Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/18/2019

Politics and Policy

President Donald Trump confirmed that U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will step down from his Cabinet post at the end of the year.  Trump also announced that he would nominate Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to succeed Perry.  Following on the heels of a federal appeals court ruling that stayed a key permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered that all work on the pipeline stop, except for stabilization and restoration activities.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published a report regarding the financial risk of climate change to low- and moderate-income communities.  The risk is dire, but the report proposes actions that could alter the behavior of financial institutions and local governments, pushing them to better prepare for climate change.  Unlike most Republican-led state governments, Florida has a chief resilience officer, whose job it is to prepare the state for the types of risk considered in the Fed report.  Climate risk has a big impact on the insurance industry, which raises the question of whether it can survive.  At WBUR, Robin Young discussed this question with The Economist finance correspondent Matthieu Favas.  Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, told The Guardian, “Companies and industries that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt…”

Climate change will not be on the agenda at next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit hosted by the U.S. at Trump National Doral near Miami.  John D. Macomber of the Harvard Business School examined the options for building (or rebuilding) in an age of climate change.  An editorial in The Economist addressed how national carbon-cutting goals should be expressed.  One example was the necessity to include imbedded-carbon from imports in the calculations.  Forty-five percent of carbon emissions come from making things.  A new report argues that the best way to address them is to shift to a circular economy.  At Yale Environment 360, Fen Montaigne interviewed William Moomaw of Tuft’s University who is a proponent of “proforestation”, leaving older and middle-aged forests intact because of their superior carbon-sequestration abilities.

Umair Irfan and David Roberts at Vox asked the Democratic presidential candidates six climate-related questions that haven’t been asked at the debates.  Nine responded.  The answers can be found here.  If you don’t have time to read their responses, Grist had the highpoints.  Climate change is often listed as a driver of conflict, particularly in regions of the world where water is scarce.  But, is it?  John Vidal addressed that question in Ensia, ending with a quote from a recent paper in Nature: “Across the experts, best estimates are that 3–20% of conflict risk over the past century has been influenced by climate variability or change.”  However, Vidal said, “… they also wrote that the risk of conflict is likely to increase as climate change intensifies.”

Climate and Climate Science

Carbon Brief has published its third quarterly “State of the Climate” report for this year.  So far, it looks like 2019 will be the second warmest year on record, even though there was no El Niño.  Switzerland’s glaciers have lost a tenth of their volume in the past five years alone — a rate of melting that is unprecedented in more than a century of observations.  Even before the impacts of 2019 had occurred, 92% of Greenlanders thought that climate change is happening, but only 52% thought it is human-caused.  National Geographic had an interesting retrospective piece about how scientists discovered that the ice dams that hold back Greenland’s glaciers are being melted from the bottom by warm sea water.

A study published in the Proceedings of The Royal Society B found that forest birds take their cue for nesting from nighttime temperatures in the spring.  Consequently, as climate change causes temperatures to rise, the breeding patterns of birds are being altered.  A study published in the journal Nature found that toxic algal blooms are increasing across the world as temperatures rise.  The study was based on 30 years of NASA data.  Driven in part by climate change, species turnover has increased in many ecosystems as species better adapted to current conditions displace traditional ones.

Qatar has already seen average temperatures rise more than 2°C above preindustrial times, which means it is experiencing some very hot temperatures.  In addition, Qatar is very humid, because of its location in the warm Persian Gulf.  Consequently, Qatar is air conditioning the outdoors, which is one reason it has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emission rate in the world.  Far away from Qatar, in South America, the Xingu River is one of the Amazon River’s largest tributaries, but more than a third of its drainage basin, a region bigger than New York State, is now deforested.  This makes the basin a perfect laboratory in which to study the impact of deforestation on climate and the remaining rainforest.

Two new papers, one in Nature Communications and the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined how two important diseases will spread in response to global warming and land use.  The first study looked at Ebola and concluded that as temperatures warm, Ebola will move to other parts of Africa as the bats that harbor the virus move.  The second looked at malaria, finding that deforestation significantly increases its transmission. 

According to this year’s global hunger index, climate change is driving alarming levels of hunger in the world, undermining food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions.  In the U.S., farmers are increasingly experiencing the impacts of severe weather, yet the Department of Agriculture spends just 0.3% of its $144 billion budget helping them adapt to climate change.


This week’s “Climate Fwd: Newsletter” from The New York Times had an interesting article about heat pumps and the energy that they save.  One item that the author didn’t mention is that the cleaner your electricity gets, the cleaner the heat pump gets, as opposed to a furnace, which will always emit greenhouse gases.

According to the NYT, some of the major oil and gas “companies have significantly increased their flaring, as well as the venting of natural gas and other potent greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere, according to data from the three largest shale-oil fields in the United States.”  The Daily Climate published an op-ed piece by Derrick Z. Jackson, a Union of Concerned Scientists Fellow in climate and energy, about the efforts by the natural gas industry to paint itself green.  Although green hydrogen is still very much in its infancy, investors and policymakers are starting to take note.  Consequently, Green Tech Media took a brief look at ten countries beginning to move on this potentially important energy source.

Volvo Cars is targeting a 40% reduction in the carbon footprint of each car it manufactures by 2025 and aims to become fully climate neutral by 2040.  Toward that end, it introduced its first fully electric vehicle, a battery-powered version of its small SUV, the XC40.  Ford announced on Thursday it has developed a 12,000-strong charging station network, called the FordPass Charging Network, that its future electric-vehicle owners will be able to take advantage of.  In a two-part series, Utility Dive and Smart Cities Dive explored the question of how cities and utilities are preparing for the expected increase of electric vehicles in the transportation mix.  (Part I; Part II)

By 2022, 30% of the electricity consumed by state agencies and institutions in Virginia will come from renewable sources, under a new agreement between the Commonwealth and Dominion Energy.  The 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project being developed by Dominion Energy and Orsted US received federal approval of two important permits.  An analysis by Carbon Brief revealed that during the third quarter of 2019, UK electricity production by solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower beat out production by fossil fuels for the first time.  Although many U.S. electric utilities are promising net zero carbon emissions by 2050, most plan to rely heavily on coal and natural gas for decades.  That means continuing increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.  In an opinion piece in the NYT, Justin Gillis wrote “What the events in California and Miami and Houston tell us is that we are living through the risks of an altered climate now, not a hundred years from now.  Expect the situation to keep getting worse for the rest of your life.”

