Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/3/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the second.  It’s longer than usual because there likely won’t be another Roundup until July.

Politics and Policy

This Associated Press (AP) story does an early analysis of the European Union elections just held and says one result was more seats for Germany’s Green Party which might mean a “boost [for] climate action in Europe”.  The Washington Post (WaPo) was more effusive, with this headline:  “European Greens surge as voters abandon old parties over climate”.

The New York Times reports that the current Administration is upping its attack on climate science by “seek[ing] to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests”.  A WaPo opinion writer says “The Trump administration takes climate denial to new heights”.

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “Democrats ramp up calls for live primary debate on climate change”.  Reporter Dino Grandoni notes that “The pressure for them to do talk about climate change is coming from both the bottom up and top down within the Democratic Party.”  He adds:  “But those pushing for a climate-centric debate have yet to convince one key group — the Democratic National Committee, which officially sets the terms of the party’s dozen primary debates.”  Energy 202 also reports that “the Trump administration has decided to describe fuel that oil and gas companies are selling abroad [as] ‘Molecules of U.S. freedom’ and ‘Freedom gas’”.  The Guardian also reported this storyEnergy 202 also interviewed all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates about climate and publishes “the most interesting answers here.

Conservative opinion writers Jon Anderson and Heather Reams declare in The Hill that “Trump should back renewable energy, it’s fiscally responsible”.  Bloomberg reports that “The Sierra Club and billionaire Charles Koch have found at least one thing to agree on: They hate OH’s plan to take away renewable power subsidies and give them to coal and nuclear plants.”  A young spokesperson for RepublicEn writes in “An Endangered Species” about challenges arising from being a conservative Republican who “believes in climate change” and wants to act on that belief.  Two representatives– a Democratic and a Republican—write in a Fortune article that “75 Executives Lobbied Congress for a National Carbon Price. We Listened”.  They stated: “We represent different parts of the country and stand on opposite sides of the aisle in Washington, but we agree that there is perhaps no issue as urgent for our nation—and our economy—as tackling climate change.”  They noted that “… an increasing number of both Democrats and Republicans agree on a key policy to address climate change: putting a price on carbon pollution.”  Eos reports that “Senator Rips Trump on Anniversary of Plan to Leave Climate Pact”.

A recent ExxonMobil shareholder meeting saw a debate about climate change arising from several shareholder proposals.  The AP reports that the CEO said the company is “’very focused on growing shareholder value’ while balancing it with ‘this risk of climate change and society’s aspirations for lower emissions’ of carbon’.”  The shareholder resolutions failed to pass.  Barron’s offers this story:  “Climate Risk Is Both Chronic and Acute. Here’s What That Means for Portfolio Managers.”

Potpourri

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issues its latest report on efforts to clean up the Bay.  This Virginia Mercury article offers some details.  The Augusta Free Press has this article announcing that June 1 – 9 is Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week and highlighting several events.

ACTION ALERT:  CBF asks Virginians to weigh in on Phase III of Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint.  Especially if you live within the Bay’s watershed, you have a strong interest in this plan.  CBF’s website gives details on how to offer your opinion.  The deadline to offer comments is June 7.

Grist gives a list of 10 environment-related documentaries to watch.  PBS Newshour has a list of “5 novels about climate change to read now”, saying “As scientists, international organizations and frustrated citizens sound the alarm against inaction, a new crop of writers have sought to depict what a future world might look like if humans don’t do something.”

How important is our soil?  This Guardian item gives us some clues.  For example, did you know that “[f]or every 1% increase of carbon [in the soil], an acre of land can hold an additional 40,000 gallons of water”?  Or that one handful of soil contains “more organisms than people on earth”?  Or that “[t]he world grows 95% of its food in the uppermost layer of soil, making topsoil one of the most important components of our food system”?

This Roundup includes several items about resources “under our feet”—including soil and geothermal energy.  Here are 2 more.  Southwest VA Representative Morgan Griffin weighs in on the importance of, and threats, to U.S. ability to obtain rare earth metals given our current reliance on China for much of our supply.  From PRX’s Reveal Weekly, come 3 audio stories about several ways the melting glaciers, sea level rise, and thawing permafrost in the Arctic are threatening indigenous peoples and U.S. security.

VA’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) has a website that might prove of interest to those interested in energy.  It’s called Value Your Power and it includes some good information about solar power in its Energy 101 tab.  There is also a Facebook page that appears to be available to everybody.

The City of Harrisonburg and its Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC) are hosting an open house to showcase their Phase I Environmental Action Plan, according to the Augusta Free Press.  It will happen at the Atrium at City Hall on June 5 from 5 to 7 pm.

ANOTHER ACTION ALERT:  If you reside in Harrisonburg, you have a stake in this plan.  Here’s a link to the event page, which includes a link to a pdf version of the plan.  The public comment period ends June 20; you do not have to attend the open house to submit your comments.

