Virginia A Dark Hole Of Ignorant Policy?

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CAAV Chair Laura Dansby

Virginia A Dark Hole Of Ignorant Policy?, Laura Dansby
Daily News-Record, February 12, 2015

The Atlantic Ocean has risen 18 inches at Sewells Point in Norfolk. Del. Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, introduced The Virginia Coastal Protection Act.

The goal of the bill is to reduce heat-trapping emissions and raise money for coastal adaptation. This is accomplished by allowing states to sell carbon allowances to utilities.

Virginia would join 10 other Eastern states in a program that would raise $200 million per year for Virginia toward coastal adaptation. Also, a portion of the funds would strengthen renewable energy programs and help to economically diversify Virginia’s dying coal region. Unsurprisingly, Dominion opposed the bill and it failed. Ron Villanueva, a Republican, but he gets it.

The people on the coast, the U.S. military, and the politicians know something must be done. Virginia should be the jewel in the crown of the Eastern Seaboard, not a dark hole of ignorant policy.

Laura Dansby
Keezletown

TO: Virginia Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Commission

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TO: Virginia Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Commission
FROM: Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV)
DATE: October 11, 2014

Dear Commissioner:

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is a grassroots organization in the Harrisonburg, Virginia area formed seven years ago with the mission to educate and lobby on issues arising from climate change and their solutions, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices. During that time we have organized public forums on all aspects of renewable energy and conservation; tabled at countless environmental events; written editorials and letters to the editor in our local newspaper and others around the state; met with the editorial board of The Daily News-Record and a committee from the local television station; lobbied local, state, and federal representatives; and given numerous presentations for civic and political groups. Our steering committee of 14 meets bi-monthly. We have an active mailing list of 450 associates.

We were gratified when Governor Kaine formed the first climate change commission, disappointed when Governor McDonnell ignored it, and are now encouraged that Governor McAuliffe has reinstated the Commission. We are impressed with the quality of its membership.

Some of our members attended meetings of the Commission under the Kaine administration, as well as the Commission’s inaugural meeting under Governor McAuliffe. We are pleased that Governor McAuliffe did not mince words as to the reality and seriousness of climate change and explicitly charged the Commission to proceed on that basis. Indeed, in general, we were impressed with the energy and forcefulness of the Governor and his charge to the Commission. At the same time, there are some things the Governor said and did not say that we would like to go on record as questioning.

Concerning the EPA carbon rules, the Governor seems to be convinced that the rules have not given Virginia credit for efficiencies already implemented. However, the process used by the EPA explicitly gives credit for initiatives implemented or started by states. We prefer that Virginia focus on complying rather than contesting the EPA carbon rules.

The Governor made the case that the proposed natural gas pipeline would help power Virginia’s economy and reduce the use of dirty coal. With respect to job creation, the Governor’s enthusiasm overlooked the “staying power” of those jobs once the pipeline construction is completed. In addition, he did not address the significant probability for harm to Virginia’s land, air, and water, and therefore to the economy, that the pipeline’s construction and deployment will cause.

Natural gas is cleaner than coal only if the leak rate is kept below 3%. No mention was made of the importance of keeping leak rates low if we are to use natural gas.

Building out natural gas infrastructure must be done as part of an overall plan that achieves greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. The danger is that if too much is invested in natural gas infrastructure, we will not be able to afford the desired build-out of renewable energy infrastructure.

The Governor seemed to let his concern for Virginia’s economy dominate his energy policy by citing the decline of national defense jobs. We think the proper approach is to design an energy and climate policy to meet climate change goals, allowing the economy to build around those priorities. If we do the former rather than the latter, we almost surely will continue the pattern of sacrificing the environment in hopes of short term gains for the economy.

Calling upon the Dominion Power representative on the Commission, the Governor pointed out that about 40% of Virginia’s power comes from nuclear power. There might be a push by Dominion to build additional nuclear power since nuclear power’s comparatively low carbon emissions could help with compliance with the EPA carbon rules. Conventional nuclear power continues to be plagued by the problem of disposal of nuclear waste, danger of meltdown and release of dangerous radiation, and vulnerability to terrorism. Given these considerations, the State Corporation Commission should be enabled to provide rate increases to support utility plans that involve additional nuclear power only if (a) the cost is less than solar and wind, either distributed or owned by the utility, and (b) the nuclear technology used is of an advanced type that minimizes vulnerability to terrorism, safety concerns, and issues of storage and/or disposal of nuclear waste.