In an interview with Reuters, Ben van Beurden, CEO of Shell, expressed concern that some shareholders could abandon them due partly to what he called the “demonization” of oil and gas and “unjustified” worries that its business model is unsustainable.  “Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it,” he said.  To illustrate that point, India is investing $60 billion to build a national gas grid and import terminals by 2024 in a bid to cut its carbon emissions.  So how can we rein in oil and gas?  The Guardian presented eight ideas.  Calm has returned to the streets of Quito after Ecuador’s government agreed to reinstate fuel subsidies following eleven days of nationwide, violent protests.


Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition movement, has a new book entitled From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want.  At The New Yorker, Rachel Riederer reviewed two new books dealing with the “stark inequality of climate change”: This Land Is Our Land by Jedediah Purdy and The Geography of Risk by Gilbert Gaul.  Although written from an Australian perspective, Iain Walker and Zoe Leviston’s article about the three forms of climate change denial is equally applicable to the U.S.  There was an interesting article in the NYT entitled “How Guilty Should You Feel About Flying?”.  At Yale Climate Connections, Michael Svoboda continued his summary of recent climate-related reports released so far this year.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/11/2019

Politics and Policy

On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren detailed a new environmental justice plan aimed at bolstering and protecting vulnerable communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.  The need for such a plan was illustrated by a study of FEMA’s buyout program published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.  At The New York Times, Lisa Friedman looked at why young climate activists are not impressed with either former Vice President Joe Biden’s climate plans or his climate record.  U.S. mayors are seeking to go over President Trump’s head and negotiate directly at next month’s UN climate change conference in Santiago.  Senate Democrats plan to use the Congressional Review Act to try and repeal the Trump Administration’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan.  Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, eight EU states have called on the bloc’s incoming top climate official to raise the CO2 reduction target for 2030 to 55% from 40%.

Virginia ranked 29th in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard released earlier this month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  This caused reporter Elizabeth McGowen to write “If Virginia is ever to bust loose from its middle-of-the-pack state ranking on energy efficiency, its regulated utilities must be the prime movers and shakers.”  In a letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper dated Thursday, Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Science at Duke University, said that the state should place a “permanent moratorium” on new natural gas infrastructure in the state, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).  Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by Dominion Energy Inc of a lower court ruling that halted construction of the ACP.  Nick Martin of The New Republic sees new pipelines coming everywhere. 

In a study released on Thursday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) joined a chorus of other studies calling for a price on carbon emissions.  The IMF study found that a global tax of $75 per ton by the year 2030 could limit the planet’s warming to 2°C, although others have recommended a much higher tax.  The Vice Chairman of the Board of Swiss drug company Roche said business must set more ambitious goals for reining in human impact on climate and the environment.  A poll conducted by YouGov Blue and Data for Progress sought to determine voters’ reactions to some of the recent proposals by Democratic candidates for fighting climate change.  Robinson Meyer reviewed the findings at The Atlantic.

Two new reports from the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University addressed the question of how to decarbonize industrial heat, i.e., the heat used to do things like make steel, glass, or cement.  The first report is about the current state of industrial heat technology (decarbonizing is hard) whereas the second addresses policy recommendations for decarbonizing the sector (a carbon tax only ranked fifth among the policies).

Climate and Climate Science

Scientists in Siberia have discovered regions with very high atmospheric methane concentrations.  The methane is coming from melting permafrost.  One source is under the East Siberian Sea and is releasing so much methane that the sea looks like it is boiling in some places.

The New York Times has published detailed maps of total transportation-based CO2 emissions and emissions per capita for many metropolitan areas around the U.S., based on data from Boston University’s “Database of Road Transportation Emissions”.  The Times also had an article about the formation of ghost forests along the mid-Atlantic coast, caused by the migration inland of salt water as a result of sea level rise and a decreased flow of fresh water as a result of drought.

Two recent articles, one last month in Scientific Reports and one this week in Science Advances, shed light on the forces causing accelerated melting of the glaciers in Antarctica.  Be sure to watch the video, in which Ian Howat of Ohio State University does a good job of explaining what is happening.  More rapid melting is also occurring in Greenland, contributing at least 25% of sea level rise.  Science has a rather lengthy article about efforts in Greenland to better understand the melting there, thereby improving scientists’ ability to predict how rapidly sea level will rise.  There is also an interesting video associated with this research.  In South America, nearly 30% of Peru’s glaciers have melted away since 2000, threatening a critical source of drinking water and irrigation for millions of people downstream, according to a new study published in the journal The Cryosphere.  Unfortunately, such melting of mountain glaciers is happening all over the world with similar consequences, as detailed in the new IPCC report on oceans and the cryosphere. 

The National Audubon Society released a new report on Thursday detailing how the ranges of 389 North American birds will change as Earth warms.  Brad Plumer of The New York Times used that report to examine what will happen to the state birds of several states.  A new paper in the journal Science has found that by 2050, up to 5 billion people may be at risk from diminishing ecosystem services, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

NOAA announced that September 2019 tied for the second-warmest September on record in the Lower 48 states.  In addition, hundreds of weather stations from the Mississippi River to the East Coast broke high temperature records for the period Oct. 1-3.  The records weren’t confined to the U.S., however, with records also being set in Europe.

In a study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists found that some coral colonies damaged by oceanic warming from climate change can regrow and fill out the empty skeletons they left behind.  The process is slow, however, suggesting that its success will depend on the frequency of ocean warming events.


This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to the pioneers of the lithium-ion battery.  NASA recently received an all-electric aircraft, the X-57 Maxwell, that will undergo testing in the coming months with the first flight expected in 2020.  British inventor Sir James Dyson said that the company that bears his name is scrapping its plans to build an electric car, even though its engineers had developed a “fantastic” one.

A new report from the Center for American Progress noted that the U.S. needs to get to 65% renewable electricity by 2030 to be on track for 100% renewables in 2050, the level scientists say is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  The report also looks at what needs to happen in key sectors to meet that goal.  Many think wind power will supply the majority of U.S. renewable energy.  Philip Warburg reviewed the history of wind power in the U.S.

In order to reduce the risk of forest fires during periods of high winds, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began cutting electricity to 800,000 customers in California this week.

