota and Fiat Chrysler, the auto giant backed the administration in its clash with California over pollution standards.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times
October 28, 2019

Breaking with some of their biggest rivals, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota said Monday they were intervening on the side of the Trump administration in an escalating battle with California over fuel economy standards for automobiles.

The Trump administration has proposed a major weakening of federal auto emissions standards set during the Obama administration, prompting California to declare that it will go its own course and keep enforcing the earlier, stricter standards.

In July, Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW sided with California in the battle, striking a deal with the state to follow more stringent standards close to the original Obama-era rules. That surprise agreement would allow those automakers to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations.

The pact came as an embarrassment for the Trump administration, which assailed the move as a “P.R. stunt.” In what was widely seen as a retaliatory move, the Justice Department subsequently opened an antitrust inquiry into the four automakers on the grounds that their agreement with California could potentially limit consumer choice, according to people familiar with the matter at the time the inquiry was opened.
» Read article     

» More on clean transportation

BATTERY STORAGE

ESS gets juiced
Iron Flow Battery Startup ESS Raises $30M From SoftBank and Breakthrough
The flow battery survivor marks the latest in a series of recent investments in unconventional long-duration storage technologies.
By Julian Spector, Green Tech Media
October 29, 2019

Iron flow battery startup ESS raised an additional $30 million to take its technology from pilots to commercial scale.

Since 2011, the company has been developing a low-cost, nonflammable long-duration storage technology to compete across domains where the dominant lithium-ion battery chemistries are weaker. Flow batteries have been one of the more prominent lithium-ion alternatives, but companies working in the space have struggled to stay afloat financially and move beyond the pilot stage.

With the new Series C investment, ESS has won a vote of confidence from prestigious and well-heeled backers. SoftBank’s SB Energy and Bill Gates-funded Breakthrough Energy Ventures led the round, which also brought in Evergy Ventures and PTT Global Chemical, in addition to previous investors.
» Read article     

» More on battery storage

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

coal bankruptcies
Murray Energy Is 8th Coal Company in a Year to Seek Bankruptcy
By Clifford Krauss, New York Times
October 29, 2019

Murray Energy, once a symbol of American mining prowess, has become the eighth coal company in a year to file for bankruptcy protection. The move on Tuesday is the latest sign that market forces are throttling the Trump administration’s bid to save the industry.

The collapse of the Ohio-based company had long been expected as coal-fired power plants close across the country.
» Read article     

Exxon Knew
Massachusetts Sues ExxonMobil For Climate Disinformation, Greenwashing
By Brendan DeMelle, DeSmog Blog
October 24, 2019

Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil today over the company’s misinformation campaign to delay action to address climate change.

Attorney General Maura Healey told reporters in a press conference today that “Exxon has fought us every step of the way,” and was “completely uncooperative,” noting that the company failed to comply with requests for documents and depositions.

“Exxon has yet to produce to our office a single document. They have yet to provide to our office a single witness. So they have been completely uncooperative with our investigation,” Healey told reporters.

ExxonMobil misstated facts and failed to disclose important information to both consumers and investors, according to the complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court by the attorney general’s office.
» Read article   
» Read complaint

» More fossil fuel industry news

BIOMASS

Potential Grows for Biomass Energy
By ERICA GIES, New York Times
October 20, 2009

Woody biomass provides just 0.94 percent of all U.S. energy now, supplying the equivalent of 3.5 million American homes. But Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association, a group in Portland, Maine, that represents about 80 plant-burning incinerators in 16 states, says available raw material would allow the industry to double its output. New incinerators are already being planned in many states.

The idea of homegrown, renewable energy, is appealing. It would qualify for tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and could benefit from support for renewables in the climate bill now going through the Senate.

But many environmentalists are worried. Some, like Chris Matera, founder of Massachusetts Forest Watch, warn that biomass incineration could cause major environmental damage, including the clear cutting of forests and the use of vast quantities of water for cooling. They also say that its combustion emissions are worse than coal’s — a serious charge because in both House and Senate versions of the climate bill, the technology falls into a “biomass loophole.” Categorized as a renewable energy source, biomass would be exonerated from emission caps.
» Read article    

» More on biomass

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Carbios biorecycling
In this “biorecycling” factory, enzymes perfectly break down plastic so it can be used again
The process lets any plastic—say a polyester shirt—be recycled into any other plastic (like a clear water bottle). It could fundamentally change the market for recycling.
By Adele Peters, Fast Company
October 17, 2019

Inside a bioreactor in the laboratory of the France-based startup Carbios, pulverized PET plastic waste—the kind of plastic found in drink bottles and polyester clothing—is mixed with water and enzymes, heated up, and churned. In a matter of hours, the enzymes decompose the plastic into the material’s basic building blocks, called monomers, which can then be separated, purified, and used to make new plastic that’s identical to virgin material. Later this year, the company will begin construction on its first demonstration recycling plant.

“Our process can use any kind of PET waste to manufacture any kind of PET object,” says Martin Stephan, the company’s deputy CEO. It’s a process that could happen in an infinite loop: Unlike traditional recycling, which degrades materials each time you do it, this type of “biorecycling” can happen repeatedly without a loss in quality.
» Read article   

» More on plastics recycling

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Weekly News Check-In 10/25/19

WNCI-4

Welcome back.

