Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/12/2021

Our Changing Climate

This summer has been one climate related calamity after the next. So much so that it feels like sensory overload. Did all that actually happen in one summer? It began with unprecedented drought, heat, and wildfires in the American West. This was followed by devastating floods in Europe and China. Then there were more wildfires in Siberia and Turkey. Since then, Hurricane Ida unleased flooding in Louisiana and the Northeast, including New York City, leaving more than 45 dead. We could go on. The list of calamities is not exhausted.

In the August Climate and Energy News Roundup, I recalled how my wife Ruth and I experienced 118-degree heat in the city of Barstow on the edge of California’s Central Valley as we drove to Oakland to visit family in July. Farmers in the Central Valley face huge challenges as they contend with climate induced heat and drought. What I did not say was that the next day we visited the Sequoia National Park. At this high altitude, the temperature reached an unseasonably high 85 degrees but it was still relatively comfortable as we walked under the majestic giant Sequoias, some of which are more than 2,000 years old.

Now those Sequoias, which are among the most fire adapted trees on our planet, are being threatened by climate induced hot complexes of wildfires. More than 10,000 trees (about 14% of the population) have succumbed. These trees had survived and thrived in all kinds of extreme weather for thousands of years. It was especially jarring to recently see photos of the giant Sequoias we had recently walked under now wrapped in massive aluminum foil sheets in a desperate attempt to save them.

It is not only the Sequoias that are experiencing unprecedented stress. Native American communities that have lived in North America for thousands of years are also under threat. The Yurok Tribal Reservation is in a remote area along the Klamath River on the misty northern California coast. Now, due to a history of regional water mismanagement combined with a historic drought, the river is sick – and the Yurok are too. Earlier this year, a fish kill of enormous magnitude left 70% of juvenile salmon dead from a deadly pathogen which spreads when the flow of water is curtailed and water quality is low.

The Yurok have traditionally relied on salmon from the Klamath River for their livelihood and their diet. They have now had their fishing rights severely curtailed to protect the remaining salmon population, creating a financial and dietary crisis for them. The underlying problem, unaddressed by state and federal regulators, is that upstream dams severely restrict the flow of water and divert it for other purposes, thereby destroying the entire ecosystem.

The Hopi Native American tribe has survived for more than a thousand years in the arid mesas of Arizona. Now, the two-decade long megadrought gripping the Southwest is testing their resilience. Researchers have estimated that human-influenced climate change has contributed considerably to the severity of the drought, which is considered to be as bad or worse than any in the region over the last 1,200 years. In response, the Hopi tribal council has been forced to ask native ranchers to slash livestock numbers to avoid further catastrophe. They are also urging tribal members to do everything they can to preserve dry farming, an ancient practice in which crops grow despite scant rainfall through drought-resistant seeds, small fields, and terraced gardens.

Politics and Policy

A recent study published by Lancet Planetary Health finds that children and young people around the world are experiencing “widespread psychological distress” over the fate of the planet because of climate change. That fear and anxiety is real and tied to their concern that governments around the world are not doing enough to address the crisis.  A first-of-its-kind study postulates that today’s kids will live through three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents.

This fear for the future propels the actions of many young climate activists from around the world. Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a teenage climate activist from the Philippines says she cannot help thinking about it because our whole future is ahead. She has tried to channel the uncertainty into her work, talking about the environment at schools, helping farmers get irrigation equipment, and joining fishing communities fighting shorefront commercial development.

The Citizens Climate Lobby has been pushing hard for a carbon price as part of the fight against global warming. They are encouraged that both progressives and moderates are now seriously working to include that in the reconciliation “Build Back Better” bill. Major players in the Senate are now working on putting a carbon fee and dividend into the bill.

Governor Northam recently initiated the new commuter-friendly Amtrak train connecting Richmond-to-D.C. by being among the first to board the new line’s inaugural run. This line is the first project under the state’s $37 billion, 10-year program called Transforming Rail, which aims to expand and streamline commuter, passenger and freight rail systems.

California governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that received bipartisan support, requiring carbon emissions per ton of cement produced to be cut by 40 percent below 2019 levels by 2035. Cement production is responsible for 7 to 8 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions globally. Climate activists are hopeful that this will spur innovation that can be emulated in other countries like China and India.

Energy

Energy is hard to come by as global leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow, Scotland for a climate conference. Some regions in China are rationing electricity, because of a shortage of coal and oil. The price of natural gas is sky-high in Europe and power plants in India are on the verge of running out of coal. The recent spike in demand comes after a year of pandemic related retrenchment in coal, oil and gas extraction, stretching global supply chains. Advocates for renewable energy argue that the crisis shows the need to move further away from fossil fuels while their critics contend that moving too rapidly to green energy has created the problem.

Coalfield Development, the largest nonprofit in West Virginia located in Huntington, West Virginia, is training former coal miners to transition to renewable energy jobs. They recently partnered with Solar Hollar, a local startup solar installer, to install a 294-solar panel project on the roof of their factory. The installation will produce enough power to offset the usage of all their operations on the site and save them over $135,000. The mission is to make solar affordable, accessible and achievable for everyone in West Virginia and to bring good clean energy jobs to people in this historic coal mining region.