In the U.S. all utility scale facilities combining renewable energy with energy storage use alternating-current coupling.  Now, utilities are studying direct-current coupling, which requires less equipment and promises to be less expensive.


The Guardian has launched a new series entitled “The polluters”.  The first article was published Wednesday and reveals the 20 companies whose exploitation of the world’s fossil fuel reserves can be linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1965.  George Monbiot had an opinion piece to accompany the article.  At the New Yorker, Bill McKibben wrote that in order to make progress, Americans need to stop believing in the fable that the U.S. has already made great progress in cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions.  Michael Svoboda presented summaries with links of 12 reports about climate change, its impacts, and building resilience against them at Yale Climate Connections.  Jane Fonda is moving to Washington, DC, for four months to engage in civil disobedience over climate change on the Capitol steps each Friday.  A new wave of climate protests hit cities around the world this week—this time aimed at shocking people with civil disobedience, fake blood on the pavement, and bodies lying in the streets under signs that read: “Stop funding climate death.”  “Carbon Ruins” is a museum exhibit that looks back on the fossil fuel age from the perspective of 2050 after global net-zero CO2 emissions had been achieved.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/4/2019

Politics and Policy

In contrast to most proposed legislation for a carbon tax, a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the best strategy for applying one is to start high (e.g., over $100/ton or more), rise for a few years, and then fall gradually.  David Roberts examined the implications of that suggestion.  Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s largest coal and natural gas producing states, is starting the process to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  On Wednesday, Citigroup issued a report entitled “Managing the Financial Risks of Climate Change,” in which it said that financial regulators must transform how they account for the economic risks of a climate change.  Perhaps the failure to do so is why the majority of the world’s 50 largest banks have not made commitments to respond to the risks of climate change and continue to finance fossil fuels.

Because there were no new commitments from the big emitters at the recent UN Climate Action Summit, many considered it to be a failure.  However, dozens of announcements on climate action were made over the three-day summit.  With a view toward accountability, Climate Home News published a (non-exhaustive) list of initiatives, promises, and goals.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Professor Alex Rosenberg of Duke University explained why climate change is such a hard problem to solve, introducing the concept of PPE in the process.

On Monday, the White House announced that President Trump intends to nominate James Danly to be a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  But he broke with a decades-old tradition by not nominating a Democrat along with Danly.  A nonpartisan taskforce of former government officials has warned that the treatment of science by the Trump administration has hit a “crisis point”.  The Trump administration’s recent revocation of California’s authority to set its own tailpipe emission standards was seen by many as an assault on states’ rights.  E&E News had an article entitled “Meet the ‘NIMBY people’ trying to kill solar.”  A report from the Rhodium Group shows that passing a few tax incentives for electric cars, nuclear plants, and renewable power could lead to big carbon cuts.  An article in The Hill stated “The Trump administration, in its push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is arguing the project should go forward because ‘there is not a climate crisis.’”

A growing body of evangelical leaders is ramping up pressure on Republican lawmakers to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, breaking from some evangelicals’ long skepticism of climate change.  On the NBC News website, researcher Malka Older argued that the U.S. government must recognize the economic threat caused by extreme weather associated with climate change and prepare for it.  On Tuesday, a coalition of New England and mid-Atlantic states, known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative, took a first step toward limiting transportation emissions across 13 states.  After the recent rash of fire and extreme weather events, the Federal Reserve’s regional banks are digging deeper into how Earth’s warming will impact U.S. businesses, consumers, and the country’s $17 trillion banking system.

Climate and Climate Science

High temperature records were set all over the southeastern U.S. on Wednesday.  A new study by World Weather Attribution found that since 1900, the chances of receiving the amount of rain dumped on Southeast Texas by Tropical Storm Imelda has more than doubled, while the amount of rainfall in such an event has increased by about 18%.

Salt water continues to move farther inland in Florida’s Biscayne Aquifer (Miami-Dade County), although at a slower rate, according to new U.S. Geological Survey mapping.  In Australia, parts of northern and inland New South Wales, along with southern Queensland, have been in drought since 2016, severely depleting river and lake levels, threatening water supplies for many towns and cities.

Throughout the last 500 million years, the period when complex animal life has existed on Earth, the carbon cycle has been in balance for more than 99% of the time, but not now.  National Geographic went along with scientists to learn more about the huge peat deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the scale of which was only recognized a few years ago.  Because of the amount of carbon it contains, it must remain intact.

An iceberg slightly larger than Oahu, Hawaii, broke off this week from the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica.  The loss of Arctic ice is making it very difficult for polar bears to feed, causing their future to be uncertain.  The Washington Post published a photo-essay on Thursday about the impacts of the melting permafrost in Siberia. 

Coral bleaching occurs during ocean heat waves as a result of corals ejecting the algae with which they live in symbiosis.  If bleaching events occur in rapid succession, the corals can be killed.  Now, new research published in the journal Scientific Reports provides hope by suggesting that corals may be able to cope with these stressful events by controlling which algae reside within them.


A good deal of press has been given to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a component of any plan to hold the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C.  CCS will require the development of a complex infrastructure but there currently is no economic incentive for doing so.  Some propose, however, that we first focus on carbon capture and utilization (CCU), in which economic benefits are gained through use of the captured carbon.  David Roberts is publishing a four-part series at Vox explaining how CCU might serve as an on-ramp for eventual large-scale application of CCS.  Part 1 was published September 4 and presented a brief introduction to the need for CCS and the various types of CCU that might help get it going.  Part 2 was published October 2 and focused on the largest industrial use of captured CO2: enhanced oil recovery.  Parts 3 and 4 will appear later.  It may be too early to judge whether it will pan out, but scientists and engineers in Canada believe they have developed a way to extract in situ hydrogen from tar sands, while leaving the carbon in the ground.  The hydrogen would provide a clean energy source.

The powering past coal alliance (PPCA), which seeks to establish a global coal phase-out by 2050 at the latest, now has 91 members, all vowing to end the construction of new coal-fired power plants by 2020.  On the other hand, the New South Wales government is considering legislation that could limit the ability for planning authorities to rule out coal mine projects on the basis of the climate change impact of emissions from the coal once it is burned.  China plans to shut a total of 8.66 GW of obsolete coal-fired power capacity by the end of this year, the National Energy Administration said.  In the U.S., a group backed by anonymous donors launched a campaign on Monday to promote the benefits of cheap, abundant natural gas against what it called “radical” proposals like the Green New Deal that would phase out use of the fossil fuel.  On the other hand, opponents of new natural gas pipelines are arguing that their builders are misusing eminent domain.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued permits for the construction and operation of four new solar projects that will generate a total of 192 MW of electricity.  A modeling study conducted by the Greenlink Group found that adding at least 49 GW of solar energy through 2050 would save Virginia consumers money.