While the Baker administration continues to move toward approval of the Weymouth compressor station, all local politicians are campaigning on their opposition to it. Citizens and environmental groups continue the fight, with actions planned for October 30th and November 1st. You can follow these and other events here.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report, blaming last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions on weak engineering management at Columbia Gas. Meanwhile, the company has abandoned efforts to add capacity to the Northampton/Easthampton  area, and will extend the moratorium on new gas hookups indefinitely. Other pipelines in the news include Atlantic Coast, PennEast, and Bayou Bridge.

We found interesting reporting from Hopkinton this past July, where town officials were attempting to get Eversource Energy to explain a 2017 “thermal anomaly” at one of three large liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tanks – in which the temperature dropped abnormally. LNG is held at a constant -260F using refrigeration equipment.

Virtual pipelines were in the news because of two recent fatal accidents involving trucks carrying compressed natural gas (CNG). Moving volatile fuel entails risk no matter how it’s done.

Climate news highlights how deniers and carbon-intensive industries are fighting back against efforts to secure a livable future. Expect much more pro-carbon propaganda and fake news during the 2020 presidential campaign. It will come from the oil and gas industry, plastics and petrochemicals, agriculture (especially beef producers), and biomass – and it will be delivered by the likes of The Empowerment Alliance. All this is funded, of course, by dark money.

There’s some good news about clean energy alternatives – global benchmark prices for offshore wind, PV solar, and battery storage continue to fall. New York City is in the news for choosing to replace some gas peaker plants with battery storage.

We wrap up with news about the likelihood that taxpayers will foot the bill for cleaning up the mess after the fracking boom. Also a health warning that EPA limits for exposure to fine particulate air pollution are too high (this very much ties into the Baker administrations attempt to promote biomass as a source of “clean” energy). And a recent study indicates that Styrofoam in the ocean may not last forever.

— The NFGiM Team

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

Weymouth compressor foes vow to continue fight
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 22, 2019

Opponents of a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin say they will appeal a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection hearing officer’s ruling to uphold wetlands and waterways permits for the facility.

Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station leader Alice Arena said the group will challenge the ruling in superior court if DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg reissues wetlands and waterways permits to Algonquin Gas Transmission.

“We will ask Commissioner Suuberg to review this ruling,” she said. “It does not seem to be the policy of the DEP to follow their own regulations by giving us clean air, water, and soil.”

Arena said DEP hearing officer Jane Rothchild’s ruling to uphold the waterways and wetlands permits previously issued to Algonquin is ” extremely disappointing.”
» Read article

Weymouth council candidates vow to fight compressor station
By Ed Baker, Wicked Local Weymouth
October 21, 2019

Nearly all the councilors-at-large seeking reelection and their opponents vowed during a North Weymouth Civic Association candidates’ night on Oct. 16 to continue fighting against a proposed compressor station in the Fore River Basin.
» Read article

State official backs two key approvals for compressor station
By Jessica Trufant, The Patriot Ledger
October 16, 2019

WEYMOUTH — Opponents of a natural gas compressor station proposed for the Fore River Basin were dealt two major blows Wednesday when a state adjudicator recommended the approval of a waterways license and a wetlands permit for the project, triggering the start of the final state review in the approval process.

Hearing officer Jane Rothchild of the state Department of Environmental Protection said the department should uphold the license and permit issued to gas company Spectra Energy-Enbridge and reject an appeal filed by Weymouth and a citizens group, which together had argued that the proposed station would worsen air and noise pollution in the Fore River Basin and is not an appropriate use based on state waterways regulations.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg has the final say on the approval of the permit and license.

“In sum, the petitioners have failed to offer persuasive evidence demonstrating that the proposed project does not conform to the requirements of the applicable waterways regulations,” Rothchild wrote in her decision on the waterways license.

Mayor Robert Hedlund said the rulings Wednesday were “further salt in the wound” and a continuation of the town’s disappointment with state officials.

“We have a couple of state agencies that seem hell-bent on getting this permitted,” he said. “We thought we came up with some really strong positions to oppose this on the two permits in question today. Obviously, we don’t have a lot of sway with the feds, but in the areas the state had jurisdiction … we thought we had the greatest opportunity to fight this at the state level.”

Hedlund said the town has fought the proposal at every possible step. Local officials will now have to decide whether to appeal the license and permit in court.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS DISASTER – MERRIMACK VALLEY

Weak engineering management led to gas explosions, NTSB says
WCVB, Boston
October 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board released the final report Thursday on the investigation into the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

The probable cause of the overpressurization of natural gas, which led to the explosions and fires, was Columbia Gas’ “weak engineering management” that did not properly plan and oversee a construction project, the 73-page report says.

According to the report, Columbia Gas “did not adequately plan, review, sequence and oversee the construction project that led to the abandonment of a cast iron main without first relocating regulator sensing lines to the new polyethylene main.”

