Celebrating Composting

dedicationevent11Erin Murray’s creative look at wildlife composting to a Shenandoah Mountain backdrop was the focus of the “Artwork Dedication & Celebration of Composting” event held by the community Compost Drop-off program on Saturday, August 17. Coinciding with the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, event organizers encouraged market-goers to cross the green space from the Turner Pavilion to the compost collection bins’ drop-off area between 10 and 11AM to view the painting, meet the artist (shown at right), and learn from some local compost-enthusiasts.

Earlier this year, the Arts Council of the Valley awarded the Market Compost Drop-off program funds to commission Harrisonburg-based artist Erin Murray to create a compost-themed work for the outdoor, public compost drop-off bins’ site in downtown Harrisonburg. A print of the work has been installed at this location. The original work is being scheduled to rotate through area-wide public facilities including schools and dining venues.

In light of the painting’s dedication to “all composting efforts in Harrisonburg,” local composting champions were on hand at the event to share their work and expertise.


Eastern Mennonite University’s composting program is coordinated by Matthew Freed. Students haul compostables from all around campus by bicycle trailer to a central location to be composted on site.


Soil Cycles’ curbside compost pick up service was represented by Amelia Morrison. Her non-profit has saved over 6 tons of organic waste from the landfill this year … all moved by bicycle.


Chris Bowlen, with the Headwaters Master Naturalists, showed those in attendance how to set up and maintain a worm composting operation, otherwise known as “vermicomposting.” Worm bins can be kept indoors and used year round to turn food scraps and garden wastes into valuable garden nutrients.


Shelley Baker (shown above) and Mary Gatling-Finks, also Headwaters Master Naturalists, guided anyone interested in discovering some of the hard working “Compost Critters” visible in decaying organic matter. Among the composting bins sampled for this activity were those of the Sunset Heights Community Composting bins hosted by Trinity Presbyterian Church.


Kathy Yoder coordinates the composting efforts at Waterman Elementary School. Their onsite composting bins churn out amendments for the adjacent raised-bed vegetable gardens.


The Compost Drop-off program’s Art Fovargue devised a composting “timeline” with samples taken from along the six month process for organic waste to be turned into nutrient-rich finished compost at the valley’s only industrial scale composting facility, Black Bear Composting in Crimora.

Additional help and encouragement for this project was received by Headwaters Master Naturalists David Forrer, Stephanie Gardner, Sandy Greene, and Carl Droms; Harrisonburg Farmers Market manager Josie Showalter; Harrisonburg Parks & Rec’s Jeremy Harold; and Climate Action Alliance of the Valley founder Cathy Strickler.

Thanks to everyone who came out to participate and celebrate with us, reflect on and be inspired by Erin’s painting, and get excited about all we can do with composting!

– Adrie Voors
Compost Drop-off program coordinator

Photos by Carl Droms.
Click on an image below for a bigger version and to start a slide show of the photos.


Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/10/2019

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

Politics and Policy

Previous Roundups have noted both California’s requirements for vehicles and the Trump Administration’s plan to weaken standards.  From the Washington Post Climate and Environment (WaPo/C&E) comes this item titled “Major automakers strike climate deal with California, rebuffing Trump on proposed mileage freeze”.

Prior Roundups have also provided stories about actions by various federal agencies that can be perceived as contrary either to their missions or anti-environment or both.  WaPo/C&E has a story about how “Government watchdogs, environmental groups and even some top Republicans in Congress are starting to more closely examine the ways in which President Trump’s environmental deputies have attempted to control the release of public records. The recent scrutiny is focused on how two major environmental departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, decided to follow the Freedom of Information Act, which grants members of the public the right to access records from any federal agency.” Fox13 WHBQ has a story that “An ardent critic of the federal government who has argued for selling off almost all public lands has been named the Trump administration’s top steward over nearly a quarter-billion federally controlled acres, raising new questions about the administration’s intentions for vast Western ranges and other lands roamed by hunters, hikers and wildlife.”  WaPo/C&E also covers this story, saying “Trump’s pick for managing federal lands doesn’t believe the government should have any”.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on a settlement reached in a lawsuit that challenged delays by the Interior Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in conducting analyses of impacts “of oil and gas development on federally protected species and critical habitat in the Gulf of Mexico”.  After cutting the size of Bears Ears National Monument in half, the Trump Administration “Officials say a new plan will protect Bears Ears. Others call it ‘salt in an open wound’”, WaPo/C&E reports.  A former intelligence analyst who resigned his post says “the Trump administration halted his report on global heating” (The Guardian).

The Augusta Free Press reports that members of Our Transportation Future “joined 300 state lawmakers, business leaders, transportation experts, and public figures in Baltimore [July 30]  at a regional public workshop on developing low-carbon investment strategies and priorities for the Transportation & Climate Initiative, a regional partnership for clean transportation in Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.”

From CRES Forum comes a press release announcing results of a national survey showing that “Millennial GOP Voters Call on Republicans to Do More to Address Climate Change; Encourage Acceleration of Clean Energy Production in U.S.” The survey was a joint effort by “Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) Forum and the American Conservation Coalition (ACC).”  The Washington Examiner reports that “Republican climate hawk Francis Rooney [will] introduce carbon tax bill that cuts payroll taxes…. Rooney represents a southwest Florida district exposed to sea level rise, and is one of only two congressional Republicans who publicly support a carbon tax to fight climate change.”  On this subject, The Hill notes “Carbon tax shows new signs of life in Congress”, observing “[m]embers of Congress on both sides of the aisle are introducing competing bills that aim to put a tax on carbon.  The push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions come[s] as both [parties]s face pressure from their constituents, and in some cases the fossil fuel industry itself, to regulate carbon emissions that lead to climate change.”  The Charleston (South Carolina) City Paper has an opinion piece by Rouzy Vafaie, of RepublicEn, noting that Senator Lindsay “Graham [is] one of the few Republicans discussing climate change” and thanking U. S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for waking up some Republican leaders.  NYT/Climate weighs in with “In a Switch, Some Republicans Start Citing Climate Change as Driving Their Policies”.  And Yale’s Climate Connections offers:  “Conservative nonprofit leader [of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship] David Jenkins says climate change should be [a] priority for the right”.


Joel Dunn, CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, writes in the Bay Journal that “government leaders and Wall Street must heed the call to “fund the restoration of the Chesapeake and conservation for the planet by increasing public funding and attracting sources of private capital investment. The future of our Chesapeake Bay, and indeed our planet, depends on it.”

Writing in The Guardian, Megan Mayhew Bergman describes “What I learned writing about climate change and the US south for a year”. WaPo Capital Weather Gang advises:  “Buckle up: Climate change is already contributing to bumpier trans-Atlantic flights, study finds”.  Greentech Media brings this shout out for installing solar by someone who works for the solar industry.