The largest windfarm in the world will have a combined capacity of 3.6 GW and will be located at Dogger Bank off the coast of Yorkshire in the North Sea.  The turbines will be GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X, which have a capacity of 12 MW each and stand 853ft tall with blades that extend 351ft.  The vast majority of offshore wind farms employ turbines fixed to the ocean floor, but waters off the coast of California are too deep for that technology.  Floating turbines offer a solution, but only a few have been tried, all in Europe.  Utility Dive examined the possibility of employing floating turbines in California.  Bloomberg Businessweek examined why it is so hard to get an offshore wind farm built in the U.S. and the A.P. addressed Trump’s dislike for the industry.

At Energy Storage News, Stefan Hogg addressed the need for lithium-ion battery recycling and the challenges facing the industry in developing a system.


On September 20, David Wallace-Wells began publishing a series of interviews at Intelligencer, part of New York Magazine.  The series is entitled “The State of the World: A series about climate change” and comprises in-depth interviews with climate leaders about their views on the future of Earth’s climate.  A list of the interviewees can be found here.  Another article from mid-September that I want to call to your attention focused on the psychological impact of climate change on children.  On that same theme, PBS News Hour presented an article advising how to talk to your children about climate change.  Yale Climate Connections has reposted two short essays from The Conversation by Australian scientists working on the Great Barrier Reef, one near the end of his career, the other near the start of hers.  At The Tyee, Professor Jennifer Ellen Good addressed the link between continual economic growth and climate change, concluding that the news media ignore the clear connection.  On Monday in Harrisonburg, Innovation Hub aired a segment entitled “Fools for Fossil Fuels: A History of Climate Change Inaction.”  Three scientists have been named MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Fellows for their work related to climate change.  The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has updated its “Climate Opinion Maps,” including a new question on whether the President should do more to address global warming.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/27/2019

Politics and Policy

Greta Thunberg, whose emotional address to the UN Climate Action Summit went viral this week, was recognized by the judges of Sweden’s annual Rights Livelihood awards for “inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts”.  Unfortunately, the Summit accomplished little, although Thunberg’s remark about “fairy tales of eternal economic growth” raised the ire of some.  Many others agreed with her, however.  For example, both Canadian economist and author Peter Victor (Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster) and Canadian writer Naomi Klein (On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal) argued that we must overcome the idea of investing for endless growth to stop climate change.  In anticipation of the Summit, both Al Gore and John Kerry published opinion pieces.  Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Southern States Energy Board in Louisville, Kentucky, chairman and host, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R), said Thunberg was “remarkably ill informed.”  Robinson Meyer’s article about her in The Atlantic certainly doesn’t confirm that.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) called on governments to overhaul the rules of the international trade and monetary systems so all countries could carry out the necessary mass investments to decarbonize their economies.  UNCTAD secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi said meeting the UN sustainable development goals “requires rebuilding multilateralism around the idea of a global Green New Deal, and pursuing a financial future very different from the recent past”.  Data firm IHS Markit compiled the first global benchmark for carbon emissions pricing, based on trading under the three most liquid trading schemes: the EU’s, and two from the U.S. (California and RGGI). 

Early in the week, Trump administration officials threatened to withhold federal highway funding from California, arguing that the state has not shown what steps it is taking to improve its air quality.  But California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) responded “We won’t be intimidated by this brazen political stunt,” only to be accused on Thursday of “failing to meet its obligations” to protect the environment.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said his agency is “limited” in regard to its “statutory authorities to address the issue” of climate change.  On Friday, hundreds of thousands of people around the world took part in another wave of strikes to demand urgent action on climate change.  New research suggests that banks are shielding themselves from climate change at taxpayers’ expense by shifting riskier mortgages — such as those in coastal areas — off their books and over to the federal government.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday it was forming a climate change task force to better understand how businesses are responding to the issue.  A substantial number of corporations moved ahead with vows to address climate concerns and used the U.N. Climate Summit as a venue for unveiling their targets.

While more than 60 countries have said that they will try to reduce their net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, they accounted for only 11% of global emissions in 2017.  Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) has introduced the bipartisan Market Choice Act which would replace the federal gasoline tax with a tax on carbon emissions from sources of fossil fuel combustion.  Many argue that a carbon tax is not very effective at reducing carbon emissions from transportation.  Jonathan Marshall addressed that criticism at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby website.

Climate and Climate Science

On Wednesday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate.  A good short summary was provided at Science, while Carbon Brief provided an in-depth summary of the key findings.  The Washington Post also covered the release.  The Arctic, of course, is part of the cryosphere, so Richard Hodgkins summarized what has happened there this year and what its impacts will be on the rest of us.  On Monday, Carbon Brief examined the many factors contributing to sea level rise.  Arctic sea ice reached its summer minimum extent for 2019.  This year was the joint-second lowest in the 40-year satellite record, tied with 2007 and 2016.

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found more than 65,000 lakes, like those on the Greenland ice sheet, on the surface of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.  This is surprising because East Antarctica is much colder and suggests that parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet may be highly sensitive to climate warming.

The IPCC Sixth Synthesis Report (AR6) is not due until June 2022 and like its predecessors, it will rely heavily upon modeling to determine what will likely happen in the future.  An editorial in the journal Nature Climate Change provided a brief look at where the modeling effort stands and considers the interesting findings concerning equilibrium climate sensitivity.

U.N. officials have warned that increasing numbers of farmers in drought-stricken Honduras could be forced to leave their homes unless support is ramped up to help them better cope with extreme weather and climate change.

China’s Ministry of Natural Resources said on Thursday that coastal sea levels were 48 millimeters (1.9 inches) higher last year than the 1993-2011 average, with winter ice floes shrinking.  In addition, average recorded temperatures in December last year were 1.7°C (3.1°F) higher than normal.