On Sept. 13, 2018, a series of fires and explosions began to erupt in Merrimack Valley homes and businesses served by Columbia Gas. One person was killed and 22 individuals were injured.
» Read article    
» Read report

NiSource Appoints Nick Stavropoulos, Veteran Gas Industry Executive, to Lead Safety Efforts for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
NiSource, via PR Newswire
October 16, 2019

NiSource Inc., (NYSE:NI) announced today the appointment of Nick Stavropoulos to a new, senior role focused on safety at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, one of NiSource’s subsidiary companies. Stavropoulos will serve as Chief Safety Advisor for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, and will report directly to Joe Hamrock, Chief Executive Officer and President of NiSource.

Stavropoulos recently retired from his role as President and Chief Operating Officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) following a career leading several of the country’s largest natural gas companies.

Stavropoulos will be based in Massachusetts and will advise on all operational safety strategy and planning statewide. As a senior safety expert, he will also engage regularly with external audiences as the company executes on its safety priorities across the state.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas / Merrimack Valley articles

COLUMBIA GAS / TGP 261 UPGRADE

Columbia Gas extends moratorium for Northampton, Easthampton customers
By SCOTT MERZBACH, Daily Hampshire Gazette
October 16, 2019

NORTHAMPTON — A moratorium on adding new natural gas customers in Northampton and Easthampton will continue indefinitely following a decision by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to abandon a project aimed at increasing the pipeline capacity for both cities.

The company last week announced that the moratorium for Northampton and Easthampton, which began in 2015 and has since meant new connections to its supply line are not allowed, will be extended due to changes in the planned “Greater Springfield Service Territory Reliability Project” first unveiled in November 2017.

The company contends that removal of leak-prone pipe, and offering energy-efficiency measures and load management solutions will maintain the safety, reliability and efficiency of its natural gas distribution system for Northampton and Easthampton, along with the rest of its service territory.

Kempic cited limited new growth potential in Northampton and cost as reasons for the cancellation of this project.
» Read article

» More Columbia Gas / TGP 261 Upgrade articles

OTHER PIPELINES

Atlantic Coast Pipeline waiting on Supreme Court, but natural gas debate in SC continues
By Andrew Brown, The Post and Courier
October 13, 2019

No applications have been submitted yet, but the battle lines are being drawn anyway.

The debate over natural gas continues to build in South Carolina, with industry groups and utilities highlighting a potential need for new pipelines and the state’s environmental groups hoping to deter such projects.

Construction on the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been on hold since December because of legal challenges over its federal permits. It’s now up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether work may continue on the project, which is set to begin in West Virginia and end in Lumberton, N.C., some 21 miles away from the South Carolina border.

But those legal setbacks haven’t stopped speculation about the massive project in the Palmetto State.
» Read article

Two New Jersey lawmakers ask FERC for hold on PennEast gas line work after 3rd Circuit setback
By Maya Weber, S&P Global
October 10, 2019

The lawmakers asked for the block on land-clearing and construction-related activities until PennEast submits a new route for FERC a new National Environmental Policy Act review, and a new determination is made of whether the project is in the public interest.

Megan Gibson, staff attorney with the Niskanen Center, which has argued on behalf of landowners, said that while construction is not yet underway, it would not be bad for FERC to issue a stop-work order to draw a bright line blocking any work beyond surveying at this point.
» Read article

Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction Mess Poses Major Risk to Atchafalaya Basin
By Julie Dermansky, DeSmog Blog
October 10, 2019

Construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline was completed at the end of March, despite high-water conditions, and has been operational for months.

“The destruction is even worse than I anticipated,” Wilson said, scanning piles of dirt left along the construction site that, in places, were blocking small natural waterways through the swamp.

“I knew it was going to be bad because construction should have stopped when the water got high, but I never imagined it would be this bad,” Wilson told me.

After a monitoring trip in October 2018 of the east side of the basin, when the water in the basin was about three and a half feet higher than normal, he found many navigable waterways blocked, and unbroken stretches of trenched dirt piles, known as spoil banks, restricting water flow in the basin. Wilson reported these issues to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has the authority to enforce regulations. Two weeks ago, on September 26, he was distressed to find the same waterways remain blocked off.

With documentation from several monitoring trips conducted in September, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, and Healthy Gulf, another environmental advocacy group, filed a federal administrative complaint that accuses Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC of a series of U.S. Clean Water Act violations in the basin.
» Read article

» More articles on other pipelines

LNG NEWS

Hopkinton wants answers on ‘thermal anomaly’ at LNG tank
By Jonathan Phelps, MetroWest Daily News
July 15, 2019

HOPKINTON — Fire Chief Steve Slaman is unhappy about town officials being left in the dark about Eversource Energy’s plans to identify and repair a “thermal anomaly” that took place in one of three massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks on Wilson Street.

While officials don’t know the exact cause, the middle tank — known as Tank B — experienced an abnormal drop in temperature in December 2017. The tanks are designed to keep the LNG at a constant temperature of minus 260 degrees.

“They can’t explain it, so they decided to drain the tank,” Slaman said.

