The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 26 – Living With Climate Change

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Jun 272017
 

June 27, 2017
For some time now, the whole world has been dealing with increasingly extreme weather events. The southern hemisphere has been experiencing particularly difficult weather associated with climate change for some time. This week’s extended heat spell throughout the nation’s West and Southwest regions has signaled to many for the first time that they are dealing with a situation that is part of a long-term pattern. Climate change is bringing it all back home. We will examine the extent of these developing circumstances in this issue.
But first the news.

A Victory Party!

We Are Seneca Lake

After over 600 arrests and endless pressure from WASL, Crestwood has thrown in the towel and will not be expanding methane storage under Seneca Lake. It’s time to celebrate this momentous victory which has been an inspiration to our Fingerlakes community and the worldwide environmental movement.

WHERE:
We’ve rented the pavilion at Lodi Point State Park on beautiful Seneca lake — here’s a link where you can get directions and information:
Lodi Point State Park

Lower Lake Road

Lodi, NY 14860

WHEN:
 Sunday July 9,  4-8 PM

WHAT TO BRING:
Bring your own beverages, a dish to pass, and place settings.

This is a pot luck and we’d love to have a big spread. Keep in mind the food may be sitting out for a while. The pot luck is bring-what-you-like but if you’d like some guidelines so we don’t end up with 50 fruit salads, you can use the handy guide:

  • Snacks/Appetizers – *last name begins with A-D*
  • Salads & Sides – *last name begins with E-K*
  • Main Course – *last name begins with L-S*
  • Dessert – *last name begins with T-Z*

WHO TO BRING:
All are welcome so feel free to bring friends and family.
RSVPs not necessary.
For further information call Tommie (607 277 6461)

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NY legislators vote overwhelmingly for bill to protect Hudson from oil barges

Oil barge at Kingston. CREDIT: Carolyn Marks Blackwood

OSSINING — Last night, a bill to give the state additional say over Hudson River anchorage locations overwhelmingly passed the New York State Senate and will be heading to the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for approval.

The Senate joined the Assembly and passed legislation that better enables the state to protect the Hudson and waterfront communities from dangerous new oil tanker and barge anchorages. The bill, passed by a vote of 93-2 in the Assembly and 62-1 in the Senate, comes in the wake of an industry request to the U.S. Coast Guard for 10 new anchorage grounds – 2,400-acres with space for 43 vessels – an unnecessary and drastic proposal intended to support the global oil trade.

This legislation allows the state to develop specific conditions and rules under which petroleum bearing vessels may enter or move upon the navigable waters of the Hudson River.

“This legislation gives the Hudson River, and all who care about it, new momentum in the fight against current attempts to expand the industrial use of the river, particularly for crude oil transport,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said. “The public has spoken loudly, clearly and repeatedly: we don’t need these anchorages and they pose unacceptable risks. And our elected officials are listening and taking action.

“This is how it’s supposed to work. Our legislators saw the will of the people and voted overwhelmingly for this bill. The bipartisan vote in both houses sends a clear message, and we trust that Governor Cuomo will follow through.”

The legislation does not put an end to the industry’s request for new anchorages. The Coast Guard is reviewing more than 10,000 public comments – an unprecedented response that was overwhelmingly opposed to the plan – that were filed last year. Riverkeeper, its partners, and communities up and down the river must remain vigilant to prevent this plan from moving forward.—Leah Rae, “NY legislators vote overwhelmingly for bill to protect Hudson from oil barges,” Riverkeeper, 6/22/17

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Powerful video shows impact of Bayou Bridge Pipeline
The plight of coastal Indigenous people in the Louisiana wetlands

Springfield, LA –  Following legal victories for the Tribes at Standing Rock, Water Protectors in Southern Louisiana will open the L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp tomorrow. The launch marks the next fight to protect Indigenous rights, life-giving water and to stop Energy Transfer Partners from committing acts of environmental injustice.

The Indigenous Environmental Network announced the opening of the camp with a video, highlighting Cherri Foytlin who represents IEN’s interests in the Bayou. The video explains the connection between the Bayou Bridge and Dakota Access Pipeline, the Houma tribe, and all people who will be impacted by these pipelines, and why completion of the Bayou Bridge pipeline must be stopped.

Watch the video and learn more about the L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp and the lead organizers rising up on the frontlines of the fighting for environmental justice to protect Indigenous rights, clean water, and rapidly disappearing wetlands on the Gulf Coast.

L’eau est La Vie camp is opening in resistance to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP) another Energy Transfer Partners project. BBP is the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline that weaves from the Bakken to the fragile wetlands of Southern Louisiana. Once again Indigenous communities are being put in harm’s way and over 700 bodies of water will be threatened by one of the worst environmental offenders known to date. We stand with the Water Protectors here in southern Louisiana to protect these critical wetlands that serve as protection for the people of this region from floods and storms.

 Monique Verdin, councilwoman of the Houma Nation, said, “I’m not sure if we are at the head or the tail of the black snake; But we already got enough pipelines, 83,000 miles running through Louisiana. Miles of old infrastructure, built across the Mississippi River Delta’s coast decades ago, surrounded by a disappearing landscape in some of the most vulnerable territories in the world, enduring rising tides and more frequent, powerful and unpredictable weather conditions. Louisiana has sacrifice enough, we don’t need another risk of oil in our waters. It’s one thing if you can’t fish. It’s another thing if you can’t drink water. Over 300,000 people depend on the Bayou Lafourche,  for their drinking water in the heart of Houma territory. We don’t need another pipeline. We need clean water.”

“The corporation Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) has proven themselves to be untrustworthy in regards to their moral responsibility to preserve both human and ecological rights. Whereby they have obfuscated the truth, sabotaged democracy,  destroyed our lands and water, and even hired mercenaries to injure our people, we have but one recourse, and that is to say ‘you shall not pass,’” said Cherri Foytlin, of BOLD Louisiana. “No Bayou Bridge! We will stop ETP. They are not welcome here – not in our bayous, not in our wetlands, not in our Basin, not under our lands or through our waters. Period!”—Nina Smith, “Gulf Coast Environmental Justice Organizers launch the L’eau Est La Vie,” Indigenous Environmental Network, 6/25/17

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Blast Backlash Hangs Over Drillers as Fractivists Seek Limits

Anadarko To Shut Down 3 Wells Near House Explosion Site. CREDIT: CBS Denver

Two months after a Colorado home exploded near an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. well, the reverberations are still rattling the oil industry, driving down driller shares and raising fears of a regulatory backlash.

The April 17 blast, which killed two people and injured a third, was followed a month later by a second deadly explosion at an Anadarko oil tank in the state. The incidents have revived calls to restrict drilling near populated areas within Colorado’s rich Niobrara shale formation, the fourth-most productive shale basin in the U.S. They’ve also spurred the state to order new inspections around thousands of oil and natural gas wells.

While the repercussions aren’t expected to kill off operations in Colorado, they could raise costs for an industry already walking a financial tightrope, with oil prices down 14 percent this year. Since May 2, when authorities publicly tied Anadarko to the home explosion, company shares have lost about 14 percent, while the S&P 500 Energy Index is down less than 1 percent. 

“Something like that will be remembered,” said Joe Ryan, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies the industry. “Even if statistically it’s infrequent, that may be the kind of thing that pushes the public to say, ‘we have to see improvement.’”

Other drillers active in Colorado have also seen their shares slide, with Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. falling 8 percent and Noble Energy Inc. down almost 5 percent.…—Alex Nussbaum, “Blast Backlash Hangs Over Drillers as ‘Fractivists’ Seek Limits,” Bloomberg, 6/13/17

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PA Lawmaker Working to Curb Pipeline Protestors Tied to Shadow Lobbyists for Company Behind Project

A recent intensification in protests against Williams Partners’ planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania prompted a state senator to propose legislation aimed at limiting demonstrations.

Last month, Pennsylvania Republican Senator Scott Martin announced his intention to introduce legislation that would pass the costs of law enforcement responding to protests onto the demonstrators. Martin also helped introduce a different bill that would criminalize protests at natural gas facilities. 

A DeSmog investigation has found, however, that Martin is intimately tied to an obscure group of lobbyists recently hired by Williams Partners.

State Legislators Against Pipeline Protestors

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners plans to construct the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline through its subsidiary, Transco. The $3 billion 200-mile project, which would transport fracked gas from the state’s northern shales southward to the company’s interconnecting pipeline systems, received federal approval earlier this year but still requires several state permits.

Grassroots and citizen opposition to the pipeline, which has been ongoing since the project’s original proposal in 2014, has intensified in recent months. In February, activists built an encampment on the planned route near Conestoga in Lancaster county, which Scott Martin represents.

Led by the group Lancaster Against Pipelines, they signaled their willingness to engage in nonviolent direct action.

Yet in early May, a day after arranging a conference call between local first responders and North Dakota law enforcement officials who dealt with the Dakota Access pipeline protests, Senator Martin published a legislative memo detailing his plan to propose a bill penalizing protestors. The memo, which directly referenced the Dakota Access pipeline demonstrations, is aimed at “shielding taxpayers against the additional costs resulting from protests.” Martin is currently seeking cosponsors for his legislation.…—Itai Vardi, “Exclusive: PA Lawmaker Working to Curb Pipeline Protestors Tied to Shadow Lobbyists for Company Behind Project,” DeSmogBlog, 6/22/17

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Living With Climate Change

Southwest’s Deadly Heat Wave Previews
Life in a Warming World

Large parts of the U.S. Southwest have been feeling like Death Valley this week as a heat wave has boosted temperatures to 120 degrees and beyond. Credit: David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

The extreme heat baking the Southwestern U.S. isn’t finished yet. The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning today for parts of Southern California and Arizona, including Phoenix, through Monday, saying temperatures are forecast to reach 108-118 degrees each day.

In its alert, the weather service warned of “a major increase in the potential for heat-related illness and even death.”

The week has provided a preview of the risks scientists warn are ahead as greenhouse gas emissions continue to raise global temperatures.

Thermometers in the Phoenix area edged up to around 120 degrees for three straight days this week, flights were grounded as the rising temperatures decreased the air density, and the city’s main burn treatment center saw twice its usual number of patients with burns caused by walking barefoot on hot pavement or getting into cars that had been heating up in the sun. Several heat-related deaths were reported in the Las Vegas area and in California.

Further reading Too Hot to Fly? Climate Change May Take a Toll on Air Travel
Record high temperatures grip much of the globe, more hot weather to come – UN agency

In California, where San Diego County set a record at 124 degrees, some communities faced power outages as air conditioners ran non-stop. Arizona utility APS set a record for power demand, and said it would have been even higher without the recent increase in rooftop solar, which has added more midday power for homes and businesses. 

“Heat waves like the one we are seeing in the Southwest are becoming much more frequent,” said Robert E. Kopp, director of the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience Initiative at Rutgers University. “Looking forward, we expect the amount of extreme heat on the planet to continue increasing even more.”

Risks to Infrastructure

Since 2000, the world has seen 16 of the 17 hottest years on record.

As the Southwest has experienced this week, rising heat is a risk to human lives and to economies and infrastructure, as well.

“I think we are seeing with the airplanes, for instance, our systems, many of them are built to historical standards, not to standards of the changing climate we live in,” Kopp said. “As we push the climate out of the historical realm and into this new realm, we are starting to see some systems break down.” 

“I think that calls for a major rethink of the systems we rely upon to make sure they stand up to not just in the climate of the past but the climate of the future and also obviously to try to get ourselves into a world that is not quite as extreme as it could be,” he said.

Cities are starting to take heat risks and the other impacts of climate change into consideration as they plan new construction. New York City released guidelines this spring to help architects and engineers plan future infrastructure to withstand rising seas, more powerful storms and rising temperatures.

The city expects temperatures to be 4 to 6 degrees higher in New York by the 2050s, adding to heat stress in old buildings with only window air conditioners or no cooling at all. The guidelines encourage architects to design shades over windows, angle buildings to avoid direct sunlight, and use materials and designs that will keep buildings cooler. They also encourage builders to consider power backup systems and air conditioning systems designed for higher temperatures.

Risks to Lives

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the hottest days are now hotter. Since 1950, the number of heat waves has increased across the globe, lasted longer, and covered a wider area. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report noted that “most global land areas analyzed have experienced significant warming of both maximum and minimum temperature extremes since about 1950” and concluded that it is “likely that human influence has more than doubled the probability of occurrence of heat waves in some locations.”  

The EPA also cited a rising risk of deadly heat waves when it issued its endangerment finding in 2009, the determination that greenhouse gas emissions are a danger to human health and ecosystems.

At that point, the planet had already seen the 2003 European heat wave, blamed for more than 30,000 deaths across the continent, and the three-day 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed more than 700 people.

A study released earlier this week estimates that deadly heat waves will become more common across much of the planet. Today, about 30 percent of the world’s population is exposed to life-threatening heat waves for at least 20 days a year. By the end of the century, if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that risk will spread to about 74 percent of all people, the study found.…—Phil McKenna, “Southwest’s Deadly Heat Wave Previews Life in a Warming World,” InsideClimate News, 6/23/27

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Huge Icelandic Eruption Mimics Industrial Emissions

Scientists studied this lava field eruption in Iceland to see how aerosols produced by climate change can alter clouds. Credit: peterhartree Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The largest Icelandic eruption in 230 years offers a unique look into how aerosols affect the atmosphere—and an international team of researchers says it could sharpen the way scientists model climate change.

