Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/25/2019

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

Politics and Policy

Climate change remains part of the 2020 Democratic candidates’ campaign rhetoric.  The Washington Post’s (WaPo) Energy 202 reports that “Joe Biden vows to ‘go well beyond’ Obama with new climate plan”.  However, Energy 202 also reports that “Biden lifting language for climate plan sparks questions about its seriousness”.  2020 candidate Gov. Jay Inslee has a plan “to End Corporate Welfare, Hold Polluters Accountable and Transition the U.S. Economy Off of Fossil Fuels”. Inside Climate News reports on “Election 2020: The Candidates’ Climate Change Positions and Accomplishments”.

This CarbonBrief article reports on a study that found that “[p]olitical lobbying in the US that helped block the progress of proposed climate regulation a decade ago led to a social cost of $60bn”. According to Politico, the Department of “Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change”.  And WaPo reports that the “White House tells agencies they no longer have to weigh a project’s long-term climate impacts”.

Energy 202 also has this story about how a “former EPA appointee wants to make climate change a winning issue for Trump”.  And this item:  “Want to address climate change? Fix campaign finance first, 2020 Democrats say.”  And this one:  “Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus tries to find footing in new political reality”

Potpourri

NPR has a story that warns “The ‘Great Dying’ Nearly Erased Life On Earth. Scientists See Similarities To Today”.

These Bacon’s Rebellion blogposts suggest that sea level rise off the VA coast really is more than “recurrent flooding”, as many of our legislators want to believe:  “Moral Hazard and Sea Level Rise” and “The Waters Increased Greatly Upon the Earth”.

Ever worry about your carbon footprint when you travel?  Budget Travel brings this story about what one well-known traveler and writer is doing about his.

PRI’s Living on Earth has a series focusing on numerous aspects of climate change.

Grist asks “Is it time to retire ‘climate change’ for ‘climate crisis’?”  Grist also wonders if Leonardo DiCaprio’s newest “hopeful” movie is “too hopeful”.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance offers this podcast about “Energy Monopolies: The Dark Side of the Electricity Business”.

Climate

What’s Happening?

The Philadelphia Inquirer says “Some of Pennsylvania’s iconic tree species might not survive climate change”.  A related story in the same paper explains “[h]ow sea-level rise threatens 500-year-old black gums in a primeval New Jersey forest”.

More about trees:  Reuters says “Satellite data shows Amazon deforestation rising under Brazil’s Bolsonaro”.  Yale Environment 360 warns that “U.S. Forests Are Being Clear-Cut to Supply Biomass Energy Industry, Report Finds”.  The same outlet summarizes research showing that wetland trees emit a lot of methane.

This CNN story about a recent report says “Climate change could pose ‘existential threat’ by 2050”. Pacific Standard Magazine’s Sophie Kasakove reports on Louisiana’s reaction to its receding coastlines due to sea level rise, saying “managing population migration and decline has become a new focus in the state”.  CNN says “This week’s heat wave in Europe is a preview of what the climate crisis has in store”.

Most of us recognize that our oceans and their inhabitants are in trouble for numerous reasons.  The Guardian summarizes a report that says “Climate crisis and antibiotic use could ‘sink’ fish farming industry” and “Investors’ network warns of serious risk to aquaculture from global heating as well as over-reliance on medicines”.  The Virginia Mercury brings a similarly troubling story about Virginia’s ocean waters, titled “A ‘long, creeping change’: As climate warms, Virginia fisheries struggle to adapt”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 notes “Trump administration says ocean trash cleanup is a top priority on Asia trip”.

Sea walls might help the U.S. coastal cities, towns, and communities cope with sea level rise, at least for a while.  But can we afford the price tag of “$416bn by 2040”, asks this Guardian article.  A Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost reacts to VA’s expected cost of $31.2 billion, but the blogger doesn’t believe the assumptions are realistic.  The CBC says “’It’s a problem for society’: Climate change is making some homes uninsurable.  The CBC also asks “Could Canada be a safe haven for climate refugees?”  Climate change is an ‘existential’ threat, says insurance CEO”.  Thomson Reuters Foundation addresses the effects of sea level rise on the mental health of coastal residents.  The Guardian warns of a coming “climate apartheid” in this story.  In part, the report says “The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert has said.”

ABC News reports that 74 “Medical groups warn climate change is a ‘health emergency’”.  The report says, in part:

“Among other things, the groups are pressing elected officials and presidential candidates to ‘meet and strengthen U.S. commitments’ under the 2015 United Nations climate agreement from which Trump has vowed to withdraw. They’re also pushing for some form of carbon pricing, although without any reference to potential taxation of emissions, and ‘a plan and timeline for reduction of fossil fuel extraction in the U.S.’”