The temperature drop came to Slaman’s attention in August 2018 — eight months after the energy company discovered it, according to town officials. The tanks are located at Wilson Street and Legacy Farms Road North.

Last week, Slaman, who also serves as the town’s emergency management director, sent a letter to state Department of Public Utilities officials asking for help to facilitate better communication and planning between the town and Hopkinton LNG Corp., an affiliate of Eversource.

“I have been excluded from real-time information sharing and planning on this important safety issue,” Slaman wrote. “Unless I directly ask for information, the company does not provide it to me.”
» Read article

» More LNG articles

VIRTUAL PIPELINES

virtual pipeline in ditch
After Second Deadly Crash, Regulators Say Trucks Leaking Fracked Gas Cargo Are Fine
By Justin Nobel, DeSmog Blog
October 17, 2019

Last Friday, October 11, a “Virtual Pipeline” truck carrying compressed natural gas crashed on a highway in Orange, Massachusetts, killing the driver, leaking the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, and leading local authorities to evacuate nearby residents.

“Let me put this in perspective, if one of these trucks blew up in the right conditions, it could destroy a neighborhood,” said Bill Huston, director of a research and advocacy program called Terra Vigilate, and one of a small group of advocates raising awareness about the extreme risks of fire and explosion of Virtual Pipeline trucks. “We have called every state and federal agency, we have called the news media, and nobody is responding. These trucks are a brand-new technology, and nearly entirely unregulated — it’s very frustrating.”

This was the second Virtual Pipeline truck crash within three weeks in which the driver was killed and the special cylinders containing the gas, which can be highly explosive, were compromised. It’s part of a string of accidents that a retired state regulator says indicates the vehicles may be violating a federal exemption allowing the trucks to operate, but which federal regulators have disputed.
» Read article

» More virtual pipeline articles

CLIMATE

he who cannot be named
Trump Administration to Begin Official Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord
By Lisa Friedman, New York Times
October 23, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing the formal withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to three people briefed on the matter, a long expected move that nevertheless remains a powerful signal to the world.

The official action sets in motion a withdrawal that still would take a year to complete under the rules of the accord. Abandoning the landmark 2015 agreement in which nearly 200 nations vowed to reduce planet warming emissions would fulfill one of President Trump’s key campaign promises while placing the world’s largest economy at odds with the rest of the globe on a top international policy priority.

“I withdrew the United States from the terrible, one-sided climate accord, was a total disaster for our country,” he told a crowd of cheering men and women in hard hats on Wednesday at a natural gas conference in Pittsburgh.
» Read article

TEA logo - large
‘The Empowerment Alliance’ and Other New Dark Money Groups Sound a Lot Like the Natural Gas Industry
By Dana Drugmand, DeSmog Blog
October 22, 2019

Amid the crescendo of calls for climate action and rising rage directed at the fossil fuel industry, petroleum producers and their allies are engaging in an aggressive promotional push focused on natural gas. The same month that the American Petroleum Institute (API) started running ads emphasizing gas’s role in reducing carbon emissions, a new dark money group has launched under the patriotic guise of promoting “America’s energy independence” by promoting, you guessed it, natural gas.

That group, called The Empowerment Alliance (TEA), is a registered 501(c)4 that does not disclose its donors (and is not required to under law). TEA launched on September 30 with a news release filled with natural gas industry talking points and attacks on the Green New Deal. The organization describes natural gas as “essential to our shared prosperity” in terms of jobs, national security, energy costs, and even air quality, while the Green New Deal is labeled as “radical and unachievable” and a “risky tax scheme.”

This anonymously funded organization, from its leaders to its messaging, is part of a broader chorus of misleading talking points that goes beyond the “natural gas and oil” industry (as the API ads say) to conservative media pundits and top strategists and officials within the Trump administration and the GOP.
» Read article

big beef strikes back
As Beef Comes Under Fire for Climate Impacts, the Industry Fights Back
In at least two states this year, beef and dairy industries have successfully beat back government food initiatives linking livestock to global warming.
By Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News
October 21, 2019

In California, a state legislator introduced a bill called the California Climate-Friendly Food Program, with the goal of promoting plant-based foods in schools and reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to livestock.

Within a few months, references to climate change were stripped out of the text and title. The bill instead became the California School Plant-Based Food and Beverage Program.

On the other coast, in Maryland, the state’s Green Purchasing Committee launched the Carbon-Intensive Foods Subcommittee to study which foods have the largest carbon footprints and to steer the state away from buying those foods. The administration of Gov. Larry Hogan disbanded the committee months later.

In both cases, the states’ farm and beef lobbies got their way.
» Read article

outdoor AC - Doha
Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air condition the outdoors
By Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, reprinted in The Denver Post
October 20, 2019

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors — in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.

Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide. In Qatar, total cooling capacity is expected to nearly double from 2016 to 2030, according to the International District Cooling & Heating Conference.