The Holuhraun lava field explosion of 2014 and 2015 released enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide. SO2 is one of the most significant aerosols from industrial sources and is a key factor in cloud formation, creating the nucleus around which water vapor can condense.

Using climate models combined with satellite data from NASA and the Université libre de Bruxelles to study cloud formation around the Icelandic eruptions, the researchers found that the water vapor formed smaller droplets. That led to brighter clouds, which reflected more sunlight back into space and provided a cooling effect on the climate.

    Further reading: Climate Change Drives Lakes Toward Ecological Tipping Points [Great Lakes are at risk here.—Editor]

Despite the smaller droplets, the researchers found that the aerosols had no discernible effect on other cloud properties, including the amount of liquid water in the clouds.

The researchers believe those findings show that clouds are “well buffered” against changes in the atmosphere caused by aerosols.

The results, in turn, suggest that climate scientists are getting a better idea of the magnitude of aerosols’ impact on climate change, which has so far remained murky.

“This study not only gives us the prospect of ending this uncertainty but, more crucially, offers us the chance to reject a number of existing climate models, which means we can predict future climate change far more accurately than ever before,” Florent Malavelle, the lead author and a research fellow at the University of Exeter’s mathematics department, said in a statement announcing the findings, published yesterday in Nature.…—Adam Aton, “Huge Icelandic Eruption Mimics Industrial Emissions,” Scientific American, 6/23

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U.S. Rice Farmers Turn Sustainability into Carbon Credits

A novel program for sustainably grown rice is opening the door for U.S. agriculture to participate in carbon trading markets. These rice fields are near Sacramento, California. Credit: Mark Miller/CC-BY-3.0

The world’s largest software maker made a novel purchase recently—from a handful of rice farmers.

Microsoft bought carbon offsets from rice farmers in Arkansas, Mississippi and California who had worked for the better part of the last 10 years to implement conservation measures on their farms. Through a complicated measurement and verification process, these conservation steps ultimately translated to carbon offsets purchased by the software giant.

The transaction this month was the first of its kind and, in the complex and controversial world of carbon markets, it represents a milestone for agriculture.

“Now we know what it takes to do this,” said Debbie Reed, director of the Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, a group that works with agricultural producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s not symbolic, so much as proof-of-concept.”

For years, researchers, advocacy groups and private-sector environment-focused investment groups have eyed agriculture’s potential contribution in carbon markets to help address  climate change . But carbon trading is complex under any circumstances, and particularly so when the entities generating the offsets grow rice or corn or raise cows. Measuring emissions—or, rather, emissions reductions—accurately and consistently from agricultural sources can be more complicated than for wind energy or solar power projects.

“Developing a protocol with farmers that’s verifiable and rigorous enough so you can sell it in the market—that takes a long time,” Reed said.

Further reading 2017: Agriculture Begins to Tackle Its Role in Climate Change
Republican Carbon Tax Proposal: Novel Climate Solution or Regulatory Giveaway?
Agriculture Eyed as Culprit in Global Methane Emissions Spike
California’s Climate Leadership Gets a Boost as Court Upholds Cap and Trade

Rice production emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with significantly more warming power than carbon dioxide over a shorter period, though there is far less of it in the atmosphere. Globally, methane accounts for about 16 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The largest human-caused methane source is the oil and gas industry (about 33 percent), but raising livestock comes a close second (27 percent), and rice production alone contributes 9 percent  of methane emissions.

Much of the methane emitted in the rice production process comes because of the way rice is grown—immersed in water, creating ripe conditions for the bacteria that emit methane. But researchers have found that “dry seeding” the rice, or planting the rice before the field is flooded, alternating between dry and wet periods and draining the field earlier in the season can reduce methane buildup.

The seven growers that took part in the recent trade used these practices on 2,000 acres of farmland, ultimately generating reductions of 600 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The emissions reductions were calculated using a “DNDC” model—denitrification and decomposition—that compares results against dozens of other sites across years of production.  

The process was shepherded by the Environmental Defense Fund, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and southern power company Entergy, and overseen by a San Francisco-based investor called Terra Global, among others.…—Georgina Gustin, “U.S. Rice Farmers Turn Sustainability into Carbon Credits, and Microsoft Is First to Buy,” InsideClimate News, 6/26/17

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Congress to Pruitt: We’re Not Cutting EPA Budget to Trump’s Levels

Republicans and Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee were clear that Congress will not pass a budget that cuts EPA’s funding by 31 percent and eliminates nearly 50 of its programs, as EPA chief Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration proposed. Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Members of the congressional committee responsible for the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget—Republican and Democrat alike—made clear Thursday they have no intention of approving the White House’s proposal to slash the agency’s spending.

In a hearing, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defended the Trump administration’s budget plan for the first time on Capitol Hill, insisting that the agency he leads could fulfill its mission under a plan that cuts its budget more than any other federal agency’s.

On climate change, the committee members divided along party lines on whether they supported the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Paris accord. Pruitt, who was a chief proponent of the move, claimed that President Donald Trump would  “continue engagement” on the subject. But most of the hearing focused on other issues, with members of both parties driving home the point that Congress will not pass a budget that cuts the EPA’s funding by 31 percent and eliminates nearly 50 of the agency’s programs.

“You are going to be the first EPA administrator who has come before this committee in many years who actually gets more than he asks for,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). That theme was echoed by several of his colleagues on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. Like other committee members, Cole noted the need for the EPA’s role in addressing the environmental issues that his own constituents face.

For Cole, the issue was large proposed cuts in state and tribal assistance and in water pollution control.

Further reading Emails reiterate EPA chief’s ties to fossil fuel interests
California and New York just sued to protect Obama’s final energy rules
EPA’s Methane Estimates for Oil and Gas Sector Under Investigation
EPA Chief Pruitt’s ‘Red Team’ on Climate Science Is an Eight-Year-Old Talking Point Pushed by Heartland Institute

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) balked at the idea of cutting the Great Lakes Initiative. To avoid forcing either Pruitt or Trump to bear the brunt of his criticism, he began to refer to the budget by the name of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman. “Simply put, the Mulvaney budget appears to largely remove the federal government as a partner in all of our efforts to manage and to Great Lakes,” Joyce said.

The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), criticized the White House plan to reduce by 83 percent Diesel Emission Reduction grants, which he said are essential to improving his state’s air quality.

“You have a tough job here today,” Calvert said to Pruitt. He noted that the EPA, in the crosshairs of the Trump administration’s plan to shift $54 billion from domestic to military spending, would see its budget cut $2.4 billion under the proposal. Calvert said that although he supported additional funding for the military, taking the entire amount out of non-defense spending in one fiscal year was “an untenable proposition.”

“The budget proposes to significantly reduce, or terminate, programs that are vitally important to each member on this subcommittee,” Calvert said.…—Marianne Lavelle, “Congress to Pruitt: We’re Not Cutting EPA Budget to Trump’s Levels,” InsideClimate News, 6/15/17

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EPA just gave notice to dozens of scientific advisory board members that their time is up

What? me worry?

The Environmental Protection Agency has given notice to dozens of scientists that they will not be renewed in their roles in advising the agency, continuing a scientific shake-up that has already triggered resignations and charges from some researchers that the administration is politicizing the agency.

Members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) whose terms end in August will not see them renewed, according to an email sent to members and obtained by The Washington Post, though they can reapply for their posts. Moreover, five meetings of subcommittees of the board, planned for the late summer and the fall, will now be canceled because of lack of membership. They will be held once the board is reconstituted, according to EPA officials.

“It effectively wipes out the BOSC and leaves it free for a complete reappointment,” said Deborah Swackhamer, the current chair of the board’s executive committee and an emeritus professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota.

That executive committee has only five remaining members, after a number of members whose terms were up earlier this year were not renewed. The board also has five subcommittees, but according to an email from Swackhamer, “with the latest information from EPA, 38 of the 49 remaining subcommittee members will not be renewed at the end of August.”…—Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, “EPA just gave notice to dozens of scientific advisory board members that their time is up,” The Washington Post, 6/20/17

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Extreme Arctic Melt Is Raising Sea Level Rise Threat; New Estimate Nearly Twice IPCC’s

The Arctic has been one of the regions hardest hit by climate change and the effects on worldwide sea level rise are now expected to be worse than thought. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Global sea level rise could happen at nearly twice the rate previously projected by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even under the best scenario, according to a new report.

By the end of this century, as some glaciers disappear completely, the Arctic‘s contribution to global sea level rise will reach at least 19 to 25 centimeters, according to the report by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program (AMAP).

Factoring those numbers into projections about other sources of sea level rise results in a minimum of 52 centimeters of sea level rise by 2100 under a best-case scenario and 74 centimeters under business as usual. “These estimates are almost double the minimum estimates made by the IPCC in 2013,” the authors wrote.

The report, called “Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic 2017,” takes a comprehensive look at the changes already underway in the Arctic, as well as what’s in store. It was one of a handful of reports examining climate change in the Arctic and its effect on communities there that were released by AMAP in advance of this week’s International Conference on Arctic Science and the Arctic Council ministerial in May, when the U.S. will hand off the Council chairmanship to Finland.

The reports synthesize the best peer-reviewed science on various Arctic-related issues, with the hope of informing policy decisions. This work is the bread and butter of the Arctic Council, an eight-country, intergovernmental diplomatic body that commissions and directs work on the Arctic but cannot itself make policy.

The findings are not easy to stomach. The authors also write that the Arctic Ocean could be largely ice-free in summer as early as the late 2030s, and that an influx of warmer water could alter climate as far south as the tropics. But they also include a nugget of hope: There is still time to avert some of the worst impacts.

The trajectory of dramatic climate change in the Arctic is locked in through the middle of the century, when the region is expected to see temperatures at least 4 degrees Celsius above late 20th century averages. But what happens after that—whether the Arctic’s average temperature climbs to 6 degrees C above average or rockets to twice that—depends largely on us, the report says.…—Sabrina Shankman, “Extreme Arctic Melt Is Raising Sea Level Rise Threat; New Estimate Nearly Twice IPCC’s,” InsideClimate News, 4/26/17

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The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas.
The World Is Watching

In the waterlogged Netherlands, climate change is considered neither a hypothetical nor a drag on the economy. Instead, it’s an opportunity.

ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands — The wind over the canal stirred up whitecaps and rattled cafe umbrellas. Rowers strained toward a finish line and spectators hugged the shore. Henk Ovink, hawkish, wiry, head shaved, watched from a V.I.P. deck, one eye on the boats, the other, as usual, on his phone.

Mr. Ovink is the country’s globe-trotting salesman in chief for Dutch expertise on rising water and climate change. Like cheese in France or cars in Germany, climate change is a business in the Netherlands. Month in, month out, delegations from as far away as Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, New York and New Orleans make the rounds in the port city of Rotterdam. They often end up hiring Dutch firms, which dominate the global market in high-tech engineering and water management.

That’s because from the first moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms.

From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity. While the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris accord, the Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward.

It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over. You may wish to pretend that rising seas are a hoax perpetrated by scientists and a gullible news media. Or you can build barriers galore. But in the end, neither will provide adequate defense, the Dutch say.

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And what holds true for managing climate change applies to the social fabric, too. Environmental and social resilience should go hand in hand, officials here believe, improving neighborhoods, spreading equity and taming water during catastrophes. Climate adaptation, if addressed head-on and properly, ought to yield a stronger, richer state.

This is the message the Dutch have been taking out into the world. Dutch consultants advising the Bangladeshi authorities about emergency shelters and evacuation routes recently helped reduce the numbers of deaths suffered in recent floods to “hundreds instead of thousands,” according to Mr. Ovink.…—Michael Kimmelman, “The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.“, The New York Times, 6/15/17

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Coal’s Decline Not Hurting Power Grid Reliability, Study Says

Most metrics of power grid reliability have either been improving or stayed the same while renewable energy levels in the U.S. grid have grown. Credit: Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty

A new study is challenging Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s concerns about increasing levels of renewable energy in the U.S. electric grid, arguing that the decline of coal in the nation’s power mix is driven largely by market forces and is not hurting the reliability of the grid.

Perry in April ordered a 60-day grid review looking in particular at whether government support for renewable energy is speeding the retirement of coal and nuclear plants and resulting in a more fragile electricity supply. He suggested in his memo that renewable energy and regulatory burdens on coal were to blame for an “erosion of critical baseload resources.”

The new study says that that fear is baseless, and it argues the opposite.

It cites, among other evidence, the latest annual analysis of grid reliability conducted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation

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(NERC), which found that most metrics of grid reliability are either improving or staying the same. For example, 2015 saw a drop in the number of incidents causing a temporary loss of supply. Frequency and voltage has remained stable as the amount of power from renewable energy sources has grown, it said, and the industry has been getting better at modeling changes to the grid to assess risks.

 

“The retirement of aging or uneconomic resources has not led, in any region, to an observed reduction in BPS (bulk power system) reliability from either resource adequacy or system security perspectives,” the study says.

The report was released Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association and the Advanced Energy Economy, which represents a broad range of corporations, including some renewable energy companies and utilities. The groups had earlier written to Perry, criticizing the department for not opening the rushed grid review to public comment—including from the renewable energy industry.…—Nicholas Kusnetz , “Coal’s Decline Not Hurting Power Grid Reliability, Study Says,” InsideClimate News, 6/21/17

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Western Water Crunch Has Climate Change Fingerprints, Scientists Find

In the Mountain West, downstream communities rely on the snowpack’s slow melt each spring and summer for irrigation, hydropower and drinking water. A new study shows how the snowpack has been diminishing and looks at what may be ahead. Credit: Don Graham/CC-BY-SA-2.0

The American West has already lost between 10 and 20 percent of its mountain snowpack since the early 1980s, and climate change is partly to blame, new research shows. If greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed, the region could lose 30 percent of the snowpack it relies on for irrigation and drinking water—and potentially as much as 60 percent—over the next 30 years, the authors write.

