Thanks to Joy Loving for this week’s News Roundup. Les Grady is out-of-town.
Politics and Policy
The House of Representatives weighed in with its Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America. The “report outlines a plan to reach the target of net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050”. A joint Biden‑Sanders Task Force included recommendations around the climate “emergency” but did not explicitly reference the Green New Deal or include a fracking ban. “The recommendations set a number of specific near-term benchmarks that Democrats would promise to reach.” Grist concluded “it’s clear that Sanders’ camp had a meaningful influence on the platform”.
Gizmodo highlighted a suite of policy proposals from the Movement for Black Lives indicating that they and “Environmentalists Are Finding Common Ground”. The American Climate Contract website profiles Republican Members of the House of Representatives who have endorsed this set of proposals, billed as “The right way forward on climate change”. Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced the “’Clean Energy Virginia’ Initiative to Drive Investment in Renewable Energy, Support Jobs of the Future”.
Rocky Mountain Institute announced the launch of its Center for Climate‑Aligned Finance to “enable FIs [Financial Institutions] to actively help shape the transformation of carbon intensive sectors alongside their clients on the journey to net zero global emissions by 2050.” Forbes reported on Amazon’s launch of “a new $2 billion venture capital fund … that will invest in clean energy and other technologies to reduce the impact of climate change”.
The Wall Street Journal reported on a Trump Administration request to “a federal judge to reject a settlement between the Sierra Club and a Michigan utility over alleged clean-air violations, arguing that the deal improperly goes beyond what the federal government has approved.”
The Hill said “A total of 352 facilities, including fossil fuel companies, water treatment plants and schools, made use of the EPA’s relaxation of Clean Water Act requirements”, noting also “Environmentalists are raising alarms over the number of facilities that aren’t monitoring their pollution levels, saying the damage could last well beyond the Aug. 31 expiration date of the temporary policy.” The Guardian noted that “Over 5,600 fossil fuel companies have taken at least $3bn in US Covid-19 aid”.
The Houston Chronicle reported on the Secretary of Energy’s assertion that “COVID-19 brought oil and gas down, but Trump is powering a comeback”.
Reuters offered details on increasingly creative and effective legal strategies being employed worldwide to combat, and demand accountability for, climate change.
Climate and Climate Science
The Narwahl offered an in-depth piece called “One key solution to the world’s climate woes? Canada’s natural landscapes”. The Revelator described projects to identify areas that could become “Climate Refugia”—“Areas with natural buffers from the effects of climate change” that could “play a vital role in conservation efforts”. The Guardian told us that, after National Trust restoration, a “well known piece of the British landscape that had become depleted of flora and fauna because of years of intensive farming is alive with wildflowers, butterflies and birds this summer.” The National Trust spent 2½ years returning rich grassland to the top of the white cliffs of Dover.
Mongabay reported that “Over the past 10 years, the World Bank’s private investment arm has sunk more than $1.8 billion into major livestock and factory farming companies across the world.” Mongabay noted: “Livestock production is associated with a litany of environmental and biosecurity risks, including the pollution of waterways, rainforest destruction, and the emergence of new diseases.”
According to a Grist article, “Seed preemption bills have passed in at least 29 states ….” A 2018 hearing on one such bill, quietly introduced in the New Mexico legislature, brought out a large number of proponents (“agribusiness lobbyists [and] large farm organizations”) and opponents (“small-scale farmers, seedkeepers, and tribal members”). Although that bill was tabled, the state’s 200-page 2019 budget contained a single line aimed to strip local governments of their power to regulate seeds; the Governor vetoed that line item.
The Guardian cited scientists’ strategy of assisted migration to help forests and trees survive climate change. The method: plant species like the loblolly pine farther north, into what is hoped to be conditions more like the ones they have historically had in their current locations.
National Geographic described the connection between the Horseshoe Crab and Covid-19 treatment research. There are concerns that the harvesting of hundreds of thousands of these crabs “may imperil the crabs and the marine ecosystems that depend on them.”
The New York Times noted that countries prone to extreme flooding and mudslides are not necessarily well-equipped to ensure the safety of their older populations, especially those in nursing homes. Reuters cited evidence that “From sexual violence in displacement camps to extra farm work and greater risk of illness, women shoulder a bigger burden from worsening extreme weather and other climate pressures pushing people to move for survival”. Inside Climate News asked: “With Climate Change Intensifying, Can At-Risk Minority Communities Rely on the Police to Keep Them Safe?”
Reminding us about the US Southwest’s lengthy drought, the New York Times said the warm spring caused rapid melting of snowpack, and less than full reservoirs now are leading to renewed concerns about megadrought.
The Guardian warned that the Navajo Nation and Arizona, “Hit hard by Covid-19, [face] heightened danger from smoke, flames and possible evacuations”.