And it’s going to get hotter.
» Read article

Utilities Are Promising Net Zero Carbon Emissions, But Don’t Expect Big Changes Soon
While the utilities tout ambitious mid-century climate goals, most plan to rely heavily on coal and natural gas for decades. That’s a problem for climate change.
By Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
October 15, 2019

On the western shore of Lake Erie in Michigan, the Monroe Power Plant has been burning coal since the mid-1970s. Its owner, DTE Energy, has no intention of shutting down the massive power plant any time soon, despite its new pledge to cut its company-wide carbon emissions to net zero.

DTE’s plans for the Monroe plant are emblematic of a problem surfacing as a growing number of utilities promise to significantly cut their planet-warming emissions: a lack of urgency.

The timing matters. A recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius—the aim of the Paris climate agreement—human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide will have to fall to net zero by mid-century.

Since CO2 emissions build up in the atmosphere and remain there for centuries, those cuts can’t wait until 2050. They have to start now and should be down by nearly half by 2030 for the least disruptive transition, the IPCC shows.
» Read article

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors 3 Who Enabled a ‘Fossil Fuel-Free World’ — with an Exxon Twist
The winners developed lithium-ion batteries that made electric vehicles and battery storage for solar and wind power possible as climate solutions.
By Neela Banerjee, InsideClimate News
October 10, 2019

When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to three scientists who developed lithium-ion batteries, it noted the importance of their research in making “a fossil fuel-free world possible,” with electric vehicles and renewable energy storage helping cut emissions that drive climate change.

The great twist in the story is that the Nobel recipient cited for making the “first functional lithium battery,” M. Stanley Whittingham, came to his discovery in the 1970s as a research scientist in the laboratories of Exxon, the corporation that later would lead the vastly successful effort to deny climate change. ExxonMobil faces a trial in New York later this month for allegedly misleading shareholders about the risks climate change poses to the company—and their investments.

Whittingham was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday along with John B. Goodenough, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and Akira Yoshino, a chemist at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan.
» Read article

Rich Counties Get More Help to Escape Climate Risk, New Data Show
By Christopher Flavelle, New York Times
October 9, 2019

Federal programs to help Americans move away from disaster-prone areas are skewed by the income levels of communities seeking help — rather than being based solely on the risk they face — new data shows, blunting an important tool for helping people cope with climate change.

Since 1989, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has bought and demolished more than 43,000 homes in flood-prone areas, a strategy meant to make communities less vulnerable to disasters. But which homes get selected for the buyouts depends as much on the wealth of the affected neighborhoods as on the actual level of danger that those areas are exposed to, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The findings raise concerns that limited federal funding for adapting to climate change isn’t helping the areas that need it the most, according to the paper’s authors.

“Who benefits?” asked Katharine J. Mach, a professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the paper’s lead author. “There is a real potential for our responses in a changing climate to make the fat cats fatter, so to speak.”
» Read article

life not death for grandchildren
As Climate Rebellion Spreads, UK Gov. Risks “Carbon Blowout” By Investing in Gas
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International – blog post
October 7, 2019

As I write, the latest mobilization of inspiring climate activism by Extinction Rebellion is underway in some 60 cities across the globe, in protests that started in New Zealand and Australia, which then spread across Europe and are now targeting the financial district in New York.

In London, there are two weeks of protests around Westminster, trying to force the UK Government to adopt for mare radical targets to decarbonise the economy by 2025, not the stated Government policy of 2050.

As the Washington Post notes about today’s protests: “It seems their tactics work. It was after those protests, that [UK] Parliament declared a climate emergency. In June, the government signed up to a 2050 decarbonization target, the first major economy to do so.”

But, this comes with a caveat. The Government of Boris Johnson is probably the least climate-friendly ever, with many links to fossil fuel funded think-tanks. The UK Parliament may have declared a climate emergency, but in its Brexit-dominated political deadlock, it has taken no meaningful action on climate.

In fact, the opposite is true, over the last three years since the Brexit vote, as the climate emergency has intensified, the British Parliament has wasted three years of time, and billions in finance that could have helped solve the climate problem. Britain could have shown true climate leadership. It may have signed up for a 2050 decarbonisation policy, but this is way too late to prevent climate chaos.

And it is still making the problem worse. Like many other groups, Oil Change International has pointed out that gas is no bridge fuel. It will not solve the climate crisis.
» Read article

Standing Rock
The Next Standing Rock Is Everywhere
The fight to stave off pipeline projects across the country is being led by tribal nations and marginalized communities. It’s time to listen to them before it’s too late.
By Nick Martin, The New Republic
October 7, 2019

In the past three years, numerous media outlets, The New Republic among them, have predicted a variety of similar pipeline controversies could be the “next Standing Rock.” But the exercise misses something fundamental about the new age of environmental justice.

Pipeline companies—and their lobbyists and ex-employees they’ve planted in the government—are learning. The pitch-to-pipeline process, so often practiced at the expense of marginalized communities, has been honed to perfection. Every day, energy companies participate in the political process that sets the rules of play. With each passing state legislative budget session and hurried community consultation town hall, their roots sink deeper—not just here, in America, but in Canada, in Europe, and in Asia. They are everywhere.
» Read article

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

low benchmark wind-solar-battGlobal offshore wind prices drop 32%: BloombergNEF
By Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive
October 24, 2019

Global benchmark prices for offshore wind have plunged 32% in the past year and 12% in the last six months, according BloombergNEF’s latest analysis released Tuesday.