The Harrisonburg school board decided to have Affordable Energy Concepts install new solar panels on the roof and campus of Bluestone Elementary School. The installation will include an interactive electric sign and a solar-powered water fountain, which can serve as teaching tools. The solar system could get Bluestone close to generating as much energy as it uses.

The latest edition of The National Geographic focuses on “the dream of a cleaner commute.” All the big automakers are moving rapidly toward an electric vehicle future. The more difficult challenge is going green in air travel. Alternative fuels such as electric batteries and hydrogen are too heavy or cumbersome for use in long distance flight. The airline industry and research centers are, however, experimenting with electric powered planes for short commutes and with non-fossil fuel sources such as algae for longer flights. That is still in the more distant future, forcing us to recognize that, at present, we may need to limit and find alternatives to air travel when possible (The National Geographic, October 2021: 38-83).

Various Climate Actions

Ahead of the global environment summit in Glasgow in November, Pope Francis, of the Roman Catholic church, Patriarch Bartholomew, of the Orthodox church, and Archbishop Justin Welby, of the global Anglican communion, issued an unprecedented joint declaration urging world leaders to work together to address our climate crisis. The statement urged all people – “whatever their beliefs or worldview” – to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor. Today, we are paying the price [of the climate emergency] … Tomorrow could be worse.” It concludes: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

Dominion Energy is currently undergoing a rate review, marking the first time since 2015 that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) will fully review and potentially adjust what Dominion customers pay for electricity.Dominion is requesting a significant authorized profit increase from 9.2% to 10.8%, which could raise energy bills if approved.

CALL TO ACTION: Sign on to this petition by Clean Virginia asking the SCC to deny Dominion’s request for a profit increase. The SCC rejected a similar request in 2019, estimating it would cost Virginians $1.4 billion in additional charges. 

Most people naturally think of planting trees as a way to mitigate climate change. This overlooks the ecological benefits of native grasslands, which are also superstars of ecosystem services. Grasslands expert Elizabeth Borer, at the University of Minnesota, explains that natural grasses have enormous root systems (often far larger than the plant you see above ground) which hold the soil together and help prevent erosion. Such grasslands hold more than a third of the world’s land-based carbon while providing a rich habitat for wildlife.

In contrast, most lawns are resource-intensive monocultures doused with water and pesticides and mowed by carbon spewing gasoline powered lawnmowers. There are as many as 50 million acres of lawn across the US—an area roughly the size of Nebraska. An easy climate actionthat can have a significant impact is changing how we care for our lawns:

  • We can learn how to maintain a healthy lawn without using lots of water, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides.
  • Planting white clover as part of our grass mix makes our lawns more diverse and supportive of insects such as native bees.  
  • We can convert some of our lawn to low maintenance native plant and edible landscaping borders in our bid to “bring nature home.”
  • And you may want to trade in your old gas-powered lawnmower for a more ecological and much quieter electric lawnmower. 

Reflection

Environmentalist and Episcopalian priest, Ragan Sutterfield says that climate change is a symptom of a larger underlying disease. Borrowing a concept from family therapy, “the climate crisis is the identified patient of our planetary dysfunction.” He concludes, “In our concern, we should recognize the systematic pathology of industrial civilization that has brought us to a crisis with the climate. We need reconciliation with the whole, not just a solution for the identified patient” (The Christian Century, Sept. 22, 2021: 29).

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for September 2021

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in The Citizen.


The link to this piece as first published by The Citizen is HERE.

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for September 2021

Energy

Several Southwest Virginia (SWVA) communities have received funding to support “industrial, agricultural, community development, and tourism” economic development projects to help them transition from a dependence on coal. A Cumberland Plateau Planning District commissioner echoes the value of such projects, arguing that prior efforts have a good track record.

The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy are partnering to install large solar facilities on 1,700 acres, part of a reclamation effort on a former strip mine site; these projects will be developed within the Cumberland Forest Project. There may be additional, similar projects in SWVA and elsewhere, given the ubiquity of abandoned coal sites and Dominion’s need to meet Virginia Clean Energy Act solar energy requirements. RMI believes Appalachia ”could be the region to see the biggest economic benefit from the deployment of wind and solar projects over the next decade.” 

Dominion wants to power 250,000 Virginia homes with solar plants. In recent testimony before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) about one of Dominion’s proposals related to the VCEA, an attorney representing Appalachian Voices said the proposal would not necessarily benefit customers because it “is predicated on a flawed analysis that exaggerates benefits and fails to consider numerous other options likely to deliver the same or similar benefits at a fraction of the cost.” In a separate case, the SCC’s staff said “Dominion Energy earned more than $1.1 billion above a fair profit from customers in Virginia in a four-year span…. [Because of state law, however,] “customers aren’t likely to see that much in refunds.”

Will solar+battery storage make a difference? Apparently, Dominion Energy wants to try this approach. What about the cost of the energy transition? A Virginia solar installer thinks it could lower costs quite a bit. Another solar advocate de-bunked 5 myths about solar.

A Virginia blogger points out that subsidies have long been part of the US strategy to develop energy resources.

Dominion Energy has inked a deal with the Portsmouth Marine Terminal that will provide a staging area for constructing wind turbines and other infrastructure. Dominion has also committed to working with unions on its wind projects.

Virginia is moving to electrify its school bus fleet; one question is, after the first round, where will the funding come from? A Chesterfield bank installed an EV charger for customer use at no charge while banking.

“Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport recently installed runway lights with LED technology. The fixtures … use less energy and throw off more light, an aid to pilots and navigation.”

SWVA “landowners [are] still fighting [the Mountain Valley] pipeline’s use of eminent domain.” Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy believes the reluctance to allow farmers to rent their land for large-scale solar farms represents an attack on landowners’ property rights. Is pig waste, aka biogas, “renewable energy?” This article’s lead sentence suggests it is: “Surry County’s Planning Commission will hold public hearings Sept. 27 on two proposed renewable energy projects.” Can a gas plant reduce the stench from a landfill? Some Chesterfield County residents may find out. A Tennessee official wants Virginia “to do more to fix Bristol landfill’s malodorous emissions.”

Climate and Environment

A Virginia blogger says Virginia could learn some lessons about flood control from Louisiana. A Virginia representative introduced a bill to curb flooding, and stormwater runoff, on military bases. A Norfolk advocacy group, Mothers Out Front, wants more moms to step forward and call attention to the city’s serious and chronic flooding.

SWVA farmers and brewers envision “a new industry for the coalfields region” through a resurgence of “Appalachian Grains” such as barley. Recent Appalachian Regional Commission grants may help make this vision a reality while also supporting other economic development in SWVA and other Appalachian communities. “Can Southwest Virginia remake itself as a laboratory for renewables?

Bedford County leaders want the USDA to issue a disaster declaration; this summer’s drought has devastated crops.

Fairfax County passed a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags. Alexandria and Arlington County did so as well. Virginia Tech’s project to reduce single-use plastic use and waste has made progress. An industrial plastics company will expand its operations in Rockingham County, adding 92 new jobs.

“Hampton Roads aquifer recharge project gets [a] $477 million EPA loan.”

Arlington now has county-wide curbside composting. The end-product will be “a nutrient-rich soil amendment that makes plants healthier. Finished compost will be available for free to county residents.” 

Shenandoah Green, an environmental advocacy group in Staunton, received kudos from the Climate Reality Project for its great work in planting trees and engaging large numbers of community members to do it.

Also check out:

Find out how….

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/18/2021

Our Changing Climate

Heat and fires

“A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us.”  “IPCC’s starkest warning yet.” Question is:  Are politicians and corporations paying attention?  Many more stories attest to the seriousness of our collective situation:  The Guardian, The New York Times,

Siberian Wildfires—Bigger than all the rest combined, worldwide.  Even so, the huge western US wildfires are creating their own weather—and clouds that produce lightening that can spark new fires.  The scale in the western US is almost unimaginable:  100,000 acres burned near Sacramento;  make that “143.900 acres”; our smoke warning systems aren’t robust enough; “Our future [in the Sierra Nevada] might not look the same”; “Wildfire smoke claims more than 33,000 lives each year”, not counting “long term exposure”; the Dixie fire—nearly 1 million acres; “World’s largest tree wrapped in fire-resistant blanket as California blaze creeps closer”.

High temperatures are everywhereSicily, Pacific Northwest,

Methane emission reductions are imperative, says latest IPCC report.

Water:  Drought, flooding, hurricanes, sea ice loss, sea level rise

Hurricane Ida’s damage to Louisiana—to the coastFuture prospects (not so good); to coastal residents; to electricity customers’ pocketbooksAbandoned oil and gas infrastructure off its shores.  Oil spills. Water crisis.   Lawsuits against oil companies for damages. Keeping the lights on—National Geo weighs in. 

Lots of flooding.  Climate change help set up conditions for Tennessee’s recent problems (“walls of water”); also Germany’s and Belgium’s. Ditto for New York.  The bad news?  More coming.

Drought pummels agriculture across the West.” It’s hard to grow cantaloupe when there’s no water.  The US tied a 1936 Dustbowl record this summer.

Rainfall on Greenland’s ice sheet—a first in history.  Mount Shasta is “nearly snowless.”

Fishing in North Carolina—Climate Change’s Burden—part of the Changing Tides series.

Plastics, chemicals, and waste

Humans have dumped unbelievable quantities of plastics into the ocean.  Some of it (not enough) is being eaten by bacteria—thanks to the “‘plastisphere’: the synthetic ecosystem evolving at sea”!

Plants, animals, and wild places

A new measurement—“green status of species”—will help us understand how well, or not, we’re doing.  Who knew some plants are voracious accumulators of precious metals?

Positive Steps—Some More Positive than Others

Policy Makers, Politicians, Media, Judiciary, and Scientists

Biden is improving car emission standards—but not enough.  EV sales are increasing.

The President and some members of Congress continue to push for legislationCan the Fed helpLobbyists are putting in their two cents.  Could there possibly be a bipartisan approach?  What could a Climate Corps do; here are some answers?

Scientists in Oregon are studying a way to combat climate change’s “evil twin”, ocean acidification, with a de-acidification project in a bay.  To give oysters a better chance, they’re buffering “incoming seawater with sodium carbonate” to reduce the acidity.

The UK’s “green economy” is four times larger than its manufacturing sector.

Can we rely on what we read and hear?  Many think the oil industry willfully misled us.  A House panel is investigating.  Just how certain are we about the “existential threat”?

The IPCC and other reports are generating calls for urgent action on infrastructure and other efforts to address the crisis.  RMI says we have solutions; we need to act.  Several climate scientists’ advice:  Don’t despair.   Sometimes, it’s hard not to.  Some activists ask: “Is this our last chance to pass meaningful legislation?”  For example:  Clean energy tax incentivesLocal versus more distant solar?  How about both—and fast?