What’s Happening?

We know that our rising greenhouse gas emissions have grave implications for us all.  Grist offers this story about one danger we may not have thought about:  “Rising emissions are robbing us of nutrients”.  Grist also offers this advice:  “Stopping climate change isn’t enough — we need to reverse it.”  The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has this thoughtful piece:  “Climate Change and Agriculture: A Perfect Storm in Farm Country”.  UCS also offers ta stark picture of what excessive heat will mean in the U.S.

WBUR Public Radio brings the story about “What The Melting Of Greenland’s Ice Sheet Means For Sea Levels”.  WaPo’s Capital Weather Gang notes that “[t]he Greenland ice sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded”.  Grist provides some “crazy visuals coming out of Greenland’s heat wave”.  And The Guardian describes “ecological grief” among Greenlanders.

The Guardian’s Jonathan West writes about “[t]hree studies published in Nature and Nature Geoscience” that conclude:  “’No doubt left’ about scientific consensus on global warming…” and “Extensive historical data shows recent extreme warming is unprecedented in past 2,000 years”.  Mr. West includes references to other studies in his article.  The Guardian also has a story about a leaked IPCC report that concludes: “We must change food production to save the world, says leaked report.  Cutting carbon from transport and energy ‘not enough’”.  NYT/Climate covers this story as well.

Like to eat blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay?  Here’s a good-news/bad-news story from WaPo’s C&E.  Its title suggests you might not want to wait too long to try some:  “Climate change will spark a baby boom of blue crabs. Then predators will relocate from the south and eat them.”  The Wall Street Journal provides information about scientists’ efforts to find the “Best Way to Restore Oysters in Chesapeake Bay”.  Sierra Club presents this disturbing article about the adaptability of birds to climate change:  “Birds Are Adapting to Climate Change, But Maybe Not Fast Enough”.

The Oregonian warns:  “Global warming brings increasing wildfire risk to rainy parts of the Pacific Northwest”.  Grist reports that “Arctic wildfires are releasing as much carbon as Belgium did last year”.

WaPo’s Capital Weather Gang points out that this summer’s “European heat wave bears the fingerprint of climate change”.  Really?

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

Previous Roundups have presented stories about trees and the roles they play in combatting the climate crisis.  Here are a few more.  Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker has some thoughts on what “we can do” about climate change in this piece.  In brief, “Plant a tree, hug a bee”. The Sierra Club’s Michael Brune argues that “the real challenge of the climate crisis isn’t a lack of solutions. Whether it’s 1 trillion trees or 100% clean, renewable energy, the solutions are right in front of us”. He supports the Trillion Tree Campaign, while acknowledging that “reforestation alone won’t be enough to solve the climate crisis”.  Ethiopia has launched a “National ‘green legacy’ initiative [that] aims to reduce environmental degradation” and “[a]bout 350m trees have been planted in a single day” Guardian (article).  WaPo/Local reports that “Virginia’s destroyed ‘Founding Forest’ may be bouncing back”.  The story is about “a nature preserve [near Waverly, Virginia] brimming with young longleaf pine — a peculiar tree with long green needles and a taste for fire.”

Iceland is mourning the loss of one of its iconic glaciers, the Okjokull, with a monument describing how and why.  According to this WaPo/C&E story, the cause is “human-caused climate change” and the message to the reader “is hopeful, acknowledging ‘what is happening and what needs to be done.’”

NYT/Climate reports that “Moody’s Buys Climate Data Firm, Signaling New Scrutiny of Climate Risks”.  “We are taking these risks very seriously,” said Moody’s Investors Service’s spokesperson.  NYT/Climate also reports, on the other hand, that “Homes Are Being Built the Fastest in Many Flood-Prone Areas, Study Finds”.  Forbes asks and answers the question “Is There A Windfall In Climate Change For PE [Private Equity]?” noting that “approximately 200 of the world’s largest companies collectively peg their climate change exposure at nearly $1 trillion.”  The article goes on:  “Manufacturers around the globe cite changing weather patterns and rising seas and rivers as increasingly disruptive to their supply chain. Within the U.S. utility industry, executives name climate change as one reason behind increasingly fierce wildfires, which have destroyed transmission and distribution infrastructure. While all of this may portend darkening financial skies, some see a different forecast developing. One where there are not only ideas but also action and financial opportunities. Some experts even see tailwinds for investors.”


Renewable Energy

Texas continues to look to renewable energy, even while it’s continuing its long relationship with fossil fuels.  USA Today reports:  “Not blowing smoke: Wind has overtaken ‘risky’ coal for energy use in Texas for the first time.”  According to the Houston Chronicle, “Rooftop solar company sees brighter days in Texas”.  Why?  In part because:  “Texans — and Houstonians in particular — are becoming increasingly concerned about the reliability of electricity after several recent hurricanes and bad storms knocked out power for days. Grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses have installed backup generators so they don’t lose refrigerated and frozen food and can keep operations … going. Homeowners have been taking a clue by installing generators in their backyards….  Sunrun, a San Francisco-based company …[in] the U.S. residential solar market, is betting that controlling power with rooftop panels and a battery in the garage will be just the thing to make Texans take a second look at solar.”

Some good news in Virginia:  WVTF Public Radio says “A group of Communities in southwestern Virginia created a plan a couple of years ago to bring more solar energy to the region. And it appears to be working.”  WVTF has a 2nd, related story.  Appalachian Voices also reports this story, as does Kingsport Tennessee’s Times News.   More good news:  The heads of Appalachian Voices and Freedom Works penned a joint op-ed titled “A coalition in Virginia is transcending polarization to take on entrenched special interests” [WaPo].  Bacon’s Rebellion blogger Steve Haner discusses the fact that “No Appeal [Was] Filed on RGGI Regulation, Now In Force”.  Noting that the regulation is now fully in force, Mr. Haner adds that “Language inserted by General Assembly Republicans into the current state budget merely puts RGGI membership and its related carbon tax on hold.  It did not overturn the regulation, which went into effect June 26. The outcome of the November election will likely determine whether that roadblock remains in place beyond next summer, when the current budget provisions expire.”  Writing in the Virginia Mercury, Sarah Voglesong reports that, “Despite legislative blocks, one form of carbon cap-and-trade is alive and well in Virginia.”  Her story is about “The Nature Conservancy’s Clinch Valley Program in Abingdon, which oversees six forest carbon projects covering almost 145,000 acres in Virginia”.  Paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost suggest this project really isn’t such good news.