The loss can’t be explained by natural climate variations alone, however it is consistent with model simulations that include both natural and human-caused changes, the study says.

“These results add to the evidence of a human influence on climate that will have severe impacts on our water supply,” said Benjamin Santer, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and a co-author of the paper, published last week in Nature Communications.

Less snowpack is more than just a blow to the skiing and snowboarding industries. The snow that falls in winter, and melts slowly during spring and summer, fills regional reservoirs and is used for irrigation, hydropower and drinking water. The Western snowpack, spread across thousands of miles of high-elevation terrain, holds far more water than all the reservoirs in the region combined.

“A 60 percent loss would be a huge concern to farmers, ranchers and water managers,” said lead author John Fyfe, a senior research scientist with Environment Canada, who did some of the earliest studies on global warming impacts to western water supplies.

The findings are based on data collected between 1982 and 2016 from 354 snow measuring stations across 11 states, from the Cascades of Washington and Oregon through California’s Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. The stations measure the amount of water in the snow, a critical metric for calculating downstream water supplies.

The maximum amount of water in the snowpack declined at 307 (87 percent) of the sites between 1982 and 2016 at a rate of about 9.5 percent per decade. Projecting ahead, the models show a range of potential losses over the next 30 years reaching as high as 60 percent under a high-emissions scenario but likely closer to 30 percent, the authors write.

Fyfe said the models his team used to project the snowpack decline are similar to those used for attributing the man-made global warming to single climate events like heatwaves or droughts. The models reproduce many possible climate outcomes from a single starting point in 1950. Running the models with and without the effects of greenhouse gas forcing factored in enables the scientists to separate the effects of natural cycles like El Niño from the effects of heat-trapping gases.…—Bob Berwyn, “Western Water Crunch Has Climate Change Fingerprints, Scientists Find,” InsideClimate News, 4/27/17

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1 in 5 people could be a refugee by 2100

Credit: Getty Images

In the year 2100, 2 billion people—about one-fifth of the world’s population—could become refugees due to rising ocean levels. Those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland.

“We’re going to have more people on less land and sooner that we think,” says lead author Charles Geisler, professor emeritus of development sociology at Cornell University.

“The future rise in global mean sea level probably won’t be gradual. Yet few policy makers are taking stock of the significant barriers to entry that coastal climate refugees, like other refugees, will encounter when they migrate to higher ground.

Earth’s escalating population is expected to top 9 billion people by 2050 and climb to 11 billion people by 2100, according to a United Nations report. Feeding that population will require more arable land even as swelling oceans consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas, driving people to seek new places to dwell.

“The colliding forces of human fertility, submerging coastal zones, residential retreat, and impediments to inland resettlement is a huge problem. We offer preliminary estimates of the lands unlikely to support new waves of climate refugees due to the residues of war, exhausted natural resources, declining net primary productivity, desertification, urban sprawl, land concentration, ‘paving the planet’ with roads, and greenhouse gas storage zones offsetting permafrost melt,” Geisler says.

    Further reading When should climate prompt us to give up land?

The paper in Land Use Policy describes tangible solutions and proactive adaptations in places like Florida and China, which coordinate coastal and interior land-use policies in anticipation of weather-induced population shifts.

Florida has the second-longest coastline in the United States, and its state and local officials have planned for a coastal exodus, Geisler says, in the state’s Comprehensive Planning Act.

Beyond sea level rise, low-elevation coastal zones in many countries face intensifying storm surges that will push sea water further inland. Historically, humans have spent considerable effort reclaiming land from oceans, but now live with the opposite—the oceans reclaiming terrestrial spaces on the planet,” says Geisler.

In their research, Geisler and coauthor Ben Currens, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, explore a worst-case scenario for the present century.

The authors note that the competition of reduced space that they foresee will induce land-use trade-offs and conflicts. In the United States and elsewhere, this could mean selling off public lands for human settlement.…—Blaine Friedlander, “1 in 5 people could be a refugee by 2100,” Futurity | Cornell, 6/20/17

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Is 100% Renewable Energy Feasible? New Paper Argues for a Different Target

A new study argues that for the U.S. to affordably remove CO2 from the entire electricity grid, it needs a broad range of technologies, including carbon capture and storage. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Is a goal of shifting the entire U.S. electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by the 2050s realistic, or is aiming to decarbonizing 80 percent of it a more feasible target?

A paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) offers a window into an increasingly lively debate between top energy experts over the most realistic way to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century and slow global warming.

The study, from a group of 21 prestigious academic and private energy researchers, argues that if the United States is going to affordably remove carbon dioxide from across the entire electricity grid, it must employ the broadest range of technologies possible, including increased use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, but also nuclear power and carbon capture and storage that would allow the continued use of some fossil fuel energy sources.

Further reading Carbon Capture And Storage: An Expensive Option For Reducing U.S. CO2 Emissions
Transportation and Climate Change
Antibiotic Cow Farts Contain More Methane

While the scientists emphasized that adding renewable energy sources remained of “paramount importance,” they also said they felt compelled to dispute a school of thought that is gaining traction and that contends that taking the entire electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by the 2050s is feasible and affordable.

In an interview, the paper’s lead author, Christopher Clack, said he and his colleagues felt it was important to push back against the 100 percent argument because they fear political blow-back could undermine the ultimate goal of reducing emissions far enough and fast enough to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“If we push down the avenue of 100 percent renewables, it will become very obvious very quickly that it is neither cheap nor effective,” Clack said. “We worry that it could be used by our opponents to diminish the role of renewable energy on the grid.  We worry if we oversell them, it will lead to disappointment and backlash.”…—Leslie Kaufman, “Is 100% Renewable Energy Feasible? New Paper Argues for a Different Target,” InsideClimate News, 6/19/17

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Valuing Water Beyond the Money

The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

JOHANNESBURG – Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource.

On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of a high-level consultation on water called the “Valuing Water Initiative”.

“The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.” –Herschelle Milford

The High Level Panel on Water – first convened by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon – consists of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to “champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The HLPW’s core focus is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

The members of the panel are Heads of State from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius (co-chair), Mexico (co-chair), Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Tajikistan.

The South African consultation takes place on May 30, followed by consultations in Mexico, Senegal, Tajikistan and Bangladesh ahead of a global presentation at the Stockholm World Water Week in August 2017.

Global Water Partnership’s (GWP) executive secretary Rudolph Cleveringa explained that, as the first in a series of consultations, the South Africa meeting was expected to “set the tone and pace.”

“South Africa is extremely committed to the water agenda. South Africa went from an Apartheid policy-driven water policy to a human rights approach. We are very keen to see the country lead not only from a South Africa view but also from a southern Africa perspective,” said Cleveringa.

…The meeting takes place as the Western Cape province of South Africa has been declared a disaster area as a result of the drought which has seen dam levels drop to crisis levels. The City recently said its feeder dam levels were at 20.7 percent, with only 10.7 percent left for consumption.

According to the minister, it is the “worst drought in the last 100 years and the severest for the Western Cape in the last 104 years.

“This drought has not only affected South Africa, but also the rest of the world because of global warming, climate change,” she said, adding that it would take at least two to three years for the Western Cape to recover.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city would increase emergency water schemes in the coming months with programmes such as drilling boreholes and exploring desalinisation.

In a recent speech, De Lille emphasised the need for public-private partnerships.

“We need to be innovative and diversify our financing mechanisms and these efforts will require partnership with the private sector,” De Lille was quoted as saying.

The city council has introduced Level 4 restrictions – one level below emergency level.…—Paula Fray, “Valuing Water Beyond the Money,” Inter Press Service, 5/29/17

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 25 – Cross-currents in Renewable Energy

 The Banner, Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 25 – Cross-currents in Renewable Energy
Jun 202017
 

June 20, 2017
Several areas of contentious narratives have arisen over the past six months. These difficulties are always signs of a lively community and sources of creativity, as well as being draining to the people in the contention. There are also counter-narratives emerging generated by the unexpected consequences of successes in renewable energy. In this edition we will examine a few areas in which climate/environmental/social justice activists see things differently – and sometimes heatedly – among themselves. A newsletter may not be the perfect venue to work out mutual understandings, but perhaps the attempt here will spark renewed attempts for us to listen empathically to each other.
But first the news.

From the Ashes
Screening in Penn Yan

A compelling look at the lives and issues behind the “war on coal,” From The Ashes premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and will air globally on National Geographic in the U.S. on June 25, 2017 and globally this summer.

Friday June 23,  at 6:00 pm
Milly’s Pantry,
19 Main St, Penn Yan

The showing is sponsored by the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and the Finger Lakes Group of the Sierra Club.  Both organizations are petitioners in an Article 78 proceeding challenging the failure of NYS DEC to conduct a full environmental review of the impacts of repowering the Greenidge power plant in Dresden, NY on Seneca Lake.  The Greenidge plant operated on coal from the 1930s to 2011.  Although the new owners, a subsidiary of Atlas Partners, do not plan to burn coal they do plan to deposit fly ash from their new operations with gas and biomass into the old coal ash landfill adjoining the plant.  The landfill is currently operating under a consent order from DEC because leachate from the landfill is leaking into the groundwater next to Seneca Lake. 

After the film showing, Dr. Henry Thomas from the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes will moderate a discussion of the film and how the experiences of the communities in the film relate to the experiences of the community surrounding the Greenidge power plan. 

For more information about the film visit From The Ashes website
For
more information on this screening visit this Facebook Event Page

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Court rules National Fuel Gas can use eminent domain for pipeline right-of-way holdouts in Cattaraugus County

Lia Oprea (left) of Sardinia, President of Wyoming, Erie and Cattaruagus Communities Act on Pipeline, speaks with Joseph and Theresa Schuekler of Cuba after Thursday’s State Supreme Court decision granting National Fuel Gas eminent domain powers for right-of-way on two properties that did not reach an agreement with the gas company for the Northern Access Pipeline in Cattaraugus County.

LITTLE VALLEY — A state Supreme Court judge ruled Thursday that National Fuel Gas has complied with eminent domain procedures in Cattaraugus County for a right-of-way for its $455 million Northern Access Pipeline.

The ruling follows by a day disclosure of a similar state Supreme Court ruling in Allegany County allowing eminent domain procedures to proceed against two property owners there.

Thursday’s ruling in Little Valley by state Supreme Court Judge Jeremiah J. Moriarty III is limited to two properties on the portion of the right of way for the pipeline in Cattaraugus County.

Ninety-seven percent of the property owners along the 97-mile right-of-way have settled with National Fuel Gas for the right-of-way across their property, company attorney Paul Taylor said.

Further reading DEC denies permit for controversial National Fuel pipeline
NFG Sues NY DEC in Fed Court re Northern Access Pipe Rejection
Federal judge rejects permits challenge in new setback to Constitution Pipeline
National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. 138 Acres of Land

Only one of two remaining property owners in Cattaraugus County that had to come to an agreement with National Fuel Gas was represented in the Little Valley courtroom where arguments were heard Thursday morning.

Camp Duffield, a Presbyterian summer camp along Elton Creek in Yorkshire, had objected to the right-of-way offer from National Fuel Gas as too low.

Buffalo attorney Matthew Pelkey, who represented Camp Duffield, said the $390,000 impact to the property and lost revenue was significantly higher than National Fuel Gas offered.

Pelkey argued before Moriarty that National Fuel Gas should not be able to invoke eminent domain without the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s approval of air and water permits.

Taylor, the National Fuel Gas attorney, said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Feb. 2, 2017 approval of the pipeline did not specify that state DEC air and water permits needed to be approved before eminent domain procedures were initiated.

Moriarty agreed that under the Feb. 6, 2017 approval by FERC, eminent domain did not require state DEC permits, although construction does.

National Fuel Gas has appealed the DEC’s refusal to grant Northern Access pipeline permits to cross 190 streams, ponds and wetlands to the federal Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.…—Rick Miller, “Court rules National Fuel Gas can use eminent domain for pipeline right-of-way holdouts in Cattaraugus County ,” Olean Times Herald , 5/2/17

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Kinder Morgan Wants To Build A New Gas Plant Near Keene

Kinder Morgan Headquarters, Houston, Texas

Does Keene’s Mayor Lane know what a gas plant is? Do you?

Did you know that Kinder Morgan was looking at Vernon VT or Hinsdale NH to build an industrial gas plant? Keene just happens to be on that pipeline route, and now, a willing victim.

Gas expansion creates the need for gas, means to justify a pipeline, and expansion to an industrial gas plant and compressor station.

Keene has a climate action plan, adaptation plan, impressive recycling center and a food co-op. A gas plant is not in line with Keene community values.

In December, I testified at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) #FERCabuses with other pipeline organizations. ECHO Action NH is helping others fight what Keene is welcoming in.

Liberty Utilities has been aggressively pushing gas contracts throughout NH. They offer reduced fuel rates to cities and raise rates on other customers. Hanover said no, Lebanon is opposed.

Mayor Lane and Keene businesses want to convert the city to gas. He says he won’t support a pipeline, but he supported NED. If it were easy to say no, there wouldn’t be a national movement against FERC and eminent domain.

When Liberty Utilities has enough gas contracts, Kinder Morgan gets the thumbs up and they’re in your back yard. You realize you should have done something, and now you’re screaming, “Not in my back yard!” You’re a NIMBY.