Climate

What’s Happening?

Here’s a story about an endangered marsh bird that calls the LA wetlands home. “[T]he eastern black rail[‘s] habitat is shrinking because of development, pollution and global heating….  Soon [the] interior department will overhaul the rules for protecting species, with changes that could make it even harder to consider the current and long-term threats of global heating.”  PBS Newshour talks with some Louisiana residents about what they’re seeing and doing.

Recently the U.S. has seen record flooding and many severe tornados.  Here’s a story from WaPo about flooding’s devastating effects on an IN farmer.  Esquire says “The Question Isn’t Whether We’re Approaching an Agricultural Disaster.  It’s How Often They’ll Happen.”  Thompson Reuters Foundation News reports on tornado aftermath in MO and flooding in OK.  Wired.com weighs in with “For the Midwest, Epic Flooding Is the Face of Climate Change”.  CNN explains why “the US has seen tornadoes, floods and extreme heat in the past few weeks”.  Huffpost addresses “What We Know (And Don’t) About Tornadoes And Climate Change”.  And Inside Climate News tackles the same question.  With the 2019 hurricane season now here, U.S. News provides stories from several coastal communities.  This collection is titled “Hurricane Season 2019: A Sense of Fear for Towns Already Hit”.

Perhaps counterintuitively, according to The Science Times, “Climate Change Causes Growth Spurt Among Old Trees”.  The PBS Newshour Weekend brings us a story titled “Centuries-old ships’ logs give insight into climate change”.  The National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that “ONE THING scientists are sure will happen as the world warms is that the seas will rise, putting millions of people at risk of land erosion, flooding and permanent displacement”.  WaPo’s Editorial Board ended an opinion piece with “President Trump and those in his administration ignore scientists’ increasingly dire warnings to the peril of their children, grandchildren and the rest of humanity.”  And a New York Times (NYT) opinion writer says “To Make Headway on Climate Change, Let’s Change the Subject” to, e.g., “the economic advantages of cleaning up … [states’] electric grids”.

Inside Climate News, reporting on a recent study, says “Global Warming Was Already Fueling Droughts in Early 1900s ….”  The study concludes that “[g]lobal warming has been fueling droughts since the early 20th Century, when soils started drying out at the same time across parts of North and Central America, Eurasia, Australia and the Mediterranean”.

Like whiskey?  From The Guardian comes “Scotch on the rocks: distilleries fear climate crisis will endanger whisky production”.

Here’s a somewhat hopeful story from The Guardian about “The butterfly effect: what one species’ miraculous comeback can teach us”.  The Guardian also has a story about the steep decline in the right whale population, linking it to warming oceans.

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

Appalachian Voices (AV) has a feel-good story about VA’s southwest and plans for a collaborative grant-funded project to bring “solar to businesses, homes, schools and an abandoned mine.”  The latter would be the site of a data center.  AV is part of another new collaboration, reported in the last Roundup, called VERC (Virginia Energy Reform Coalition) and has this press release about the coalition.

You may remember Kendyl Crawford from her time at Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter.  She is now Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.  Energy News Network summarizes an interview that its reporter did with Kendyl titled “Climate leader works to shape ‘environmental awakening’ in Virginia”.  This non-partisan group is “dedicated to mobilizing a religious response to climate change through energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy”.

Another Virginian, long-time solar advocate Ruth Amundsen, has established a fund called Norfolk Solar, to “to bring the benefits of solar power to low-income communities”, according to the Virginian-Pilot.  The Pilot also reports that Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and the U.S. Navy partnered to produce a detailed report about steps needed to protect Navy bases from sea-level rise.  Not surprisingly, major infrastructure projects are identified.

A Grist reporter talks about how to talk to “climate deniers” in this story that leads with references to Bob Inglis, director of RepublicEn, a conservative VA-based non-profit that is pushing for market-based solutions to address climate change.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) says that, thanks to funding from Michael Bloomberg, it and University of Maryland’s Center for Global Sustainability will produce “a third Fulfilling America’s Pledge report”.  RMI also reports that “Cities in Red and Blue States Act for a Clean Energy Future”, citing efforts in Albuquerque, Boise, Missoula, Orlando, and Cleveland, noting that “Cities are at the frontlines of climate change ….”

The Roundup for May 12 – 25, 2019, reported that Atlanta GA committed to 100% renewable energy by 2035.  This NPR story shows that the city will face roadblocks from the utility that serves the city.  Why?  “… [Because] it turns out one thing Atlanta can’t do is choose where its energy comes from. As in many places, the utility — Georgia Power — makes that decision because it’s a monopoly. It’s also regulated by statewide elected officials who are all Republican, none of whom has emphasized climate change as a concern.”