This Guardian article says “Alaska is melting and it’s likely to accelerate global heating.  The state has just had its warmest spring on record, causing permafrost to thaw and dramatically reshaping some areas”.  The Guardian also says the photograph in this article “lays bare reality of melting Greenland sea ice”.  Pine Tree Watch’s Sea Change suggests we face a reckoning because of our long delay in changing policy after scientists’ findings and warnings:  “A ‘Climate Chronology’ illustrates decades lost in a treacherous time lag between scientific evidence of the climate crisis and policy action”.

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

Pacific Standard Magazine writer Louise Fabiani asks “What If Climate Change and Rising Nationalism Both Had the Same Solution?”  Newsweek reports that “Donald Trump’s EPA Chief Insists ‘We Take Climate Change Seriously’ Despite President’s Climate Change Denials”.  Notwithstanding that assertion, Reuters reports that “U.S. EPA is sued [by the Natural Resources Defense Council] for ousting scientists from advisory committees”.  And Grist has a story that “Former EPA chiefs [from both parties] blast the Trump administration over rollbacks, budget cuts, bad science”.

Reuters also notes that U.S investors are nervously assessing and addressing climate risks.  The New York Times (NYT) Climate section says “Companies See Climate Change Hitting Their Bottom Lines in the Next 5 Years”.  WaPo has a similar storyPVBuzz summarizes a NYT article titled “Climate Change Poses Major Risks to Financial Markets, [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] Regulator Warns”.  Inside Climate News reports that “Global Shipping Inches Forward on Heavy Fuel Oil Ban in Arctic” and “The International Maritime Organization started work defining which fuels would be banned and how. It also listed ideas to cut black carbon but didn’t prioritize.”

Newsweek describes a proposal by Norwegian and Swiss scientists for “Giant Floating Islands That Turn Atmospheric CO2 into Fuel [and] Could Prevent Climate Change”.  Oxy has a story about what may sound like off the wall idea:  “The Next Way to Stop Climate Change: Storing Data in Space”.  From the Philippines and Mongabay comes the story of “Small-scale women seaweed farmers rid[ing] the rough tides of climate change”.  Rocky Mountain Institute offers this report on what some cities are doing to improve their resilience in the face of climate-related challenged.  Houmatoday.com offers this news about Shell Oil and LA:  “Shell donates 4,139 acres of wetlands to aid in flood protection”.  Forbes has an article about a way for agriculture to assist with carbon reduction:  “Indigo CEO: Agriculture Can Reverse Climate Change And Livestock Farming Has An Important Role”.  Local (Swope VA) blogger Robert Whitescarver talks about an “Agricultural Carbon Capture Incentive”.  WaPo describes yet another way to get rid of excess carbon in “The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it”.  From the Augusta Free Press comes this reminder about the Shenandoah Valley’s agricultural industry; this should help us all reflect on what we stand to lose if we do not address our climate crisis.  The Daily Climate provides a story about U.S. staple crops that is hopefully not a preview of what might happen in the Valley.

Energy

Renewable Energy

Utilities and customers who produce electricity from their solar panels disagree on the benefits of solar energy to the grid.  This NPR story highlights how this plays out in AL for one utility customer.  Bloomberg reports a NY version of this conflict.  In contrast, this Las Vegas Review-Journal item offers some positive news:  “New law opens door to solar energy for more Nevada families”.  The Virginian-Pilot presents an op-ed by guest columnist and solar advocate Ruth Amundsen about the possibilities of “opportunity zones”.  She notes that “The tax legislation allowing Opportunity Zone Funds is the first time in decades that the federal government has effectively incentivized individuals to invest their capital gains in the poorest communities.”  Several Stuarts Draft and Lyndhurst landowners have been seeking approval for a solar farm on their properties; the Augusta County Board of Supervisors have said no.  The News Virginian reports that “Solar farm proponents ask Augusta County Board of Supervisors to reconsider”.

USA Today reports that “everything you know about energy in the US might be wrong”, noting that “Coal is over”, “Renewables are getting ever cheaper”, and “Batteries are becoming a thing”.

Energy News Network brings a story about Danville VA’s investment in solar:  “This Virginia city is rooted in tobacco, but its revival is drawing power from solar”.  Savannah Morning News tells how Jekyll Island is using a landfill site to produce solar energy.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

Eminent domain has been a fractious issue between pipeline builders and the owners whose lands they seize.  The Des Moines Register reports that “Dakota Access pipeline was justified in using eminent domain, Iowa Supreme Court rules”.  In prior Roundups, we’ve seen articles about pipeline protesters who seek to disrupt construction.  Politico says the “Trump administration seeks criminal crackdown on pipeline protests”.  This Fayetteville Observer op-ed argues that there is “[n]o public need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects”.  NC’s Times-News says “State denies Mountain Valley Pipeline application [for water quality certification and riparian buffer authorization] for now”.  WMRA Public Radio reports that one legal challenge related to this pipeline may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.  S & P Global says “Dominion [is] confident it will win Atlantic Coast Pipeline legal challenges”.  Bloomberg Environment suggests “Virginia Pipeline Projects Could Drive Voters to the Polls”.  This Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost asks “Which Would You Prefer: Pipelines or Trucks?”  KY’s WFPL Radio describes “Bernheim Arboretum Battle… For Conservation Over Growth In Pipeline Feud.  From the Roanoke Times comes a report that “Pipeline opponents, spurned by the state, ask federal agency to stop work”.