A Federal judge puts a halt—at least temporarily—on the prior administration’s permit for a “project … to produce more than 100,000 barrels a day on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.” On the other hand…. “US to restart oil leasing with offshore auction this year”—by court order.

Others—People, Countries

A former “steak-eating bodybuilder”, now vegan, has “rewilded” his 1,000-acre estate in Ireland.  Not to be outdone, a famous UK farmer wants to transform farming to save the planet and is doing it on his farm.

Like bananas?  Puerto Rico is working to ensure we’ll have them around going forward.

Seaweed to the rescue?

Small towns:  Sometimes you can move uphillSometimes not.

Beyond Meat’s Ethan Brown.

Saving California’s kelp forests—from zombie sea urchins.

Indigenous resistance has staved off 25 percent of California and Canada’s annual emissions.”

Iceland has a carbon removal facility.  So do the oceans, which have creatures called “siphonophores.”

Imagine 2200—Writers come up with 12 amazing scenarios.

Energy

Fuel Sources, Utilities, Electric Grid

Pipelines—their opponents, their effects—are still with us.  In Minnesota.  In Mississippi.  In Ohio.  In Tennessee.  In Michigan.

Warnings that hydrogen may not be a “clean” fuel source appeared in a recent study.  Turns out a big problem isn’t the gas itself; it’s the way it’s currently obtained.  Hopefully new, cleaner, and scalable extraction methods for “green” hydrogen can be found to replace “blue” hydrogen’s dependence on natural gas.  Georgia is betting on hydrogen; a hydrogen equipment company has located there.

Utility companies and solar companies haven’t always seen eye to eye.  A large solar company just hired a former utility executive as its CEO.  Utilities’ bottom lines are significantly affected by large weather events.  One utility—and perhaps others—are looking hard at weather data using sophisticated analysis tools to help prepare for such events.

Texas—There’s a “solar versus trees” battle of sorts happening.  Some in the oil industry believe a change in their ways of operating is needed.

Louisiana—Despite the reluctance to embrace renewable energy opportunities, including solar farms, a University of Louisiana professor is studying what solar farms and other renewables could meanState policy is hostile to distributed solar.  Ray of hope?  A tank farm wants to expand to handle renewable fuels.

North Carolina—Brunswick County Supervisors don’t want offshore wind, believing it would damage tourism.  NC’s PBS ran a program about how solar and wind development can help rural areas—Episode 12, Renewable Energy in Rural Areas (I watched it while at the Outer Banks this week.).  Not everyone agrees, including some residents of Gold Hill.  A Virginia blogger’s take on development and sea level rise.

Florida—A Tampa utility’s hype about its reduction in its deployment of coal and increase in solar leaves out some important details (think:  natural gas).

Colorado—Its Clean Heat Standard sets clean energy requirements for utilities; it’s potentially a model for other states.

Buildings and Transportation

Georgia is also betting on electric vehicles.  It just paid millions for undeveloped land it hopes will be the home of an EV manufacturing facility.  And it’s working with the USMC to support more EVs by providing some Level II chargers.  A clean energy conference in August indicated some Georgians want to understand its possibilities.

California is taking carbon reduction seriously.  It’s mandating solar and battery storage for some new residential and commercial buildings.  The Feds want us all to use more energy efficient lighting and is proposing to require that light bulbs don’t waste energy through heat output.

If the cheapest energy is what we don’t use, then improving our energy efficiency may be the next best alternative.  ACEEE says Congress can give us all a standard to show the way.

If EVs are part of the solution, we need to figure out how to pay for their accompanying infrastructure—charging stations.

Problem:  “EVs, Solar, & Energy Storage: Ignoring The Science That Will Save Us

Ideas, Entertainment and Information

Canary Media put together a climate playlist on Spotify.  It also showcased En-ROADS, a climate simulator.  Use it to compare “positive” actions (like adding solar) and not-so-positive ones (like continuing to build natural gas plants).  Example, how much does it matter that renewables now account for 25% of US installed generating capacity, but renewables are still second to natural gas?

Trees can help slow climate change.  What if we made sure to protect the trees we have? Unfortunately, Amazonian deforestation is continuing apace.

This map “tells the Story of Two Americas: 1 parched and 1 soaked.”

Time article:  “In the Face of Climate Change, We Must Act So That We Can Feel Hopeful—Not the Other Way Around

Finding “green” cleaning products.  Tips for “greening your laundry routine”—remember clothes lines?

Lovely story about growing a garden on a building’s terrace in the shadow of where the World Trade Towers used to be.

Could we possibly be at “peak car” levels?

Ever heard of “Captain Planet”—TV show from the 1990s?  What about these?

Gorgeous pix of glacial caves.

Real time climate action tracker.

Late night show hosts will tackle climate change starting September 22.

Joy Loving
CAAV Steering Committee

Oppose Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative Rate Increase

By Joy Loving
Augusta Free Press, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative is proposing an unjustified rate increase that will disproportionately harm low income customers, those on fixed incomes, and those whose electricity use is low. If approved, the increases will make it harder for all customers to control monthly electric bills through smart investments in energy efficiency and rooftop solar.

