Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/25/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the first.

Politics and Policy

The Washington Post (WaPo) reports that “Half of Maryland’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030”.  A new mandate will go into effect without Governor Hogan’s approval, but he says he’s “committed to addressing climate change”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports “Republicans vote against bill containing their key climate priority: researching energy innovation”, saying the party-line vote in a House committee “illustrates how Republicans are still prioritizing getting funding for other Energy Department initiatives over bipartisan provisions on climate change.”

Blogger Steve Haner, writing in Bacon’s Rebellion, gives his take on Bob Inglis’ (https://www.republicen.org/) recent appearance at the National Regulatory Conference in Williamsburg.  After noting Mr. Inglis’ advocacy for a national carbon fee and dividend “tax”, Mr. Haner opines that “A carbon tax or greenhouse gas tax can work to lower emissions and alter consumer behavior, but it must be 1) nationwide, 2) economy-wide, not aimed at one sector and 3) structured to put pressure on the rest of the world.  A cap and trade system is a useful mechanism to get from A to B.  These economic processes work and their impact is more even across the board.  The downside is more limited than with many other approaches being advocated.”

Bloomberg reports that “Senate Republicans are readying a response to populist climate initiatives such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” with measures that they say adhere to their free-market principles and stand a better chance of becoming law.  The emerging proposals to fight climate change would avoid imposing dramatic cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, they seek to promote clean energy technology such as energy storage, renewable power and carbon-capture technologies. One measure would create an investment fund to pay for the research.”

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “The Energy 202: EPA blocks a dozen products containing pesticides thought harmful to bees”.  But The Guardian reports that the chemical industry wields power within EPA, at least when it comes to banning chemicals such as a degreaser called trichloroethylene (TCE).

WaPo says “States aren’t waiting for the Trump administration on environmental protections”, citing examples from “More than a dozen states [that] are moving to strengthen environmental protections to combat a range of issues from climate change to water pollution, opening a widening rift between stringent state policies and the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda.”  The states include HI, NY, CA, MI, NJ, CO, NM, and OR.  The story quotes a MI water treatment manager as testifying to a U.S. House committee that “It is difficult to communicate to your customers that New Jersey or Minnesota or Vermont has evaluated the risk to their residents differently, and that one state places a lower value on protection of public health than another….”

Despite what seems to be increasing media coverage about the effects of climate instability, at least one 2020 Presidential candidate, running on a “climate platform” is finding many Americans aren’t that interested.  WaPo describes Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s experience this way:  “Inslee’s long quest to transform nature-loving sentiment into climate change legislation has been akin to a grim march through the desert. The man who wants to be America’s first climate change president has seen firsthand the difficulties of putting in place policies to slow the warming of the globe.”

Here are several stories that, together, are sort of in the “Can You Believe It?” Department.  They’re all about VA’s largest utility, Dominion Energy.  Bacon’s Rebellion brings us two with these headlines:  “Dominion Energy Joins Consortium Demanding Climate Change Legislation” and “Dominion Announces Support for Carbon Tax”.  And Ivy Main, in her Power for the People VA blog, brings us the third:  “Dominion keeps trying to pull the wool over our eyes”.  The consortium is the CEO Climate Dialogue.  The Washington Examiner has a story about business support for the carbon tax, noting that “Oil giants BP and Shell pledge $1M each to Republican-backed carbon tax”, adding that “BP and Shell join industry competitors ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil, which previously donated to Americans for Carbon Dividends.”  This group is “led by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker III and George Shultz [and] is promoting a carbon tax plan that would return the revenue to taxpayers.”  RTO Insider talks about the newly formed Virginia group (VA Energy Reform Coalition) that is pushing for a deregulated electricity market in VA because it believes Dominion Energy’s and Appalachian Power’s dominance is not good for all stakeholders.  “The Virginia Energy Reform Coalition (VERC) features policy experts from across the ideological spectrum united against what it considers wasteful infrastructure spending funded by ever‑increasing electricity rates.”