Last week I provided information about Duke Energy announcing plans to attain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  It joined 21 other power companies that have pledged to lower their carbon footprints since 2018.  However, many of them plan to keep large coal-fired power plants open for decades to come and/or plan to build new natural gas power plants.  Consequently, some energy analysts are skeptical of the companies’ ability to meet their pledges.  Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the state will contribute $20 million to a Dominion Energy plan to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric buses and Ivy Main commented on the “cascade of clean energy announcements” recently in Virginia.  Meanwhile, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern Co. have spent more than $109 million lobbying lawmakers and officials since the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was unveiled five years ago.

Writing at Yale Environment 360, Michael Standaert reported that growth of wind and solar in China is slowing as government funding for green energy falters and upgrades to the transmission infrastructure lag.  With China’s CO2 emissions again on the rise, experts worry the world’s largest emitter may fall short of key climate goals.  At the same site, Bruce Lieberman addressed the question: “How to reconcile people’s love affair with their vehicles and society’s need to reduce carbon emissions?”.

For years, the oil and gas industry downplayed the connection between fossil fuel burning and climate change.  Today, however, nearly every major fossil fuel company has acknowledged that carbon emissions help drive global warming, even as President Trump questions the connection.  The latest Energy Trends data confirm that coal accounted for just 0.6% of the UK’s power mix between April and June, marking the first quarter since the 19th century in which coal fell below 1.0% of total generation.

New energy efficiencies in the transportation, building, and industrial sectors can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 50%, according to a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Bolivia will try and capitalize on its large lithium reserves to set up an industrial ecosystem around batteries and other storage technologies


Teenage girls are stepping up for the climate much more than boys.  A survey of more than 100 U.S. climate strike organizers and nearly 200 participants in the Washington, DC, strike found that 68% of the organizers and 58% of the participants were female.  Unfortunately, regardless of gender, teenage activism is accompanied by a lot of harassment and “climate change anxiety.”  David Roberts had a piece in Vox about Greta Thunberg and the seeming ineffectiveness of troll attacks against her.  Although I missed it last week, David Wallace-Wells published a profile of Thunberg in New York Magazine.  Billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick announced on Thursday the second-largest donation ever to an American university: $750 million to the California Tech for environmental study, much of it focused on technological solutions to combat climate change.  At Yale Climate Connections, Amy Brady interviewed author Amitav Ghosh about his new cli-fi novel Gun IslandNewsweek published a lengthy interview with authors Katharine K. Wilkinson (Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change) and Robin Veldman (The Gospel of Climate Skepticism: Why Evangelical Christians Oppose Action on Climate Change) about what evangelical Christians think about climate change.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/20/2019

Joni and I are pretty well settled in our new home, so it is time for me to return to compiling the Roundup each week.  I would like to send a big Thank You! to Joy Loving for filling in for me while I was occupied with other things.  I greatly appreciate it.

Politics and Policy

The Trump administration on Thursday officially revoked California’s authority to set its own emission standards but the state filed a lawsuit on Friday and is preparing for a lengthy legal battle over the issue.  Also on Thursday, Senate Democrats released a report outlining dozens of times the Trump administration has censored or minimized climate science at agencies across the federal government.

The U.N. is convening a climate summit on Monday, September 23, in part to determine whether the world’s nations can muster the resolve to slash carbon emissions as rapidly as scientists say is needed.  Only countries that have promised meaningful new pledges will be allowed to speak, muzzling the U.S.  In advance of that summit, an international group of experts has published the Exponential Roadmap: the 36 most viable solutions to halve greenhouse gas emissions globally by 2030.  They also say that strong civil society movements are needed to drive such change.  Unfortunately, humanity doesn’t have a very good track record, as illustrated in a feature for Nature, where Jeff Tollefson “shows how little progress nations have made towards limiting greenhouse-gas emission”.  He also compares current pledges to what would be needed to meet global climate goals and highlights the gap between these insufficient aims and current progress.  Nevertheless, Bill McKibben could still paint a hopeful picture of the future, as could Jeff Goodell.

Climate Home News deputy editor Megan Darby had a feature entitled “Net-zero: the story of the target that will shape our future.”  A group of more than 500 major institutional investors, which together manage $35 trillion in assets, called Thursday for governments to boost efforts to tackle climate change, warning that failure to do so could have serious economic consequences.  In addition, on Wednesday over 200 investors representing some $16.2 trillion under management called on companies to do their part in halting the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

On Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order calling on state agencies and public institutions to create a plan that will make Virginia’s electric grid solely dependent on carbon-free energy sources by 2050.  On the same day, Duke Energy announced that it would accelerate its carbon reduction goals and hoped to hit “net zero carbon emissions” by 2050.  The New Democrat Coalition, made up of moderate congressional Democrats worried about the infeasibility of passing sweeping climate legislation like the Green New Deal, released an 11-page outline of principles on Wednesday, along with a list of bills to back them up.


A solid majority of American teenagers is convinced that humans are changing Earth’s climate and believe that it will cause harm to them personally and to other members of their generation.  Inspired by sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, students and others all over the world participated in the Global Climate Strike on Friday.  Bill McKibben gave 23 reasons for participating.  Thunberg and three other teenagers appeared before the House Climate Crisis Committee and a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday, with Thunberg telling the lawmakers to “listen to the scientists.”  McKibben also had a rather long piece in The New Yorker in which he addressed the question “What if the banking, asset management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?”  The Economist devoted its September 19 print edition primarily to climate change.  In an editorial to accompany the issue, the editors state that “to conclude that climate change should mean shackling capitalism would be wrong-headed and damaging.” 

Climate and Climate Science

The summer of 2019 was tied with that of 2016 as the hottest on record in the Northern Hemisphere, according to NOAA data released Monday, with a temperature anomaly of 2.03°F (1.13°C) above the 20th-century average.  What’s remarkable about 2019′s record warmth is that it came in the absence of a strong El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  Globally, the June-through-August period was the second warmest such period on record with an average that was 1.67°F (0.93°) above the 20th-century average.

Two new modeling studies published in the journal Nature provided a more optimistic view of the future.  One showed that it should be possible to rapidly shut down coal-fired power plants lacking air pollution control devices without causing a spike in global warming due to the reduction of aerosol emissions.  The other suggested that the need for negative emissions (i.e., removal of CO2 from the atmosphere) to hold temperature increases below 1.5°C is an artifact of the logic employed in modeling studies.  Using the logic framework presented in the study, the authors show that the need to rely on negative emission scenarios will likely be much less than previously thought.