Governor McAuliffe came across as defending the interests of Dominion Power. The demand for electricity is very likely to go up tremendously as we transition off of fossil fuels, possibly as much as 3-5 times by 2100. More cars will be electric, more buildings will use heat pumps, airplanes are likely to be powered by hydrogen, which requires electricity to produce, etc. Even with tremendous growth of rooftop solar and other on-site renewables, Dominion Power is destined for massive, continuous growth. It is our job to make sure that growth is from renewables and not fuels that emit greenhouse gases.

Among the specific recommendations we would like to see come out of the Commission are:

1.    A mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard for the utilities with incremental yearly increases
2.    Energy efficiency building code standards with enforcement of those standards for all commercial and domestic buildings, public and private
3.    Incentives and programs for schools to build net zero energy buildings and to add solar power to existing school buildings
4.    Build-out of offshore wind without delay
5.    A moratorium on offshore oil and gas (How can we expect to reduce greenhouse emissions if we keep expanding fossil fuel infrastructure?)
6.    Incentives for installation of solar power and avoidance of disincentives, such as standby fees, for connecting solar arrays to the grid
7.    A document that covers all of the sustainability practices needed to reduce greenhouse gases that include power plant emissions, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and agricultural practices.
8.    An analysis that shows how the sum of the initiatives required by the Federal government combined with the Commission’s recommendations will achieve Virginia’s share of greenhouse gas reductions needed to keep global temperature rise below 2° Celsius.
9.    If new nuclear energy facilities are used to meet our electricity needs they should be only advanced designs that minimize vulnerability to terrorism, safety concerns, and issues of storage and/or disposal of nuclear waste.

We would also urge the Commission to encourage the use of a carbon fee and dividend approach to meeting greenhouse gas emissions reductions. This approach has been incorporated into several bills proposed in Congress and is the focus of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

Carbon fee and dividend is a market based approach to emissions reduction. The carbon fee removes the current market distortion of fossil fuel prices that do not reflect the damage to the climate. The result would be that renewable energy will tend to replace fossil fuels and energy will be used more efficiently. The fees collected on carbon based fuels are paid back to citizens per capita to offset the increase in the price of fuel and other goods tied to that increase. Credible studies have shown that carbon fee and dividend reduces emissions and even modestly improves the economy over business as usual. (See REMI report at CitizensClimateLobby.org)

One of the tasks of the Commission should be to study how carbon fee and dividend would affect the Virginia economy in particular. It is likely that Virginia would benefit highly, because Virginia is not an oil and gas producing state. The movement to renewables would benefit Virginia’s high technology and manufacturing sectors.  The only sector that would be negatively affected would be coal, but coal is already destined to dramatic decrease regardless of how emissions are reduced.

We consider climate change the defining issue of our time, of all time, and encourage the Commission to make its decisions bearing this in mind. All credible sources have warned us that, indeed, time is not on humanity’s side with respect to our changing climate. Unfortunately Virginia has not been a leader with respect to energy reform up to this point. We trust that this will change with a rapid roll out of the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Commission’s bold, thoughtful, and forward looking recommendations.

On behalf of the CAAV Steering Committee, whose names follow,

C. P. Leslie Grady Jr., Ph.D., Chair

Steering Committee Members
Emily Blake
Laura Dansby
Carl Droms
Joni Grady
Joy Loving
Pete Mahoney
Anne Nielsen
Lynn Smith
Cathy Strickler
Charles Strickler
RoxAnna Theiss
Adrie Voors
Rickie Wertz

CAAV at International Fest 2014

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Letter signing at the International Fest.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley hosted a table at the Harrisonburg International Festival on September 27, 2014, in Hillandale Park. We featured a display board with a map and images of climate-related changes being realized by the friends and families of many Harrisonburg residents. We displayed the letter below to Senators Kaine and Warner and Representative Goodlatte and asked for signatures:

Dear Gentlemen:

Nations around the world, many of whom contribute very little CO₂ to the atmosphere, are already suffering from the impacts of human-caused climate change. Many immigrants from these countries live in our Harrisonburg community. We work with them, shop with them, share our lives with them, and so the destruction we read about is not abstract, it has a human face.