In WV, a professor has developed a prototype method for an environmentally and ecologically valuable use–growing a grass, giant miscanthus, on old surface coal mines.  Growing this grass in poor quality soil doesn’t require fertilizer and the grass can be harvested to produce biomass that “can be turned into value-added products like heating pellets, biofuels like ethanol, and more”.  Ohio Valley Resource has the story.  The Charlotte Observer tells us that “As electric vehicles go mainstream, companies spar over who will charge them up in NC”.

There is great interest in using batteries that store electricity generated by solar and wind to facilitate management of the electric grid as more renewable energy sources come online.  Reuters has this story about PJM Interconnection, the grid manager “whose territory spans from Illinois to New Jersey [including Virginia] [and which] is preparing to open its long-range capacity market to energy storage projects….  Under the rules, though, PJM would only recognize the full value of batteries that can supply continuous power for 10 or more hours. That’s drawn criticism from clean energy and storage industry groups who say the 10-hour threshold is ‘unworkable, arbitrary and discriminatory’ against the industry.”  A somewhat related story comes from PV Magazine.  It’s about “A research paper, The role of energy storage in deep decarbonization of electricity production, by University of Michigan scientists”, which looked at whether and how storage can enable carbon emission reduction.

S & P Global says that “Solar [is] rising in the southeastern US”, noting “After climbing 15% in 2018, utility-scale solar capacity in the southeastern US is expected to surge another 25% this year, but the geographic concentration of such growth is driven more by policy than by the quality of the sunshine”.  Greentech Media reports that “Solar ITC Extension Bills [Have Been] Introduced in House and Senate [but that] [d]espite solar energy’s broad popularity, a proposed five-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit faces a slippery climb as the 2020 election gears up.”  Meanwhile, in California, “Low on water, California farmers turn to solar farming” [Grist].

This Guardian article tells us that “Low-carbon energy makes majority of UK electricity for first time” and “Rapid rise in renewables combined with nuclear generated 53% in 2018”.

One might think that the term “renewable natural gas” is an oxymoron or a typo, but one might be wrong.  From Yale Environment 360 comes a story that asks, and answers, this question:  “Could Renewable Natural Gas Be the Next Big Thing in Green Energy?” It’s about “small-scale biogas systems [that] have collected methane from landfills, sewage plants, and farms” and that might be scaled up “as businesses capture large amounts of methane from manure, food waste, and other sources.”

Greentech Media says that, while “[t]here’s never a good time for import tariffs when it comes to keeping costs down for renewables projects”, the negative effect on wind power development will be significant and “the timing of newly proposed tariffs on imported turbine towers could not be much worse.”  The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that “[w]ind farms could one day power New Orleans, but high cost, other issues [are] cause for concern”.

Fossil Fuels, Utilities, and Pipelines

There have been numerous articles about Dominion Energy.  This one, from Greentech Media, says “The Battle for Virginia’s Corporate Renewables Market Heats Up”.  Ivy Main, writing in the Virginia Mercury, makes a case that “Fairfax County plans a historic solar buy—if Dominion Energy doesn’t stand in the way”.  At issue is a cap on the amount of kWs that can be installed under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the installer and the county.  Ivy gives the details.  Dominion has submitted plans for a pilot battery storage project, according to this Associated Press item.  This Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost offers opinions on the viability of Dominion’s Energy Efficiency programs.

Fox13 WTVT has a story about a recent decision in Florida on a proposed power plant project.  “Over the objections of environmentalists pushing for alternative energy sources, Gov. Ron DeSantis and two Cabinet members on Thursday approved a Tampa Electric Co. power-plant project in Hillsborough County.  With little comment, DeSantis and the Cabinet … voted 3-1 to approve the project, which involves upgrading a generating unit at the utility’s Big Bend Power Station. The unit will burn natural gas.”

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ISLR) summarizes its investigation of “electric utility forecasts from seven of the largest ten U.S. electric utilities in the past decade”. ISLR concludes that “the average forecast overestimated demand by 17% over three years. Over longer time periods, the forecasts were even less accurate. The errors, all overestimating use, reinforce an environment in which utility companies––with no market competition––can win permission from public regulators to build unnecessary power plants. The costs can be passed to consumers while the rewards accrue to the utility’s shareholders.”  Virginia residents:  Does this ring a bell?

Grist says that “Natural gas leaks are a much bigger problem than we thought”, based on a recent study reported in Geophysical Research Letters.  Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, Forbes reports that “Hurricane Barry Knocked 700,000 Barrels Of Oil Per Day Offline And Hardly Anyone Noticed”.  Contrasting the production losses to those from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the reporter explains:  “The difference between the impacts of the two hurricane events spaced 14 years apart is fully attributable to the revolution in shale oil production that has taken place during those intervening years.”  The result is that the industry overall was able to recover faster from taking Gulf production offline in 2019 because U.S. shale oil production has risen considerably during the 14 years and the drop, as a percent of usual production, was much lower.

In Louisiana, ‘the president of Louisiana Oil and Gas Association has said Gov. John Bel Edwards’ push for parish coastal erosion lawsuits against companies in the gas and oil industries has hurt the state’s economy.” [Article in The Louisianan].

The Virginia Mercury reports that “Another permit [has been] overturned for beleaguered Atlantic Coast pipeline” and that “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit for the second time overturned a key project permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year. The court ruling declared that the agency had been ‘arbitrary and capricious’ in assessing the impacts of the pipeline on four endangered species.”  West Virginia Public Broadcasting has a related story.  The Augusta Free Press provides a statement by Kendyl Crawford, director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, about the court’s decision.  Metro News in Charleston West Virginia says “West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and 15 other state leaders are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a[nother] ruling that stopped construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline [because the proposed path would cross the Appalachian Trail].”  The Augusta Free Press reports that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “issued a stop work instruction to Mountain Valley Pipeline. The instruction is based on issues identified during DEQ inspections that cite insufficient erosion and sediment controls on approximately a two-mile section of the project”.  In an editorial, The (Lynchburg Virginia) News & Advance asks “Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Is It Still a Viable Project?”

Brent Finnegan


Brent at the CAAV Steering Committee meeting with member Rosie Lynch, June 18, 2019.

Brent Finnegan, winner of the primary for the Democratic nominee for the House of Delegates 26th District, spoke to the Steering Committee on June 18, 2019. Finnegan runs a community documentary film business and is a planning commissioner for Harrisonburg.

In an informal discussion with the Steering Committee, Finnegan said that he supports a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2031 to ensure a sustainable future for the Shenandoah Valley. He supports state senator McClellan’s Solar Freedom Bill, which failed to advance out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on January 29, 2019.

When asked about a yard waste ban at landfills, Finnegan stated that he doesn’t want policies that hurt low income families, citing that half of the 26th district is in poverty. When asked about the methane that is generated from landfills as a result of organic waste, Finnegan said that he supports community composting and educating people about the effect of organic waste on climate change.