SVEC wants the Virginia State Corporation Commission to approve a 20 percent increase in the basic monthly customer or ‘connection’ charge. Plus, it wants a new ‘demand charge’ that will further increase monthly bills for residential customers. The proposed increase is the latest in recent years for SVEC customers. SVEC’s basic monthly charge went from $13 to $25 within the last 18 months; SVEC now proposes to raise it again to $30.

So, SVEC customers would pay basic connection charges up to three to four times more than their neighbors who have electric service from other utilities. Dominion Energy customers pay a $6.58 basic monthly charge; neighboring Rappahannock Electric Co-op members pay $14/month. Neither has a demand charge for residential customers.

Approval of the proposed increase will mean nearly a third of the average residential monthly bill will be a fixed charge–one a customer can’t reduce through energy conservation or greater efficiency. Higher fixed charges give customers less ability to reduce monthly bills with smart investments in solar or wind energy, which create jobs and build clean, local energy in our community.

Extensive testimony to the SCC reports that about 17 percent (~14,800) of SVEC’s households would qualify as low‑income (meaning an average yearly income of $16,206). These households tend to be lower energy users. SVEC’s higher fixed charge would affect these members most, because their homes use the least energy.

You have an opportunity to stop SVEC’s proposal. If you’re interested in fair electric rates, you can oppose this increase even if you’re not an SVEC customer.

On Oct. 6 at 10 a.m., the State Corporation Commission will hold a virtual public hearing on SVEC’s proposal. Anyone can submit written comments through Sept. 29. If you sign up to testify at the hearing by Oct. 4, you’ll get five minutes to give oral testimony. You do not need to file written comments to speak on Oct. 6.

Are you interested in helping protect low income, retired, and low use SVEC customers? Want to send a message to the SCC about high electricity bills? If yes, ask the SCC to deny this rate increase.

  1. Make written comments at scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/comment/PUR-2021-00054 .
  2. Make a five-minute oral comment at the Oct. 6 hearing. To do that, you need to:
  3. Fill out the Public Witness Form on the Commission’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting ; OR
  4. Send a PDF copy of a completed Public Witness Form obtained from scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov ; OR
  5. Call 804-371-9141 during normal business hours.
  6. Learn more—join the Sept. 15 virtual forum at 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Appalachian Voices; register at tinyurl.com/hcfpthbu.

Story by Joy Loving from the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for August 2021

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in The Citizen.


The link to this piece as first published by The Citizen is HERE.

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for August 2021

Energy

proposed Botetourt County wind farm in missed a deadline in the approval process; the developer appealed that determination. Offshore wind (OSW) is coming to Virginia and the State Corporation Commission has opened a docket anticipating a “coming application from Dominion Energy Virginia for its massive offshore wind proposal”; a blogger discusses pros and cons. OSW is under review for the North Carolina coastif built, some of the energy produced would be sold to the Virginia marketArea residents differ in their receptiveness to the prospect of large wind turbines offshore.

blogger discussed findings from a Wood McKenzie study giving Virginia top rankings as a “top state for new solar capacity additions,” pointing out that, nonetheless, “it’s still common to see proposed solar developments meet defeat at the local level.” A Valley farmer and solar advocates recommends “Stop whining about solar panels — we need more now.”

Solar United Neighbors intervened in a Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) Rate Increase application now pending before the State Corporation Commission (PUR-2021-00054), arguing another “20% increase … doesn’t align with members’ needs.” SVEC increased its fixed charge from $13 to $25 within the last 18 months. The SCC will hold a public hearing on October 6. Member‑owners can comment here.

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A Harrisonburg non-profit, Give Solar, has partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to put solar on several newly constructed homes this year. The hope is to provide “a path to homeownership and sustainable energy” and to expand the model to other Habitat affiliates in the state. A well‑respected Virginia energy policy expert and blogger touted this local effort. (CAAV and other local organizations will host a benefit concert, “Songs for Solar”, to support it: September 10th, 7 – 9:30 PM, Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High St, Harrisonburg VA 22801. All free will donations will go to GIVE SOLAR. Come and bring your mask.)

Fredericksburg’s Clean and Green Commission, partnering with Local Energy Assistance Program, launched a Solarize Fredericksburg campaign, through which “Fredericksburg [residents] and surrounding counties can sign up to receive a free solar satellite assessment and access discounted prices.”

An EPA letter to the Army Corps of Engineers recommended the Corps disapprove a water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) because “[t]he current design of the pipeline threatens a variety of water bodies across Virginia and West Virginia.” Wild Virginia agrees. Although MVP owners plan to purchase carbon offsets for the project’s projected annual 730,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, environmentalists are unimpressedProtesters continue to raise objections to the MVP and some were arrestedDirectly affected property owners sued to prevent blasting for [the] pipeline on Bent Mountain.” The Department of Environmental Quality said it’s looking into complaints.

One legacy of the cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline: “A federal review of a plan to restore land disturbed by construction of the … Pipeline… recommends that some 31 miles of installed pipeline and 83 miles of trees felled … be left in place to minimize further disturbance to wildlife and vegetation.” Some of the infrastructure is on easements on privately held property. Nelson County residents want Dominion to rescind those easements; Dominion said they should stay in place until restoration is complete.