An industrial gas plant would impact the entire Monadnock Region and state. Hanover said no. Lebanon is opposed. One would expect Keene to join cities like Hanover who have made the pledge to 100% renewable energy and businesses to be good community partners choosing efficiency, heat pumps and solar.

The fossil fuel industry is dying. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and the trade fracking chemicals are toxic.

The shale deposit in Nova Scotia has nearly petered out so they want to send fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Canada and export it out, making New England their carbon corridor. Once they start exporting, prices go up. It’s the ‘ol bait and switch.…—Stephanie A. Scherr, Letter to the editor: “Kinder Morgan Wants To Build A New Gas Plant Near Keene,” New Hampshire Labor News, 6/13/17

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Cross-currents in Renewable Energy

Science-Based Climate Bill for NYS

Albany, NY — Today State Senator George Latimer and Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal announced the introduction of a comprehensive bill to tackle the climate crisis. The science-based New York State Climate Responsibility Act (NYSCRA, A8299/S5557) is designed to ensure that New York meets its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

“Despite advances in renewables, New York is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels,” said Senator Latimer. “Altering that requires changing virtually every aspect of how we produce and consume energy. Any legislation seeking to facilitate that change must also acknowledge the technical challenges involved. Our bill does.”

Developed with the support of individuals with expertise in engineering, economics, public health and social science, the NYSCRA identifies key actions that must occur and critical issues that must be addressed to slash greenhouse gas emissions and make the necessary transition to renewables.

“Preserving our planet for future generations demands nothing less than immediate action, and the Climate Responsibility Act is the vehicle to get the job done,” said Assemblywoman  Rosenthal. “With Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, it is more vital than ever that states take the lead on climate change. This bill charts a path forward that is both realistic and aggressive, and ensures that New York will lead on climate. I’m proud to sponsor this bill with Senator Latimer.”

Advocates of the bill point out that it is not enough to eliminate power plant emissions, which account for about a quarter of the state’s carbon footprint. New York will also have to phase out the use of fossil fuels for transportation, heating and other purposes. Bold action is needed in every arena. Simultaneous with this, the state must dramatically ramp up renewables as New Yorkers replace vehicles, equipment and appliances with technology that does not run on fossil fuels.

“These complex processes must be carefully synchronized so that the lights stay on and people can still get to work,” explained Keith Schue, an engineer who helped prepare the bill. “Implementation must also occur at scale and on time to meet climate goals. That requires a robust plan.”

The NYSCRA ensures success by requiring all state agencies to work together in the development of rules, regulations, programs and policies to bring about the widespread transformation required. And it measures success with an unimpeachable statewide inventory of greenhouse gas emissions—something the state has long needed but does not have.…—Bob Eklund, “Senator George Latimer and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal Announce New Science-Based Climate Bill for NYS,” Coalition to Protect New York, 6/15/17

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Are Rare Earth Minerals Too Costly for Environment?

The lake of toxic waste at Baotou, China, which as been dumped by the rare earth processing plants in the background

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News examines how mining rare earth minerals — considered to be an obscure yet profitable industry, is causing a major environmental dilemma in China

LINDSEY HILSUM: It doesn’t look very green. Rare earth processing in China is a messy, dangerous, polluting business. It uses toxic chemicals, acids, sulfates, ammonia. The workers have little or no protection.

But, without rare earth, Copenhagen means nothing. You buy a Prius hybrid car and think you’re saving the planet. But each motor contains a kilo of neodymium and each battery more than 10 kilos of lanthanum, rare earth elements from China.

Green campaigners love wind turbines, but the permanent magnets used to manufacture a 3-megawatt turbine contain some two tons of rare earth. The head of China’s Rare Earth Research Institute shows me one of those permanent magnets. He’s well aware of the issues.

ZHAO ZENGQI, Baotou Rare Earth Research Institute: The environmental problems include air emissions with harmful elements, such as fluorine and sulfur, wastewater that contains excessive acid, and radioactive materials, too. China meets 95 percent of the world’s demand for rare earth, and most of the separation and extraction is done here. So, the pollution stays in China, too.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The authorities gave us a DVD of Baiyunebo in Inner Mongolia, where most of the world’s rare earth is mined, along with iron ore. They wouldn’t let us film it ourselves.

But at Baotou, 100 miles away, we found the frozen tailing lake where rare earth mixes with mud, waiting for processing at nearby factories. Technologies we all use, like computers, mobile phones and energy-saving light bulbs use rare earths processed here. And local villagers whose farmland has been ruined by seepage from the lake pay the price.

WANG CUN GUANG, farmer: The Baotou Environmental Protection Bureau tested our water, and they concluded that it wasn’t fit for people or animals to drink or for irrigation.

LINDSEY HILSUM: For those who remember the old life, it’s hard to understand. The authorities pay compensation, acknowledging that the land has been ruined, but they haven’t yet relocated the villagers.

JIA BAO CHENG, farmer: Rare earth is the country’s resource, but small people like us need to eat, too. We live on farming, but the crops no longer grow, and we will go hungry.…—Lindsey Hilsum, “Are Rare Earth Minerals Too Costly for Environment?PBS NewsHour, 12/14/09

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Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Imperiled By Political, Social, And Legal Factors

British Columbia Ministry of Education (Click for full view)

Summary

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (the Expansion Project) faces considerable political and legal uncertainty in the near future.

Investors will benefit from an understanding of the current political landscape, the nature of constitutionally protected Indigenous rights, and the history of environmental activism in British Columbia.

British Columbia is characterized by unique political, legal, and social factors that create a substantial risk that the Expansion Project will be abandoned.

Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI) faces a high degree of risk in the near future as it proceeds with large-scale construction of pipeline infrastructure in British Columbia, Canada. Accordingly, it is unwise to buy or hold shares in Kinder Morgan. This argument is further supported by the recent heavy cuts to Kinder Morgan’s dividend. Kinder Morgan is a quintessential case of a high-risk/low-reward investment.

The Expansion Project

Canada approved the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans Mountain Pipeline on Nov. 29th, 2016. The Expansion Project, if completed, will increase the capacity of the system from 300,000 BPD to 890,000 BPD. As detailed below, the Expansion Project will take just over two years from the start of construction to the operation of the new segment of the system.

Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. raised $1.75 billion (NYSEARCA:CAD) on May 30th, 2017, in an IPO priced at $17 per share. The issue price was lower than the originally planned price of $19 to $21.

B.C.’s Political Landscape

The political landscape in British Columbia endured a seismic shift on May 9th, 2017, when the Green and New Democrat parties together captured the majority of the seats in the provincial legislature. The previous provincial government had approved the Expansion Project in early 2017. The Green and New Democrats, however, formed a governing agreement and vowed to oppose the Expansion Project by any means necessary.

The Green and New Democrat parties are now poised to take power in British Columbia and will present a powerful obstacle to the complete of the Expansion Project. West Coast Environmental Law recently released a report describing several actions which can be taken by the provincial government to slow down the progress of the Expansion Project. Even if the provincial government fails to halt the Expansion Project, interminable delays and external market forces might create considerable risk.

Relevant Legal Factors

The main obstacle to the completion of the Expansion Project might arise from the opposition of Indigenous groups in British Columbia. Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip stated that “Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project will never see the light of day.” Furthermore, over 100 Indigenous groups from across the country signed a treaty, pledging to resist the construction of the Expansion Project.

Unlike in the U.S., Indigenous peoples in Canada benefit from constitutional recognition and protection of their rights. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the existence of Aboriginal title in a vast swath of territory in central British Columbia. In short, Aboriginal title grants the title holder the right to exclusively occupy the land and decide what uses the land is put to. The Supreme Court has stated that there are “hundreds of indigenous groups in British Columbia with unresolved land claims.” The Expansion Project crosses the traditional territories of multiple Indigenous groups.

Ten legal challenges from Indigenous groups have already been filed against the federal government’s approval of the Expansion Project. Furthermore, an environmental organization has recently raised almost $500,000 to support litigation against the Expansion Project. Ongoing litigation against the Expansion Project should be thoughtfully considered by any prudent investor considering Kinder Morgan.…—Jesse Donovan,Jesse Donovan, “Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Imperiled By Political, Social, And Legal Factors – Kinder Morgan, Inc. (NYSE:KMI),” Seeking Alpha, 6/1/17/17

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Federal judge rejects Dakota Access Pipeline permits, calls for do-over

This Sept. 29, 2016, file photo shows a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline under construction near the town of St. Anthony in Morton County, N.D. (Tom Stromme/The Associated Press)

In a dramatic turnaround, a federal judge has ruled that permits to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline must be reconsidered, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has demanded the flow of oil through the pipeline be stopped.

Completion of the controversial pipeline was stopped by the Obama Administration last December, with a call for an environmental-impact statement to assess risks.

However, the judge wrote in his ruling, “As we all know, elections have consequences, and the government’s position on the easement shifted significantly once President Trump assumed office on January 20, 2017.”

President Trump called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the permits, which it did shortly after he took office. Completion of the pipeline swiftly followed, as contractors drilled under a lake formed by a dam on the Missouri River, to hook up the two ends of the pipeline. The flow of oil began June 1.

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg for the District of Columbia said in a 91-page decision that the Corps did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on the tribe’s fishing rights, hunting rights, or issues of environmental justice when it issued the permits needed to complete the project. The Corps must now reconsider those aspects under the judge’s demand that the agency substantiate its decision to issue the permits.

“This is a significant victory,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for EarthJustice in Seattle, representing the tribe. He said the tribe in a status conference before the judge next week will also demand that the flow of oil be stopped while the remand is underway.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement: “We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.”

The developer, Energy Transfer Partners, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hasselman said the court found three separate violations of legal standards when the Corps issued the permits to complete the pipeline.

An analysis of the potential for spills by an outside analyst was not adequately addressed. The Corps also didn’t consider risks to hunting and fishing rights reserved by the tribe in waters of Lake Oahe, formed by the damming of the Missouri River, where the pipeline crossing was drilled.

Finally, the environmental-justice concerns raised by the tribe were also not adequately addressed, nor the highly controversial nature of the project.

Further reading Dakota Access pipeline, law officers had close relationship
Dakota Pipeline Is Ready for Oil, Without Spill Response Plan for Standing Rock

While the tribe lost on other points it raised, “These are not minor, paperwork transgressions,” Hasselman said, who called the ruling a “major victory for the tribe.”

If the judge won’t shut down the flow of oil as the Corps does its reconsideration, the tribe will demand a deadline for its work, Hasselman said. “If pipeline operations are suspended, they can take all the time they want,” he added.…—Lynda Mapes, “Federal judge rejects Dakota Access Pipeline permits, calls for do-over,” The Seattle Times, 6/14/17

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We Can’t Fight Climate Change if We Keep Lying to Ourselves

The sun sets at Juliette, Ga., behind the coal-fired facility known as Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters. (Branden Camp / AP)

We must embrace a despair that unflinchingly acknowledges the bleak future that will be created by climate change. We must see in any act of resistance, even if it appears futile, a moral victory. African-Americans understand, in a way perhaps only the oppressed can grasp, that our character and dignity will be measured by our ability to name and resist the malignant forces that seem to hold us in a death grip. Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Our technology and science will not save us. The future of humanity is now in peril. At best, we can mitigate the crisis. We cannot avert it. We are fighting for our lives. If we do not rapidly build militant movements of sustained revolt, movements willing to break the law and attack the structures of the corporate state, we will join the 99.9 percent of species that have vanished since life first appeared on earth.

“In these circumstances refusing to accept that we face a very unpleasant future becomes perverse,” Clive Hamilton writes in “Requiem for a Species.” “Denial requires a willful misreading of the science, a romantic view of the ability of political institutions to respond, or faith in divine intervention.”

Tens of millions of human beings, especially in the global south, are being herded into the climate furnaces for immolation. And we in the north are soon to follow. The earth’s temperature has already risen by more than 1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century. And it is almost certain to rise a few more degrees—even if we stop all carbon emissions today. The last time the earth’s temperature rose 4 degrees, the polar ice caps disappeared and the seas were hundreds of feet above their current levels.

    Further reading: The Great Grief: How To Cope with Losing Our World

“[Climate change] is interacting with two previously existing crises,” Christian Parenti, author of “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence,” told me in an interview. “On the one hand, the legacy of neoliberal economic restructuring has weakened states in the global south so they don’t have the capacity to pave the roads, educate the population, to help farmers who are in distress. On the other hand, much of the global south is littered with cheap weapons and veterans of previous conflicts who know how to use those cheap weapons. In this comes the extreme weather of climate change. [In] states that have been systematically reduced to the point where they can’t respond even if they wanted to, how do people adapt to climate change? How do they adapt to the drought and floods? Very often, you pick up surplus weaponry. You go after your neighbor’s cattle. Or you blame it on your neighbor’s ideology or ethnicity. Underneath a lot of these ethnic and religious conflicts we see there is a climate element.”…—Chris Hedges, “We Can’t Fight Climate Change if We Keep Lying to Ourselves,” Truthdig, 6/18/17

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New bio-energy roadmap guide released jointly by IEA and FAO

Bio-energy policy should be woven with consideration of sustainability so to avoid increased pressure on natural resources – including land, water and biodiversity (Photograph: Getty Images)

As a flexible and competitive source of renewable energy, bio-energy can play a key role in decarbonising energy systems by responding to the needs of a wide range of demand profiles in the electricity, buildings, and transport sectors.