The AP says “Anchorage [AK] adopts climate plan to reduce carbon emissions”.  KTOO News presents a story about southeast AK that begins “Alaska’s most recent plan to address climate change was removed from the state’s website back in December.  Meanwhile, some municipalities and tribal governments are moving ahead with their own ideas about how to respond to the growing problem.”  CBC reports that “Southeast Alaska [is] experiencing [its] first recorded extreme drought”.  Reuters says the U.S. Interior Department plans its “first oil lease sale in [the] Alaska Arctic refuge this year”.

From ABC News comes a report that “California approves power outages to prevent more wildfires”.  The Roundup for May 12 – 25 2019 included a story about the utilities’ requests to institute such outages in the face of wildfire threats and about a winery owner who installed solar and storage to insulate her business from the negative effects from loss of power.

MPR has a 4-minute audio clip about “Climate change risk showing up in real estate”. Curbed asks “Are waterfront hotels ready for climate change?”

Scientific American discusses “What Conservation Efforts Can Learn from Indigenous Communities”, saying that “nature on indigenous peoples’ lands is degrading less quickly than in other areas”.

E&E News says “’All eyes of the world are on Juliana’”.  That’s the court case filed by 21 youths, “arguing that the feds violated their constitutional right to a safe climate by approving oil and gas production and other development — despite knowing for years that extracting and burning fossil fuels contributes to rising global temperatures….  A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments at the Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday”.

Energy

Renewable Energy

News 3 TV in Tidewater reports that “Offshore wind could bring clean energy and jobs to Hampton Roads”.  “Old Dominion University and the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter hosted a town hall meeting” during which several experts “discussed the opportunities offshore wind could bring to Hampton Roads.”  Offshorewind.biz’s story announces that “Virginia DMME and Old Dominion Uni Sign Offshore Wind Deal”.  Writing in The Virginia Mercury, Ivy Main says “At long last, Dominion decides it’s game on for offshore wind”.  In contrast, Wired says “The Military Is Locked in a Power Struggle With Wind Farms”, and the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal reports that some NC legislators believe that a “‘No-windmill’ rule could help avoid base closures”.

Grist has a story about geothermal energy that suggests “The ticket to 100% renewable power is underneath our feet”.

Locally, the Augusta Free Press publishes this story about a Department of Energy award to Staunton’s Secure Futures.  “The team received national recognition for their solar barn-raising projects, completed in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).”  One of these projects happened at Harrisonburg’s Gift and Thrift.  NBC4 TV airs this story:  “Charlottesville Organizations and Community Members Ride Around Town for Rooftop Solar Tour”.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

The Miami Herald’s Editorial Board brings us this editorial about offshore drilling:  “Threat of offshore drilling in Florida still alive. Leaders should insist Trump kill it off”.

There continue to be tree sitters opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).  The Roanoke Times reports on the MVP’s owners’ legal action against two of them.  The Virginia Mercury provides an update on legal actions that present hurdles to both the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

In the May 12 – 25 Roundup, we included this item:  Reuters reports that “U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal”.  The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that “Chief Justice John Roberts granted the request.”

Utilities

This story comes from the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union.  It’s about financial difficulties of the city’s “community-owned electric utility”, JEA, and may be a harbinger of dilemmas facing similarly-situated utilities.  Greentech Media (GTM) recently interviewed the “chief innovation and transformation officer at Jacksonville municipal utility JEA, on the next wave of disruptive technologies and concepts in the electricity business: “Disruption is the new normal.”  GTM’s reporter opened the article saying “JEA, the municipal utility in Jacksonville, Florida, has become a leader in the state’s residential energy storage landscape with the introduction of a rebate program and an updated net metering structure. It is considered as one of the most innovative municipal utilities in the country.” (Harrisonburg Electric Commission, HEC, is a municipal electric utility.)

Several VA media outlets reported on a recent VA SCC rejection of a Costco application to avoid Dominion’s rate increase and lower its electricity costs by aggregating its 27 stores’ electricity usage and shopping for a new energy supplier.  It joins other large retailers whom the SCC has denied.  The SCC took the position “that allowing Costco to shop for another power supplier would shift costs to residential and small-business customers of Dominion that don’t have the option under current Virginia law.” [from Richmond Times Dispatch]  Here are articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Virginia Mercury, the Augusta Free Press, and Bacon’s Rebellion.  It seems that the SCC, in this and other rulings, is suggesting that Costco and others whose similar applications it rejected, try to persuade the VA General Assembly to change the law.

Energy News Network has an opinion piece by Patrick Flynn, the vice president of sustainability for Salesforce, asking “Virginia’s utilities, regulators, and lawmakers to prioritize clean energy in their policymaking and grid-planning activities.”  Mr. Flynn argues that “It’s time for Virginia to power a clean energy future”.  Bacon’s Rebellion highlights the “Rider E” case before the SCC in which Dominion asks for a rate increase to offset its expenses in its General Assembly mandated coal ash removal.

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