Another paper in the most recent issue of Nature reported on the growth in thickness and area of giant ice slabs beneath the surface snow at middle elevations in Greenland.  They prevent meltwater from percolating into the deeper snow and hasten its runoff to the sea.  As a consequence, Greenland is contributing two to three times as much meltwater to sea level rise than previously thought.

An intensifying marine heat wave in the northeastern Pacific Ocean has raised concerns about a repeat of “The Blob,” which last occurred in 2013-2015, suppressing the growth of small organisms at the base of the ocean food chain and causing wide-spread disruption of fisheries and wildlife.

In Scientific American, Emily Holden wrote: “…the impact of the climate crisis—for patients, doctors and researchers—is already being felt across every specialty of medicine, with worse feared to come.”


Dominion Energy on Thursday announced plans to build the nation’s largest offshore wind farm off the coast of Virginia — a 220-turbine installation that would power 650,000 homes at peak wind.  Presently, the only off-shore wind farm in the U.S. is next to Block Island in Rhode Island.  Dan Drollete Jr., the editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, visited to see how this experiment in the transfer of European technology has gone.  On a related topic, NIMBY attitudes are having a negative impact on the siting of renewable energy projects.

China’s total planned coal-fired power projects stand at 226.2 GW, the highest in the world and more than twice the amount of new capacity on the books in India, according to data published by environmental groups on Thursday.  Saudi Aramco, is trying to rebrand itself as being environmentally conscious, but it has a long history of obstructionism on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Oil-backed groups have challenged electric companies’ plans to build charging stations across the country, according to utility commission filings reviewed by Politico, waging regulatory and lobbying campaigns against the proposals as a way to fight electric vehicles.

On Thursday, CEO Jeff Bezos pledged to make the company net carbon neutral by 2040 and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from U.S. vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive LLC.

Worldwide CO2 emissions from commercial flights are rising up to 70% faster than predicted by the UN, according to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

E&E News asked “Is U.S. shale facing an ‘unmitigated disaster’?”  Experts say the shale oil/gas industry could be headed off a financial cliff and environmental groups are asking who will clean up thousands of wells drilled miles beneath the surface if businesses go bust.  We don’t just rely upon gas and oil for the fuels to power our vehicles.  They also serve as the feedstock and power source for the processes that make the products, from pharmaceuticals to shampoo, that are inherent to modern life.  Robert Service explored the question of how we will make those things as we begin to leave hydrocarbons in the ground.

These news items have been compiled by Les Grady, member and former chair of the CAAV steering committee. He is a licensed professional engineer (retired) who taught environmental engineering at Purdue and Clemson Universities and engaged in private practice with CH2M Hill, the world’s largest environmental engineering consulting firm. Since his retirement in 2003 he has devoted much of his time to the study of climate science and the question of global warming and makes himself available to speak to groups about this subject. More here.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/25/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the seventh and the last.  Les Grady will be returning from his summer hiatus in September. 

Politics and Policy

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the “US government weakens application of Endangered Species Act”.  “EPA Plans to Rewrite Clean Water Act Rules to Fast-Track Pipelines”, according to this Inside Climate News item.  The Augusta Free Press has the story from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s perspective.  The New York Times/Climate (NYT/Climate) said that, by changing the way the Act is applied, the plan “significantly weaken[s] the nation’s bedrock conservation law… making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change.”  And the National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) is also unhappy about what they say is a gutting of the Endangered Species Act.

NYT/Climate notes that “Trump’s Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules Shows Signs of Disarray”.  “The White House, blindsided by a pact between California and four automakers to oppose President Trump’s auto emissions rollbacks, has mounted an effort to prevent any more companies from joining the other side.”  Bloomberg’s editors have produced a podcast and an opinion piece about recent Republican actions to address the climate crisis.

Virginia “Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler … released the final report to Gov. Ralph Northam on recommended actions for enhancing protection of air, water, and public health in Virginia…. Key recommendations include improving water supply and air quality monitoring, measures to hold polluters accountable, and a focus on environmental justice and public engagement. The full report and recommendations [are] available here. ” [AFP item].  The Virginia Mercury’s story called the report a blueprint to modernize the agency and noted: “Even as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s scope of work has broadened to include such critical concerns as climate change and environmental justice, the agency has seen its funding cut and its programs hamstrung by outdated state regulations”.

NYT/Climate reports that “A coalition of 29 states and cities … sued to block the Trump administration from easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants, setting up a case that could determine how much leverage the federal government has to fight climate change in the future.”  Virginia is one of the states.  The Virginia Mercury also has this storyCitizens Climate Lobby (CCL) asks and answers “How Do GHG Emissions Compare Under New Carbon Tax Bills?”  The Energy News Network advises that “Virginia looks to New York green bank for possible clean energy financing”, reporting that “Virginia’s energy office is exploring whether to align the state with a billion-dollar New York clean energy financing program.”

UPI says “Bernie Sanders unveils $16.3 trillion climate change plan”.  Inside Climate News also covers the story.  WaPo’s editors are not impressed.   U.S. News reports that “A DNC [Democratic National Committee] panel on Thursday [August 22] voted down a resolution calling for a presidential primary debate focused on climate change”.  Fox News says “Protests erupt after DNC puts kibosh on climate change-focused debate”. 


  • AFP—Personal story about honeybees.
  • WaPo’s Joel AchenbachScience Trip (audio and great imagery included) to Fly Geyser, Ether Dome, Atchafalaya Swamp, Green Bank Observatory, Earthquake Trail, Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, Scopes Monkey Trial, Cinder Lake, Brookhaven Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, Cahokia Mounds, Delmarva’s Wintering Birds, Humongous Fungus.
  • Another WaPo picture story about Greenland, a large island and autonomous Denmark territory that straddles the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans (includes climate change repercussions). 
  • The Denver Post has this AP story: “Earth’s future is being written in fast-melting Greenland.  Experts say that by the year 2100, melting from Greenland alone could cause 3 or 4 feet of sea level rise”. Apparently, Mr. Trump is interested in the U.S. owning it, according to this item from the BBCWaPo’s Capital Weather Gang (CWG) says that “The U.S. is already transforming Greenland, and it’s imperiling Americans here at home”.
  • From the New York Times (NYT) comes an interactive story about how Phoenix residents try to beat the heat:  “As Phoenix Heats Up, the Night Comes Alive; That will be true for many more cities as the world gets hotter.”
  • The Guardian runs this opinion piece arguing that “The Lion King missed an opportunity to talk about the climate crisis”.  Kate Cohen (writing in WaPo) offers her opinion that “Most of us are hypocrites on climate change. Maybe that’s progress.”