Recognizing the importance of taking a cross-cutting approach to bio energy strategies that rely on sustainable biomass use, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have jointly prepared this How2Guide for Bioenergy, designed to provide policy makers with the methodology and tools required to successfully plan and implement a roadmap for bio-energy at the national or regional level.

As with any innovative technology, designing and implementing national and regional technology roadmaps plays a key role in supporting bio-energy development and implementation, helping countries to identify priorities and sustainable pathways tailored to local resources and markets. Bioenergy policy should be woven with consideration of sustainability so to avoid increased pressure on natural resources – including land, water and biodiversity.

Sustainable bio-energy policies and strategies require careful preparation and execution. Drawing on case studies from around the world, the manual seeks to provide evidence-based guidance for decision-makers. It looks at opportunities and trade-offs on the basis of country resources, technology endowments, agricultural patterns, energy consumption, while at the same time seeking to promote energy and food security, economic growth, and environmental protection.

    Further reading: Topics in Bio-energy

Stemming from the experience under the IEA Technology Roadmap programme that has helped set the global agenda clean energy technology innovation and deployment, and the FAO’s Support Package to Decision-Making for Sustainable Bioenergy, which includes the Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Approach and assesses the sustainability of bio-energy supply chains, the How2Guide for Bioenergy is intended as a flexible toolbox to plan, implement, and track bio-energy roadmaps.—”New bio-energy roadmap guide released jointly by IEA and FAO,” International Energy Agency, 1/30/17

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Energy Nonsense From the Wall Street Journal

Figure 1. U.S. Oil Exports Have Increased As Nigerian Production Has Fallen. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (Click for full view)

The lead editorial in Friday’s Wall Street Journal was pure energy nonsense.

“Lessons of the Energy Export Boom” proclaimed that the United States is becoming the oil and gas superpower of the world. This despite the uncomfortable fact that it is also the world’s biggest importer of crude oil.

The Journal uses statistical sleight-of-hand to argue that the U.S. only imports 25% of its oil but the average is 47% for 2017. Saudi Arabia and Russia–the real oil superpowers–import no oil.

The piece includes the standard claptrap about how the fracking revolution has pushed break-even prices to absurdly low levels.  But another article in the same newspaper on the same day described how producers are losing $0.33 on every dollar in the red hot Permian basin shale plays. Oops.

The main point of the editorial, however, is to celebrate a surge in U.S. oil exports to almost 1 million barrels per day in recent weeks. The Journal calls lifting the crude oil export ban that made this possible “a policy triumph.” What the editorial fails to mention is that exports actually fell after the ban was lifted, and only increased because of Nigerian production outages (Figure 1).

Tight oil is ultra-light and can only be used in special refineries, most of which are in the U.S. It must be deeply discounted in order to be processed overseas in the relatively few niche refineries designed for light oil. That’s why Brent price is higher than WTI.…—Art Berman, “Energy Nonsense From the Wall Street Journal,” Forbes, 6/18/17

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Nuclear power is necessary part of energy transition

Protesters against fracking demonstrate during a march for science on April 22 in Denver. David Zalubowski/Associated Press

As an environmentalist, engineer, and veteran of the shale wars, I appreciate facts. That’s how high-volume fracking was defeated in New York — by matching activism with accurate information. It is therefore disturbing that a faction of environmental activists and organizations has abandoned those principles in a quest to kill nuclear power. In so doing, they have unwittingly formed an alliance with their own foe. 

At Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s direction, the state Public Service Commission last year adopted a Clean Energy Standard designed to ensure that 50 percent of New York’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030. To create a market for more wind and solar, the program requires that utilities obtain renewable energy credits from producers of renewable energy. However, recognizing that those new generators cannot appear overnight, the program also establishes a separate requirement for the acquisition of zero-emission credits from New York’s upstate nuclear facilities.

Because nuclear power does not produce combustion emissions to generate electricity, it has a small carbon footprint, comparable to renewables and far smaller than fossil fuels. However, across the country, nuclear plants are in financial difficulty because of cheap natural gas — fracked gas. The CES would let today’s upstate reactors continue operating until their licenses expire in about 12 years, allowing sufficient time for the deployment of renewables while ensuring that we don’t take a climate hit in the meantime.

It’s a practical approach that makes sense. Yet, blinded by ideology and a poor understanding of real and relative risks — including irreversible climate impacts and air pollution caused by fossil fuels — some have picked up a torch against the governor’s program. That’s profoundly counter-productive.

The inescapable consequence of prematurely closing New York’s existing reactors will be that we burn a lot more gas — either in new power plants that would have to be built or by running existing ones more. Indeed that’s why a coalition of fossil fuel generators dominated by the gas industry has launched a legal challenge against the program. If successful, misguided activists and their attorneys will have to share responsibility for the result — up to 180 million tons of additional carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere. That translates to many hundreds of Marcellus gas wells — a lot more fracking. Add methane leakage, and the greenhouse gas impacts are beyond enormous.

Further reading

America’s Navy The Unsung Heroes Of Nuclear Energy
Thorium-fueled Reactors: A forgotten war technology could safely power Earth for millions of years. Here’s why we aren’t using it
Storage and ‘Disposal’ of Nuclear Waste
The Curve of Binding Energy: A Journey into the Awesome and Alarming World of Theodore B. Taylor

Equally disturbing is rhetoric mimicking gas industry claims that the ZEC program is a $7.6 billion “Cuomo tax” that will horribly burden rate payers for years to come. Not true. In a letter to legislators by the governor’s point person on energy, Richard Kauffman, explains that the anticipated cost over the program’s duration is only $2.8 billion. The average customer would pay less than $2 more on his monthly electric bill, a number expected to drop as the cost of gas rises. That’s a small price to pay for the planet. By comparison, expanding the use of gas could cost $7 a month more.

Equally disturbing is rhetoric mimicking gas industry claims that the ZEC program is a $7.6 billion “Cuomo tax” that will horribly burden rate payers for years to come. Not true. In a letter to legislators by the governor’s point person on energy, Richard Kauffman, explains that the anticipated cost over the program’s duration is only $2.8 billion. The average customer would pay less than $2 more on his monthly electric bill, a number expected to drop as the cost of gas rises. That’s a small price to pay for the planet. By comparison, expanding the use of gas could cost $7 a month more.

…These comments should not be interpreted as an affront to renewables, which I strongly support, or an attack upon the good intention of activists. But regardless of one’s opinion on the future of nuclear energy, one thing is clear: We aren’t going to solve the climate crisis with distortions and out-of-touch ideology. Pursuing solutions that can work in the real world matter. Maintaining the near-term viability of New York’s functioning upstate reactors is part of that.…—Keith Schue, “Guest Commentary: Nuclear power is necessary part of energy transition,” The Daily Star, 5/12/17

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Deadly Heat Waves Could Endanger 74% of Mankind by 2100, Study Says

An increasing percentage of the planet faces deadly heat for 20 or more days per year, with one-third of the world’s population currently at risk. Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Deadly heat waves—already a risk for 30 percent of the world’s population—will spread around the globe, posing a danger for 74 percent of people on Earth by the end of this century if nothing is done to address climate change, according to a new study.

Nearly as alarming, the researchers project that even if greenhouse gases are aggressively reduced, at least 48 percent of the population will still face deadly heat waves by 2100 because of the amount of long-lived heat-trapping gases that already have accumulated in the atmosphere.

“We’re running out of good options for the future,” said lead author Camilo Mora, a biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “For heat waves, our options are now between bad or terrible.”

The new study comes as near-record heat is forecast for this week in California and the U.S. southwest, with the temperature expected to soar to 120 degrees in Phoenix, and as severe heat grips parts of Europe, contributing to forest fires that have killed at least 60 people in Portugal.

A handful of deadly heat episodes have made headlines in recent decades, including the 2003 European heat wave that killed some 70,000 people, the 2010 heat wave in Russia that killed 10,000 people, and a 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed 700 people. But Mora and his team, in analyzing heat mortality episodes reported in peer-reviewed scientific literature between 1980 and 2014, found that deadly heat episodes are far more common and widespread than previously thought.

Further reading
Wildfires used to be rare in the Great Plains. They’ve more than tripled in 30 years
As Asian Scorchers Multiply, Records Fall and Attention Rises

The researchers identified 911 papers with data on 1,949 case studies where human deaths were associated with high temperatures. They found that lethal heat waves had occurred in 164 cities across 36 countries. The team obtained climatic data for the times and locations of those episodes, including surface air temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and several other metrics.

The team was able to plot a threshold beyond which conditions are lethal, based both on temperature and humidity.

Sustained exposure to air temperatures at and above the human body temperature—98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius)—can result in dangerous body heat accumulation. But humidity is also a key factor. When relative humidity is high, air temperatures around 90 degrees can become lethal, as sweating becomes less effective for dissipating the body’s heat.

The area of the planet where the deadly heat threshold is crossed for 20 or more days per year has been increasing, and now encompasses one-third of the world’s population—primarily at tropical latitudes, the team said in their study published today in the science journal Nature Climate Change. But with climate change, the risk will extend both south and north. An online tool released with the paper allows counting, for any place on Earth, the number of days per year when temperature and humidity would exceed such a deadly threshold—both today and in the future under different climate change scenarios.…—Marianne Lavelle, “Deadly Heat Waves Could Endanger 74% of Mankind by 2100, Study Says,” InsideClimate News, 6/19/17

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Re-assessment of net energy production and greenhouse gas emissions avoidance after 40 years of photovoltaics development

(a) Development of average module selling price over time, in 2015 USD per Wp. Data from16,25,26,34,35. (b) Development of energy payback time over time. (c) Development of greenhouse gas emissions from PV electricity over time. The magenta crosses in (b,c) are an overlay of the cost data from (a).

Abstract

Since the 1970s, installed solar photovoltaic capacity has grown tremendously to 230 gigawatt worldwide in 2015, with a growth rate between 1975 and 2015 of 45%. This rapid growth has led to concerns regarding the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of photovoltaics production. We present a review of 40 years of photovoltaics development, analysing the development of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions associated with photovoltaics production. Here we show strong downward trends of environmental impact of photovoltaics production, following the experience curve law. For every doubling of installed photovoltaic capacity, energy use decreases by 13 and 12% and greenhouse gas footprints by 17 and 24%, for poly- and monocrystalline based photovoltaic systems, respectively. As a result, we show a break-even between the cumulative disadvantages and benefits of photovoltaics, for both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, occurs between 1997 and 2018, depending on photovoltaic performance and model uncertainties.

Introduction

Cumulative installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity (CIPC) grew from less than 1 MWp in 1975 to around 180 GWp at the end of 2014 (refs 1, 2, 3), with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45%. As shown in Fig. 1, major installation markets at the beginning of the 1990s were Japan and Italy, but from 2005 to 2014 Germany was the leading PV market in terms of CIPC4. It is expected that China will surpass Germany as the country with the largest CIPC during 20155. The strong growth can largely be attributed to successful government support schemes, like Germany’s feed-in tariff, but also to rapidly falling prices of PV systems.

PV electricity has large social and governmental support, as during its operation no harmful emissions are released. Over the whole life-cycle of a PV system, it pays back the energy invested and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions released during its production multiple times6,7,8,9. As PV systems operate over a period of up to 30 years, there is a significant time-lag between the investments, in terms of cumulative energy demand (CED) and GHG emissions, and the benefits obtained due to delivery of electricity and replacement of high-environmental impact electricity from fossil fuel sources. Coupling the rapid growth of PV with this context of upfront investments has led to some concerns, regarding the PV industry’s environmental sustainability. A fast growth of installed PV capacity could result in the creation of an energy sink, as the PV industry could embed energy in PV systems at a rate outpaced by these system’s ability to deliver it back. The same can be true for GHG emissions, when the production of PV systems releases more GHG emissions than the electricity produced with PV can offset by replacing more GHG intensive electricity. Although there is evidence that shows that CED and GHG emissions are correlated10, this is not necessarily the case.

To avoid the creation of an energy and/or GHG sink, in general, the growth of the industry should be limited by 1/PBT11,12, where PBT (payback time) is the time in which upfront investments in either CED or GHG emissions are paid back. However, energy and GHG sinks from periods of growth exceeding 1/PBT can be offset by decreased growth rates (or decreasing PBT) in later stages. Thus, the dynamics of growth need to be taken into account, rather than always aiming for a 1/PBT limited growth, as is discussed by Emmott et al.13 The concept of the PV industry as an energy sink, and more recently GHG sink is well known in the PV community. Grimmer et al.11 have been one of the first to address this issue in terms of energy, stating that to maximise the (positive) impact of solar technologies, they should have short energy payback time (EPBT) and long lifetime. When the growth of the PV industry started to accelerate, others indicated the necessity of strong decreases in energy payback time12. Others have also analysed the relation between industry growth and EPBT and concluded that for mono-crystalline PV, a sustainable growth rate should be limited to around 7% (ref. 14), however this result was based on a static measurement of the energy footprint of PV systems, and thus did not account for the decrease of the energy footprint of PV systems over time. More recent studies have also analysed GHG sinks13,15.

