Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/4/2019

Thanks to Joy Loving for compiling this week’s climate news!

Politics and Policy

This Washington Post’s Energy 202 item says “Fossil fuel ban on public lands becomes issue in 2020 Democratic race”.  Axios reports that 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Jay Inslee has offered his energy plan.  Grist says “Beto’s first major 2020 policy proposal is a $5 trillion climate plan”, referring to Beto O’Rourke, another 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate.

A Love’s Travel Stop executive writes in an op-ed for Energy News Network that a bill under consideration in South Carolina would enable more businesses to install solar.  He argues:  “outdated policies and bureaucratic red tape make going solar nearly impossible.  In the most expensive energy state in the nation, that is unacceptable. If a lower-cost energy option exists, businesses deserve the freedom to choose it.”

Despite the development of soon-to-be-finalized regulations authorizing VA to partner with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states, Gov. Northam has declined to veto budget amendments that would prohibit spending money to implement the program.  These articles from the Augusta Free Press (AFP) (“Virginia carbon reduction plan could be on hold”), the Virginia Mercury (VM) (“Northam won’t veto GOP budget language that could cripple carbon-capping plan”), and the Washington Post (WaPo) (“Northam retains GOP language in budget to keep Va. out of carbon-reduction plan”) report on the Governor’s explanatory statement detailing his actions on the state budget.

The Governor said “The Department of Environmental Quality recently finalized a regulation to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants by 30 percent over the next decade. While the General Assembly has restricted the Commonwealth from participating in RGGI, I am directing the Department of Environmental Quality to identify ways to implement the regulation and achieve our pollution reduction goals.” (AFP)  However, the governor “did not offer an explanation for failing to exercise the veto, which proponents of the rule to cap and cut carbon emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants had repeatedly urged” (VM). “Northam lamented the situation …, calling the carbon-cap restriction a ‘disappointing and out-of-touch’ provision. But his advisers apparently believed he lacked the legal authority to veto that language (WaPo).”

Legislation to establish a price on carbon and have carbon-emitters pay toward the cost of the environmental result—e.g. fee and dividend, cap and trade—is pending in Congress.  The Transportation and Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States (TCI) recently offered a video, “Cap and Invest 101”, to present implications from a transportation perspective.  Not everyone favors a carbon fee and dividend approach, including some climate activists, as this WaPo Energy 202 item discusses.  On the other hand, the Houston Chronicle posts this opinion piece:  “Charge a carbon fee. Let the market fix climate change.”  And Bloomberg weighs in with “GOP Tiptoes Toward Climate Plans as Ocasio-Cortez Turns Up Heat”.

There’s lots of talk, pro and con, about the “Green New Deal” (GND).  Grist hosted an April 16 webinar on the subject; you can listen here.  The New York Times (NYT) offers an opinion piece by Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty, making the case for a market-driven GND.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that some climate activists believe NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s GND isn’t “green” enough.  And Northwest Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz opines in nwfdailynews.com that the “Green Real Deal” (GRD) is the way to address climate change.  GRD is an alternative to GND, as covered here, here and here.

You may know that the City of Harrisonburg is in the process of developing an environmental (or sustainability) action plan.  It should be available for public comment sometime this month.  Meanwhile, the San Antonio TX Business Journal reports that local businesses there have thrown support behind that city’s climate plan.  And, according to this piece by Nashville Public Radio, Nashville, TN’s Metro Council is considering legislation to require 100% of its energy needs be met by renewable energy (RE), at least 10 percent of which is solar, by 2041.  Elsewhere in TN, wdef.com reports that “Mayor Berke says Chattanooga accepting Green Light Challenge”.  The Mayor wants his city to be eco-friendly with a new solar array for its waste treatment plant.  The Guardian reports that Amsterdam plans to “ban petrol and diesel cars and motorbikes by 2030” and diesel vehicles over 15 years old by 2020.  Not everyone agrees that this is doable, but Madrid, Rome, and the Danish government are considering similar actions.

The current Administration is no fan of the term (or likely results of) “climate change”.  As one of the eight Arctic Circle nations, the U. S. representative “pushed to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy”.  This WaPo article provides some details and points out that this initial position of the U.S. might be softening.  Interestingly, WaPo also reports that a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report “tells communities to brace for climate change impacts”.

On May 2nd, the U. S. House of Representatives passed HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act, put forward to keep the U. S. in the Paris Climate Agreement.  Read about it here.  Representative Ben Cline, who serves the 6th VA District, voted against this bill, according to GovTrak.us.  (In his weekly perspectives email to constituents, Mr. Cline described another vote this way: “The week concluded with my signing another discharge petition, which would force a vote on the Green New Deal. This misguided legislation would hurt the U.S. Economy, Virginia agriculture, and put our farmers and ranchers out of business…. I believe it is time for Democrats to put their beliefs on the record with a vote on the Green New Deal and when it fails, hopefully we can meet and work on true solutions with an all of the above energy policy for the United States.”)  The Verge reports “House Democrats vote to protect Paris climate agreement But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it ‘will go nowhere’”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 gives its take in “Here’s why Democrats pushed to pass a climate bill that isn’t going anywhere”.