Benchmark prices hit $78/MWh for the second half of 2019, largely driven by cheaper equipment costs, according to analysts. Meanwhile, onshore wind and solar prices have dropped 6% and 11% respectively since the first half of 2019, hitting global benchmark prices of $47/MWh and $51/MWh. Battery storage prices also fell 35% in the past year, hitting a global average of $186/MWh.

“Ongoing cost declines mean that benchmark PV and wind plants are just 4-5 years away from starting to challenge existing coal and gas plants on a cost-of-energy basis,” BloombergNEF said in its executive summary. “[I]n the U.S., recently financed wind farms in the most windy states are at cost parity with the least efficient operating gas plants, even without the production tax credit.”
» Read article

Richmond Council Limits Commerical Solar Sprawl
By TIM FAULKNER, ecoRI News
October 21, 2019

RICHMOND, R.I. — Another rural community is setting limits on renewable energy.

A week after the the Hopkinton Town Council banned wind turbines, the Richmond Town Council moved to curtail utility-scale solar sprawl.

With no opposition from the public or developers, the council voted unanimously Oct. 15 to adopt a ban on commercial solar development in residential neighborhoods, areas that are classified as R-3 zoning districts. The town already prohibits wind turbines.

The latest restriction on renewable energy in Rhode Island is part of a trend that many communities are following, especially towns with farmland and open space, as developers look for cheap land for industrial-scale wind and solar projects. Efforts to pass statewide siting rules have been sidelined by policy disputes in the General Assembly.

To help these communities, a study through the Office of Energy Resources would help create incentives for building renewable projects on brownfields and built environments such as parking lots and former quarries.
» Read article

New York City trades gas plant for the world’s largest battery
Regulators have approved Ravenwood Development to build a 316 MW / 2,528 MWh energy storage facility across the East River from Manhattan to replace two gas peaker plants in Queens.
By John Weaver, PV Magazine
October 18, 2019
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved a 316 MW / 2528 MWh (that’s 8 hours!) energy storage facility (pdf) to “provide peak capacity, energy, and ancillary services in New York City while enhancing grid reliability”. Ravenwood Development (owners of the current gas plants at the site) plans to build out the project in three phases – 129 MW, 98 MW and then 89 MW – with the first phase complete by March 2021. There is no timetable given for deployment of second and third phases of the project.
» Read article

» More clean energy articles

FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY NEWS

fracking tabWill the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?
By Justin Mikulka, DeSmog Blog
October 18, 2019

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

“It’s starting to become out of control, and we want to rein this in,” Bruce Hicks, Assistant Director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, said in August about companies abandoning oil and gas wells. If North Dakota’s regulators, some of the most industry-friendly in the country, are sounding the alarm, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the nation.

Legally, oil and gas companies are required to set aside money to pay for well cleanup costs, a process known as bonding. These requirements vary by state and for public lands, but in all cases, the amounts required are so small as to be practically irrelevant.
» Read article

Saudi Arabia’s $2 Trillion Climate Wreckage Sale
By Andy Rowell, Oil Change International
October 16, 2019

Later this week, the board of the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, known as Saudi Aramco, is expected to give its final approval to proceed with its long awaited part privatization, otherwise known as an “Initial Public Offering” or IPO. It is predicted to the biggest IPO in history.

Last week the Guardian newspaper published details of the 20 fossil fuel companies whose “relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.”

Those who invest in Saudi Aramco will be investing in oil production, just at a time when fossil fuel disinvestment increases apace. And rightly so, as CNN points out, one of the risks to the sale is “the potential for reduced oil consumption due to concerns about climate change.”
» Read article

» More fossil fuel industry articles

BIOMASS

particle pollution
Scientists fired by Trump warn particle pollution standards don’t protect people
Group was disbanded by the EPA, but continued its work anyway, as Trump agencies roll back environment and health protections
By Emily Holden, The Guardian
October 22, 2019

A group of scientist advisers dismissed by the Trump administration has concluded that national limits on fine particles of air pollution aren’t strong enough to protect people.

The expert panel of epidemiologists and toxicologists was disbanded by the Environmental Protection Agency but decided to continue its work anyway.

The members are issuing their warnings as US regulators are reconsidering a standard for particulate matter – the inhalable pollution that is 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The pollution can include any of hundreds of chemicals and come from power plants, cars, construction sites and fires. It is linked with breathing and heart illnesses and early deaths.

“Based on full consideration of the overall body of scientific evidence, we unequivocally find that the current standards for fine particulate matter do not protect public health and must be revised,” said Chris Frey, a scientist from North Carolina State University who chaired the group. “There is no way for EPA to spin this otherwise.”
 » Read article    
» Blog editor’s note: this article does not specifically mention biomass, but regional development of biomass power plants would increase fine particulate pollution in the northeast. See Baker administration attempts to reclassify biomass as a clean renewable energy source.