The market for coal is negative and utilities are evaluating when and how to discontinue its use. Coal’s negative environmental effects were underscored by a late July 13-car train derailment that sent coal into the James River. Charles City County residents “fended off” a proposed natural gas-fired plant.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s Conservation and Recreation “received a $1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand … living shorelines in Rural Coastal Virginia to reduce coastal erosion and benefit water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.” Environmental groups want the state to put one-sixth of funds due from the new American Rescue Plan to step up the pace of efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay.” The Governor is supportive but not all General Assembly members agree. The Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center released a reportClimate Benefits of Chesapeake Bay Restoration in Virginia–examining “how efforts to improve water quality in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have also provided a secondary benefit of helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere.” Underwater sea grass is important to a clean Bay; for the second year in a row, abundance of such grass declined, possibly affected by “impacts from extreme weather and changes in water quality.” The Virginia Living Shorelines program should flourish thanks to a $1 Million grant that will help homeowners install “natural water breaks like sand, marshes, and oyster reefs that stabilize shores and conserve habitats—to stop … erosion.”

A recent Inspector General audit found Virginia’s current decentralized approach to monitoring and addressing drinking water quality is flawedAnother IG audit concluded the state’s oversight of its conservation easement program needs improvement. Virginia’s Natural Resources Secretary concluded the program is inequitableAddressing flooding in Virginia Beach will cost millions; voters will decide whether to borrow the funds. Here are 10 “takeaways” from a recent study examining the effects of climate change on Hampton Roads.

The Center for Biological Diversity may sue the federal government “over its failure to examine how a program that encourages the use of waterways for shipping affects endangered species, including Atlantic sturgeon in Virginia’s James River.” A scientist studied the freshwater mussel and found a lot to like.

The 2021 General Assembly authorized a study on the potential impact of gold mining; the National Academies will conduct it. Several military base sites contain dangerous “forever chemicals.”

In July, UVA joined other state agencies in following Governor Northam’s March 2021 executive order to “drop all single-use plastics by 2025.” JMU announced the order in June.

  • Wild Virginia is sponsoring a webinar on September 16, 7-8 pm, titled “The Current & Future Geography of Conservation in Virginia.” The speaker is Dr. Healy Hamilton, Chief Scientist of NatureServe. Register here.
  • Want to reduce your use of plastic? A Staunton business “refills recycled plastic containers with all‑natural products, such as dishwashing detergent, clothes washing detergent, shampoo and hand soap.” It’s expanding to Charlottesville.
  • Generation 180 published this article on the relative costs of Electric and fossil-fuel-powered Vehicles.
  • Find the latest CAAV Roundup of national and international climate-related news here.
  • CCL will host a virtual discussion about heat, one of the most severe effects of climate change. The event “The Planet Has a Fever” will be held on Tuesday, August 311 at 6:30 PM ET. Register here.
  • Appalachian Voices will host a webinar on “How Communities are Gaining Control Over HOW Power is Produced – Aug. 31, 5:30 PM ET. Register here.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Action Needed To Combat Climate Change

Daily News-Record, August 19, 2021
Letters to the Editor: Andrew Payton

The release of the International Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 Sixth Assessment Report makes abundantly clear that bold action to address our climate crisis is desperately needed if we are to avoid increasingly strong heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes, as well as crop failures, sea level rise, climate- induced migration, and economic damage. We as individuals and as a community have an obligation to act.

The single most powerful tool we have at our disposal is carbon pricing: this would be a fee applied to fossil fuels when entering the economy, which then provides economic incentive for low-carbon goods and behaviors like renewable energies, building weatherization, public transit, and local foods. Already about a quarter of the world has carbon pricing policies, including major economies like Canada, Japan and the European Union. A recently passed carbon border tax in the EU will increase the price of U.S. goods in Europe, meaning that if we don’t have a carbon price in place, it will become more and more difficult for our businesses to compete abroad.

There are many actions that we can take as individuals to lower our impact on the climate, but we are most effective when we put pressure on our governments to act. The U.S. government must take aggressive action to combat climate change, and carbon pricing is a simple and effective way to do this.

Andrew Payton
Harrisonburg

Response To Article

Daily News-Record, August 19, 2021
Letters to the Editor: Les Grady

Thank you for the article in the Aug. 16 edition of the DN-R (page A8) about the response of Europeans to the Sixth Assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC). The last part of the article was particularly important because it stressed how our collective actions, while individually small, can have a large cumulative impact on the climate crisis. As we seek to limit global warming, we all will be called upon to make changes in our lives, from reducing how much beef and dairy we eat to replacing our gas or oil furnace with an electric heat pump. How we respond to those requests will determine the kind of world we live in.

This IPCC report examined the physical science of climate change. In case you missed it, below are five takeaways gleaned from it by several sources I trust:

• For the first time, the IPCC stated unequivocally that humans are causing the observed warming.
• Our actions have warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years.
• Climate change is affecting weather and climate extremes in every region of Earth.
• Limits on average global warming of 1.5° C ( 2.7° F) and 2.0° C ( 3.6° F) in the Paris Climate Agreement will be exceeded this century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
• Although temperatures are likely to continue to increase until 2050, there is still a window in which humans can alter the climate path.

Leslie Grady Jr.
Rockingham

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/10/2021

Climate and Climate Science

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of more than 100 scientists convened by the United Nations, warns that a hotter future is certain. The planet has already heated by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century. This additional heat created by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels is essentially locked in. Even if we started sharply cutting emissions today, total global warming is likely to rise to around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades. How serious we become about cutting future emissions will determine how much hotter our planet becomes.

