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”.

Potpourri

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.

Climate

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.”

Energy

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.”

Potpourri

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate

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.

Energy

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”.

Potpourri

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”.

Climate

What’s Happening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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”

Potpourri

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate

What’s Happening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

Renewable Energy

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

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

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

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/3/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the second.  It’s longer than usual because there likely won’t be another Roundup until July.

Politics and Policy

This Associated Press (AP) story does an early analysis of the European Union elections just held and says one result was more seats for Germany’s Green Party which might mean a “boost [for] climate action in Europe”.  The Washington Post (WaPo) was more effusive, with this headline:  “European Greens surge as voters abandon old parties over climate”.

The New York Times reports that the current Administration is upping its attack on climate science by “seek[ing] to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests”.  A WaPo opinion writer says “The Trump administration takes climate denial to new heights”.

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “Democrats ramp up calls for live primary debate on climate change”.  Reporter Dino Grandoni notes that “The pressure for them to do talk about climate change is coming from both the bottom up and top down within the Democratic Party.”  He adds:  “But those pushing for a climate-centric debate have yet to convince one key group — the Democratic National Committee, which officially sets the terms of the party’s dozen primary debates.”  Energy 202 also reports that “the Trump administration has decided to describe fuel that oil and gas companies are selling abroad [as] ‘Molecules of U.S. freedom’ and ‘Freedom gas’”.  The Guardian also reported this storyEnergy 202 also interviewed all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates about climate and publishes “the most interesting answers here.

Conservative opinion writers Jon Anderson and Heather Reams declare in The Hill that “Trump should back renewable energy, it’s fiscally responsible”.  Bloomberg reports that “The Sierra Club and billionaire Charles Koch have found at least one thing to agree on: They hate OH’s plan to take away renewable power subsidies and give them to coal and nuclear plants.”  A young spokesperson for RepublicEn writes in “An Endangered Species” about challenges arising from being a conservative Republican who “believes in climate change” and wants to act on that belief.  Two representatives– a Democratic and a Republican—write in a Fortune article that “75 Executives Lobbied Congress for a National Carbon Price. We Listened”.  They stated: “We represent different parts of the country and stand on opposite sides of the aisle in Washington, but we agree that there is perhaps no issue as urgent for our nation—and our economy—as tackling climate change.”  They noted that “… an increasing number of both Democrats and Republicans agree on a key policy to address climate change: putting a price on carbon pollution.”  Eos reports that “Senator Rips Trump on Anniversary of Plan to Leave Climate Pact”.

A recent ExxonMobil shareholder meeting saw a debate about climate change arising from several shareholder proposals.  The AP reports that the CEO said the company is “’very focused on growing shareholder value’ while balancing it with ‘this risk of climate change and society’s aspirations for lower emissions’ of carbon’.”  The shareholder resolutions failed to pass.  Barron’s offers this story:  “Climate Risk Is Both Chronic and Acute. Here’s What That Means for Portfolio Managers.”

Potpourri

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issues its latest report on efforts to clean up the Bay.  This Virginia Mercury article offers some details.  The Augusta Free Press has this article announcing that June 1 – 9 is Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week and highlighting several events.

ACTION ALERT:  CBF asks Virginians to weigh in on Phase III of Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint.  Especially if you live within the Bay’s watershed, you have a strong interest in this plan.  CBF’s website gives details on how to offer your opinion.  The deadline to offer comments is June 7.

Grist gives a list of 10 environment-related documentaries to watch.  PBS Newshour has a list of “5 novels about climate change to read now”, saying “As scientists, international organizations and frustrated citizens sound the alarm against inaction, a new crop of writers have sought to depict what a future world might look like if humans don’t do something.”

How important is our soil?  This Guardian item gives us some clues.  For example, did you know that “[f]or every 1% increase of carbon [in the soil], an acre of land can hold an additional 40,000 gallons of water”?  Or that one handful of soil contains “more organisms than people on earth”?  Or that “[t]he world grows 95% of its food in the uppermost layer of soil, making topsoil one of the most important components of our food system”?

This Roundup includes several items about resources “under our feet”—including soil and geothermal energy.  Here are 2 more.  Southwest VA Representative Morgan Griffin weighs in on the importance of, and threats, to U.S. ability to obtain rare earth metals given our current reliance on China for much of our supply.  From PRX’s Reveal Weekly, come 3 audio stories about several ways the melting glaciers, sea level rise, and thawing permafrost in the Arctic are threatening indigenous peoples and U.S. security.

VA’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) has a website that might prove of interest to those interested in energy.  It’s called Value Your Power and it includes some good information about solar power in its Energy 101 tab.  There is also a Facebook page that appears to be available to everybody.

The City of Harrisonburg and its Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC) are hosting an open house to showcase their Phase I Environmental Action Plan, according to the Augusta Free Press.  It will happen at the Atrium at City Hall on June 5 from 5 to 7 pm.

ANOTHER ACTION ALERT:  If you reside in Harrisonburg, you have a stake in this plan.  Here’s a link to the event page, which includes a link to a pdf version of the plan.  The public comment period ends June 20; you do not have to attend the open house to submit your comments.

Climate

What’s Happening?

Here’s a story about an endangered marsh bird that calls the LA wetlands home. “[T]he eastern black rail[‘s] habitat is shrinking because of development, pollution and global heating….  Soon [the] interior department will overhaul the rules for protecting species, with changes that could make it even harder to consider the current and long-term threats of global heating.”  PBS Newshour talks with some Louisiana residents about what they’re seeing and doing.

Recently the U.S. has seen record flooding and many severe tornados.  Here’s a story from WaPo about flooding’s devastating effects on an IN farmer.  Esquire says “The Question Isn’t Whether We’re Approaching an Agricultural Disaster.  It’s How Often They’ll Happen.”  Thompson Reuters Foundation News reports on tornado aftermath in MO and flooding in OK.  Wired.com weighs in with “For the Midwest, Epic Flooding Is the Face of Climate Change”.  CNN explains why “the US has seen tornadoes, floods and extreme heat in the past few weeks”.  Huffpost addresses “What We Know (And Don’t) About Tornadoes And Climate Change”.  And Inside Climate News tackles the same question.  With the 2019 hurricane season now here, U.S. News provides stories from several coastal communities.  This collection is titled “Hurricane Season 2019: A Sense of Fear for Towns Already Hit”.