The Virginia Mercury and Bacon’s Rebellion weigh in on a “June 21 Air Pollution Control Board vote…[of] 6-1 to grant Chickahominy L.L.C. a permit to build a 1,650-megawatt natural gas generating station in Charles City County. The Virginia Mercury says “Massive new Charles City natural gas plant, which will emit millions of tons of carbon, approved by state air board”.  Noting that “If built, the power plant, developed by Chickahominy LLC, a subsidiary of Balico, LLC, would be the largest fossil-fired power plant in Virginia”, the article also says:

 “The DEQ said the Chickahominy plant will be the ‘cleanest facility of its type’ in the country and use air-cooling technology to manage turbine temperatures instead of millions of gallons of water per day.

‘To ensure pollution control to the greatest extent possible under the law, DEQ took the additional step and brought the application before the Air Board for consideration,’ said DEQ Air Director Mike Dowd in a statement. ‘Based on feedback received from the public, DEQ revised the draft permit to include more stringent greenhouse gas limits, which resulted in a more stringent permit compared to any other power facility in the country.’

Some locals and conservation groups opposed the plant, with many questioning whether there had been adequate public notice of the project.”

The Bacon’s Rebellion blogger notes:  “If built, the plant would be the largest fossil fuel generating station in the state, surpassing Dominion Virginia Power’s 1,640-megawatt Chesterfield power station that is largely coal-fired. Also planned for Charles City County is a 1,100-megawatt natural gas generating plant planned by Michigan-based NOVI Energy….  The two plants, however, raise important questions about permit-letting and natural gas markets.”  Writing about the seemingly abrupt decision to approve these plants in The Virginia Mercury, guest columnist Elizabeth Kreydatus says “Change Virginia’s ‘hush and hurry’ tendency on environmental regulation”.

ProPublica and the Charleston Gazette-Mail join forces to report on a property rights victory in WV:  “Court to Big Fracking Company: Trespassing Still Exists — Even For You.  In a key property rights decision, two West Virginia residents scored a rare victory from the state Supreme Court.”

Nola reports that “$700 million in oil spill money [is] slated for Louisiana roadwork”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “The truth comes out about the longest-lasting oil spill in Gulf of Mexico”.

WTOC TV serving coastal SC and GA offers this item:  “Coastal business owners believe offshore drilling would be dangerous for SC”.  The Associated Press reports on a lawsuit by ten environmental groups objecting to recent proposed changes in federal rules governing offshore drilling. The suit alleges in part that the changes “will make oil and gas exploration and development off the Pacific, Atlantic, Alaska, and Gulf coasts “significantly more dangerous”.  A somewhat encouraging report comes from Newsweek:  “Dozens of Coastal Republicans Vote with Democrats to Ban Offshore Oil, Gas Drilling”.  The votes, coming as “the Trump administration rolled back more environmental protection policies put into place by the Obama administration[,] were not a single piece of legislation but rather several smaller amendments successfully attached Thursday evening to a much larger appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020. The bans, if enacted, would be in place for one year.”

WFPL Radio reports that “Ky. Coal Association Says Bloomberg Pledge To Close Power Plants Would Be ‘Devastating’”.  The article notes:  “Bloomberg’s ‘Beyond Carbon’ campaign will seek to influence state and local governments over the next three years or so. Most of the money is expected to fund environmental groups and candidates pushing for renewable alternatives to coal power.”  WVTH TV has a similar story about WV’s Governor’s criticism of Bloomberg’s project.  Bloomberg’s focus is U.S. coal plants.  This Guardian item suggests it won’t be enough:  “Hopes for climate progress falter with coal still king across Asia”.  And the current Administration clearly supports coal, as per this WaPo piece:  “Trump EPA finalizes rollback of key Obama climate rule that targeted coal plants”.  The Natural Resources Defense Council fiercely opposes this move.  The Wall Street Journal also weighs in with:  “EPA Rule Would Have Impacts Beyond Smokestacks. Plan to roll back mandates on power plants—likely to face legal challenges—could set precedent that curtails future regulation”.

The Daily Climate provides information about the effects of fracking on human health.  A recent report concluded that there is “’No evidence’ that fracking can [be] done without threatening human health” and that “[a] review by doctors and scientists [of] more than 1,700 studies concludes that the industry poses a threat to air, water, climate, and human health.”

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