Here, we review the development of environmental impact of production of PV systems over time, focusing on greenhouse gas emission and energy demand, and analysing only mono- and polycrystalline silicon based systems, as these cover over 90% of total installed capacity16. We gather results from a total of 40 life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies of PV systems (including inverters and support structure) conducted from 1976 to 2014, and couple these results to development of cumulative installed capacity figures, to show the development of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions from PV production as a function of installed capacity, and to establish experience curves and learning rates17 for these parameters. The models obtained are used in conjunction with scenarios on performance of PV in order to calculate net contributions of the PV industry as a whole, in terms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, and to calculate when break-even between environmental investments and benefits occurs. A similar approach was used before by Dale and Benson18, who focused on net electricity, and analysed studies in a narrower timeframe between 1990 and 2010. The authors concluded that cumulative break-even will occur somewhere before 2020. Other studies have focused on GHG emissions13 even taking into account the gradual effect of GHG emissions on radiative forcing15. The latter two studies however focused on case studies or PV installation targets. Here, we want to combine approaches, by taking into account actual PV industry growth, and analysing the environmental impact using LCA studies from a wider time period. We show that there are strong downward trends for both energy demand and GHG emission from PV production, and that these trends follow the experience curve law. For every doubling of installed PV capacity, there is a decrease in energy use of 13% and 12% and in greenhouse gas footprint of production of 17 and 24%, for poly and monocrystalline based PV systems, respectively. As a result, there is a break-even since 2011 between the cumulative detriments and benefits of PV, in terms of both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for a scenario that takes into account PV production location over time and a realistic PV performance scenario. Taking into account a worst-case PV performance scenario and model uncertainties, break even occurs in 2017 for net energy, and in 2018 for greenhouse gas emissions avoidance.…—Atse Louwen, Wilfried van Sark, André Faaij, Ruud Schropp, “Re-assessment of net energy production and greenhouse gas emissions avoidance after 40 years of photovoltaics development,” Nature, 12/6/16

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Fighting Climate Change Can Be a Lonely Battle in Oil Country, Especially for a Kid

Jayden Foytlin, a 14-year-old hurricane survivor, is suing the government over climate change in one of the most surprising environmental lawsuits of our time.

RAYNE — As far back as Jayden Foytlin can remember, her cousin Madison came over to celebrate her birthday. The girls had been best friends since they were toddlers and spent almost every weekend together, playing video games and basketball in their driveways.

This year, things were different. In the weeks before Jayden’s 14th birthday, Madison’s mother stopped arranging get-togethers, and she didn’t answer text messages inviting Madison to Jayden’s birthday party. “We thought that maybe she was out of town with her family,” Jayden said. “Or I thought that maybe Madison had a sleepover the same day as my birthday.”

The text that cleared up matters came on the afternoon of Jayden’s birthday, as she and her family piled into their hybrid sport utility vehicle to go roller skating. Madison’s mother wrote that her daughter wasn’t allowed to see Jayden anymore. She was keeping Madison away because Jayden is one of 21 young plaintiffs suing the federal government for its alleged failure to curtail fossil fuel development and address climate change.

“I don’t want nothing to do with children being in adult situations nor will any of our children,” said the text to Jayden’s mother, Cherri Foytlin. “I think it’s pathetic that a young girl is even involved in something like this.”

The lawsuit, filed by Our Children’s Trust in 2015, relies on a novel legal strategy that has yielded victories for climate activists seeking sweeping policy change in other countries. The federal government, under both the Obama and Trump administrations, and the fossil fuel industry have repeatedly sought to have the case dismissed. But federal judges have so far upheld the plaintiffs’ right to a hearing, which means the case could come to trial as early as November.…—Neela Banerjee, Zahra Hirji, “Fighting Climate Change Can Be a Lonely Battle in Oil Country, Especially for a Kid,” The Times-Picayune, 6/13/17

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And That’s A Wrap! A lot of heavy reading, this edition. Hopefully we will all find it stimulates thinking about unsettling issues. Some of these story ideas came from readers. Keep them coming! Send your notices, news stories an your own writing, along with fresh strawberries or watermelon, to banner@wearesenecalake.com. And if you’re reading this from a borrowed or shared copy, you too can be a subscriber for $0.00/eternity. Just email your full name to banner@wearesenecalake.com

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 24 – The People Reach Out

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 24 – The People Reach Out
Jun 132017
 

June 13, 2017
In the wake of Trump’s withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, states and cities and concerned business leaders have been establishing relationships with each other, and even with other nations
. In addition to making the most of a handshake, French President Macron has found advantage in President Trump’s plans to dump research funding, inviting U.S. scientists to live and work over there. We’ll explore how state governors legislators, mayors, business leaders and other nations are responding to the nation’s new anti-regulation and isolationist government.
But first the news.

(Click for full size poster)

For further info: email John Dennis

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Taking Listening and Cooperation to a New Level: An Invitation

Listening skills – Overview of “The Listening Workshop”

This past weekend, New York grass roots activists and residents from a wide range of grassroots groups attended an innovative “Listening & Visualizing Workshop” with Sue Consentini, creator of the process. The day-long event, sponsored by the Coalition to Protect New York (CPNY) with support from the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, was held in Dundee, Yates County, New York.

The 50 participants, representing about three dozen grassroots organizations, were introduced to this creative technique, which is designed to help individuals and organizations become more active, less reactive, in interpersonal and inter-group relationships.

“Our country is so polarized in many ways, yet there are also numerous areas of mutual interest that we all need to explore if we’re not to be torn asunder as a society,” said Jack Ossont, a CPNY co-founder and one of the organizers of the event.

This recognition motivated CPNY to invite activists from around the state to learn how to broach the subject of mutual support to groups with which they might not otherwise interact. Event co-organizer Paula Kaartinen, a Tioga County resident and member of CPNY, had attended a Cosentini “listening workshop” and recommended this approach.

“Although we’re not always comfortable reaching out, face-to-face interaction is known to be the best way to find common ground with others,” said Kaartinen. “This workshop helped me, and I could see its potential on the larger scale to help groups with all sorts of greater-good missions.”

One participant, who wasn’t so sure about the process but registered anyway, said, “I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was really revved up by the end of the day. Sue gave us real hands-on training, with role playing that made the idea of ‘visioning and listening’ come alive. My friends and I plan to embark on a listening tour with groups that have similar goals.”

Another added, “Beyond that, we hope to spread this technique among many in our community so we can build bridges based on our commonalities, rather than building walls based on our differences.”

Ms Cosentini, a builder of homes and urban eco-villages as well as a communication coach, told the group, “What each of you cares about are the same things that matter to most people. We’re all human.”

Ms Cosentini has been teaching this process for seven years, recently helping communities address political divisiveness. Workshop participants pointed to the technique’s usefulness not only for group-to-group dynamics, but also for person-to-person relationship building.

The Coalition to Protect New York has sponsored or cosponsored more than 270 public events since its inception in 2010. Its mission is to help empower people to govern their own communities and make decisions based on the safety and well-being of human residents rather than on the enrichment of corporations.

For more information on future workshops on listening and cooperative action contact Doug Couchon, of Coalition to Protect New York, at dcouchon@gmail.com. —Maura Stephens,” Taking Listening and Cooperation to a New Level: An Invitation,” Coalition to Protect New York, 6/11/17

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It Takes a Village (and Maps!) to Counter Climate Change

Aldo Leopold wrote that the first rule of tinkerers is to keep all the pieces. I doubt Leopold would quarrel with a second rule: create new pieces when you must. That’s what the FracTracker Alliance has been doing since its inception in 2010—adding critical new maps, apps, and GIS (geographic information systems) analyses that empower environmental groups campaigning against fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure build-out. The Alliance works widely across the United States (https://www.fractracker.org/).

Activists in the Finger Lakes region know the bounties of FracTracker very well. The list of beneficiaries is long—and includes a medley of anti-fracking groups, Gas Free Seneca, We Are Seneca Lake, Earth Justice, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, Mothers Out Front, and others. FracTracker’s work has been useful to journalists and scientists, as well. Even the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Commissioner Joseph Martens cited FracTracker’s map of bans and moratoria in his public announcement to move ahead with a ban on high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

As activists, we often find ourselves in landscape labyrinths at the mercy of developers and agencies well-armed with maps. Maps have mystique verging on natural law. Want to lay a pipeline across New York State? Generate an imposing map and chances are you’ll send a message that, in the considered judgment of engineers and consultants, the pipeline corridor is ‘optimal.’ The best counterpunch is often an alternative map with even more detail, changed scale, or data layers that can tell a different story with additional insights.

Many environmentalists in our region could not have thrown timely punches in their testimony or policy recommendations without help from FracTracker. More often than not, we have turned to Karen Edelstein, who is the Eastern Program Coordinator at FracTracker Alliance, and involved in projects that have spanned geographies from New York to Florida.

Karen’s environmental mapping resume long pre-dates her work with FracTracker. For 16 years, she provided maps and analyses to the Finger Lakes Land Trust, leading the organization beyond rudimentary hand-drawn sketches in their land protection efforts to an expanded reliance on refined and data-rich GIS mapping. This technology is now used in every aspect of the organization’s mission– including identifying and prioritizing land acquisitions, documenting landscape features, and creating educational materials such as trail maps. During the past 6 years, Karen also worked as a consultant to the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council, remapping the boundaries of the county’s 190+ Unique Natural Areas.

Earlier in her career, for nearly a decade, Karen worked as a science educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension, developing curricula and trainings on water quality and aquatic ecology. With these varied skills, she brings strengths as a scientist, educator, and landscape analyst to her work with FracTracker.

If your group has won battles on New York’s fracking bans and moratoria, connected environmental dots in some original way, or legally monkey-wrenched the hydrocarbon follies, chances are excellent that you’ve been assisted by Karen’s cartographic gifts. Her maps have unlocked key connections for me time and again, which I’ll illustrate with three recent examples.

Seneca Lake:

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I joined We Are Seneca Lake (WASL) in 2014 and was arrested late that year for trespass on Crestwood land. That land turned out to be public land owned by NYS, however. Along with others, I began to wonder about Crestwood’s legal boundaries and turned to Karen for technical help. One of several maps she provided, shown here, proved significant in WASL’s legal challenges to claims by the Schuyler County District Attorney that our protests entailed trespass on private land. In particular, these maps helped WASL better understand the land ownership patterns around the proposed gas storage site. As a result, many of the trespass cases were dismissed. From time to time I spotted Karen in Reading, observing the legal proceedings with characteristic modesty and curiosity.

Karen’s involvement with the gas storage debate at Crestwood actually dates back to 2011. At one of the DEC’s public hearings in a packed auditorium in Watkins Glen, she presented maps developed by an engineering firm in the late 1970s for the US Department of the Interior, showing geological fault lines that run directly through the planned gas storage site. DEC had not even been aware of the study she was referencing, and few in the room knew about the fault line risks. Subsequently, she shared these reports with the US Geological Survey staff, who used this information as a springboard to critique the Crestwood plans.

West Dryden Pipeline:

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Early in 2016, I was pleased to join the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition (DRAC) and took interest in the NYSEG-proposed West Dryden Pipeline. Beyond yard signs, brochures, and local meetings, progress in halting this artery of fracked gas from Pennsylvania was impeded by the absence of a good map of the pipeline corridor. West Dryden residents wanted to visualize the pipeline. Yet, other than an illegible NYSEG map made public in March, nothing could be found to meet this need. Karen generated the requisite map and DRAC member Marie McRae published it in her excellent overview of the West Dryden pipeline controversy in Cayuga Lake Watershed Network News (pdf format).

Dominion Pipeline Expansion (Borger Station):

In March of 2017, I sent an S.O.S. to Karen requesting help in identifying protected wetlands close to the Borger Station. A year earlier, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Dominion Energy Transmission’s New Market application that would increase pressure along the pipeline with an additional 100 million cubic feet of gas transmission per day through the 50+ year old pipeline. This would undeniably result in additional methane emissions across the state. Mothers Out Front and others were caught by surprise with DEC-granted Dominion permits for expanded operations, despite the upgrade’s location adjacent to protected wetlands. Karen’s reply came back quickly. She sent a link to topographic maps with multiple resolutions.

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Three days later she forwarded an satellite image that could be superimposed on the larger map below. The first map indicates the Borger Station boundaries (light green polygons) and both maps show wetlands. In her opinion, the DEC wetland boundaries were more or less the same as the National Wetland Inventory (NWI) wetlands shown in the right-hand map. These DEC wetlands are Class 1, which afford the highest level of legal protection. Without my asking, Karen researched and sent me relevant definitions from the NYS wetlands law as well.

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As the resistance work to the Borger Compressor Station intensified, Karen also created a number of maps for Mothers Out Front that were crucial to local outreach and education. The map below, for example, shows house locations within a 2 km radius of the compressor station.

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I’m grateful to Karen. Her knowledge of her field’s resources and the speed at which she packages, forwards, and explains her maps, constitutes a public good throughout our region. She instills confidence at critical junctures; if the map I need doesn’t exist, Karen, in her role with FracTracker, will find a way to generate it and make it a tool for sharing a compelling message.

The latest tool that FracTracker offers is a free mobile app for citizens and activists to download to either iPhones or Android smartphones. Through an icon-driven interface, the FracTracker mobile app allows users to document sights, smells and sounds associated with wells, pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure. User input is added to a public database that is visible to anyone with the app.