Perhaps counterintuitively, according to The Science Times, “Climate Change Causes Growth Spurt Among Old Trees”.  The PBS Newshour Weekend brings us a story titled “Centuries-old ships’ logs give insight into climate change”.  The National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that “ONE THING scientists are sure will happen as the world warms is that the seas will rise, putting millions of people at risk of land erosion, flooding and permanent displacement”.  WaPo’s Editorial Board ended an opinion piece with “President Trump and those in his administration ignore scientists’ increasingly dire warnings to the peril of their children, grandchildren and the rest of humanity.”  And a New York Times (NYT) opinion writer says “To Make Headway on Climate Change, Let’s Change the Subject” to, e.g., “the economic advantages of cleaning up … [states’] electric grids”.

Inside Climate News, reporting on a recent study, says “Global Warming Was Already Fueling Droughts in Early 1900s ….”  The study concludes that “[g]lobal warming has been fueling droughts since the early 20th Century, when soils started drying out at the same time across parts of North and Central America, Eurasia, Australia and the Mediterranean”.

Like whiskey?  From The Guardian comes “Scotch on the rocks: distilleries fear climate crisis will endanger whisky production”.

Here’s a somewhat hopeful story from The Guardian about “The butterfly effect: what one species’ miraculous comeback can teach us”.  The Guardian also has a story about the steep decline in the right whale population, linking it to warming oceans.

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

Appalachian Voices (AV) has a feel-good story about VA’s southwest and plans for a collaborative grant-funded project to bring “solar to businesses, homes, schools and an abandoned mine.”  The latter would be the site of a data center.  AV is part of another new collaboration, reported in the last Roundup, called VERC (Virginia Energy Reform Coalition) and has this press release about the coalition.

You may remember Kendyl Crawford from her time at Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter.  She is now Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.  Energy News Network summarizes an interview that its reporter did with Kendyl titled “Climate leader works to shape ‘environmental awakening’ in Virginia”.  This non-partisan group is “dedicated to mobilizing a religious response to climate change through energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy”.

Another Virginian, long-time solar advocate Ruth Amundsen, has established a fund called Norfolk Solar, to “to bring the benefits of solar power to low-income communities”, according to the Virginian-Pilot.  The Pilot also reports that Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and the U.S. Navy partnered to produce a detailed report about steps needed to protect Navy bases from sea-level rise.  Not surprisingly, major infrastructure projects are identified.

A Grist reporter talks about how to talk to “climate deniers” in this story that leads with references to Bob Inglis, director of RepublicEn, a conservative VA-based non-profit that is pushing for market-based solutions to address climate change.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) says that, thanks to funding from Michael Bloomberg, it and University of Maryland’s Center for Global Sustainability will produce “a third Fulfilling America’s Pledge report”.  RMI also reports that “Cities in Red and Blue States Act for a Clean Energy Future”, citing efforts in Albuquerque, Boise, Missoula, Orlando, and Cleveland, noting that “Cities are at the frontlines of climate change ….”

The Roundup for May 12 – 25, 2019, reported that Atlanta GA committed to 100% renewable energy by 2035.  This NPR story shows that the city will face roadblocks from the utility that serves the city.  Why?  “… [Because] it turns out one thing Atlanta can’t do is choose where its energy comes from. As in many places, the utility — Georgia Power — makes that decision because it’s a monopoly. It’s also regulated by statewide elected officials who are all Republican, none of whom has emphasized climate change as a concern.”

The AP says “Anchorage [AK] adopts climate plan to reduce carbon emissions”.  KTOO News presents a story about southeast AK that begins “Alaska’s most recent plan to address climate change was removed from the state’s website back in December.  Meanwhile, some municipalities and tribal governments are moving ahead with their own ideas about how to respond to the growing problem.”  CBC reports that “Southeast Alaska [is] experiencing [its] first recorded extreme drought”.  Reuters says the U.S. Interior Department plans its “first oil lease sale in [the] Alaska Arctic refuge this year”.

From ABC News comes a report that “California approves power outages to prevent more wildfires”.  The Roundup for May 12 – 25 2019 included a story about the utilities’ requests to institute such outages in the face of wildfire threats and about a winery owner who installed solar and storage to insulate her business from the negative effects from loss of power.

MPR has a 4-minute audio clip about “Climate change risk showing up in real estate”. Curbed asks “Are waterfront hotels ready for climate change?”

Scientific American discusses “What Conservation Efforts Can Learn from Indigenous Communities”, saying that “nature on indigenous peoples’ lands is degrading less quickly than in other areas”.

E&E News says “’All eyes of the world are on Juliana’”.  That’s the court case filed by 21 youths, “arguing that the feds violated their constitutional right to a safe climate by approving oil and gas production and other development — despite knowing for years that extracting and burning fossil fuels contributes to rising global temperatures….  A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments at the Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday”.

Energy

Renewable Energy

News 3 TV in Tidewater reports that “Offshore wind could bring clean energy and jobs to Hampton Roads”.  “Old Dominion University and the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter hosted a town hall meeting” during which several experts “discussed the opportunities offshore wind could bring to Hampton Roads.”  Offshorewind.biz’s story announces that “Virginia DMME and Old Dominion Uni Sign Offshore Wind Deal”.  Writing in The Virginia Mercury, Ivy Main says “At long last, Dominion decides it’s game on for offshore wind”.  In contrast, Wired says “The Military Is Locked in a Power Struggle With Wind Farms”, and the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal reports that some NC legislators believe that a “‘No-windmill’ rule could help avoid base closures”.

Grist has a story about geothermal energy that suggests “The ticket to 100% renewable power is underneath our feet”.

Locally, the Augusta Free Press publishes this story about a Department of Energy award to Staunton’s Secure Futures.  “The team received national recognition for their solar barn-raising projects, completed in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).”  One of these projects happened at Harrisonburg’s Gift and Thrift.  NBC4 TV airs this story:  “Charlottesville Organizations and Community Members Ride Around Town for Rooftop Solar Tour”.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

The Miami Herald’s Editorial Board brings us this editorial about offshore drilling:  “Threat of offshore drilling in Florida still alive. Leaders should insist Trump kill it off”.

There continue to be tree sitters opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).  The Roanoke Times reports on the MVP’s owners’ legal action against two of them.  The Virginia Mercury provides an update on legal actions that present hurdles to both the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

In the May 12 – 25 Roundup, we included this item:  Reuters reports that “U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal”.  The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that “Chief Justice John Roberts granted the request.”