Potpourri

In a Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost, Jim Bacon describes how Sweet Briar College has found a market‑based business opportunity in niche “Artisanal Agriculture” playing “into two mega‑trends: the increasing number of women farmers and the growing vitality of artisinal [sic] agriculture.”

According to The Guardian, toxic water is a legacy of a military base in CO and Colorado Springs businesses are suing the military.

“Dominion needs to ramp up efficiency programs to hit mandate, advocates say” is the headline in a recent article from Energy News Network.  “Watchdogs fear the first phase of Dominion Energy’s kilowatt-saving measures indicate that Virginia’s largest utility will fall far short of the $870 million it’s required to spend on energy efficiency over the next decade.”

Climate

What’s Happening?

A phys.org reports that “Global temperature change attributable to external factors, confirms new study”.

The Guardian reporter Khushbu Shah in Mexico Beach, Florida describes the huge challenges that town faces many months after Hurricane Michael struck.  WaPo reports that, finally, Puerto Rico and some other states—including FL–hard-hit from “natural disasters”–might get some federal funding, IF both houses of Congress approve a bipartisan, negotiated deal and the President signs the bill.  There was a last minute hitch this week during the House’s consideration of a bill that the Senate had passed.  This CNN report describes what happened.

The Guardian reports that “‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica”, referring to “New research show[ing] affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places”.

The Guardian provides a poignant description (“‘This is a wake-up call’: the villagers who could be Britain’s first climate refugees”) of how a Wales village, facing inundation from sea level rise, is coping with what’s coming for them (and other villages, cities, towns, and countries around the world).

Who’s Doing What (or Should or Shouldn’t Be)?

The Guardian announces its new “decision to alter its style guide to better convey the environmental crises unfolding around the world [and reports that this action]  has prompted some other media outlets to reconsider the terms they use in their own coverage.”

The BBC describes the latest global school climate strike:  “School students around the world have gone on strike to demand action on climate change.”

An April 2019 McKinsey and Company article describes what utilities could be doing, given the high cost of extreme weather events (see examples in What’s Happening).

The New York Times (NYT) Climate Forward describes “One Thing You Can Do: Drive Smarter”.

It also tells us how our discarded toothbrushes are spoiling “paradise.”

Writing for Sierra Club, Heather Smith reports that the scientists who wrote the “summary report released by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)” “Did More Than Tell Us We Were Doomed”.  She says they also “gave us a road map out”.  Lewis Page, also writing for Sierra Club, describes an Extinction Rebellion activist-led event in San Francisco (“Climate Activists Are Rebelling. Are Politicians Finally Listening?”).  And Sierra Club’s Jonathan Hahn talks about Nathaniel Rich’s book Losing Earth in “Why We Didn’t Act on Climate When We Had the Chance”.

Grist reporters Lisa Hymas and Ted MacDonald remind us “The royal baby is cute and all, but hello, the planet is on fire”.

Texas landowners face challenges if they want to protect their property from coal ash detritus and pipelines, according to these items in Grist and Yale Environment 360.  Two stories suggest some Houston TX residents would like to see the city expand its current oil and gas focus.  Grist offers and opinion piece, “Houston teen: Why my oil-soaked city could be ground zero for a greener future”.  And the Midland Reporter-Telegram (mrt) publishes an op-ed by “Charles McConnell, a longtime energy executive and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy … [and] executive director of the Center for Carbon Management in Energy at the University of Houston.”  The author explains “How to make Houston the sustainable energy capital of the world”.

Dallas TX’s municipal government wants to save money through a shift to renewable energy, according to this item in PVTECH.  The “… $472.6 million deal with electricity firm TXU Energy will see the Texan city slash energy costs by almost US$80 million over 10 years, compared to existing arrangements.”

According to this Atlanta Business Chronicle article, “Athens, Ga., commits to 100% clean energy by 2035”.