Steering Committee members cited the survey conducted by Luntz, a Republican, the results of which indicated that 70% of Republicans 40 years old and under want the government to implement fee and dividend and 55% are angry at the GOP for not addressing climate change. They also mentioned RGGI and the Green New Deal. Finnegan responded that these are all parts of the big picture on climate change.
Finnegan said that he is talking to people about climate issues. He is also a proponent of protecting waterways.

– Michele Thomas, acting CAAV recording secretary, June 2019

Compost Art Celebration

Thanks to everyone who attended and participated in our celebration! Photos from the event are posted HERE.


The Compost Drop-off program received grant funds from the Arts Council of the Valley earlier this year to commission local artist Erin Murray to create a compost-related painting for installation at the downtown Community Compost Drop-off spot.

It’s completed, a print of it has been installed at the bins spot, and it is amazing! Go by the location to view it and/or come celebrate this work and the magic of composting at a dedication event on Saturday, August 17 from 10-11AM during the Farmers Market.

Come to the Community Compost Drop-off spot at the gravel parking lot at Warren and S Liberty St on Saturday, August 17 between 10 and 11 am for a dedication of newly installed artwork, and celebration of composting. Meet the artist, Erin Murray, and local composting champions. Learn about local composting efforts and how you can compost at home.

Meant to be enjoyed by users of the compost drop-off program and passers-by alike, this public artwork is a whimsical look at the “No Waste World” of wildlife. By mimicking nature, we too can recycle much of our waste to create new life. Whether with a backyard compost bin or a community compost drop-off program, composting makes ACV logo-black.300our world richer.

Thanks to the Arts Council of the Valley and the creative talents of local artist Erin Murray for this inspiring and fun way to promote composting!

Also thanks to Harrisonburg Parks & Rec Department’s Jeremy Harold for providing the cedar logs used to create the artwork print frame and posts, and Headwaters Master Naturalist David Forrer for volunteering his time and woodworking skills to build the frame post.

More about the Artwork Dedication & Celebration of Composting Event

Erin Murray will be on hand with her original painting* and be available to discuss her work.

Representatives of Soil Cycles can let you know about what they’ve been doing to get Harrisonburg composting.

We’ll have a kids’ activity we’re calling a “compost critter safari” where we will be searching through finished compost to find and identify all the hard-working critters we have to thank for helping to turn garbage into great stuff. Of course, you don’t have to be a kid to have fun with this!

Headwaters Master Naturalist Chris Bowlen will have a worm composting set up to demonstrate for anyone interested.

Kathy Yoder, who facilitates the composting efforts and vegetable gardens at Waterman Elementary, will be on hand to tell us about her work with these projects.

Matthew Freed with Eastern Mennonite University helps manage their campus-wise composting program and will be available to discuss about it.

Also look for displays on the many benefits of composting and how you can compost at home.

* Watch for this painting to appear inside public areas around the valley over the coming year!


Bins spot, July 2019, with artwork print recently installed.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/25/2019

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

Politics and Policy

In a letter to the editor of the Virginian-Pilot, Steve Padgett of Norfolk acknowledged the pro‑environmental votes of Delegate Jay Jones who received a 100% score from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters in their 2019 Legislative Scorecard.  You can find your representatives’ scores on page 24.  For example, my State Senator Emmett Hanger received 54% and my (retiring) Delegate Steve Landes, 44% (page 22).  State Senator Mark Obenshain and Delegate Tony Wilt each earned 43%.

The Hill, among numerous other outlets, reports on the EPA’s decision to allow greater use of a pesticide, sulfoxaflor, which it considers “very highly toxic to bees”. The Guardian says the EPA has declined to ban chlorpyrifos, a “toxic pesticide linked to brain damage in children, dismissing a growing body of research on the health hazards of a widely used agricultural chemical.”  The EPA rejection of the ban follows a petition from environmental and health groups.

The EPA has announced its new “no surprises” inspections policy, according to the Washington Post’s (WaPo) Energy 202.  The agency “will no longer have inspectors drop by power plants and other potential illegal polluters without giving states notice, a move Trump administration critics say will limit the agency’s ability to enforce environmental laws.”  Another agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) wants to save money by “reducing the number of inspections it performs for nearly 100 reactors at dozens of nuclear power plants across the United States.” (UPI story)  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has appointed a lawyer and commentator to its second highest management position; according to Media Matters, the appointee has a public record of criticizing climate science.  Two former BLM chiefs “[s]ay Interior Is Moving to Transfer Land to States”, as explained in this Bloomberg Environment article.  They believe the move is “an early step toward abolishing the entire agency and transferring millions of acres of federal land to the states.”  The Department of Energy is seeking input on ways to bolster the U.S. electricity grid in the face of severe weather events, as noted in this E&E News story.  “One [request for information] is seeking ‘cost effective ways’ for strengthening the electric grid in the face of extreme weather events like ‘windstorms, floods and wildfires.’ The other made a similar request of the oil and gas industry. It’s also asking for ways to improve cybersecurity.  Climate change is not mentioned in either request.”  E & E News also summarizes its interview with the [Department of Interior] “assistant secretary for land and minerals management” who says “he sees drilling and blasting in very clear terms: a force for good” and believes “Trump’s public lands agenda and the president’s efforts to roll back regulations, break norms and advocate for energy industries [is] a path that he … is fully behind”.  Politico reports that “The Agriculture Department quashed the release of a sweeping plan on how to respond to climate change that was finalized in the early days of the Trump administration, according to a USDA employee with knowledge of the decision.”  This Vice piece is about a recent report that “Under Trump, 26% of Climate Change References Have Vanished From .Gov Sites”.

Previous Roundups have included many stories about how Alaska is faring in the face of the changing climate.  Alaska Public Media asks “Could climate change research in Alaska be put on ice?”

According to the Augusta Free Press, 2020 Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has harshly criticized Mr. Trump for his “ignorance of the climate change emergency” because of the threats to humans from, for example, the recent heatwaves.  Bacon’s Rebellion blogger Steve Haney reports on what he describes as the “Sense and Nonsense on Climate Armageddon”.  He takes issue with some of the reactions to a guest column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch by a retired University of Richmond professor making a case that “Climate change is normal and global”.  Inside Climate News presents its take on several 2020 candidates’ proposals about farming and climate change.  It’s titled “These Candidates See Farming as a Climate Solution. Here’s What They’re Proposing.”  According to this story in The Hill, there is a new Democratic proposal for addressing the climate crisis that rivals the Green New Deal, with a goal of “achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”


From the Guardian comes a story about how artists from multiple genres are working toward “making an issue that sometimes seems abstract instead feel emotional and urgent”.

Did you know that in 1856 a woman said that excess carbon in the atmosphere could affect the Earth’s temperature?  This Time article’s title says “Her Story Is a Reminder to Champion All Women Leading on Climate”.