Utilities

This story comes from the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union.  It’s about financial difficulties of the city’s “community-owned electric utility”, JEA, and may be a harbinger of dilemmas facing similarly-situated utilities.  Greentech Media (GTM) recently interviewed the “chief innovation and transformation officer at Jacksonville municipal utility JEA, on the next wave of disruptive technologies and concepts in the electricity business: “Disruption is the new normal.”  GTM’s reporter opened the article saying “JEA, the municipal utility in Jacksonville, Florida, has become a leader in the state’s residential energy storage landscape with the introduction of a rebate program and an updated net metering structure. It is considered as one of the most innovative municipal utilities in the country.” (Harrisonburg Electric Commission, HEC, is a municipal electric utility.)

Several VA media outlets reported on a recent VA SCC rejection of a Costco application to avoid Dominion’s rate increase and lower its electricity costs by aggregating its 27 stores’ electricity usage and shopping for a new energy supplier.  It joins other large retailers whom the SCC has denied.  The SCC took the position “that allowing Costco to shop for another power supplier would shift costs to residential and small-business customers of Dominion that don’t have the option under current Virginia law.” [from Richmond Times Dispatch]  Here are articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Virginia Mercury, the Augusta Free Press, and Bacon’s Rebellion.  It seems that the SCC, in this and other rulings, is suggesting that Costco and others whose similar applications it rejected, try to persuade the VA General Assembly to change the law.

Energy News Network has an opinion piece by Patrick Flynn, the vice president of sustainability for Salesforce, asking “Virginia’s utilities, regulators, and lawmakers to prioritize clean energy in their policymaking and grid-planning activities.”  Mr. Flynn argues that “It’s time for Virginia to power a clean energy future”.  Bacon’s Rebellion highlights the “Rider E” case before the SCC in which Dominion asks for a rate increase to offset its expenses in its General Assembly mandated coal ash removal.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/25/2019

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

Politics and Policy

The Washington Post (WaPo) reports that “Half of Maryland’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030”.  A new mandate will go into effect without Governor Hogan’s approval, but he says he’s “committed to addressing climate change”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports “Republicans vote against bill containing their key climate priority: researching energy innovation”, saying the party-line vote in a House committee “illustrates how Republicans are still prioritizing getting funding for other Energy Department initiatives over bipartisan provisions on climate change.”

Blogger Steve Haner, writing in Bacon’s Rebellion, gives his take on Bob Inglis’ (https://www.republicen.org/) recent appearance at the National Regulatory Conference in Williamsburg.  After noting Mr. Inglis’ advocacy for a national carbon fee and dividend “tax”, Mr. Haner opines that “A carbon tax or greenhouse gas tax can work to lower emissions and alter consumer behavior, but it must be 1) nationwide, 2) economy-wide, not aimed at one sector and 3) structured to put pressure on the rest of the world.  A cap and trade system is a useful mechanism to get from A to B.  These economic processes work and their impact is more even across the board.  The downside is more limited than with many other approaches being advocated.”

Bloomberg reports that “Senate Republicans are readying a response to populist climate initiatives such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” with measures that they say adhere to their free-market principles and stand a better chance of becoming law.  The emerging proposals to fight climate change would avoid imposing dramatic cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, they seek to promote clean energy technology such as energy storage, renewable power and carbon-capture technologies. One measure would create an investment fund to pay for the research.”

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “The Energy 202: EPA blocks a dozen products containing pesticides thought harmful to bees”.  But The Guardian reports that the chemical industry wields power within EPA, at least when it comes to banning chemicals such as a degreaser called trichloroethylene (TCE).

WaPo says “States aren’t waiting for the Trump administration on environmental protections”, citing examples from “More than a dozen states [that] are moving to strengthen environmental protections to combat a range of issues from climate change to water pollution, opening a widening rift between stringent state policies and the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda.”  The states include HI, NY, CA, MI, NJ, CO, NM, and OR.  The story quotes a MI water treatment manager as testifying to a U.S. House committee that “It is difficult to communicate to your customers that New Jersey or Minnesota or Vermont has evaluated the risk to their residents differently, and that one state places a lower value on protection of public health than another….”

Despite what seems to be increasing media coverage about the effects of climate instability, at least one 2020 Presidential candidate, running on a “climate platform” is finding many Americans aren’t that interested.  WaPo describes Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s experience this way:  “Inslee’s long quest to transform nature-loving sentiment into climate change legislation has been akin to a grim march through the desert. The man who wants to be America’s first climate change president has seen firsthand the difficulties of putting in place policies to slow the warming of the globe.”

Here are several stories that, together, are sort of in the “Can You Believe It?” Department.  They’re all about VA’s largest utility, Dominion Energy.  Bacon’s Rebellion brings us two with these headlines:  “Dominion Energy Joins Consortium Demanding Climate Change Legislation” and “Dominion Announces Support for Carbon Tax”.  And Ivy Main, in her Power for the People VA blog, brings us the third:  “Dominion keeps trying to pull the wool over our eyes”.  The consortium is the CEO Climate Dialogue.  The Washington Examiner has a story about business support for the carbon tax, noting that “Oil giants BP and Shell pledge $1M each to Republican-backed carbon tax”, adding that “BP and Shell join industry competitors ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil, which previously donated to Americans for Carbon Dividends.”  This group is “led by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker III and George Shultz [and] is promoting a carbon tax plan that would return the revenue to taxpayers.”  RTO Insider talks about the newly formed Virginia group (VA Energy Reform Coalition) that is pushing for a deregulated electricity market in VA because it believes Dominion Energy’s and Appalachian Power’s dominance is not good for all stakeholders.  “The Virginia Energy Reform Coalition (VERC) features policy experts from across the ideological spectrum united against what it considers wasteful infrastructure spending funded by ever‑increasing electricity rates.”

Potpourri

In a Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost, Jim Bacon describes how Sweet Briar College has found a market‑based business opportunity in niche “Artisanal Agriculture” playing “into two mega‑trends: the increasing number of women farmers and the growing vitality of artisinal [sic] agriculture.”

According to The Guardian, toxic water is a legacy of a military base in CO and Colorado Springs businesses are suing the military.