As we’ve learned again and again, it takes a village and all its senses and sensibilities to document, track, and at times stop the often dangerous impacts of the fossil fuel industry. We can work together to directly address threats of climate change. Maps and citizen input are two important tools that are critical to this fight. —Chuck Geisler, “It Takes a Village (and Maps!) to Counter Climate Change,” 6/4/17

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Ithaca Rally & Climate March
watch inspiration from Barbara Lifton

Click to view Video

Event Video Time-line
Speaker Organization Time
Gay Nicholson, opening
Sustainable Tompkins 0:00 – 5:29
Barbara Lifton Assemblywoman, District 125 5:30 – 24:59
Nick Goldsmith Sustainability Coordinator, Ithaca, NY 25:00 – 29:05
Deborah Cipolla-Dennis Council Member, Dryden, NY 29:08 – 32:53
Irene Weiser Council Member, Caroline, NY 32:54 -45:20
Gay Nicholson, closing
Sustainable Tompkins 45:31 – 46:16
NACL Street Theater Sullivan County, NY 46:17 – 50:16

The speeches were followed by a march to Green Star with NACL Street Theater, The Creek Brass Band, Climate Marchers, Businesses & Many Organizations—Heriberto Rodriguez, “Ithaca Rally & Climate March – watch inspiration from Barbara Lifton,” We Are Seneca Lake Media, 6/5/17

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We Are Seneca Lake members serving the community

Wayne Gottlieb and Kelly Morris, along with James from the onsite landscaping crew, spent the morning mulching trees and flower beds at the Fire Academy in Montour Falls as part of their community service.

If there were ever an explosion and/or fire at the Crestwood facility, it is quite possible that firefighters and emergency workers trained at this academy would be some of the first on the scene! So, happy to help out.—Kelly Morris, “We Are Seneca Lake members serving the community,” 6/12/17

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Despite Ban, 600,000 Tons of Fracking Waste Entered NYS

Lawmakers Introduce Ban as DEC Prepares to Release Disposal Regulations

Albany – More than two years after Governor Andrew Cuomo banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking), new data reveals that landfills in New York have received more than 600,000 tons of fracking waste from Pennsylvania gas drillers. Though they were released for public comment more than a year ago, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has not finalized proposed changes to the state’s solid waste regulations, which would increase oversight – but not place an outright ban – on the disposal of fracking waste in landfills.

Release of the DEC’s final regulations are expected any day.

Today, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman David Buchwald announced legislation S98A/A302A to ban all oil and gas waste from disposal at New York’s solid waste management facilities, wastewater treatment plants, and for use as a de-icing agent on roads.

An analysis by Environmental Advocates of New York of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s oil and gas waste data system found that between 2011 and March 2017, 608,646 tons of fracking waste has been dumped into New York State landfills – a 32% increase from the 460,000 tons first outlined in the organization’s 2015 report, License to Dump. Of that waste, over half has been disposed of in Chemung County Landfill, in Lowman, NY.

State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) said, “Even though New York banned high volume hydraulic fracturing nearly three years ago, our state continues to accept dangerous fracking waste from other states to dispose of in our landfills and to use as a chemical de-icing agent on our roads, posing significant environmental hazards. That’s why I’ve introduced S.98A, which would implement a comprehensive fracking waste ban in New York. I urge the DEC to adopt regulations that would ban the acceptance of fracking waste in New York, and thank Assembly member Buchwald for carrying the bill in the Assembly, and Environmental Advocates of New York for their continued advocacy on this issue.”

Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) said, “As the DEC works to complete the update of its landfill regulations, we must pass legislation to close a loop hole that has allowed hundreds of thousands of tons of fracking waste to be buried in New York. Over time, leaks from landfills could lead to chemicals found in fracking waste entering our water and food supply.”

Liz Moran, water & natural resources associate at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “DOH Commissioner Dr. Zucker said fracking is a danger to public health. And so is fracking waste. Governor Cuomo boldly banned fracking, but when it comes to the drilling waste, the state has been slow to respond and too often relied on bureaucratic labels and processes to justify inaction. Banning fracking waste from our landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and roadways, is a common-sense approach to protecting New York’s water. Environmental Advocates thanks and applauds Senator Hoylman, Assemblyman Buchwald, and many other legislators who have worked tirelessly to keep fracking waste out of New York State.”…—Travis Proulx, “Despite Ban, 600,000 Tons of Fracking Waste Entered NYS,” Environmental Advocates of New York, 6/9/17

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Statement from NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos on EPA Five-Year Review Report on Hudson River Dredging

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“Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed New York by determining that its PCB cleanup of the Upper Hudson River is protective of human health and the environment. We strongly dispute their conclusions and maintain that the significant amount of contamination left in the river threatens both public health and the environment. DEC will continue to fight for the Hudson River and New Yorkers and hold the polluter accountable for its actions.

Further reading: Protecting the Hudson: Federal-State Partnership or Conflict?

Once again, we are calling on EPA to finish the job and refer back to their original Record of Decision that committed the agency’s full responsibility to clean up this toxic legacy and restore the Hudson River.”—Basil Seggos, “Statement from NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos on EPA Five-Year Review Report on Hudson River Dredging ,” NY Department of Environmental Protection , 6/1/17

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The People Reach Out

Over 1,400 U.S. Cities, States and Businesses Vow to Meet Paris Climate Commitments

Growing groups of cities, states and businesses are vowing to meet the United States’ Paris climate commitments, even if President Trump is pulling out. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President Donald Trump may be yanking the United States from the Paris climate agreement, but states, cities and businesses are filling the vacuum by making their own commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and the numbers are mounting.

On Monday, more than 1,000 companies and institutions, including more than a dozen Fortune 500 businesses, signed onto a statement—”We Are Still In“—saying they’re committed to meeting the Paris targets. The statement calls Trump’s decision “a grave mistake that endangers the American public and hurts America’s economic security and diplomatic reputation.” By Tuesday, the coalition’s numbers had climbed past 1,400.

A dozen states that together represent the world’s third-largest economy and more than 200 cities had also committed to the Paris accord through various coalitions.

In the wake of Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, the world’s biggest economies denounced the move and insisted they would remain in the pact. While the president claimed he would contemplate a renegotiation of a deal that “puts America first,” the UN and several U.S. allies said renegotiation isn’t in the cards.

Many Americans are not wavering, either.

Immediately after the announcement, a loud and adamant chorus—with a diverse array of members, from the CEO of Disney to the state of Delaware—began announcing or reaffirming their own emissions-related and clean energy goals.

(Click for full view)

States Launch Climate Alliance

Trump and members of his administration have said they favor shifting power to the states, particularly when it comes to environmental protections. This may not be what they had in mind, though.

Following Trump’s announcement last week, three states—California, New York and Washington—launched the United States Climate Alliance. By mid-day Monday, the total number of governors in the alliance had swelled to 13, including Puerto Rico’s, and more are likely to join in the coming days. Two of the states in the alliance—Massachusetts and Vermont—are headed by Republican governors.

The alliance’s members, who represent more than a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and together make up the third-largest economy behind the U.S and China, say they will commit to the U.S. goal under the Paris agreement to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.…

Cities: Pittsburgh Leads the Way

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said Thursday, in an attempted nod to Rust Belt voters who helped put him into office.

Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayor, Bill Peduto, quickly fired back on Twitter: “Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stands with the world & will follow Paris Agreement.”

More cities quickly followed. As of Monday, more than 200 mayors had signed onto an agreement to “adopt, honor and uphold” the Paris agreement. Among them are the mayors of the country’s largest cities. (Globally, urban areas account for three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions.)…

Bloomberg Spearheads UN Effort

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday announced what he called a “parallel” pledge to meeting the Paris goals — one that would be led by cities, states and business, rather than the federal government.

“Americans are not walking away from the Paris climate agreement,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Just the opposite.” Bloomberg Philanthropies is also committing up to $15 million to the UN’s climate secretariat—the amount it stands to lose because of Trump’s decisions.

Bloomberg told The New York Times that the group would submit its own pledge to the United Nations. Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change told The New York Times there’s currently no mechanism in place for that to occur.…

Businesses Object to Paris Withdrawal

Before Trump announced the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, more than 1,100 business and 280 institutional investors had signed on to a letter asking him to remain in the agreement. At least two dozen Fortune 500 companies, with more than $1.2 trillion in assets, were among those who signed on. Signatures came from a spectrum of business leaders, including the heads of Ford, Mars, Goldman Sachs and GE.

…”Many people are going to be looking toward this in the weeks and months that follow to see how all these actors meet their commitments,” Bianco added. “In many ways, this is the start of a process—of seeing what we could do.”—Georgina Gustin, “Over 1,400 U.S. Cities, States and Businesses Vow to Meet Paris Climate Commitments,” InsideClimate News, 6/6/17

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Hawaii rebels against Trump with a law to uphold the spirit of the Paris climate accord

The Kapalua coastline in Maui, Hawaii. (Tor Johnson / Associated Press)

Amid a widening partisan divide over climate change, Hawaii lawmakers have a message for President Trump: The Paris agreement is needed.

Rebelling against the president’s decision last week to pull out of the international climate accord, Hawaii Gov. David Ige has signed into law a measure that aims to push Hawaii toward doing its part to achieve the worldwide greenhouse gas reductions the agreement calls for.

It is the first law in the nation directly responding to the decision, though more are expected.

In addition to encouraging emissions cuts, the law signed Tuesday also promotes “environmental integrity” and the conservation of wetlands and forests — key tenets of the accord, which was signed in 2015 by nearly every country.

The new legislation also committed Hawaii to the newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance, which consists of a dozen states and Puerto Rico that have promised to uphold the Paris climate agreement on the state level.

As a series of low-lying islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to global warming. For decades, rising sea levels and increased coastal flooding and erosion have harmed fragile coastal ecosystems, destroyed crops and damaged roads, structures and other infrastructure.

“Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” the Democratic governor said at a signing ceremony in Honolulu. “Hawaii is seeing the impacts firsthand. Tides are getting higher, biodiversity is shrinking, coral is bleaching, coastlines are eroding, weather is becoming more extreme. We must acknowledge these realities at home.”

He added: “We are the testing grounds…. We are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.”…—Kurtis Lee, “Hawaii rebels against Trump with a law to uphold the spirit of the Paris climate accord,” The Los Angeles Times, 6/7/17

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Trump’s plan to cut basic energy research finds an unlikely opponent: oil executives

The Department of Energy building in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A group of business leaders has sent a letter to the top Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations committees urging them to maintain basic research funding, especially in energy, that President Trump has proposed to slash or eliminate.

The letter signed by 14 senior figures from the business world — including trade group leaders and current or former executives in technology, finance, utilities, oil exploration, and military and civilian aerospace — said Congress should “invest in America’s economic and energy future by funding vital programs in energy research and development at the Department of Energy.”

Trump has proposed massive cuts in those areas, including a 36.5 percent reduction in nuclear research, 58 percent in fossil fuel technology, and a 35 percent overall cut in science and energy innovation. Trump has also proposed the elimination of the $306 million-a-year Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy.

Further reading: The Logic of Bad Policies

“Programs like ARPA-E provide a blueprint for smart federal investments in high risk, high reward technologies that boost our competitiveness by keeping America at the forefront of global energy technology research,” the business leaders countered in their letter.

The letter was organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the American Energy Innovation Council. It is likely just the opening salvo in what promises to be a tough battle for the administration. ARPA-E and other research projects scattered around the country have considerable support in Congress. Energy budget hearings in House are expected to begin next week and in the Senate on June 21.

The Trump administration, however, has said that research and development can be done by the private sector without federal assistance.

“The whole ARPA-E program is exactly right,” said Chad Holliday, a former chief executive at DuPont and now chairman of Shell. “Funding early-stage things that are not getting funded somewhere else.”

Holliday stressed “the importance of research, particularly about energy with the energy transition around the world.” He said that “companies alone will not be able to do this in a robust enough way. Research and partnering with the private sector is so important, and it is a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things.”…—Steven Mufson, “Trump’s plan to cut basic energy research finds an unlikely opponent: oil executives,” The Washington Post, 6/8/17

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Canada’s Strategy on Climate Change: Work With American States

“I think it’s disappointing that the United States’ administration has not stepped up,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, referring to President Trump’s decision on the climate pact. “But the United States is bigger than the administration.” Credit Chris Young/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

OTTAWA — The timing was coincidental, but the meeting had a new urgency.

One day after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord — saying he was elected to serve Pittsburgh, not Paris — the transport minister in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet visited with the mayor of Pittsburgh to discuss climate change.

The meeting was part of a broad strategy by the Canadian federal government to work directly with American states and cities on global warming, and to become a leader on the issue. Though the effort began several months ago, Mr. Trump’s rejection last week of the Paris agreement has energized it.

“I think it’s disappointing that the United States’ administration has not stepped up,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, referring to Mr. Trump’s decision on the climate pact. “But the United States is bigger than the administration.”

Further reading : A Canadian Minister’s Speech Shows a Growing Divide With the U.S.

Mr. Trudeau has made battling climate change a top priority since his election in 2015, and Canadian provinces and American states have been dealing directly with one another on a variety of initiatives. Quebec and California have linked their cap-and-trade programs — an effort that Ontario, the most populous province, is set to join. Ontario and Manitoba participate in a climate coordination group primarily made up of Midwestern states.

The government is also working on building alliances with Florida, Indiana, Texas, Michigan, New York and other states.

Immediately after Mr. Trump’s announcement about the Paris accord, Ms. McKenna was on the phone with Jerry Brown, California’s governor, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington. Both back the agreement, and Canada hopes to coordinate its climate efforts with their states, she said.…—Ian Austen, “Canada’s Strategy on Climate Change: Work With American States,” The New York Times, 6/7

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How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science

A coal-fired power station in Mount Storm, W.Va., in January. The coal industry played an instrumental role in efforts to unwind the Obama administration’s climate policies. Credit Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — The campaign ad appeared during the presidential contest of 2008. Rapid-fire images of belching smokestacks and melting ice sheets were followed by a soothing narrator who praised a candidate who had stood up to President George W. Bush and “sounded the alarm on global warming.”