NH biomass layoffs
Layoffs Begin At Embattled N.H. Biomass Plants After Subsidy Plans Fail 
By Annie Ropeik, NHPR
October 18, 2019

Two of the state’s wood-fired power plants are going offline and laying off staff, after subsidy plans failed in the legislature.

Now, the state is offering job training resources to affected workers – and a new proposal would put more funds toward helping affected workers in the timber industry.

The biomass plants in Springfield and Whitefield laid off most of their 40 total workers this week, says Jasen Stock, the head of the state Timberland Owners’ Association.
» Read article

Is Massachusetts Opening the Door to Dirty Energy?
At the behest of the biomass industry, the Commonwealth might redefine clean energy for the state and start subsidizing pollution.
By Rohemir Ramirez, Conservation Law Foundation blog
October 11, 2019

Earlier this year, I joined Springfield, Massachusetts, residents protesting proposed changes to a state policy that would help build a dirty power plant in their neighborhood. As written, these changes would significantly roll back hard-fought protections against environmentally harmful biomass plants. Community members were unanimous: they do not want these changes, and they do not want this plant.

CLF agrees. These policy changes would incentivize biomass plants to emit more dangerous air pollution, underreport their climate impacts, and take families’ and businesses’ money while harming the health of our communities. They prioritize profits for industry executives over the people who live and work near the plants. And, while biomass developers are pushing for changes that would imminently affect Springfield, weakening this regulation encourages companies to build dirtier power plants in other vulnerable communities, too.
» Read article

» More biomass articles

PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

styrofoam on beach
In the Sea, Not All Plastic Lasts Forever
Polystyrene, a common ocean pollutant, decomposes in sunlight much faster than thought, a new study finds.
By William J. Broad, New York Times
October 11, 2019

A major component of ocean pollution is less devastating and more manageable than usually portrayed, according to a scientific team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Previous studies, including one last year by the United Nations Environment Program, have estimated that polystyrene, a ubiquitous plastic found in trash, could take thousands of years to degrade, making it nearly eternal. But in a new paper, five scientists

Many nations, companies, citizen groups and ocean institutes, as well as United Nations programs, have worked hard to ban single-use items and better regulate their disposal.

“We’re not calling the concerns or the actions wrong,” Christopher M. Reddy, a marine chemist at Woods Hole and another author on the study, said in an interview. “We just have a new thread to add and we think it’s significant.”
» Read article

» More plastics articles

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Weekly News Check-In 9/6/19

WNCI-7

Welcome back.

We’re pleased to bring you a nice profile article on our friend and ally Pat Martin, who has staunchly resisted the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure while tirelessly advocating for clean, renewable energy.

In local news, Weymouth has another delay in the compressor station approval process, and we have a link to an interesting podcast on last year’s Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

On the climate, we’re approaching a potential tipping point beyond which the Amazon rain forest cannot recover – a prolonged and terminal state of die-back. We also found a provocative and informative video to get everyone calibrated on how much renewable energy we really need as we fully decarbonize – and some uncomfortable choices we’ll face.

We’re making progress on renewables, but a new study finds we’re not moving fast enough. And as promised, the Trump administration appears closer to eliminating California’s independence in setting vehicle emissions standards.

Looking at the fossil fuel industry, we find continuing investments in new infrastructure that will not pay off in the event that the Paris Climate Accords are met. A red flag for investors and also for the planet.

— The NFGiM Team

FEATURE

Pat Martin, A Tireless Advocate for Clean Energy
Paul Cuno-Booth, SentinalSource.com
August 30, 2019

Patricia Martin still remembers the oil crisis of the 1970s. The gasoline rationing, the long lines at gas pumps.

Martin, then a young woman, also absorbed something else: “All the people talking about, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way.’ ”

It stayed with her. In the decades since, Martin has continued to think about energy issues and work on them in her spare time. Now, with humanity facing a much more severe crisis — that of climate change — she’s drawing on a lifetime of passion and expertise to tackle the issue on the local, state and regional levels.

Martin, 69, a Rindge resident, chairs her town’s energy commission. She gives to national climate-advocacy groups. She has been arrested twice in acts of climate-motivated civil disobedience.

Several years ago, she helped fight off the proposed Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline, which would have run through Rindge and other Cheshire County communities. She tracks N.H. Public Utilities Commission dockets and comments on proposed fossil-fuel projects. She’s involved in efforts to bring more solar power to the Monadnock Region.

These days, much of her energy goes toward working with a group called Mothers Out Front, a national organization advocating for a transition to clean energy.
» Read article

WEYMOUTH COMPRESSOR STATION

State Delays Review Of Proposed Natural Gas Compressor Station In Weymouth
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service via WBUR
September 3, 2019

A key state agency’s decision on a natural gas compressor station proposal in Weymouth will not come this week as anticipated following an agreement to delay the review process once again.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs told the News Service on Tuesday that the parties involved agreed to another one-month stay on Aug. 16. Regulators will now restart their review on Sept. 16 and complete it by Oct. 5 unless they seek further delays.
» Read article

» More Weymouth compressor station articles

COLUMBIA GAS / MERRIMACK VALLEY DISASTER

Fire in the Valley
Episode 1: The First Minutes Of A Disaster
By Sean Corcoran, WGBH Podcast
September 6, 2019