“Dominion needs to ramp up efficiency programs to hit mandate, advocates say” is the headline in a recent article from Energy News Network.  “Watchdogs fear the first phase of Dominion Energy’s kilowatt-saving measures indicate that Virginia’s largest utility will fall far short of the $870 million it’s required to spend on energy efficiency over the next decade.”

Climate

What’s Happening?

A phys.org reports that “Global temperature change attributable to external factors, confirms new study”.

The Guardian reporter Khushbu Shah in Mexico Beach, Florida describes the huge challenges that town faces many months after Hurricane Michael struck.  WaPo reports that, finally, Puerto Rico and some other states—including FL–hard-hit from “natural disasters”–might get some federal funding, IF both houses of Congress approve a bipartisan, negotiated deal and the President signs the bill.  There was a last minute hitch this week during the House’s consideration of a bill that the Senate had passed.  This CNN report describes what happened.

The Guardian reports that “‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica”, referring to “New research show[ing] affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places”.

The Guardian provides a poignant description (“‘This is a wake-up call’: the villagers who could be Britain’s first climate refugees”) of how a Wales village, facing inundation from sea level rise, is coping with what’s coming for them (and other villages, cities, towns, and countries around the world).

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

The Guardian announces its new “decision to alter its style guide to better convey the environmental crises unfolding around the world [and reports that this action]  has prompted some other media outlets to reconsider the terms they use in their own coverage.”

The BBC describes the latest global school climate strike:  “School students around the world have gone on strike to demand action on climate change.”

An April 2019 McKinsey and Company article describes what utilities could be doing, given the high cost of extreme weather events (see examples in What’s Happening).

The New York Times (NYT) Climate Forward describes “One Thing You Can Do: Drive Smarter”.

It also tells us how our discarded toothbrushes are spoiling “paradise.”

Writing for Sierra Club, Heather Smith reports that the scientists who wrote the “summary report released by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)” “Did More Than Tell Us We Were Doomed”.  She says they also “gave us a road map out”.  Lewis Page, also writing for Sierra Club, describes an Extinction Rebellion activist-led event in San Francisco (“Climate Activists Are Rebelling. Are Politicians Finally Listening?”).  And Sierra Club’s Jonathan Hahn talks about Nathaniel Rich’s book Losing Earth in “Why We Didn’t Act on Climate When We Had the Chance”.

Grist reporters Lisa Hymas and Ted MacDonald remind us “The royal baby is cute and all, but hello, the planet is on fire”.

Texas landowners face challenges if they want to protect their property from coal ash detritus and pipelines, according to these items in Grist and Yale Environment 360.  Two stories suggest some Houston TX residents would like to see the city expand its current oil and gas focus.  Grist offers and opinion piece, “Houston teen: Why my oil-soaked city could be ground zero for a greener future”.  And the Midland Reporter-Telegram (mrt) publishes an op-ed by “Charles McConnell, a longtime energy executive and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy … [and] executive director of the Center for Carbon Management in Energy at the University of Houston.”  The author explains “How to make Houston the sustainable energy capital of the world”.

Dallas TX’s municipal government wants to save money through a shift to renewable energy, according to this item in PVTECH.  The “… $472.6 million deal with electricity firm TXU Energy will see the Texan city slash energy costs by almost US$80 million over 10 years, compared to existing arrangements.”

According to this Atlanta Business Chronicle article, “Athens, Ga., commits to 100% clean energy by 2035”.

Miami Today reports that “Solar power plants may sit atop Miami-Dade County lakes”.  The article noted that “a December report from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showing significant potential for the technology, including the possibility that floating solar plants covering just 27% of stateside water bodies identified as suitable[,] could produce almost 10% of current national power generation.”  And CBS Local Channel 4 in Miami tells us that “South Miami Wants [t]o Be Powered By [t]he Sun”.  The item opens with these lines:  “The mayor of South Miami says he wants to see the city powered primarily by the sun.  As part of a recent resolution passed unanimously by the council, officials want to transition to running the city on 100 percent renewable energy in the next 20 years.  It’s the first city in Miami-Dade to make this type of commitment.”  WBBH/WZVN NBC2 TV in the Miami-Dade area accompanied local Representative Francis Clooney, 35 of his constituents, and marine scientists on a trip to observe first-hand the effects of climate change and sea level rise, visiting nearby Keewaydin Island.  The article’s reporter concludes:  “About six months ago, we confirmed that a number of Southwest Florida leaders from Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties were talking about forming a regional collaboration that would focus on climate-related challenges and solutions.  Since then, we’ve learned that one formal meeting has taken place, and those discussions are ongoing.  The regional approach isn’t a new idea.  Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties have a compact to address climate-related challenges and solutions together.”

WaPo’s Energy 202 provides a story about CA winery owner and resident of an area who survived a large wildfire and “realized the danger frequent wildfires could pose to the electricity that powers her daily life.”  She decided to be proactive by installing her own solar panels for use when the electric utility turned off electricity in areas potentially affected by wildfires.  This woman “is just one of several residents whose concern about California utilities’ plans to impose blackouts has led them to install solar panels and battery systems to keep power on during an outage.”

The Virginian Pilot reports that “Scientists hope tiles that look like Disneyland’s castle can jumpstart native oyster reefs” in several Tidewater VA waters.

Energy

Renewable Energy

A Saluda VA farmer writes in The Virginia Gazette about his decision to install solar panels.  In Augusta County, the Board of Supervisors vetoed a solar farm in Stuarts Draft, according to the Staunton News Leader, saying it’s out of compliance with the Comprehensive Plan.  The same paper also reports that another solar developer plans to propose another solar farm in a different part of the county.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) published a blogpost from World Resources Institute, making the case that “In the United States, the falling cost of renewable energy means the economic case for investing in renewables is stronger than ever before” and “Across the country, from South Carolina to Nevada, states are taking new measures to harness wind and solar power. Since January, more than 10 state legislatures have enacted policies that encourage new renewable energy development.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that “Solar power gets cheaper, more popular in Georgia”, according to “Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols” during a visit in TN.

NPR Radio station WFAE 90.7 in NC reports that “Duke Starts Work On Mountain Solar And Battery Projects”.

Talk Business & Politics (TB&P) says an Arkansas county ”is racing to become the first county in the Natural State to install a solar energy system to power all of its local operations”– “Phillips County ready to ‘go solar’ with new $1 million project”.

The Times-News reports that Spartanburg County SC Supervisors believe the growth in small solar farms has been a boon for economic development in the county.