A 20-year forecast from Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) found that a carbon fee rising $10 per ton each year would add 2.8 million jobs to the economy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels. It is no longer true that we must choose between the environment and the economy; the REMI study shows we can cut carbon emissions and improve our economy at the same time through a revenue-neutral carbon tax that gives the revenue back to households.

We the undersigned call upon the United States Senate, House of Representatives, and President Obama to work together to introduce, promote, and pass legislation that puts a price on carbon pollution and returns revenues directly to the American people.

We owe this action to ourselves, our grandchildren, and to all the people of this small world we share.

Senators Kaine and Warner and Representative Goodlatte were each sent a copy of this letter with some 75 signatures attached as collected at the International Fest.

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GOODLATTE WRONG ON CLIMATE

Posted to Daily News-Record online in the Open Forum on July 24, 2014

By Leslie Grady, Jr

Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s Fourth of July message to constituents came while I was attending week two of the Chautauqua Institution in New York. The theme for the week was “Feeding a Hungry Planet.” As we listened to the forward-looking speakers during the week and grappled with the complex issues surrounding the future of agriculture in an age of changing climate, it was particularly disheartening to read the congressman’s backward-looking and shortsighted views.

risky businessThe entire focus of his newsletter was increasing the exploitation of fossil fuels in the United States. Unfortunately, increasing the production of fossil fuels is the worst policy we could pursue because it ignores and exacerbates the risks associated with global warming. Those risks were on my mind while reading the newsletter, because I had just read a report entitled “Risky Business, The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States,” released in June by The Risky Business Project, co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson, and Tom Steyer. That report provides critical information about the effects of climate change on key sectors of our national economy. It is based on an extensive study conducted by the Rhodium Group titled, “American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States,” also released in June.

These studies represent the first comprehensive assessment of the economic risks our nation faces from climate change if we continue on our current path of fossil fuel use. Using a standard risk-assessment approach they focus on the clearest and most economically significant risks: damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge; climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand; and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.

Because of sea-level rise, coastal property and infrastructure are particularly vulnerable. Even though we in the Shenandoah Valley do not share that vulnerability, we will certainly share the costs through our insurance premiums and tax revenues that will go to help our neighbors along the coast. We can minimize those costs, however, by acting now to reduce carbon dioxide emissions with their associated warming. As former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe has said: “If we were told – in any sphere – that we had at least a 90 percent chance of averting a disaster through changes we ourselves could make, wouldn’t we take action?”

Farmers in the Shenandoah Valley may be luckier than those in the Midwest and South because the projected effects here are smaller. Nevertheless, because of the integration of modern agriculture, we will all be affected by changes in climate anywhere in the country. Thus, it is of concern that the yields of corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton in some parts of the country are projected to decline by 10 percent or more throughout the next five to 25 years if we continue on our current path of fossil fuel use.

Many have spoken of the ability of humans to adapt, thereby dismissing the impacts of a hotter world. However, given our current path, by midcentury many parts of the country will be so hot and humid in the summer that the ability of people to work outdoors will be limited or their productivity will be diminished. Furthermore, as parts of the nation heat up, the worst health effects will be felt by the poor and elderly, many of whom have no access to air conditioning.

If we act today to move onto a different path of fossil fuel use, we can avoid many of the worst impacts of global warming. We are fully capable of managing climate risk, but only if we start to change our business and public policy decisions today. In short, we have a choice between just accepting the climate risks associated with our current practices or getting on another path.

As the “Risky Business” report states, “This is not a problem for another day. The investments we make today – this week, this month, this year – will determine our economic future.” Encourage Rep. Goodlatte to help us get on another path.

Leslie Grady Jr. lives in Harrisonburg.

Open as a pdf file here:  DNRonline _ Goodlatte Wrong On Climate

Congress Must Tax Carbon

Daily News-Record, Open Forum, April 14, 2014

By Leslie Grady

If you take a quick look at the global temperature record over the past 15 years, you’d think that global warming has stopped, or at least slowed drastically, and that burning fossil fuels isn’t a problem. But you’d be wrong. The atmosphere isn’t warming as fast but the planet is still warming, with most of the heat going into the deep oceans. This is a result of natural cycles in ocean currents and winds. As these cycles continue, atmospheric temperatures will rise again because the cause of global warming, increased concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, has not been addressed.