AZCentral reports that “Doctors for Disaster Preparedness is presenting Trump with what it calls the Edward Teller Award for the Defense of Freedom, which, according to the Tucson-based group, recognizes ‘extensive, selfless and effective work in defense of our nation.'”  The group’s president, Jane Orient, “believe[s] climate change is putting millions of lives in danger, but only because unwarranted fear about its effects is driving investment in solar and wind energy instead of fossil fuels.”  In contrast, NPR asks “Has Your Doctor Talked To You About Climate Change?”

In this WaPo Style story, Katherine Hayhoe, renowned climate scientist and self-described evangelical Christian, is interviewed about how her beliefs and her science intersect.  “’We all care about our families,’ Hayhoe [said]. ‘We care about our communities. We care about people who are suffering today — poverty, hunger and more. And those are the exact values we need to care about a changing climate.’”

From RepublicEn.org, we have a video in which former Representative Bob Inglis, in 90 seconds, “explains his journey from climate skeptic to climate realist”.

This Oxy story predicts “Tomorrow’s Doctors Will Diagnose the Mental Toll of Climate Change”.


What’s Happening?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that, unsurprisingly, “June 2019 was hottest on record for the globe”.  Its website shows a graph of “Selected Significant Climate Anomalies and Events” for the month. The Guardian forecasts that “July [is] on course to be hottest month ever, say climate scientists”.  The VA Department of Health warns that “Since the end of flu season in May, [it] has received increased reports of respiratory (breathing) illness across the Commonwealth greater than observed in previous summers.” (Augusta Free Press item and Virginia Mercury report).  The piece notes that “Extreme heat, like Virginia is currently experiencing, can also be dangerous for older adults and people with heart and lung diseases.”  NPR asks “Can The Current U.S. Heat Wave Be Linked To Climate Change?”  The answer?  “Sort of”.  WaPo’s Weather Gang reports that “The Potomac River set a record high temperature of 94 degrees in recent heat wave”.

Wired has a story about the uncertainty of climate change.  A recent report in the journal Nature says “researchers are proposing a new framework [for climate modeling] that aims to bring clarity to this kind of work, first by reconciling differences in carbon budgets and second by reducing uncertainty going forward. That’s critical, because climate policy hinges on the budget, and it’s climate policy that’ll help us stave off global disaster.”

The (Toronto) Star presents “10 takeaways from the Star’s Undeniable climate change series”.  The series focused on Canada but the list could be about many, if not most, other countries.  One takeaway:  “Balancing business interests with climate change mitigation will be a challenge.”  Another is “The way we farm and fish is changing.”  Environmental Health News reports “Nutrient runoff starves corals in the Florida Keys”.  The research that delivered this conclusion indicated reef destruction isn’t just because of “rising ocean temperatures”.  One hope is that Florida’s experience can be forestalled with better nutrient management.  Did someone say “Chesapeake Bay”?

The small town of Fair Bluff, North Carolina has been flooded badly twice in 2018.  It’s not on the coast, but Hurricanes Matthew and Florence managed to devastate it all the same.  “Now, as the 2019 hurricane season begins, few communities have more to lose than this one. If another arrives this year, Fair Bluff could become one of the US’s first climate crisis ghost towns.” (Guardian story)

USA Today describes a report that “Thanks to climate change, parts of the Arctic are on fire. Scientists are concerned”.

Yale Climate Connections offers a detailed discussion of the national security implications of the climate crisis.

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

The Apollo 11 50th anniversary served as the backdrop for a call by USA Today’s Editorial Board for NASA to put its considerable talents to work tackling climate change.  Writing this opinion piece in WaPo, a former deputy NASA administrator echoes this view.  The New York Times Climate Section asks “We Went to the Moon. Why Can’t We Solve Climate Change?”  Saying “Climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet”, National Geographic explains “How artificial intelligence can tackle [it]”.

The Guardian brings us a piece about one way to use trees to combat climate change by using them to shade pigs—“the radical farming system banking on trees”.  Texas is teaming up with the Netherlands to reduce its risks from sea level rise, according to The Texas Tribune, which asks “Can the ‘masters of the flood’ help Texas protect its coast from hurricanes?

From the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) comes the story of Highland Park Michigan, where a group of residents decided to “fight back” when the town’s utility, DTE, shut off streetlights because of non-payment of bills.  The citizens banded together, established Souladarity, and “organized to light the streets themselves using off-grid, renewable energy”.  Fast Company brings the story of North Miami’s transforming a repeatedly flooded property into a public park to help prevent neighborhood flooding. Following a question from a reader, Ensia details “efforts to build more resilient communities [that] go beyond infrastructure—an exploration at what helps us thrive in the face of floods, droughts, fires and other disruptions and disasters.”  NPR has this story of one man’s “Mission To Bring Solar Energy To Communities Of Color”.

We all remember the terrible fate of Paradise, California, ravaged and just about obliterated by wildfires.  WaPo brings us an update on how its former residents have fared since forced to abandon their homes.


Renewable Energy

Solar Power World tells us that “Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, EDF Renewables partner on 30‑MW solar portfolio”.  TV3, WHSV, reports that “Monday [July 22] the Augusta County Board of Supervisors discussed solar once again. This time they talked about how it could be included into the county comprehensive plan.  Right now, the county’s comprehensive plan does not address solar. In May, the county’s board of supervisors voted not to approve a special use permit for a solar facility. At the time, they said it did not fit into the comprehensive plan.”  The Atlanta Journal Constitution says “Georgia[‘s five Public Service] commissioners, all Republicans, increase solar power, cut coal”.  They “directed Georgia Power to make its biggest increase ever in renewables, nearly doubling the solar capacity of the state’s largest utility.”  Not to be outdone, South Carolina has passed a Solar Freedom Act “commands the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to give ratepayers more choice in their consumption and solar developers more leverage in a regulated monopoly. In that way, the law loosens the belt on a solar market restricted by arbitrary policies and dominated by two of the country’s biggest investor-owned utilities (IOUs).”  As Solar Industry Magazine reports, “In addition to making more room for solar today, the law all but guarantees energy freedom is a part of the state’s future. Utilities must plan and prepare for the introduction of more distributed energy resources (DERs) and additional solar capacity within their integrated resource plans (IRPs). In short, the Energy Freedom Act is a complete overhaul for solar in South Carolina.”  Catholic Energies, working with Catholic Charities, has a project underway in D.C. to install 5,000 solar panels in a now empty field, enough to power 12 of the latter organization’s D.C. properties, according to WaPo.  This is a 2nd project in the region for Catholic Energies, which “negotiates a deal between its client — typically a Catholic church or high school — and an investor, most often a renewable-energy company. The investor agrees to pay a third-party contractor to install a solar system in return for a 30 percent federal tax credit, as well as financial incentives that vary by state.”  Catholic Charities will save considerable money but its spokesperson cites Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” as its inspiration.