KRISTV in the Corpus Christi TX area notes that “Solar panels [have] become a more viable option for homes and businesses”.

In the Is-Biomass-Really-Renewable-Energy? Department, the Jackson Free Press gives a story about activist efforts to “Warn [a]gainst ‘World’s Largest Pellet Mill’ in Mississippi”.

The U.S. has many places where the wind blows so often and so powerfully that wind power has become more prevalent in places such as IN and TX.  But, not everybody wants the huge power line infrastructure that’s needed to move the wind-generated electrons from wind farms to urban areas.  This is the message of a story from the Houston Chronicle.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

Reuters reports that “U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal”.  The reporter said that “Some analysts think Dominion could cancel the pipeline if the Supreme Court does not hear the case because the project’s costs have ballooned due to legal and regulatory delays.”

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph tells yet another tale of a tree-sitter pipeline protester in “Grandmother tries to obstruct MVP by taking residence in tree”.

We all remember, with horror, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its environmental, political, economic, and legal aftermath that continues even now.  The Associated Press (AP) brings us up to date on another Gulf spill, this one a 14-year long one.  Maybe we can think this is “good news”.

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup Hiatus

Les Grady with the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and principal compiler of these weekly climate news posts is taking a break from this work until the fall. Please watch for these posts resuming in late August or early September.

Thanks!

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/4/2019

Thanks to Joy Loving for compiling this week’s climate news!

Politics and Policy

This Washington Post’s Energy 202 item says “Fossil fuel ban on public lands becomes issue in 2020 Democratic race”.  Axios reports that 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Jay Inslee has offered his energy plan.  Grist says “Beto’s first major 2020 policy proposal is a $5 trillion climate plan”, referring to Beto O’Rourke, another 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate.

A Love’s Travel Stop executive writes in an op-ed for Energy News Network that a bill under consideration in South Carolina would enable more businesses to install solar.  He argues:  “outdated policies and bureaucratic red tape make going solar nearly impossible.  In the most expensive energy state in the nation, that is unacceptable. If a lower-cost energy option exists, businesses deserve the freedom to choose it.”

Despite the development of soon-to-be-finalized regulations authorizing VA to partner with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states, Gov. Northam has declined to veto budget amendments that would prohibit spending money to implement the program.  These articles from the Augusta Free Press (AFP) (“Virginia carbon reduction plan could be on hold”), the Virginia Mercury (VM) (“Northam won’t veto GOP budget language that could cripple carbon-capping plan”), and the Washington Post (WaPo) (“Northam retains GOP language in budget to keep Va. out of carbon-reduction plan”) report on the Governor’s explanatory statement detailing his actions on the state budget.

The Governor said “The Department of Environmental Quality recently finalized a regulation to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants by 30 percent over the next decade. While the General Assembly has restricted the Commonwealth from participating in RGGI, I am directing the Department of Environmental Quality to identify ways to implement the regulation and achieve our pollution reduction goals.” (AFP)  However, the governor “did not offer an explanation for failing to exercise the veto, which proponents of the rule to cap and cut carbon emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants had repeatedly urged” (VM). “Northam lamented the situation …, calling the carbon-cap restriction a ‘disappointing and out-of-touch’ provision. But his advisers apparently believed he lacked the legal authority to veto that language (WaPo).”

Legislation to establish a price on carbon and have carbon-emitters pay toward the cost of the environmental result—e.g. fee and dividend, cap and trade—is pending in Congress.  The Transportation and Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States (TCI) recently offered a video, “Cap and Invest 101”, to present implications from a transportation perspective.  Not everyone favors a carbon fee and dividend approach, including some climate activists, as this WaPo Energy 202 item discusses.  On the other hand, the Houston Chronicle posts this opinion piece:  “Charge a carbon fee. Let the market fix climate change.”  And Bloomberg weighs in with “GOP Tiptoes Toward Climate Plans as Ocasio-Cortez Turns Up Heat”.

There’s lots of talk, pro and con, about the “Green New Deal” (GND).  Grist hosted an April 16 webinar on the subject; you can listen here.  The New York Times (NYT) offers an opinion piece by Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty, making the case for a market-driven GND.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that some climate activists believe NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s GND isn’t “green” enough.  And Northwest Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz opines in nwfdailynews.com that the “Green Real Deal” (GRD) is the way to address climate change.  GRD is an alternative to GND, as covered here, here and here.

You may know that the City of Harrisonburg is in the process of developing an environmental (or sustainability) action plan.  It should be available for public comment sometime this month.  Meanwhile, the San Antonio TX Business Journal reports that local businesses there have thrown support behind that city’s climate plan.  And, according to this piece by Nashville Public Radio, Nashville, TN’s Metro Council is considering legislation to require 100% of its energy needs be met by renewable energy (RE), at least 10 percent of which is solar, by 2041.  Elsewhere in TN, wdef.com reports that “Mayor Berke says Chattanooga accepting Green Light Challenge”.  The Mayor wants his city to be eco-friendly with a new solar array for its waste treatment plant.  The Guardian reports that Amsterdam plans to “ban petrol and diesel cars and motorbikes by 2030” and diesel vehicles over 15 years old by 2020.  Not everyone agrees that this is doable, but Madrid, Rome, and the Danish government are considering similar actions.

The current Administration is no fan of the term (or likely results of) “climate change”.  As one of the eight Arctic Circle nations, the U. S. representative “pushed to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy”.  This WaPo article provides some details and points out that this initial position of the U.S. might be softening.  Interestingly, WaPo also reports that a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report “tells communities to brace for climate change impacts”.

On May 2nd, the U. S. House of Representatives passed HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act, put forward to keep the U. S. in the Paris Climate Agreement.  Read about it here.  Representative Ben Cline, who serves the 6th VA District, voted against this bill, according to GovTrak.us.  (In his weekly perspectives email to constituents, Mr. Cline described another vote this way: “The week concluded with my signing another discharge petition, which would force a vote on the Green New Deal. This misguided legislation would hurt the U.S. Economy, Virginia agriculture, and put our farmers and ranchers out of business…. I believe it is time for Democrats to put their beliefs on the record with a vote on the Green New Deal and when it fails, hopefully we can meet and work on true solutions with an all of the above energy policy for the United States.”)  The Verge reports “House Democrats vote to protect Paris climate agreement But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it ‘will go nowhere’”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 gives its take in “Here’s why Democrats pushed to pass a climate bill that isn’t going anywhere”.