Satellite measurements show clearly that more heat is coming into Earth from the sun than is leaving as outgoing radiation. We all know from experience that when more heat comes in than goes out, the temperature rises, and this is true of Earth just as it is true for any other object. The cause is the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, which decrease outgoing radiation. It raises the temperature of the air, the land, and the oceans. It also melts the ice in Earth’s ice caps and glaciers.

Even though we know that about 90 percent of the additional heat enters the oceans, surface air temperatures are used as evidence for global warming. This would be fine if the air temperature accurately reflected the heat content of the oceans, but it doesn’t because of their depth and the huge amount of water contained in them.

The amount of heat transferred to the oceans is determined by the combined effects of winds and ocean currents and as these vary, the climate changes. One combination forms the El Niño-Southern Oscillation in the Pacific Ocean. During El Niño periods, Earth’s surface is warmer and during the opposite La Niña phase, it is cooler. A major El Niño event occurred in 1997-98, resulting in a record high global mean temperature that wasn’t surpassed until 2010 when another major event occurred.

Unlike ENSO, which occurs with a frequency of 5 to 7 years, several other oscillations occur over periods of decades. These include the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. These influence sea level pressure as well as sea surface temperature so they affect both trade winds and upwellings from the deep ocean, as well as the down-wellings that help transfer heat to the deep ocean.

Climate scientists are gaining a much better understanding of how these oscillations impact climate and the variability we see in it. For example, from 1943 to 1976 and from 1999 to the present, both periods of pauses in global warming, the PDO was in a negative phase. When it returned to a positive phase in 1977, rapid atmospheric warming was observed. Because of the continued buildup in CO2 in the atmosphere during the current pause (from 368 to 398 parts per million), the imbalance between incoming and outgoing heat has increased. This means that once the PDO returns to a positive phase and a smaller fraction of incoming heat is stored in the oceans, Earth will be in for a rapid rise in air temperature. This will not be good for crops, for forests, for animals, or for people.

The only way to combat global warming and its associated climate change is to address the root cause, the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration caused by the burning of fossil fuels. This needs to be done globally, but because the USA has contributed more CO2 than any other nation, the world looks to us to take the lead.

Although a legislative approach to reducing CO2 emissions is preferable, Congress has failed to act, and thus the EPA is acting through regulation. This would not be necessary if Congress would enact a steadily increasing revenue-neutral carbon tax. Passing such a tax would make the price of fossil fuels reflect their true cost to society, including health and environmental effects, as well as global warming and climate change. It would allow market forces to solve the problem. Call on Congress to act.

Les and Joni Grady at CAAV's booth at Blacks Run CleanUp Green Scene April 13, 2014. © John Reeves
Les and Joni Grady at CAAV’s booth at Blacks Run CleanUp Green Scene April 12, 2014. © John Reeves

Leslie Grady Jr. lives in Harrisonburg.

Les has chaired the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley steering committee since 2012.

Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards need strength!

To State Senators Emmett Hanger and Mark Obenshain, and Delegates Tony Wilt and Steve Landis, as signed by participants of a presentation by Virginia Conservation Network’s Policy and Campaigns Manager Chelsea Harnish at Ruby’s on April 8, 2014, concerning the recent General Assembly session.

Dear Gentlemen:

Many states in the mid-Atlantic region have enacted legislation to require a percentage of electricity sold in the state to be generated from renewable sources, i.e. Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania all have legislation requiring the generation of 15 to 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources in the next decade.

Not only are Virginia’s Renewable Portfolio Standards weak but they are merely voluntary. In 2012 Dominion Virginia Power generated 552,033 MWh from renewable sources, out of a total of 64,600,000 MWh sold. That’s about 0.8%, none of it from wind or solar.

We call on you, our elected representatives, to join the states around us in bidding farewell to the fossil fuel economy that is destroying Earth’s ecosystems. We call on you to put Virginia on the path of progress toward a renewable energy economy that will generate jobs, stimulate innovation and research, create new industries, and restore ecosystem health.

We call on you to enact real and credible Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards in the next session of the Virginia General Assembly.