What’s Happening?

WaPo, in its article titled “2°C: Beyond the limit”, says “Extreme climate change has arrived in America”.  Noting that “global warming does not heat the world evenly”, the report continues:  “A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark.  — Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.”  WaPo’s Climate and Environment section provides” five take-aways” from its “analysis of warming climate in the United States”.

WaPo’s CWG warns “Amazon fires could accelerate global warming and cause lasting harm to a cradle of biodiversity”.  Inside Climate News has a story about the European Union’s reaction to the Amazon fires:  “Amazon Fires Spark Growing International Criticism of Brazil”.  At issue is a proposed EU trade deal with Brazil.  Also, several members of the G7 want urgent action because, as French President put it, “Our home is on fire. Literally” ….  The Amazon, the lung of our planet which produces 20 percent of our oxygen, is ablaze. It’s an international crisis.”  NBC News reports: “Record fires sweeping across the Amazon this month are bringing renewed scrutiny to Brazil’s deforestation policy and have environmental researchers and conservationists worried that the blazes will only aggravate the climate change crisis.”  This AP item says the G7 leaders have offered assistance to Brazil.

The Guardian has the story of “How US cities are scrambling to protect people from extreme heat”.  NPR explains “Why Sea Level Rise Varies Across The World”.  NPR also asks and answers “How Much Hotter Are The Oceans? The Answer Begins With A Bucket”.

We’ve heard about threats that the climate crisis pose for water.  The Virginia Mercury highlights the difficulty of one Virginia county struggling to meet its residents’ expectations in the face of reductions in its water access (from an aquifer) imposed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Writing in NYT/Climate, Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai make a case that “A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises” [interactive].  In another piece, Ms. Sengupta explains her view that “Earth’s Food Supply Is Under Threat. These Fixes Would Go a Long Way.” 

WaPo’s CWG says “Increasing humidity, driven in part by climate change, is making even modest heat waves unbearable”.  The same folks report what we likely already know or could guess:  “July was Earth’s hottest month since records began, with the globe missing 1 million square miles of sea ice”.  The AP reports that “Blooms, beasts affected as Alaska records hottest month”.  Grist says “The climate change ‘tipping point’ has already arrived for these 70 U.S. counties”.  There’s a graph that shows cities and their level of “readiness”.  The good news is Virginia doesn’t have any on the list.  The USDA tells us “Above-normal activity predicted for hurricane season … [and] If you live or farm along the East Coast, the chances for a tropical storm or hurricane just increased….” [AFP article]

In a detailed article in Science, the authors make “The case for strategic and managed climate retreat”.  They do so because, “Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm’s way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat.”

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

This Grist article profiles “An evangelical leader calls young Christians to save the planet”.  Writing in WaPo Outlook, Jamil Zaki helps us understand “Why haven’t we stopped climate change? We’re not wired to empathize with our descendants.”  Newsweek writes about a “Fox News Host [who] Expresses Frustration That Young Americans Believe in Climate Change”.

The Columbia Journalism Review declares that there is “A new commitment to covering the climate story”.  At the urging of journalist Bill Moyers, several media outlets have formed Covering Climate Now and have agreed to “convene and inform a conversation among journalists about how all news outlets—big and small, digital and print, TV and radio, US-based and abroad—can do justice to the defining story of our time.”

Grist has a story about a recent IPCC report that “Planting trees isn’t enough to save us from the climate crisis”.

The Piedmont Chapter of the VA Sierra Club publishes a weekly list of activities and events in its area and also around the Commonwealth.  Subject matters may include gardening, electric

vehicles, bees, water, pipelines, sustainability, action alerts, and many others.  One may subscribe at this link.

Courtland Milloy, a longtime columnist for WaPo’s Local, gives his perspective on the urgent need to act on the effects of the climate crisis.  Describing one life-threatening event in the DC Metro area following serious flooding in July 2019, he declares that “Climate change is here, and we can no longer wait for someone to save us”.  Virginia Public Media has a brief story titled “Despite Growing Flood Risks, Virginia Coastal Development Continues”.  This AFP item, titled “New research could help green Virginia with blue carbon”, reports that carbon sink might be another tool in the management of the Chesapeake Bay.  “Carbon sink describes a process in which coastal sea grasses, mangroves and salt marshes capture and hold carbon.”  Another AFP article highlights a recent announcement by the New Democrat Coalition Climate Change Task Force (of which Virginia Representative Elaine Luria is co-chair) presenting “policy principles to combat climate change with the seriousness and urgency it demands.”

Prior Roundups have featured stories about Texas’ events and actions, some of which address the climate emergency and other that appear to increase it.  We’ve also heard about some actions the Dutch are taking, including providing advice on “managing” sea level rise and “recurrent flooding” (as many Virginia legislators like to call this phenomenon).  Here’s a Grist story that asks “Can the ‘masters of the flood’ help Texas protect its coast from hurricanes?”

Fortune discusses in detail the Aug 19 statement from the Business Roundtable (BR) announcing a new policy modifying its longstanding position that the purpose of corporations is to put shareholders’ interests comes first.  Steven Pearlstein offers his perspective on the statement and describes the history of the BR, which consists of the big company CEOs in U.S. business.  A search of the two articles and the statement for “climate”, “environment”, “sustainability”, “resilience”, “water”, “natural resources” yielded few results.  The Fortune article noted the book, The Trillion‑Dollar Shift by Marga Hoek, “a former construction industry CEO and founder of the Dutch Sustainable Business Association” and mentioned a few references in the statement to environment and sustainability.  Wood Mackenzie and the American Wind Energy Association have issued a report on “growing C&I [commercial and industrial] renewables opportunity [in the corporate sector].  Despite some gains, “The overall penetration of renewables in the power mix for Fortune 1000 companies remains limited at approximately 5%”.  Wood Mackenzie also provides “A peek at [its] latest outlooks for solar, wind energy storage and carbon emissions.” [Greentech Media, GTM, article]

“A group of [Virginia Tech] researchers received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to tackle … environmental challenges with the creation of a new Ecological Forecasting Initiative Research Coordination Network (EFI-RCN).”  The challenges include “climate change, land-use, and invasive species.” [AFP article] The AFP also reports that “Virginia partners with Nature Conservancy to preserve 22K acres” in Russell County.