This week’s RepublicEnClimate Week in Review” offers several items highlighting efforts by the “Eco Right”—in Congress and elsewhere—to acknowledge and act on climate change.  Of note was this:  “Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick joined New York’s Rep. Elise Stefanik and Florida’s Rep. Vern Buchanan to vote for the Climate Action Now Act, which seeks to block the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.”  Somewhat differing accounts of two other RepublicEn items appear in the NYT and Grist.  The NYT reports on Wyoming’s Republican Senator John Barrasso proposed legislation promoting nuclear energy.  Noting that the Senator “… has spent years blocking climate change legislation”, the reporter says Senator Barrasso “added a twist: a desire to tackle global warming.”  Grist tells us about Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson under this headline:  “It’s my party, and I’ll fight climate change if I want to”.

Potpourri

Writing in The Guardian, Robert Macfarlane discusses the intriguingly named “Anthropocene unburials”.  In this essay, he “travels ‘Underland’” to help us recognize and understand that what lies beneath our feet, all around the earth, can teach us a lot about our world’s history.  He also points out that, as some of what’s been buried for millennia rises to the surface, one other result is even more greenhouse emissions.

The local public radio station, WMRA, has produced a report on climate actions in the Valley.  Some CAAV members were interviewed and photographs used for the piece.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides “What You Need to Know about Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint” here.  There are some interesting examples of benefits flowing from this Blueprint, including one in Waynesboro.

We’re starting to learn about the negative impacts on the environment of our plastics addiction.  These two articles in The Guardian give some details:  “If we care about plastic waste, why won’t we stop drinking bottled water?” and “’Biodegradable’ plastic bags survive three years in soil and sea”.

The media has received its share of criticism for insufficient reporting about climate change and its effects.  The Guardian reports on its discussions with climate change experts on how to improve.  It also has an opinion piece by Liv Grant, who worked on David Attenborough’s recent BBC documentary, “Climate Change: The Facts”.  Ms. Grant explains how shaken she is by “climate anxiety” from what she learned during its making.  This Grist item may help us understand why, despite dire warnings and terrible climate-change weather disasters, we don’t also react well to that “C-C” term—it’s because our brains don’t register it.

Climate

This piece about Canada in The Guardian focuses on the need for urgent action on climate “preparedness” because of extreme flooding there.

The NYT Magazine of April 9, 2019 is a “Climate” issue.  One story, “The Next Reckoning:  Capitalism and Climate Change”, discusses the important role of capitalism in the effort to curb greenhouse gases and find alternatives to fossil fuels.  The NYT Food Section gives us this advice:  “Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered.  How to shop, cook and eat in a warming world.”  And this NYT piece offers some ideas about “How Does Your Love of Wine Contribute to Climate Change?” and suggestions for what you can do about it.

This fascinating NYT article by Lee Robbins tells us:  “Studying the historical data stored in centuries-old trees is a burgeoning field, with labs around the world learning more about historical patterns of weather and climate and the effects on humans”.

Grist presents an article about our endangered marine life as documented in a Nature study just published.  Things are worse than we thought in our oceans.

Energy

The Guardian has this article about floating solar panels designed by Dutch engineers.  An example of the kinds of innovation we’ll need to see in the marketplace going forward?

This week’s Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) update notes that, after relative calm in activities around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), some storms may be coming.  The Roanoke Times reports that there may be new questions involving pipeline impacts on an endangered species.  Not all actions are about VA’s proposed pipelines.  This Associated Press (AP) story describes efforts by PA landowner, represented by a VA-based legal group, to receive compensation for an eminent domain seizure.

More than one person has said that the kilowatt saved, or not used, is as important, if not more so, than the kilowatt generated by renewable energy (RE).  This Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost by Chelsea Harnish of The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) makes a case that, in fulfilling requirements for new energy efficiency (EE) programs by the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, “Utility-sponsored programs can benefit Virginians in a variety of ways throughout the Commonwealth.”  The AFP reported that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) formally approved six residential and five non-residential EE programs and that VAEEC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, formally intervened in the SCC process for handling utilities’ applications for the EE programs.

Remember the BP Gulf oil drilling fiasco?  Well, the current Administration apparently does.  And it’s decided to loosen regulations put in place after that happened, according to this Chron.com item and Darryl Fears’s piece in WaPo’s Climate and Environment.  This piece in the AFP suggests that the “Offshore drilling safety protections rollback by Trump administration heightens risk of oil disaster.”  The Administration has decided to scale back on its plans for seismic mapping in the Atlantic to search for oil drilling sites.  Nonetheless, WaPo Energy 202 suggests this approach might have negative consequences for Republicans at the polls.

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/26/2019

Politics and Policy

Saying, “The United States made a promise to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement – and if the federal government won’t hold up our end of the deal, then the American people must,” Michael Bloomberg contributed $5.5 million to the UN climate negotiations budget.  In a freedom of information request filed late Monday, Sierra Club requested that EPA turn over any documents that support Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s assertion that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”  A number of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have begun calling for an end to leasing parcels of Western land to coal miners and oil and natural gas drillers.  On Monday, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Tom Carper (D-DE) announced the formation of the Environmental Justice Caucus in the Senate.  Leaders of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus are considering adding criteria to ensure new recruits are green enough to join.  Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have introduced a cap-and-dividend proposal that would combine market-based mechanisms and government oversight with the goal of drastically reducing carbon output over the next 20 years.

The administration is pausing its controversial plans to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic.  In an unusual, but not unprecedented, critique within the Department of Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service pointed out several aspects of climate change that were minimal or absent in the Bureau of Land Management’s draft environmental impact statement on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  More than 1,300 lawsuits related to climate change, many targeting governments or corporations, have been filed around the world since the 1980s, with a surge in recent years.

Ecological economist Julie Steinberger argued at Medium.com that “on climate change, the scientific community (by and large) has been criminally negligent when it comes to observing — and especially learning from — its own track record.”  And at The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot wrote “Like coal, capitalism has brought many benefits.  But, like coal, it now causes more harm than good.”  Earlier in April, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce unveiled its “American Energy: Cleaner, Stronger” agenda in response to their recognition of the need to address climate change.  Clean energy policy analyst Joel Stronberg critiqued the Chamber agenda within the context of the Trump administration’s energy policies.