On behalf of the CAAV Steering Committee and the Citizens signing the following pages,

Dear Senator Kaine:

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Senator Kaine participated in a rare Senate all-nighter to attract attention to the need to address Climate Change.

In response to Democratic Senators’ March 10, 2014, all night session to stir up climate change action, CAAV’s Legislation and Election committee prepared the following letter to Senator Tim Kaine. It was displayed and available for signatures by the attendees of CAAV’s March 18 letter writing workshop with Pete Bsumek. Find Senator Kaine’s presentation to the Senate Climate Action Task Force’s overnight meeting here.

Senator Tim Kaine
388 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington , D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Kaine:

We listened carefully and were encouraged by your remarks at the recent all-night Senate event on March 10. Your understanding of climate issues and energy challenges was correct and to the point. You stated there is no conflict between the economy and the environment and that, in fact, the path to the new economy lies in environmental innovation. Win! Win! We agree!

There is another important arrow in our quiver in the fight against climate change and that is putting a price on carbon. Experts agree that it is the most cost effective and efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. The carbon price discussion draft released in March of 2013 by Waxman, Whitehouse, Blumenauer and Schatz provides an excellent starting point but needs strengthening.

1. The tax or fee should be applied upstream on carbon-based fuels at the first point of sale. Sale of permits should not be allowed because that leaves open the possibility of switching to a cap and trade system, which creates complexity and non-transparency.
2. The carbon tax legislation must include border adjustment tariffs to prevent American businesses from being placed at a competitive disadvantage. Countries without similar carbon prices would have a tariff imposed, along with refunds to U.S. businesses exporting to those countries, in order to create a level playing field. Also this would help encourage the carbon pricing to spread world-wide.
3. The tax should start at $35 per ton and increase at an annual rate of 8% per year. (The original numbers put forward by the task force were too weak).
4. All revenue generated from the tax should be divided equally among individuals in the U.S. and returned as a monthly or annual payment. This protects low and middle income consumers and makes the bill truly revenue neutral. (There are many other ideas out there on this point including a portion going to R and D and subsidies for renewables).
5. There must be bipartisan support!

We look to you and Senator Warner to provide leadership not only for Virginia but for the entire Nation on this climate crisis. Thank you for stepping out and into the light last week and becoming a “climate hero”. We’re right here behind you, supporting you in any way we can with the political will for a livable world.

For the CAAV Steering Committee and the Citizens signing the following page,
Leslie Grady Jr, Ph.D.
Chairman CAAV Steering Committee
Harrisonburg, VA

Put a Price on Carbon

This letter was available for signing at the CAAV booth at the International Festival in Harrisonburg on September 28, 2013.

Dear Senators Warner and Kaine:

Warner Kaine video all.of.the.aboveWe at Climate Alliance of the Valley have watched your recent YouTube video titled – Bill to Expand Offshore Energy Leases- and are responding to your invitation for citizen input.  Although this would not take effect until 2020, we feel it is misdirected in light of the science explaining the chemistry and physics of climate disruption.

This plan may have been justified when the former Senators Warner and Webb first introduced this but we are better informed now.  We know now that to help protect future Virginians it is imperative that we leave all fossil fuels deep in the earth and not put them in the atmosphere to cause excessive heating of our beautiful blue-green ball, with the only  known existence of life as we know it.

If you have read the science, and we feel both of you at least understand what is happening, there is no other choice than trying to get off of our fossil fuel addiction. You have both sponsored and supported some very important energy legislation. It is really difficult for the alcoholic not to take that next drink.  It is time now to take the next step. Put a Price on Carbon.

It is easy to understand where you are coming from politically in this video and we would like to see you re-elected unless someone else is more willing to step up and support legislation to preserve life as we know it.

If you have read the science and know the facts, how can you do other than step forward and put some kind of price on carbon.  What will your children or grandchildren say in 20-30 yrs if you don’t do what you can now?

We are supporting some form of Fee and Dividend (S-332, Saunders-Boxer Bill or several house bills etc). Citizens Climate Lobby has done a lot of work on this.  We feel it is the only kind of bill that has a chance of passing and will do the job of reducing our carbon usage.  We know all the arguments against this pushed by the fossil fuel industry and we know what is going to happen if we don’t soon get started.  Therefore, we are asking you both to become leaders in trying to stop us from destroying ourselves.