Extreme weather events this summer have unrelentingly brought the stark, real life consequences of climate change and global warming to our attention. The heat dome over Canada and the United States Northwest in July brought unprecedented hot weather in many localities, including places like Oregon, which are not prepared to deal with such extreme heat. The dry, hot conditions spread wildfires across 12 western states.

I personally experienced this heatwave as we traveled to visit our children in California in July. As we drove across the Mojave Desert to the city of Barstow, our car thermometer registered 118 degrees Fahrenheit. We then headed north through the California Central Valley, one of the most lucrative agricultural regions of the world. It is a $50 billion enterprise that supplies two-thirds of our country’s fruits and nuts and more than a third of our vegetables. The temperature was 110 degrees when we stopped near Fresno. The heat was oppressively suffocating as my wife Ruth and I walked several blocks from our motel to get dinner at a nearby restaurant.

As a Virginia gardener, I know how quickly soil moisture evaporates during sun-drenched 90 degree days. I can only imagine what it would be like in 110 degree temperatures. The main source of water for agriculture in the California Central Valley comes from reservoirs on rivers and streams supplied by snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains and released through a system of aqueducts and canals. Another water source is drilling wells that tap into the rapidly diminishing aquifer underneath the valley.

As we drove through the valley, I saw some abandoned fields and orchards. The situation has become even more desperate in the several weeks since we were there. With the extended drought, state regulators recently took the unprecedented step of imposing an emergency curtailment order forbidding farmers from drawing water from their primary source, the rivers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.

Farmers are consequently abandoning water hungry crops like tomatoes. The state produces 90% of the tomatoes in our country. Shortages and escalating prices for tomatoes and tomato products are anticipated. Further north in Napa Valley wine country, vineyards surrounded by burned-out landscapes and dwindling water supplies, are now facing the added challenge of no longer being able to buy insurance for their operations. This could be the end of the road for some for them.

The heatwave this summer is global. A heatwave in Russian Siberia is fueling enormous wildfires that are thawing the permafrost. Last year, 60,000 square miles of forest and tundra (an area the size of Florida) were scorched by wildfires. This year, more than 30,000 square miles have already burned with only two weeks into peak fire season. People who live there are able to take sub-zero weather in stride but 100 degree temperatures are another matter. Many fear that the region will become uninhabitable.

In the Amazon rainforest, a combination of rising temperatures and ongoing land clearing for cattle ranching and crops has extended the dry season and created conditions for more crippling wildfires. As a result, the Amazon, one of the Earth’s biggest carbon sinks, is now releasing more carbon than it is absorbing. Scientists see this is as a disturbing new tipping point in climate change.

There is a growing recognition that nobody is safe as extreme weather is battering the world, including wealthy countries. This includes devastating floods in Germany, Belgium, China, and India. The Mediterranean world is experiencing unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, and Lebanon. Even Hawaii, one of the wettest places on the planet, is fighting a surge of wildfires on the island of Maui due to the unfettered growth of invasive grass species and dry, hot summers that make them highly flammable.

Stephen Nash, an environmental journalist and researcher, studies the effects of climate change in Virginia. In his book Virginia Climate Fever, he notes that the wildfires in Canada and the American West are exacerbated by ecologically stressed and dying forests. Intense droughts and hotter temperatures have generated both wide-scale insect infestations and fires. While it is difficult to predict the effect of climate change on our regional rainfall, scientists postulate that advancing heat will dry out the landscape due to evaporation, even if we have more rainfall. This will lead to wildfires, which could transform our forests into open savannahs with occasional trees (Nash 2014, 58-59). 

Politics and Policy

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill taken up by the Senate is a hopeful first step in achieving some of our climate and renewable energy goals. It includes more than $150 billion to boost clean energy and promote “climate resilience.” It contains a huge infusion for Amtrak and public transportation and includes $73 billion to upgrade our nation’s electric power grid. The bill, however, still falls short of meeting the Biden Administration’s climate goals. For instance, the $7.5 billion to create a national network of electric vehicle charging stations is only half of what the administration had requested. Even so, President Biden is making a big push to phase out gas cars and trucks and signed an executive order that calls for the government to ensure that half of all vehicles sold in the United States will be electric by 2030.

Recent editorials in the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post call on Congress and the Biden administration to include carbon pricing in upcoming legislation to address climate change. A carbon tax would impose a fee on coal, natural gas, and petroleum based on how much carbon dioxide is released when they are consumed. The editorials argue that “pricing carbon dioxide is the cheapest, most efficient way to cut emissions, because it harnesses the ingenuity of individuals and businesses to find the best path to decarbonization.”

Climate scientists and marine advocates are calling on governments worldwide to recognize the important role that oceans have in limiting climate change. They argue that more than half of the world’s carbon is captured by animals and plants living in or around the oceans. Mangrove forests store up to four times more carbon per hectare than tropical rainforests. If policies are enacted to restore and protect marine ecosystems, oceans could soak up large quantities of atmospheric carbon.

Energy

A Princeton University research team report says it is possible for the US to reach the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but it will require building clean power infrastructure on a huge scale and at breakneck speed. To get there we will have to build far more wind and solar farms, battery storage facilities, transmission lines and still-unproven energy systems than we have ever built before.