In town halls hosted by CNN, five Democratic presidential candidates laid out their positions on climate change.  Young voters care about stopping climate change, even if it slows economic growth, according to a new poll from the Harvard University Institute of Politics.  The poll found that they are divided, however, on how the problem should be addressed.  In a paper released last Friday, scientists called for a “Global Deal for Nature” with a unified objective: protect ecosystems to combat climate change and combat climate change to protect ecosystems.  Denis Hayes, the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day (in April 1970), said on Monday that the 50th anniversary next year will be “the largest, most diverse action in human history.”  He also predicted that “2020 will be for climate what 1970 was for other environmental issues.”  However, the American Geophysical Union published two papers in separate journals this week that showed that drastic actions are required.  A paper in Geophysical Research Letters found that the world’s largest emitters (U.S., EU, and China) can reduce the frequency of future temperature extremes by strongly increasing their emissions cuts.  Nevertheless, a paper in Earth’s Future reported that even if the major emitters greatly increased their emission reductions, the rest of the world would have to drastically cut theirs to hold warming to 2°C.

Potpourri

Last week I included a link to an interview with international lawyer Polly Higgins who fought for recognition of ecocide.  Sadly, she has died at age 50.  The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) have teamed up to sponsor a conference next Tuesday aimed at reframing the way journalists cover climate change.  In preparation, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope published an article entitled “The media are complacent while the world burns.”  The on-line version of The Nation has an article about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the African-American town of Union Hill, as well as an interview with Bill McKibben.  In London, Extinction Rebellion held a “pause ceremony” at Hyde Park Corner, implying that while they were suspending their protests for now, they would be back.  Although it is a week old, I’m including this article by climate scientist Myles Allen because I think it’s message is particularly important.  Also, Bill McKibben had an interesting essay abstracted from his new book.  Yale Climate Connections (YCC) interviewed author and activist Jeff Biggers about his Climate Narrative Project and “Ecopolis” theatre shows, while Amy Brady interviewed Kristin George Bagdanov about her new book of climate change poetry.  Sara Peach addressed the question of how to prepare children for climate change at YCC.

Climate

According to Carbon Brief’s “State of the Climate” report for the first quarter of 2019, global surface temperatures are on track to be either the second or third warmest since records began in the mid-1800s, behind only 2016 and possibly 2017.  Furthermore, if we stay on the current trajectory of at least 3°C of warming by the end of the century, melting permafrost will increase the global climate-driven impacts by $70 trillion between now and 2300, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that over the course of decades, global warming caused robust and substantial declines in economic output in hotter, poorer countries — and increases in many cooler, wealthier countries — relative to a world without anthropogenic warming.

The Washington Post mapped America’s “wicked weather and deadly disasters” over the past several years.  It also found that in a typical year, taxpayer spending on the federal disaster relief fund was almost 10 times higher than it was three decades ago, even after adjusting for inflation.

According to one estimate, if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move.  In response, foresters around the U.S. have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt.  A study published in Nature on Wednesday, found that sea creatures are dying at twice the rate of land animals, in part because cold-blooded marine species have a higher sensitivity to warming and many are already living at the edge of their species’ heat tolerance.  Heat-induced bleaching is just the latest in a long series of insults to the Florida coral reef, which have brought its growth to a standstill and left it vulnerable to erosion and rising seas.  As a result, it is not simply dying; it appears to be vanishing.  More than 8.9 million acres of pristine rainforest were cut down in 2018, according to data from the Global Forest Watch network.

A study published in the journal Science indicated oceans have become stormier over the past 30 years, with increases in both wind speed and wave height.

A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimated that Greenland’s glaciers went from dumping about 51 billion tons of ice into the ocean between 1980 to 1990, to 286 billion tons between 2010 and 2018.

Energy

In the Business Section of Sunday’s Washington Post, Steven Mufson profiled three companies that hope to make a business out of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

The Green Advocacy Project commissioned a poll about energy choices that goes more deeply into the public’s attitudes than most polls have done.  The results are quite interesting.

Boston Consulting Group estimated that the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) could create $3 billion to $10 billion of new value for the average utility if it takes appropriate actions.  Of course, that will only happen if people buy EVs.  E&E News posited that social norms and a lack of information on financial benefits have hampered EV adoption in the U.S.  Nevertheless, Ford has made a $500 million investment in EV maker Rivian.  IT giant Cisco is leading a consortium to create a real-world test environment for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies, bringing fleet owners together and connecting as many as 200 EVs through the use of 10kW, bidirectional chargers.

A group of researchers from Japan, France, Germany, Norway, and the UK just published a paper in Nature Climate Change that assesses how the leakage rate of methane influences the benefit of switching power plants from coal to natural gas.  More than half of the world’s new oil and gas pipelines are located in North America, with a boom in U.S. oil and gas drilling set to deliver a major blow to efforts to slow climate change, a new report from Global Energy Monitor has found.

This month, Massachusetts approved the contracts for Vineyard Wind, clearing the way for it to become the second offshore wind farm in the U.S.  From Appalachia in the U.S. to Queensland in Australia and Chernobyl in Ukraine, solar and wind farms are being developed or built in places not normally associated with clean energy, and in some regions long resistant to it.

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 4/19/2019

Politics and Policy

More than 300 people had been arrested by Wednesday in climate protests that have gridlocked the core of London this week.  Those protests have been staged by Extinction Rebellion, which is working to bring similar disruptive protests to the U.S.  Guardian columnist George Monbiot, writing in support of Extinction Rebellion, said “Our system – characterized by perpetual economic growth on a planet that is not growing – will inevitably implode.  The only question is whether the transformation is planned or unplanned.  Our task is to ensure it is planned, and fast.”  International lawyer Polly Higgens is calling for the International Criminal Court in the Hague to recognize ‘ecocide’ as a crime against humanity, alongside genocide and war crimes.  Mat Hope interviewed her for Desmog.

In an open letter to The Guardian accompanying the launch of a report from the Network for Greening the Financial System, the governors of the Bank of England and the Banque de France warned that the global financial system faces an existential threat from climate change and must take urgent steps to reform.  Although he has not yet done so, President Trump has said he will appoint Heritage Foundation senior fellow Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board.  Moore has a history of rejecting climate science, although he has said he would support a carbon tax under certain conditions.