The Fredericksburg Free Lance‑Star asks “Does Dominion see future blowin’ in the wind?”  The story is about Dominion’s “$300 million wind power experiment involving the construction of two wind turbines 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.”  A Bacon’s Rebellion blogger offers his views on “Reliability, Clean Energy, and an Aging Grid”.

CNN Business says “The electric car revolution is coming. This is what has to happen first”.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

Virginia has joined North Carolina and the federal government to sue Duke Energy over the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill, per this Associated Press (AP) item.  A subsequent story from the NC Policy Watch reports that “Five years after Dan River coal ash spill, Duke Energy settlement would add land to Mayo State Park”.  The settlement “between Duke Energy and state and federal officials over the 2014 Dan River spill would impose no significant financial penalties”.  The AP reports that “The federal government will offer 77.8 million acres (31.5 million hectares) in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development on Aug. 21.”

 The Virginia Mercury says “Coal-dependent counties [are] facing ‘fiscal tsunami,’ report finds”.  High Country News reminds us that the coal industry’s woes aren’t happening only east of the Mississippi:  “With coal in free-fall, Wyoming faces an uncertain future”.  S & P Global reports that “AEP [American Electric Power Co. Inc.] sets retirement date for massive Rockport coal unit in Indiana”.  The article says the planned shutdown is the result of a Sierra Club campaign and the plant is “the largest to announce retirement since the Sierra Club began its crusade to shut down existing plants in 2010.”  Inside Climate News reports that “Ohio Governor Signs Nuclear and Coal Bailout at Expense of Renewable Energy”.

The Army Corps of Engineers is facing the unusual assignment of assessing the environmental impact of new power lines that Dominion Energy has already installed (Virginia Mercury article).  Normally the Corps performs this review prior to installation and it did so in this instance.  Dominion installed the power lines across the James River along the Surry-Skiffes Creek line, after which the D.C. Appeals Court declared the Corps’ finding of “no significant impact” was “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be conducted.  At issue in part is whether and how the fact that the lines are operational should affect the assessment.

Axios talks about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), saying “Regulatory decisions about America’s bounty of natural gas are in the hands of an obscure and understaffed federal agency with a limited mandate to think about climate change.”

Ivy Main, writing in the Virginia Mercury, reports that “[a]n annual survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities shows concern about climate change is surging” and that another Yale report “found a large majority of registered voters (85%) – including 95% of Democrats and 71% of Republicans – support requiring utilities in their state to produce 100% of their electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050. Nearly two in three conservative Republicans (64%) support this policy.” The Mercury article also points out (from a prior Ivy Main guest submission) that “Dominion Energy expects to reduce carbon emissions less in the future than in the past, and it has no plan to produce 100% of its electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050. For all the talk here of solar, Virginia still had one-seventh the amount of solar installed as North Carolina at the end of 2018 and no wind energy.”  A major point is that, based on two new applications to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) for supposedly “environmentally friendly” tariffs tied to “renewable energy”, Dominion will actually allocate proceeds from these special rates “to the program the portion of electricity from its Virginia City coal plant representing the percentage of wood that is burned along with the coal.”  This is because Virginia’s legal definition of “renewable energy” includes “decades-old facilities like hydroelectric dams [and] energy from trees that have been clear-cut [aka bio-mass].”

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/18/2019

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

Politics and Policy

Good news for the Chesapeake Bay, hopefully.  The Augusta Free Press (AFP) reports that the “House of Representatives has passed the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget [with] increased funding from $73 million to $85 million.”

The Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) announces that “The [House] Climate Solutions Caucus Relaunches!”  CCL reports that “the group is co-chaired by Francis Rooney (R-FL-19) and Ted Deutch (D-FL-22).”

Elizabeth McGowan, writing in Energy News Network, addresses the lack of local government action in VA to allow increased use of a clean energy financing tool.  She notes that “The state’s property assessed clean energy law requires local governments to pass ordinances to establish the program.”

The Washington Post’s (WaPo’s) Energy 202 gives details of the current debate on extending the tax break for electric vehicles (EVs), pointing out that automakers and oil and gas companies are on different sides of the question.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a report saying “the Environmental Protection Agency did not follow its own guidelines when filling two key science advisory panels with fewer academic researchers and more industry voices.”  Energy 202 has the story.

Energy 202 reports that “Sixteen states could see spike in carbon emissions under Trump’s power plan”.  VA is one of them.

Inside Climate News says “U.S. Mayors Pressure Congress on Carbon Pricing, Climate Lawsuits and a Green New Deal”.


In WaPo, opinion writer David Von Drehle suggests that, while he believes in science, he doesn’t necessarily always agree with conclusions drawn from a given set of scientific facts.  He says in part “The challenge of climate change demands an urgent response but not an apocalyptic one.”  He also believes “There’s no scientific consensus that humanity is doomed”, asking “Isn’t it possible that our era will prove to have been too charmed by worst-case, end‑of‑the-world climate change predictions?”  Writing in NiemanLab, Laura Hazard Owen says “Yes, it’s worth arguing with science deniers — and here are some techniques you can use”.

The Guardian brings us a story about a tree-sitter who wasn’t protesting proposed pipelines.  It’s called “I lived in a tree for two years”.

WaPo’s Pop Culture asserts:  “Climate-change anxiety is now a part of growing up. Pop culture has caught on.”

The Daily Climate provides its summer 2019 list of recommended environmental reading.

The Guardian gives a preview of “How the climate crisis will change your plate in 2050”.


What’s Happening?

When we think about the kinds of changes the climate crisis is causing and will continue to cause, we don’t necessarily think about the sports industry.  But this WaPo item suggests the impacts on athletics, especially in already hot areas, will worsen.

Tropical Storm Barry produced a lot of rain and headaches for those in its path, not to mention numerous news stories, including these by Reuters (“Storm Barry cuts 73% of U.S. Offshore Oil Production:  U.S. Government”); and by Louisiana’s KLFY News (“Cleco Working to Restore Power after Tropical Storm Barry…”).

WaPo’s Business Section has this article:  “Two new studies warn that a hotter world will be a more violent one”.  Speaking of hot weather, WaPo’s Capital Weather Gang offers this summary of a recent United Nations report, saying “A record-challenging Greenland climate pattern is boosting extreme weather in North America and Europe”.  Yale Environment 360 says “Electricity Demand Will Soar as Households Try to Cope With Hotter Temperatures”.  Axios has a related story:  “Higher temperatures could fuel a global energy demand to stay cool”.  And WaPo suggests “Europe’s record heat wave is changing stubborn minds about the value of air conditioning”.