Miami Today reports that “Solar power plants may sit atop Miami-Dade County lakes”.  The article noted that “a December report from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showing significant potential for the technology, including the possibility that floating solar plants covering just 27% of stateside water bodies identified as suitable[,] could produce almost 10% of current national power generation.”  And CBS Local Channel 4 in Miami tells us that “South Miami Wants [t]o Be Powered By [t]he Sun”.  The item opens with these lines:  “The mayor of South Miami says he wants to see the city powered primarily by the sun.  As part of a recent resolution passed unanimously by the council, officials want to transition to running the city on 100 percent renewable energy in the next 20 years.  It’s the first city in Miami-Dade to make this type of commitment.”  WBBH/WZVN NBC2 TV in the Miami-Dade area accompanied local Representative Francis Clooney, 35 of his constituents, and marine scientists on a trip to observe first-hand the effects of climate change and sea level rise, visiting nearby Keewaydin Island.  The article’s reporter concludes:  “About six months ago, we confirmed that a number of Southwest Florida leaders from Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties were talking about forming a regional collaboration that would focus on climate-related challenges and solutions.  Since then, we’ve learned that one formal meeting has taken place, and those discussions are ongoing.  The regional approach isn’t a new idea.  Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties have a compact to address climate-related challenges and solutions together.”

WaPo’s Energy 202 provides a story about CA winery owner and resident of an area who survived a large wildfire and “realized the danger frequent wildfires could pose to the electricity that powers her daily life.”  She decided to be proactive by installing her own solar panels for use when the electric utility turned off electricity in areas potentially affected by wildfires.  This woman “is just one of several residents whose concern about California utilities’ plans to impose blackouts has led them to install solar panels and battery systems to keep power on during an outage.”

The Virginian Pilot reports that “Scientists hope tiles that look like Disneyland’s castle can jumpstart native oyster reefs” in several Tidewater VA waters.

Energy

Renewable Energy

A Saluda VA farmer writes in The Virginia Gazette about his decision to install solar panels.  In Augusta County, the Board of Supervisors vetoed a solar farm in Stuarts Draft, according to the Staunton News Leader, saying it’s out of compliance with the Comprehensive Plan.  The same paper also reports that another solar developer plans to propose another solar farm in a different part of the county.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) published a blogpost from World Resources Institute, making the case that “In the United States, the falling cost of renewable energy means the economic case for investing in renewables is stronger than ever before” and “Across the country, from South Carolina to Nevada, states are taking new measures to harness wind and solar power. Since January, more than 10 state legislatures have enacted policies that encourage new renewable energy development.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that “Solar power gets cheaper, more popular in Georgia”, according to “Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols” during a visit in TN.

NPR Radio station WFAE 90.7 in NC reports that “Duke Starts Work On Mountain Solar And Battery Projects”.

Talk Business & Politics (TB&P) says an Arkansas county ”is racing to become the first county in the Natural State to install a solar energy system to power all of its local operations”– “Phillips County ready to ‘go solar’ with new $1 million project”.

The Times-News reports that Spartanburg County SC Supervisors believe the growth in small solar farms has been a boon for economic development in the county.

KRISTV in the Corpus Christi TX area notes that “Solar panels [have] become a more viable option for homes and businesses”.

In the Is-Biomass-Really-Renewable-Energy? Department, the Jackson Free Press gives a story about activist efforts to “Warn [a]gainst ‘World’s Largest Pellet Mill’ in Mississippi”.

The U.S. has many places where the wind blows so often and so powerfully that wind power has become more prevalent in places such as IN and TX.  But, not everybody wants the huge power line infrastructure that’s needed to move the wind-generated electrons from wind farms to urban areas.  This is the message of a story from the Houston Chronicle.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

Reuters reports that “U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal”.  The reporter said that “Some analysts think Dominion could cancel the pipeline if the Supreme Court does not hear the case because the project’s costs have ballooned due to legal and regulatory delays.”

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph tells yet another tale of a tree-sitter pipeline protester in “Grandmother tries to obstruct MVP by taking residence in tree”.

We all remember, with horror, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its environmental, political, economic, and legal aftermath that continues even now.  The Associated Press (AP) brings us up to date on another Gulf spill, this one a 14-year long one.  Maybe we can think this is “good news”.

 

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