This week’s RepublicEnClimate Week in Review” offers several items highlighting efforts by the “Eco Right”—in Congress and elsewhere—to acknowledge and act on climate change.  Of note was this:  “Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick joined New York’s Rep. Elise Stefanik and Florida’s Rep. Vern Buchanan to vote for the Climate Action Now Act, which seeks to block the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.”  Somewhat differing accounts of two other RepublicEn items appear in the NYT and Grist.  The NYT reports on Wyoming’s Republican Senator John Barrasso proposed legislation promoting nuclear energy.  Noting that the Senator “… has spent years blocking climate change legislation”, the reporter says Senator Barrasso “added a twist: a desire to tackle global warming.”  Grist tells us about Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson under this headline:  “It’s my party, and I’ll fight climate change if I want to”.

Potpourri

Writing in The Guardian, Robert Macfarlane discusses the intriguingly named “Anthropocene unburials”.  In this essay, he “travels ‘Underland’” to help us recognize and understand that what lies beneath our feet, all around the earth, can teach us a lot about our world’s history.  He also points out that, as some of what’s been buried for millennia rises to the surface, one other result is even more greenhouse emissions.

The local public radio station, WMRA, has produced a report on climate actions in the Valley.  Some CAAV members were interviewed and photographs used for the piece.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides “What You Need to Know about Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint” here.  There are some interesting examples of benefits flowing from this Blueprint, including one in Waynesboro.

We’re starting to learn about the negative impacts on the environment of our plastics addiction.  These two articles in The Guardian give some details:  “If we care about plastic waste, why won’t we stop drinking bottled water?” and “’Biodegradable’ plastic bags survive three years in soil and sea”.

The media has received its share of criticism for insufficient reporting about climate change and its effects.  The Guardian reports on its discussions with climate change experts on how to improve.  It also has an opinion piece by Liv Grant, who worked on David Attenborough’s recent BBC documentary, “Climate Change: The Facts”.  Ms. Grant explains how shaken she is by “climate anxiety” from what she learned during its making.  This Grist item may help us understand why, despite dire warnings and terrible climate-change weather disasters, we don’t also react well to that “C-C” term—it’s because our brains don’t register it.

Climate

This piece about Canada in The Guardian focuses on the need for urgent action on climate “preparedness” because of extreme flooding there.

The NYT Magazine of April 9, 2019 is a “Climate” issue.  One story, “The Next Reckoning:  Capitalism and Climate Change”, discusses the important role of capitalism in the effort to curb greenhouse gases and find alternatives to fossil fuels.  The NYT Food Section gives us this advice:  “Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered.  How to shop, cook and eat in a warming world.”  And this NYT piece offers some ideas about “How Does Your Love of Wine Contribute to Climate Change?” and suggestions for what you can do about it.

This fascinating NYT article by Lee Robbins tells us:  “Studying the historical data stored in centuries-old trees is a burgeoning field, with labs around the world learning more about historical patterns of weather and climate and the effects on humans”.

Grist presents an article about our endangered marine life as documented in a Nature study just published.  Things are worse than we thought in our oceans.

Energy

The Guardian has this article about floating solar panels designed by Dutch engineers.  An example of the kinds of innovation we’ll need to see in the marketplace going forward?

This week’s Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) update notes that, after relative calm in activities around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), some storms may be coming.  The Roanoke Times reports that there may be new questions involving pipeline impacts on an endangered species.  Not all actions are about VA’s proposed pipelines.  This Associated Press (AP) story describes efforts by PA landowner, represented by a VA-based legal group, to receive compensation for an eminent domain seizure.

More than one person has said that the kilowatt saved, or not used, is as important, if not more so, than the kilowatt generated by renewable energy (RE).  This Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost by Chelsea Harnish of The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) makes a case that, in fulfilling requirements for new energy efficiency (EE) programs by the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, “Utility-sponsored programs can benefit Virginians in a variety of ways throughout the Commonwealth.”  The AFP reported that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) formally approved six residential and five non-residential EE programs and that VAEEC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, formally intervened in the SCC process for handling utilities’ applications for the EE programs.

Remember the BP Gulf oil drilling fiasco?  Well, the current Administration apparently does.  And it’s decided to loosen regulations put in place after that happened, according to this Chron.com item and Darryl Fears’s piece in WaPo’s Climate and Environment.  This piece in the AFP suggests that the “Offshore drilling safety protections rollback by Trump administration heightens risk of oil disaster.”  The Administration has decided to scale back on its plans for seismic mapping in the Atlantic to search for oil drilling sites.  Nonetheless, WaPo Energy 202 suggests this approach might have negative consequences for Republicans at the polls.

 

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