More about trees:  The last Roundup had stories about trees in New York and New Jersey and how they’re affected by the changing climate.  The Daily Climate tells us that “Ancient North Carolina trees that hold climate clues are under threat”.  And the New York Times gives a summary of a recent report that concluded “Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming, Study Finds”.

The Associated Press says “Smoke from US wildfires boosting health risk for millions”.  The Los Angeles Times has another wildfire‑effects story:  “Beach pollution surges after massive wildfires and heavy rains, report finds”.  The Sacramento Bee says “A quarter of Californians believe climate change is behind the state’s worsening wildfires”. The rest attribute the leading cause of the state’s recurrent fires to human error (17%), forest mismanagement (12%), and drought (11%).  “Smaller shares of California voters believe overpopulation and development, utility companies, natural causes, arson and insufficient firefighters are the primary causes….”

Writing an opinion piece as a guest columnist in the Virginian-Pilot, Anna Jeng, Sc.D. (a member of the Virginia Board of Health and a professor in the School of Community and Environmental Health at Old Dominion University) asks us to “Consider health effects of climate change”.  She proposes five ways to do this.

Think Progress reports that Sonny Perdue, the current Secretary of Agriculture, “dismisses climate change as ‘weather patterns’”, noting that “[m]eanwhile farmers struggle with ongoing, record‑breaking floods.”  Wired.com weighs in with this article:  “The Midwest’s Farms Face an Intense, Crop-Killing Future”.  The reporter says “Though scientists can’t say if one storm or one wet season is the result of climate change, so far this year’s heavy rains are a perfect illustration of what scientific models of climate change predict for the region.”

The Augusta Free Press provides answers to the question “What are regional climate models?”  Global climate models are not as useful in helping communities plan for specific circumstances as regional models, which cover about 3,000 square miles and enable “practical planning of local issues such as water resources or flood defenses, … requir[ing] information on a much more local scale.”

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

WaPo reports that “Harvard says fighting climate change is a top priority. But it still won’t divest from fossil fuels.”

The New York Times (NYT) asks “With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First?”  The article notes that “New research offers one way to look at the enormity of the cost as policymakers consider how to choose winners and losers in the race to adapt to climate change.” It concludes that, despite the limitations of the data, it “provides a powerful financial measuring stick for the tough decisions that countless communities — large and small — are starting to confront.”  It lists the 10 most expensive cities to save using sea walls in total costs and cost per resident.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the Nature Conservancy “has partnered with private investors to acquire over a quarter-million acres (101,000 hectares) of forest land in the coalfields of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia [as part of] … its new Cumberland Forest Project”.  The purpose is both to “protect the land but also to make money through sustainable forestry, carbon offsets, recreational leases and the eventual sale of the properties.”  The Virginia Mercury also reports this story.  Local farmer and blogger Bobby Whitescarver pens a post about the continuing need to keep streams and rivers free from agricultural pollution and discusses a non-regulatory way to do that.

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “Big philanthropists throw weight behind disruptive climate activists”.  These folks with big money have created a Climate Emergency FundEnergy 202 also has this story: “Broad group of green organizations releases climate platform ahead of 2020 election”.  And this one:  “Seven minutes were devoted to climate change in the first Democratic debate”.  And another one:  “Democratic candidates didn’t clash on climate change during debates”.  “[W]hen the 20 candidates on stage did talk about global warming, they did not do much to distinguish themselves from one another”, but they didn’t talk much about the subject at all.  WaPo asked “seven climate change experts… what they’d want to hear from the 2020 Democrats.”  Their answers are hereCivil Eats reports on the candidates’ views on food and farming.  Noting “[f]ood and farming haven’t been high on the list of campaign priorities in recent decades, except maybe in Iowa”, the article says that “a number of [the candidates] are connecting agriculture to other pressing issues—notably climate change, food insecurity, economic development, and more.”

Scientific American has a 3-part series on how Alaskans are adapting to the changing climate.  Mongabay reports that “As climate chaos escalates in Indian Country, feds abandon tribes”.  WaPo tells us that “The National Archives’ floating flood wall helped dodge disaster from epic rainfall” during Washington D.C.’s recent flash flooding.


Renewable Energy

The Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph offers details on open houses Dominion is scheduling about “a proposed Dominion Energy $2 billion hydroelectric pump storage facility in Tazewell County this week”.  Issues include the amount/availability of water needed for the reservoir.  Radio IQ/WVTF has a story about the potential of hydropower in VA.

The Herald Mail Media in Hagerstown MD reports on Martinsburg WV High School’s project to install “state-of-the-art geothermal technology aimed at substantially reducing heating and cooling costs”.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) provides a detailed analysis, “Utilities Bid to Own Rooftop Solar Even As They Oppose It”, pointing out that utility ownership is “Still Worse for Customers Than Self-Ownership”.

The Charlotte (NC) Observer reports that “A freeze on new wind turbines the Senate approved for wide swaths of the state is gone from a new proposal on regulating wind turbines.  House and Senate negotiators removed the moratorium the Senate approved in Senate bill 377 and added an addition to the state permitting process by requiring the state to ask for more information from military commanders.”

Reporting that the “Denton City Council rejects renewable energy bids, climate action item”, the Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle notes that the Council “rejected the latest contract offers from wind farms and solar energy storage projects that would have helped the city reach its goal to be powered by 100% renewable energy by next year.  Denton Municipal Electric staff recommended the move, saying that they would seek new bids for the projects. Coastal wind and solar energy storage are both key objectives in meeting the 100% goal.”  Nonetheless, Axios says the “Southern states lead 2019’s stock market solar rally”.  And PVTech says “US clean energy investors keenest on PV, storage in trillion dollar race”.  Solar Power World explains how “a coalition of local and national renewable energy advocates, including a diversity of community leaders and local businesses” in New Orleans “submitted a sweeping proposal aimed at transforming the current energy system in the city to 100% renewable energy by 2040.”  The group was apparently inspired by Hurricane Barry.

The Harrisonburg Citizen brings us an article about the failure of the Harrisonburg School Board and Secure Futures to reach agreement on installation of solar panels for Harrisonburg schools.  The article explains that the “school system’s leaders and the solar company couldn’t agree on the terms” for constructing “the largest solar array for a Virginia public school system.”  In contrast, Secure Futures has posted an article about its successful arrangement with Augusta County schools to install solar, crediting two county students for getting the ball rolling.  Recently, Fluvanna County schools and Charlottesville Day School decided to go solar.  The Fluvanna Review and the Augusta Free Press give us the stories.  The Augusta Free Press asks (and answers) “Why should schools teach climate education?”