An Energy Information Administration report notes that, for the first time ever last year, we generated more electricity from renewable sources than from coal. Natural gas was used to generate 40 percent of our country’s electricity, followed by renewables at 21 percent; nuclear at 20 percent; and coal at 19 percent. Texas and California stand out as the leaders in generating electricity from wind and solar and the next three leading states, somewhat surprisingly, are Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas. This spread across our national partisan divide is hopeful for the development of future renewable energy policies. 

A relatively simple experiment in providing renewable energy for trucking is being tested in Germany. It involves an overhead electrical grid similar to what has been used for decades to drive trains and urban street cars. This promises to be more efficient than relying on batteries to power trucks. A perhaps insurmountable detriment would be the sheer cost of stringing thousands of miles of high voltage electrical cable above the world’s major highways.

Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, the last coal power plant in Virginia, was built in 2008. It now costs more to generate electricity there than all other power sources, which is reflected in higher electric bills for consumers. That, plus increasingly stringent environmental regulations, make it increasingly unprofitable. Continuing to operate it has become a matter of “throwing good money after bad.” Dominion Energy is accordingly projecting retiring the plant in 2025 but no concrete plans have been set.

Potpourri

As the world warms because of human-induced climate change, we can expect to see more days when temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. For instance, Harrisonburg, Virginia, on average, could have expected 8 days that would reach 90 degrees or more in 1960. Today we can expect 18 days, on average, to reach 90 degrees or more.

Central Valley Habitat for Humanity sees going green not only as a way to help save the planet but also as a way to make the houses they build more affordable. Low-income households face an energy burden that is about three times higher than other households. Building to green standards increases quality of life through improved air quality, and conservation of energy, water, and natural resources. Through partnering with the local nonprofit Give Solar, Central Valley Habitat for Humanity has been able to install solar panels on their newly built houses to significantly reduce energy costs for residents as well as help protect the environment.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Songs for Solar

Thanks to everyone who participated in this fundraiser! We raised over $2000 for the GiveSolar Seed Fund.

Click on the image above to listen to Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay of Friction Farm as they perform the song they wrote for this event.

Join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and GiveSolar for an evening of music by acoustic duo Friction Farm, to benefit GiveSolar‘s work in spreading the wealth of solar energy.

Friday, September 10 | 7-9:30PM

Community Mennonite Church
70 S High St, Harrisonburg

Free-will donations accepted at the door or on the GiveSolar website HERE.

“Songs for Solar” is a fundraiser for GiveSolar’s Solar Seed Fund which is raising money to install solar panels on new Habitat for Humanity homes in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Find out more about the Solar Seed Fund initiative on their website HERE and through their Facebook page HERE.

Come for the music, to hear more about the inspiring work of GiveSolar, and for snacks and socializing! Update: due to the uptick of COVID cases in our area, no food or drink will be provided, but the music will feed your souls.*

MASKS are MANDATORY.


Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay of Friction Farm come from their self-built solar powered home in the hills of South Carolina to support GIVE SOLAR.  The non-profit is working to raise $100,000 as a seed fund that will be used to install solar on 20 Central Valley Habitat for Humanity homes the in the next five years. The work is all done by volunteers in “solar barnraisings.” A generous donor is matching each dollar given so contributions will go twice as far. Jeff Heie, founder of GIVE SOLAR, will talk about the project and how you can volunteer to help before the concert begins.

“Modern-folk duo Friction Farm is a husband and wife team of traveling troubadours. Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay combine storytelling, social commentary and humor to create songs of everyday life, local heroes, and quirky observations. From ballads to anthems each song is filled with harmony and hope.

  • Kerrville New Folk Finalists
  • Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists
  • South Florida Folk Festival Song Competition Winner
  • Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival Songwriter Finalists
  • Southeast and Southwest Regional Folk Alliance official showcase artists

Friction Farm has performed internationally and toured the US. They feel at home on the road and on stage. Audiences lean into their stories, laugh at their humor, are inspired to do a little good in the world, and even sing along once in a while.

Aidan and Christine have been performing as a duo for [fifteen years.] He’s from Berkeley, CA and she’s from Woodstock NY. They met in college studying geology and engineering. Though they each had successful careers, their sense of adventure and love of music and travel were too strong to ignore. They hit the road with a handful of songs and never looked back. Friction Farm has performed across the US and in Europe, Asia, and Africa. When not touring Aidan does some woodworking and Christine bakes. They have a big garden and a small orchard at the sustainable home they designed and built in South Carolina.” — Tedx Greenville, 2016 https://tedxgreenville.com/portfolio/frictionfarm/

Their latest album is “Evidence of Hope,” which is what we all need more of right now!

Find more about them HERE.

They’ve written a song just for this event. Be the first to hear it!

Other sponsors of this event include the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club, the Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists, Community Mennonite Church, Earth Day Every Day Harrisonburg, and Trinity Presbyterian Church.


* To address COVID concerns, in addition to mandatory masking, there are lots of doors we will prop open around the room and with the large ceiling fans in the vaulted ceiling space, we think it will provide a relatively safe environment for us and for our performers, Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay of Friction Farm.

Also, seats will be spaced out around the room, two together (though of course you can pull chairs together for your family members.)

This will mean fewer people can come in and once we reach capacity, others will very SADLY be turned away.