Bloomberg echoed previous warnings that “Oppressive heat will blanket the U.S. from California to the Northeast through at least the middle of next week, driving up energy demand, stressing crops and probably setting new records.” Florida NPR station WJCP provided an illuminating story: “Warming Brings Muggier Weather to Jacksonville, Threatening Most Vulnerable”.
The Associated Press reported on the UN weather agency’s warning: “World could hit 1.5-degree warming threshold by 2024.” The agency noted “the target set in Paris, of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), [is] ideally no more than 1.5 C, by the end of the century.” NBC News also reported on the agency’s concerns. The Guardian said “The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is approaching a level not seen in 15m years…, [adding] Last time CO2 was at similar level temperatures were 3C to 4C hotter and sea levels were 20 metres higher.”
The BIG news this week was the decision by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy to abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project that would have run over 500 miles through parts of WV, VA, and NC. Many, many articles appeared, providing history and background of the ACP; details of the associated transactions, including sale of Dominion’s natural pipeline and storage assets to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway; reactions of ACP opponents and proponents; and the implications for pipelines and utilities. Here is a list of headlines, representing only a small part of the media items that appeared:
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline, sells natural gas transmission business”
Fortune: “Warren Buffett’s buy-on-fear strategy will be tested with his latest bet on fossil fuels”
The News and Advance: “’We won the impossible fight’: Nelsonians react to news of Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s demise”
WDBJ7: “Cancellation of Atlantic Coast Pipeline buoys opponents of another controversial project”
Utility Dive: “Natural gas pipeline developers aim to differentiate from Atlantic Coast and avoid its fate”
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Dominion takes financial hit as company jettisons pipeline and gas transmission business”
Greentech Media: “As Fossil Fuel Pipelines Fall to Opposition, Utilities See Renewable Energy as Safe Bet. Atlantic Coast and Dakota Access pipeline woes underscore trends pushing utilities toward clean power as a less risky business”
New York Times: “The Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs. Natural Gas”
Roanoke Times: “Mountain Valley Pipeline’s ‘uphill climb’ gets a little easier”
The Virginia Mercury: “With the Atlantic Coast Pipeline dead, it’s time to topple remaining fossil fuel monuments”
Bacon’s Rebellion: “Brace Yourself for a Zero-Carbon Electric Grid”
The Wall Street Journal documented a debate raging about oil prices. Noting the $0 per barrel price earlier in 2020, WSJ said “Investors and analysts are now trying to work out what the rest of the decade holds in store.”
Many oil and gas companies have declared bankruptcy because of the decline in prices, and that trend is likely to continue even with the recent rebound to $40/barrel. Colorado Newsline talks about the environmental repercussions of abandoned oil and gas wells as companies declare bankruptcy. BP and Shell announced “they plan to lower the official value of their assets by several billion dollars due to declining oil and gas prices”. This may mean they will leave those assets in the ground for now.
Several environmental groups joined forces to sue West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection over inadequate funding for coal mine site reclamation. The groups believe the agency failed “to adhere to federal reporting requirements for a coal mine reclamation fund”.
The Barents Observer described fears of northern Finland’s Sámi families … in Tarvantovaara wilderness area … [that] the world’s hunger for metals to ramp up the green economy will destroy their indigenous way of life”. This remote region has a reindeer population important to this peoples’ way of life and is also home to “nickel, copper, vanadium and cobalt, all being minerals highly demanded in the production of electric vehicle batteries”.
The Washington Post described a Lake Erie clean energy project that has some folks crying “fowl”. The headline asserts the project “faces stiff head winds because of warblers and waterfowl”. The paper also reported that “Spreading rock dust on farmland could pull enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to remove about half of the amount of that greenhouse gas currently produced by Europe.”
The Daily Climate cautioned: “Beyond the “silver lining” of emissions reductions: Clean energy takes a COVID-19 hit” and “With job loss and stifled development in the renewable energy sector, economists, politicians, and advocates say policy action is necessary to stay on track.”
The Indy Star reported solar developers are planting, interspersed with the solar panels, varieties of flowers that are beneficial to pollinators, hoping to help bee survival.
Check out this blogpost from The Plastocene by Christopher James Preston, environmental philosopher, about “Wizards, Prophets, and Profits…. (on the Way to Clean Energy)”.
Time presented a thoughtful piece addressing “Why the Larger Climate Movement Is Finally Embracing the Fight Against Environmental Racism”.
Rolling Stone brought us reflections on the Dakota Access Pipeline court decision by Adam Killsalive, based on his experiences as a young man from the Standing Rock Reservation.
Writing in the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo exclaimed “I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing”. He asked “Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?”
Grist told us about memes surfacing on the Internet signaling what folks jokingly say are ways the pandemic is helping Nature to heal.
The Southern Environmental Law Center linked us to a “Broken Ground” podcast that “takes listeners to two Southern coastal cities among the most threatened by rising tides: Norfolk, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina.”
Joy Loving for Les Grady
CAAV Steering Committee