Solar Industry points out that “USDA Funds Rural Solar Projects Across The Country”, to the tune of “58 grants for projects, including solar, in 17 states and Puerto Rico to reduce energy costs for farmers, ag producers, and rural-based businesses and institutions.”  The previous Roundup included a News Virginian article reporting on several Stuarts Draft and Lyndhurst landowners’ efforts to obtain approval for a solar farm on their properties from the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, who said no.  Now these folks have filed suit, according to the News Virginian.  On the other hand, the Chesterfield Observer reports that “Solar farm gets warm welcome in Chester”.

This small blurb in the Houston Chronicle says “Renewables surpassed coal for power production [in the U.S.] in April for first time”.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

This Reuters story says “Kinder Morgan Inc can begin work on a $2 billion natural gas pipeline without having the Texas energy regulator approve its proposed route, a state judge ruled on Tuesday [June 25].”  Writing in the New York Times (NYT), Brad Plumer addresses this question:  “America’s coal-burning power plants are shutting down at a rapid pace, forcing electric utilities to face the next big climate question: Embrace natural gas, or shift aggressively to renewable energy?”  The article notes:  “[I]n a recent analysis, David Pomerantz, the executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a pro-renewables group, looked at the long-term plans of the 22 biggest investor-owned utilities. Some in the Midwest are planning to speed up the rate at which they cut emissions between now and 2030. But other large utilities, like Duke Energy and American Electric Power, expect to reduce their carbon emissions at a slower pace over the next decade than they had over the previous decade.”  Reuters informs us that Chubb will be the first U.S. insurer to “pull back” on “its coal investments and insurance policies, saying … it will no longer sell insurance to or invest in companies that make more than 30% of their revenue from coal mining”.

Ivy Main, writing in the Virginia Mercury, tells us that “Dominion’s carbon cutting plans aren’t good enough”.  She reports that:  “According to an analysis of Dominion’s own data by the Energy and Policy Institute, ‘the company reduced its carbon emissions at an average rate of 4% per year from 2005 to 2017, mostly by retiring coal plants in the later years of that period. That reduction rate plummets to 1% per year between now and 2030 under Dominion’s new goal.’”  The Institute comments, perhaps wryly, that “Dominion’s pitch to climate-conscious investors may have a problem.”  A previous Ivy post, about Virginia’s electric cooperatives–“Customer-owned utilities should be leaders on clean energy. Why do most of them fail to deliver?”–was the subject of a critique by a Bacon’s Rebellion blogger.  ABC13 News (WSET) has this piece about Dominion Energy’s plans to expand solar energy in Virginia.

From the Roanoke Times comes a story about a coal train derailment in the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge, resulting in a massive coal spill.  The Virginian-Pilot also covers this storyAccording to the Associated Press, “Cleanup of spilled coal in Great Dismal Swamp to take weeks”.

In a guest column for the Virginia Mercury, Wild Virginia’s David Sligh declares that Virginia’s “Water board should support call for federal action to halt pipeline damage”.  An environmental hydrologist, writing in the Virginia Mercury, says “MVP’s [Mountain Valley Pipeline’s] violations show ‘complete absence of any and all meaningful regulation’”.  The Roanoke Times reports that “Construction materials for [the same] pipeline washed into Smith Mountain Lake”.  From Marcellus Drilling News comes a story about VA Legislators asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Sierra Club also writes about the legislators’ actions from an arguably different perspective.  And, in the Virginia Mercury, Elizabeth McGowan says “Solar program attempts to bridge rifts left by compressor station fight in Union Hill”.  The story is about the community’s efforts to educate itself about solar energy and its economic possibilities, following a divisive response to Dominion’s proposal to place a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in its midst. Energy News Network also reports this story.  The Roanoke Times reports that “[a group of Southwest VA] landowners ask U.S. Supreme Court to bar taking their property for pipeline” and that “[a] decision on whether the high court will consider the appeal is expected in the fall.”

Illustrating the hardships many Appalachian communities face as coal production continues to decline, a recent Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) study shows “while Appalachia is seeing some economic improvement, the heart of the region and its coal-producing communities are still struggling.” The ARC report includes a map of counties’ economic situations ranging from “distressed” to “attainment”. (Ohio Valley Resource story).

U.S. News has an Associated Press story about a Union of Concerned Scientists report that a Kansas utility essentially runs its coal plants year-round, “costing [its] customers $20 million a year in added fuel costs”.

The Progressive Pulse reports that “After DEQ denies WesternGeco’s request to conduct offshore seismic testing, company appeals to feds”.

H’burg Environmental Action Plan Released


The Environmental Action Plan (EAP) is a road map for city leaders, staff, and community members to implement sustainability visions and principles. Sustainability is defined by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” To-date, the City of Harrisonburg has taken steps to address the quality and care of our natural resources; however, the latest science indicates that more ambitious actions are required to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation and the changing climate that will affect our community’s health, economy, and well-being. – Harrisonburg’s Environmental Action Plan draft, May 30, 2019

It’s been a long time coming but with big efforts from the citizen Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC) and select Harrisonburg City staff, Harrisonburg completed its draft of an Environmental Action Plan and shared it with the public in early June 2019. Harrison Horst of Harrisonburg’s The Citizen covered this along with the public open house held at City Hall on June 5 for city staff and EPSAC members to discuss the plan with interested citizens: Harrisonburg’s draft Environmental Action Plan goes public – minus a focus on renewable energy

The draft is available online here.

The comment period for Phase 1 ends on Wednesday, June 26.

Comments delivered by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley are viewable on this pdf: Response to Harrisonburg EAP.

Renew Rocktown solicited public input via this petition and shares their comments here.

Photo at top is from the cover of the draft EAP


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”


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”.


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.


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.”

Spring into Summer!


Potluck Picnic
Thursday, June 20 | 6:30-8:30PM
Ralph Sampson Park, Shelter #2
431 E Washington St, Harrisonburg

Come catch up with old friends in the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) or make new relationships with like-minded members of the community. Learn about different climate change issues CAAV is tackling in a relaxing setting, and share your ideas on how else we can help make Harrisonburg-Rockingham a regional leader in climate action and resilience.

Conversation Topics (or suggest your own!): Solar & renewable energy, Climate change education, Composting, Climate-related legislation & elections, No pipeline activist art, Climate resilience

From 6:30 – 8:30 PM, CAAV Members and allies will gather at Ralph Sampson Park (Shelter #2) to share food for the body and soul. Bring your own dish to share. Come and go at your convenience, but stick around until 8:43PM if you want to take in a beautiful Valley pre-Summer solstice sunset.

Please come connect with us, and bring along your colleagues, friends, and loved ones!

Facebook event page HERE.

Thanks to everyone who came to the potluck picnic! It was great meeting new folks and revisiting with old friends. Photos below by Cathy Strickler.