Within moments of the first alarms, homes and businesses in the Merrimack Valley are aflame. Hundreds of people call 9-1-1, as thousands of residents in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover run from their homes, seeking safety in the streets. By the time the gas is shut off, 131 buildings are damaged or destroyed, one person is dead, and nearly two dozen are transported to hospitals.
» Play podcast

» More on the 2018 disaster

CLIMATE

burned amazon
‘It’s Really Close’: How the Amazon Rainforest Could Self-Destruct
Climate change and man-made fires could set off a cycle of self-perpetuating deforestation, scientists warn.
By Max Fisher, New York Times
August 30, 2019

As fires rage across the Amazon, a growing number of scientists are raising the alarm about a nightmare scenario that could see much of the world’s largest rainforest erased from the earth.

Climate change, along with the fires and other man-made forces, appear on the verge of triggering a significant change in the Amazon’s weather system.

No one knows for sure whether and when this might happen, though some scientists who study the Amazon ecosystem call it imminent. If it does happen, a body of research suggests, the Amazon as a whole would cross a tipping point and begin to self-destruct — a process of self-perpetuating deforestation known as dieback.

If that is left unchecked, half or more of the rainforest could erode into savanna, according to some estimates, and then the rainforest, which has long absorbed the world’s greenhouse gases, could instead begin to emit them.
» Read article

First Gigawatt Down (Part II)
Video by Footprint to Wings
Published on July 30, 2019

Climate solutions like you’ve never seen them before. Are you ready to race to zero carbon? What’s your favorite play? Do you have what it takes to move your team to get a first gigawatt down in that play?
» Blog editor’s note: video contains excellent examples of what massive deployment of renewable energy sources like wind and solar entail. The conclusion to temporarily maintain nuclear energy in the mix is controversial but deserves sober consideration. Note that the video does not promote development of new nuke sites.
» Watch video

» More climate articles

CLEAN ENERGY ALTERNATIVES

Renewable Energy’s Booming, But Still Falling Far Short of Climate Goals
Power sector emissions would have been 15 percent higher in 2018 without the past decade’s renewable energy growth, a UNEP report shows.
By Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News
September 6, 2019

Renewable energy capacity quadrupled worldwide over the past 10 years, with an estimated $2.6 trillion invested in its growth, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme shows. But the speed of that growth still falls far short of what researchers say is needed to keep global warming in check.

To meet the Paris climate agreement aim of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last year that the world would need to invest an average of about $3 trillion to $3.5 trillion every year between 2016 and 2050.

“There is certainly a global shift,” said Kathy Hipple, an analyst with the Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “The question is, ‘Is it moving fast enough from a climate perspective?’ And arguably it’s not.”
» Read article

» More clean energy alternatives articles

CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

CARB independence
White House Prepares to Revoke California’s Right to Set Tougher Pollution Rules
By Coral Davenport, New York Times
September 5, 2019

President Trump is strongly considering a plan to revoke California’s legal authority to set state tailpipe pollution standards that are stricter than federal regulations, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The potential challenge to California’s authority, which would be a stinging broadside to the state’s governor and environmentalists, has been widely anticipated. But what’s notable is that the administration would be decoupling its challenge to California from its broader plan to weaken federal fuel economy standards, the latest sign that its plans for that rollback have fallen into disarray.
» Read article

» More clean transportation articles

FOSSIL FUEL NEWS

stranded fossil investments at 2C
New Oil Projects Won’t Pay Off If World Meets Paris Climate Goals, Report Shows

Not a single tar sands project is likely to pay back investors under a 2°C global warming scenario, Carbon Tracker found.
By Nicholas Kusnetz, InsideClimate News
September 6, 2019

The world’s leading oil companies increasingly have argued that they must be part of the world’s transition to a low-carbon future. But a new report shows that despite their rhetoric, they continue to spend their money as if that transition may never come.

In just the past year, the biggest global companies committed billions of dollars to projects that will likely lose money if the world slashes fossil fuel use fast enough to meet the Paris climate accord goals, the report, released Thursday night, shows. That poses serious risks to investors.
» Read article

2020 Looks Like the Breakout Year for Building Decarbonization in California
Policymakers are coalescing around electrification as the solution for squeezing carbon out of buildings. Is the market ready?
By Justin Gerdes, Greentech Media
August 23, 2019

California has just 25 years to achieve its economywide carbon-neutrality target. Buildings account for about a quarter of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, so concerted efforts will be needed to squeeze carbon out of the sector, especially existing buildings.

State policymakers are increasingly coalescing around a solution: electrification. As a recent California Energy Commission (CEC) report put it: “There is a growing consensus that building electrification is the most viable and predictable path to zero-emission buildings.”

Recent events underscore this sentiment. California regulators just overhauled a legacy policy that acted as a brake on building electrification. New incentives for electric appliances could be available by the end of this year. Meanwhile, local governments across California are moving to adopt bans on new natural-gas hookups, grabbing the attention of the state’s powerful oil and gas industry.
» Read article

» More fossil fuel articles

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