The AP says that California, “[h]oping to fend off the extinction of mountain lions and other species that require room to roam, transportation officials and conservationists will build a mostly privately funded wildlife crossing over a major Southern California highway. It will give big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe route to open space and better access to food and potential mates.”

ACTION ITEM—Eric King of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition has issued this request:  “Harrisonburg recently applied to renew our status as a Bicycle Friendly Community with the League of American Bicyclists. If you are a cyclist and are interested in contributing input on the bike-friendliness of the Friendly City, the below survey will be reviewed by the League as well as shared with the City.”  Here is the link


Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

WJCT Public Media says that “JEA Projects No Energy Efficiency Gains As FL Utility Regulators Consider Next Decade”.  JEA is “Northeast Florida’s Not-For-Profit, Community-Owned Utility”. FLAPOL reports that the Florida Public Service Commission and Florida Power and Light are examining “a sharp decline in in-state utilities’ projected conservation, with new goals to be set.”  Utilities spokespersons were not in favor of setting goals and offered numerous explanations for the decline.  “’With goals of zero,’ countered Bradley Marshall of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, ‘there is little help on the way for low-income customers, however.’”

Utility Dive asserts that “Everyone loves a guaranteed discount: New financing approach drives community solar growth”.  The article explores how utility-owned utility solar’s growth has the potential to extend the benefits of solar energy to lower and middle income (LMI) customers.  It also discusses numerous projects enable by Department of Energy innovation grants.  It does not appear that many, if any, projects highlighted are customer-community-owned.  Utility Dive also reports that “North Carolina clean energy plan could reduce power sector emissions up to 70% by 2030”.  PV Magazine discusses how and why a utility’s use of solar can actually result in harmful emissions:  “Solar gets by with a little help from its friends”.

GTM’s story, “Why Long Island Could Become New York’s First Energy Storage Hot Spot”, reports that, as a result of a New York state program, “[t]he region stands to benefit from storing renewable power, and $55 million of new incentives could get the market going.”

Fossil Fuels, Utilities and Pipelines

Recent legal actions about Virginia’s two proposed pipelines:  The Roanoke Times reports the “Mountain Valley Pipeline faces new legal challenge, this one over endangered species”.  This challenge is a petition to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals “to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its earlier opinion that burrowing a 42-inch diameter pipe across rugged mountain slopes and through unspoiled streams will not significantly harm the threatened fish, bats and plants that live there.”  The AP also reports on this story, as does Think Progress in this piece.  The Virginia Mercury notes that the “Mountain Valley Pipeline voluntarily suspends construction that could harm endangered species”.  Blogger Bobby Whitescarver (Getting More on the Ground) offers his take on the court’s decision.  Writing in the Virginia Mercury, environmental hydrologist Jacob Hileman explains “Why the Mountain Valley Pipeline is uniquely risky”.

Not long after an editorial in the News & Advance suggesting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) may not be viable, the same paper has this item announcing that “Amherst council approves lease to Atlantic Coast Pipeline for storage yard, staging hub”.  Energy News Network reports that opponents of the ACP in North Carolina “are attempting a novel legal maneuver to stop the gas project from ever coming to the Tar Heel State.” Blogger James Bacon (Bacon’s Rebellion) asks “Delay-and-Block for Pipelines… and Solar?”  He suggests that “delay and block” tactics used by “environmentalists” opposed to pipelines could also be used by those opposed to solar farms.

PV Magazine says “Dominion is polling its customers for pro-monopoly arguments”.  One person contacted by the pollster was asked “if she found two arguments compelling: 1) the claim that ratepayer bills will go up $100 per month if corporations are allowed to procure their own renewables, and 2) that in the states where deregulation was introduced, that customer rates rose 39%.”  The article says the questions suggest “the messages that Dominion is planning on using to fight off legal or regulatory changes that could allow corporations to bypass it and procure renewable energy directly, and challenges to its monopoly.”  Bacon’s Rebellion blogger Steve Haner asks and answers “What Does Dominion Lose When Customers Leave?”—addressing the desire by some large customers to obtain their energy from competitors who can provide it from renewable sources.  Mr. Haner also pens this blogpost.  He examines a Dominion Energy “100 percent renewable” Rider TRG” now pending before the State Corporation Commission (SCC), with a hearing date of Nov 21.  He states:  “How the monopoly utilities propose to provide “100 percent renewable” power is important to understanding their efforts to prevent anybody else selling it in their territory.  Preventing that competition is the real gain for the utilities, and state law only allows consumers a choice if the monopoly utility doesn’t offer its own 100 percent renewable product.  This is Dominion’s third try.”  He goes on to report that “renewables” include hydro plants, Dominion-owned solar fields, four generators that burn biomass (wood) and the percentage of power from wood waste coming out of one of its WV coal plants, and adds that “if the SCC approves this new tariff, no Dominion customer can sign up for renewable energy either produced or packaged by a competitive service provider (CSP)”. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center discusses a recent study “by experts in carbon lifecycle modeling” concluding that “Burning wood from ‘sustainably managed’ forests increases carbon pollution for 40+ years”.

The Rivard Report describes community concerns about the Port Aransas Oil Project that will establish a place for large tankers to take on crude and liquid natural gas (LNG).  A recent near miss between a local ferry and a LNG ship helped fuel public fears.

Writing in the Texas Observer, Amal Ahmed argues that “Climate Change Will Drive Up Energy Use in Texas and Beyond”, pointing out “[a] new study …[finding] that global energy demand could rise by as much as 58 percent in the next 30 years due to climate change… [b]ut Texas’ electric grid doesn’t exactly account for this climate impact.”  According to the North Carolina Clean Technology Center, “Forty-four states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, took actions related to grid modernization in the second quarter of the year, with the greatest number of actions relating to energy storage deployment, data access policies, distribution system planning, utility business model reforms, and integrated resource planning….”  Virginia is among the states.  [Solar Industry Magazine article]

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?”

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, 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.” 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”.

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. 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.”