The New York Times (NYT) asked all 18 declared Democratic presidential candidates for their views on a number of policy options related to climate change.  You can read an article about their responses, as well as their individual responses.  Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who has made climate change the focal point of his presidential campaign, called on the Democratic National Committee to hold a debate centered solely on the issue.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) this week became the latest major presidential candidate to promise to halt all new leases for fossil fuel development on federal lands and offshore if elected.  The NYT also published an opinion piece by Amory B. Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty of the Rocky Mountain Institute arguing that “Any serious energy transformation effort … will need to harness America’s immensely powerful and creative economic engine, not dismantle it.”  At Vox, David Roberts interviewed Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), co-sponsor of the Green New Deal Resolution, about some of the claims that have been made about it.

Alberta, the home of Canada’s tar sands, elected a conservative leader who promised to cancel the province’s carbon tax, lift a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands, and create a “war room” to combat the oil industry’s opponents.  In addition, the federal and Ontario governments squared off in the province’s top court over the federal government’s climate change law.  New York City set an ambitious new standard for combating greenhouse gas emissions by approving a package of policies designed to slash energy use in big buildings.  Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a major overhaul of state oil and gas rules, turning the focus away from encouraging production and directing regulators to make public safety and the environment their top priority.  As the cost of renewable energy drops and its popularity rises around the country, Republican lawmakers in several key states are ratcheting up their attacks on wind power.

Potpourri

For Earth Day, The Washington Post created a different way to read about climate change: an all-cover issue of their Magazine, with each cover illustrating an aspect of climate change that The Post wrote about in the past year or so.  Links are provided to the articles.  A new biannual magazine called Atmos explores climate and culture because “in order for us to have an impact on our changing climate, it has to start with people.”  In a seven-minute video beautifully illustrated by Molly Crabapple, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis provide a thought experiment of what the world might look like if we actually adopted the Green New Deal.  It is accompanied by an essay by Naomi Klein.  For Earth Day, the Pew Research Center looked at attitudes about climate change around the world and in the U.S.  Students from Virginia Tech were the Grand Winner at this year’s Solar Decathlon Design Challenge sponsored by DOE.  They also placed first in the Attached Housing Division.  The NYT had a couple of articles about things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint: Repair rather than replace broken items and use less single-use plastic.  “Degrees of Change” from Science Friday is a new series that explores the problem of climate change and how we as a planet are adapting to it.  You can sign up for a newsletter associated with it here.  Last week I provided a link to an excerpt from Bill McKibben’s new book Falter.  Jared Diamond provided a review this week.  Sunday was the first anniversary of the death of David Buckel, who died by self-immolation in hopes of catalyzing action on climate change.  The Guardian published a tribute by Oliver Conroy.  Yale Climate Connections has an informative article about John Kaiser, who is a former climate change denier who now regrets “how wrongheaded but certain I was.”  Lastly, be sure to check Earth Doctor Doug Hendren’s website periodically to see what new songs and albums he’s posted.

Climate

NASA’s GISTEMP surface temperature data set, one of the major data sets that have found the last five years to be the hottest on record and Earth to be 1°C warmer than in the late 1800s, has found new backing from an independent satellite record — suggesting that its findings are on a sound footing, scientists reported in the journal Environmental Research Letters.  Simulation results from the new generation of climate models being developed for the next IPCC report show greater warming projections than previous models, and their developers aren’t sure why.

To understand how the U.S. has warmed since 1970, Climate Central looked at temperature trends in 242 cities and 49 states.  They found that Las Vegas, NV was the fastest warming city and Alaska was the fastest warming state.  Meanwhile, more evidence for an exceptionally warm Arctic, especially in Greenland, has been building up, including early ice breakup on rivers and an early thaw in Alaska.  Unfortunately, the growing frequency of extreme weather dulls people’s awareness of climate change impacts, with the result that most people normalize extreme weather over just two to eight years.

Hurricane Maria was the rainiest storm known to have hit Puerto Rico, and climate change is partly to blame, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.  As hurricane season nears, Paul Douglas of the Capital Weather Gang called for better prediction systems so we can prepare vulnerable coastal areas for bigger, wetter, and faster-strengthening hurricanes.  The problems plaguing farmers in Honduras and elsewhere have mounted with rising temperatures and increasingly unpredictable weather, causing them to abandon their farms and head north.

Thawing permafrost in the Arctic may be releasing 12 times as much nitrous oxide as previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.  Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2, can remain in the atmosphere for up to 114 years.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has prepared a climate change position statement that says that limiting the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C since preindustrial times is critical to maintaining the ecological function of the reef.  Ocean acidification is another result of increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.  Gavin MacRae reviewed its impacts on marine food webs.

Energy

The US Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. energy consumption hit a record high in 2018, in large part due to the growing use of petroleum and natural gas.  The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved construction of two proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals.  Duke Energy announced that it has put on hold for at least 15 years its plan to build a $100+ million gas-fired power plant at Lake Julian in western North Carolina.  The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors has approved the final permits for what will be the largest solar facility in Virginia and among the biggest in the nation.

Researchers from Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland and the Energy Watch Group have compiled the first scenario for optimally transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  New studies suggest that as more renewable energy is introduced on the U.S.’s electric grids, a wider use of electric heat pumps will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Eve Andrews at Grist examined the question “Why do we continue to expand car-dependent infrastructure?”.  U.S. electric bus maker Proterra announced an agreement that will help it scale up its battery leasing program, which will remove the upfront cost premium of buying an electric bus.  Nikola Motors is a start-up company that will build long-haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells along with a hydrogen fueling system to jump-start the industry.   Some of the world’s largest automobile companies unveiled new electric vehicles (EVs) at the Shanghai Auto Show.  Due to the plunging price of batteries, EVs will be cost-competitive with internal combustion-engine cars by 2022, according to a report at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Eric Niiler provided a review of where off-shore wind turbine deployment stands now in the U.S.  Harnessing wave power to generate electricity is another type of renewable energy, although it is much less developed than wind turbines.  Now, three companies are gearing up to conduct long-term tests of their devices at the same site in Hawaii.

Global energy storage deployments are projected to grow by a factor of 13 to reach 158 GW-hrs by 2024, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie.  Swedish company SaltX, which achieves electrical and heat storage using specially nanocoated salt, has installed a large-scale demonstration facility in Germany.  The company believes that its technology can be economically competitive with pumped hydro.  Another demonstration facility, this one in Thailand, is using a hybrid lithium-ion and zinc-bromine flow battery system to store electricity from solar panels for a remote village that is off the grid.

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.