H’burg Environmental Action Plan Released


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

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

The draft is available online here.

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

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

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

Photo at top is from the cover of the draft EAP



Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/25/2019

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

Politics and Policy

Climate change remains part of the 2020 Democratic candidates’ campaign rhetoric.  The Washington Post’s (WaPo) Energy 202 reports that “Joe Biden vows to ‘go well beyond’ Obama with new climate plan”.  However, Energy 202 also reports that “Biden lifting language for climate plan sparks questions about its seriousness”.  2020 candidate Gov. Jay Inslee has a plan “to End Corporate Welfare, Hold Polluters Accountable and Transition the U.S. Economy Off of Fossil Fuels”. Inside Climate News reports on “Election 2020: The Candidates’ Climate Change Positions and Accomplishments”.

This CarbonBrief article reports on a study that found that “[p]olitical lobbying in the US that helped block the progress of proposed climate regulation a decade ago led to a social cost of $60bn”. According to Politico, the Department of “Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change”.  And WaPo reports that the “White House tells agencies they no longer have to weigh a project’s long-term climate impacts”.

Energy 202 also has this story about how a “former EPA appointee wants to make climate change a winning issue for Trump”.  And this item:  “Want to address climate change? Fix campaign finance first, 2020 Democrats say.”  And this one:  “Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus tries to find footing in new political reality”


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

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

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

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

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

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


What’s Happening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Renewable Energy

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

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

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

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring into Summer!


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

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

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

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

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

Facebook event page HERE.

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

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.”


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.


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”.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


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”.


Letter to Congressman Ben Cline

Sally L. Newkirk
Harrisonburg, VA

May 4, 2019

Congressman Ben Cline
10 Franklin Road SE Suite 510
Roanoke, VA 24011

Dear Congressman,

Thank you again for meeting with Bishop Dansby and myself at your Staunton office on April 29, 2019.

I know Bishop has written you a follow up letter, and I feel compelled to do the same.

I was shocked to hear your understanding of Climate Science.  By shocked, I mean the same reaction I have when I find out that some people still smoke cigarettes.  Hopefully you are aware that the tobacco industry denied the medical science that cigarettes cause cancer for over 50 years?  Of course, they didn’t have the science to back up their claims, so they hired a PR firm to spin the story.  That story was “the government is trying to take away your cigarettes”.  How many lives could have been saved but for industry choosing profit over the health and welfare American citizens?

It was the same story with the lead industry.  By the late 1900s both the lead industry and U. S. Government (USG) agencies knew that lead was poison, but they considered it “essential” to our economy and consumers.  So, they allowed its use in gasoline, pipes and paints.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of children have suffered (more than from polio, which we quickly acknowledged and mobilized our resources to eradicate it.)  Many continue to suffer from lead poisoning today (think:  Flint, Michigan).  The USG was complicit in this preventable tragedy, because of powerful lobbyists.  ‎

The same pattern of denial and obfuscation has happened because of actions by Big Carbon.  I recommend you read the book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes‎ and ‎Erik M. Conway.  The authors spell out very clearly just how effectively the oil industry hid the truth about the effect of greenhouse gases on our climate’s stability and raised doubts about the validity of the scientific consensus.

Fortunately, although it’s very late, there are many folks aware of the threats climate instability pose to all of us, including many in your party.  I urge you to check into efforts like those espoused by Bob Inglis of RepublicEn, Rev Mitch Hescox of Evangelical Environment Network, Evangelicals for Social Action, American Conservation Coalition, and Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy, to name but a few.  Their web addresses appear at the end of this message.  I hope you will come to agree that there are market solutions to addressing our carbon addiction and embrace efforts to use them.

One other point about the evidence supporting the impacts of excessive greenhouse gases.  Notwithstanding the current Administration’s preference to avoid the term “climate change” and even deny the problem, there is a vast chasm between the assessments of most life-long civil servants and scientists who work hard to protect this country’s interests and the relatively small number of those who dismiss the problem.  I am speaking of the employees like those in DOD, the National Weather Service, NASA, and even the EPA.  They all have made it clear that Global Warming is real, caused by human actions, and is a grave threat to this county and the world.

I would welcome the opportunity for another exchange of ideas with you in order to find some common ground on what to do about the huge risks that we all face.  I hope you can offer some good suggestions on possible actions that you can support.  Solutions are many, but of course we have to have people, in all levels of government, who are open to understanding the issues and figuring out ways to address them.  I would love to partner with you on ways to do this.  Thanks again for your time on the 29th.


Sally Newkirk

Suggested Resources

RepublicEn:  https://www.republicen.org/
Evangelical Environment Network:  https://www.creationcare.org/staff
Evangelicals for Social Action:  https://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/
American Conservation Coalition:  https://www.acc.eco/
VA Conservatives for Clean Energy:  https://www.cleanenergyconservatives.com/states/virginia/

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”.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.