It was not made for a Democrat, but for Senator John McCain , who had just secured the Republican nomination.

It is difficult to reconcile the Republican Party of 2008 with the party of 2017, whose leader, President Trump, has called global warming a hoax, reversed environmental policies that Mr. McCain advocated on his run for the White House, and this past week announced that he would take the nation out of the Paris climate accord , which was to bind the globe in an effort to halt the planet’s warming.

The Republican Party’s fast journey from debating how to combat human-caused climate change to arguing that it does not exist is a story of big political money, Democratic hubris in the Obama years and a partisan chasm that grew over nine years like a crack in the Antarctic shelf, favoring extreme positions and uncompromising rhetoric over cooperation and conciliation.

Further reading: Does Donald Trump Still Think Climate Change Is a Hoax? No One Can Say

“Most Republicans still do not regard climate change as a hoax,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who worked for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “But the entire climate change debate has now been caught up in the broader polarization of American politics.”

“In some ways,” he added, “it’s become yet another of the long list of litmus test issues that determine whether or not you’re a good Republican.”

Since Mr. McCain ran for president on climate credentials that were stronger than his opponent Barack Obama’s, the scientific evidence linking greenhouse gases from fossil fuels to the dangerous warming of the planet has grown stronger. Scientists have for the first time drawn concrete links between the planet’s warming atmosphere and changes that affect Americans’ daily lives and pocketbooks, from tidal flooding in Miami to prolonged water shortages in the Southwest to decreasing snow cover at ski resorts.

That scientific consensus was enough to pull virtually all of the major nations along. Conservative-leaning governments in Britain, France, Germany and Japan all signed on to successive climate change agreements.

Yet when Mr. Trump pulled the United States from the Paris accord, the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House and every member of the elected Republican leadership were united in their praise.…—Coral Davenport, Eric Lipton, “How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science,” The New York Times, 6/3/17

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Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Given the Inaugural Henry A. Wallace Award

On June 8th, 2017, Wallace Global Fund presented the inaugural Henry A. Wallace award to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for its brave resistance in defending sacred land and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II accepted a $250,000 award on behalf of the Tribe. In addition, WGF pledged up to a million dollar in investments to support new renewable energy projects led by the Tribe, as an alternative model for economic development and energy justice. The HAW award was established in 2017 to commemorate the legacy of the Fund’s donor, by highlighting extraordinary examples of courage in standing up to abuse of corporate and government power.

The award ceremony featured a video (above) emphasizing the courage and activism of the Standing Rock Sioux and the progressive values and legacy of HAW. Featured speakers included: WGF Board Chair Scott Wallace, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, and Nick Tilsen of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. The ceremony was followed by a donor and investor briefing on the renewable solar and wind energy projects at Standing Rock. Speakers at the briefing were led by Wahleah Johns of Native Renewables, Barrett Raftery of the GivePower Foundation, Marco Krapels of Empowered by Light, Michael Geffrard of LIATI Group, Daryn Dodson of the Calvert Foundation, and Thomas Van Dyck of SRI Group at RBC Wealth Management.—”Wallace Global Fund Presents the Inaugural Henry A. Wallace Award to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” Wallace Global Fund,” 6/8/17

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Kids Climate Lawsuit Heads to Trial, Judge Denies Trump Administration’s Appeal

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden high-fives one of the plaintiffs in the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit. John Light

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued an order Thursday denying motions filed by the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry that sought to appeal her Nov. 10, 2016 order in Juliana v. United States to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The order follows the Trump administration’s remarkable Tuesday night filing of a notice giving Judge Aiken a deadline of June 9 to issue her order.

In that notice, the Department of Justice threatened, “In the absence of such resolution by this Court, the United States will seek … review and relief in the Court of Appeals.” The Trump administration is alluding to an intention to seek a writ of mandamus, an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted, from the higher court.

“We are on our way to trial!” said Julia Olson, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust . “With industry walking away from the case and the Trump administration’s effort at procedural delay firmly rejected, we can focus on the merits of these youths’ constitutional claims.”

From Judge Aiken’s June 8 order :

Defendants’ threat to run directly to the Ninth Circuit if this Court does not abide by a unilaterally imposed ‘deadline’ is another matter … belief that it is legally entitled to an immediate ruling on a motion it submitted three months ago is rather ironic given that it waited four months to file the request for interlocutory certification in the first place.

Judge Aiken’s order was an adoption of the May 1 findings and recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin, who is overseeing the pretrial and discovery portion of the case. Judge Coffin has ruled that an interlocutory appeal “would put the cart before the horse, and thus fail to satisfy the standards for interlocutory appeal.”

“The more evidence we gather for our case, the more I realize how decisively we can win at trial,” said 20-year-old Alex Loznak of Roseburg, Oregon, one of 21 youth plaintiffs. “It’s no wonder the Trump administration wants to avoid the trial by seeking an unwarranted, premature appeal. Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to trial and to winning our lawsuit.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, has explained that mandamus is a “drastic and extraordinary remedy” reserved for “only exceptional circumstances.” Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Court for D.C., 542 U.S. 367, 380 (2004).…—Meg Ward, “Kids Climate Lawsuit Heads to Trial, Judge Denies Trump Administration’s Appeal ,” EcoWatch , 6/9/17

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Trump converts White House to run entirely on coal

Coal-fired Gray House

Washington (dpo) – That man does nothing by half measures. On Friday President Donald Trump announced the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and today news has already surfaced that the power supply to the White House has been entirely converted to run on fossil fuels.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Credit: www.elbpresse.de, CC BY-SA 4.0

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer announced the conversion at a press conference strewn with billowing smoke. “The President is leading by example,” yelled Spicer over the noise of the generators. Coughing, he continued, “from now on, the White House will run exclusively on the energy of the future.”

Central heating and hot water will be heated by coal fired power stations and a miniature lignite fired power station will provide the electricity supply. At times of short supply, 38 diesel generators can provide additional power. Experts believe that the fast growing levels of soot will soon require the White House to be renamed the Gray House.

Figures were already available showing that energy consumption at the White House have increased by 200% since Trump took office. According to a statement from the White House, this is because, “the President doesn’t like it too hot or too cold so the central heating and air conditioning system are both permanently running at full capacity”.

According to Spicer, the Trump government’s medium term goal is to put in place targeted measures to foster non-renewable energies so that by 2020, all American households are supplied in a similar manner.

“Now you’ll have to excuse me”, said Sean Spicer in closing, “I have to go and shovel 73 wheelbarrows of coal for this evening. The President likes to take hot baths.”—”Trump converts White House to run entirely on coal,” The Postillon, 6/6/17

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No 23 – Resistance Persistance

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No 23 – Resistance Persistance
Jun 062017
 

June 6, 2017
The past week was another turmoil, nationally and internationally, including the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Dismaying as it may be, it certainly clarified and electrified the air for activists, and for many city and state leaders. live in interesting times is a great opportunity, and a great responsibility.
First, the news…

Tomorrow  – Steps to a Sustainable Future
an internationally award-winning documentary

Wednesday June 14, 2017 at Noon and at 7PM
Cinemapolis
120 E Green St
Ithaca, NY 14850

The award-winning documentary film: “TOMORROW” is not just a film, but the beginning of a movement seeking to encourage local communities around the world to change the way they live for the sake of our planet.  A hopeful film showing local solutions to today’s environmental problems.

Tomorrow – Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent
Many things have been tried to resolve the ecological and economic crises. They haven’t really worked. According to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed Yunnus, the strongest driving force in human beings is their desire and their imagination. He believes that today we must make films and tell stories that spark the desire to build another world. This is what Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent decided to do by lining up known solutions in all spheres side-by-side to show what our society could look like tomorrow…

FREE ADMISSION ($5 donations welcome)

Presented by The Sustainability Center

“Without question, this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment”.— Paul Hawken

“What gives me hope is the fact that we’re in this together, this is a sacred time, it’s a time of prophecy, and it’s a powerful time.” Jon Eagle, Sr.

Celebrate the transformation only we as a community can cause!

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Underground Gas Storage Wells – An Invisible Risk in the Supply Chain

Click for annotations

The largest accidental release of methane in U.S. history began October 23, 2015 with the blowout of an underground natural gas storage well in Aliso Canyon about 20 miles west of Los Angeles. By the time the well was plugged 112 days later, more than 5.0 billion cubic feet of methane and other pollutants had been released to the atmosphere. It was a disaster for the climate, the environment, California’s energy supply, and the more than 11,000 people that were forced to evacuate.

A new study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health – Center for Health and the Global Environment shows that more than one in five of the almost 15,000 active underground gas storage (UGS) wells in the US could be vulnerable to serious leaks due to obsolete well designs – similar in design to the well that failed at the Aliso Canyon storage facility.

Published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study presents a national baseline assessment of underground storage wells in the U.S. and indicates the need for a better understanding of the risks associated with the obsolescence of aging storage wells. The study also highlights the widespread nature of certain age-related risk factors, but indicates that some of the highest priority wells may be located in PA, OH, NY, and WV.

The study shows that the average construction year of largely unregulated active UGS wells in the US is 1963, with potentially obsolete wells that were not originally designed for storage operating in 160 facilities across 19 states. Some of the wells were constructed over 100 years ago – a time period that precedes many modern well containment systems such cement isolation and the use of multiple casings. Some of the oldest active UGS wells were not designed for two-way flow of gas, and therefore may not exhibit sufficient material-grade or redundant precautionary systems to prevent containment loss, as was evident at Aliso Canyon.

An Interview with the Author

Sam, Matt, and Kyle of FracTracker caught up with lead author and former FracTracker colleague, Dr. Drew Michanowicz, now with the Center for Health and Global Environment within the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health to find out more about their study.

When we spoke with Drew, he began the interview by posing the first question to us:

Did you know that about 15% of the natural gas produced in the US is injected back into the ground each year?

While we had all heard of underground gas storage before, we had to admit that we never thought of the process like that before. In other words, some of the natural gas in the US is being produced twice from two different reservoirs before being consumed. And because many of these storage systems utilized depleted oil and gas reservoirs, many of the same pre- and post-conditioning processes, such as dehydrating and compressing, are necessary to bring the gas to market.

The following questions and answers from Drew expand upon the study’s findings:

Q: What prompted you and your colleagues to investigate this topic?

A: After the Aliso Canyon incident, we became interested in the question: ‘Is Aliso Canyon Unique?’ Interestingly, there were plenty of early warning signs at that facility that corrosion issues on very old re-purposed wells were becoming a significant issue. Almost a year before the well blowout, Southern California gas went on record in front of California’s Public Utility Commission stating that they needed a rate increase to implement a necessary integrity management plan for their wells, and to be able to move beyond operating in a reactive mode. That unfortunately prophetic document really got us interested in better understanding why their infrastructure was in the state it was in. And like any major accident like this, a logical next step is to assess the prevalence of hazardous conditions elsewhere in the system, in the hope to prevent the next one.

From our research, it appears that a very large portion of the UGS sector may be facing similar obsolescence issues compared to Aliso, such as decades-old wells not originally designed for two-way flow. Our work here, however, is a simplified assessment that focused only on passive barriers or the fixed structures such as the steel pipes likely present in a well. Much more work is needed to fully understand the active-type safety measures in place such as safety valves, tubing/packers, and overall integrity management plans – all important factors for manage risks.…—Sam Rubright, “Underground Gas Storage Wells – An Invisible Risk in the Supply Chain,” FracTracker, 5/23/17

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An Important Russian Hacking Story

Image source: Linked in

[A warning to activists: tend to your computer, wifi and network security. Choose strong passwords. If you do not know how to do that, ask around. Find someone you trust who knows about computer security. Cyber security is a growing field, thankfully.— Editor]

Since January there’s been a steady drumbeat on the connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian hacking. Lost in the noise—and there’s been plenty of it—is the serious threat that such hacks pose to civil society. In the January report on Russian hacking, ODNI reported that civic organizations—think tanks, research institutes, and the like—were also likely targets of Russian hacking during the 2016 election. These were groups “viewed as likely to shape future U.S. policies.” That some had actually been hacked by the Russians was later confirmed, which is what makes the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab report , “Tainted Leaks: Disinformation and Phishing with a Russian Nexus,” so important.

For almost two decades, Citizen Lab has been investigating cyberspying networks examining policy and technical aspects. In 2008, for example, Citizen Lab uncovered the Chinese government’s hacking into the Dalai Lama’s network, while in 2016, the lab traced Israeli malware tools sold to Mid-Eastern repressive regimes that were being used to target activists and journalists.

…Right now such Russian efforts seem to have been focused on situations of direct interest to Russia. But the hacking in the U.S. and French elections makes clear that Russia has much broader ambitions, and it is this aspect of the story that has me particularly worried. Politicians lead nations, but underneath democratic societies’ political organizations lie civic groups. Whether about school choice, public transit, immigration policy, or on standing with Standing Rock , their rich and complex infrastructure channel the public’s voice to legislators. A vigorous civil society leads to a more responsive government and a healthier democracy. Societies that lack a strong civil component have much less responsive government.

Further reading
(some of these resources
may require expert advice,
depending on your own level
of computer savvy)
Russian Hacking Clarified
Free Security Check-Ups and Tools
How To Test Your Home Network Security With Free Hacking Tools
5 ways to test your computer’s security
Checking your Mac for viruses — wait, what?

For civil society to connect the people with their government, these organizations must have and maintain the people’s trust, and that’s why the Russians hacking and subsequent tampering of the stolen data is so threatening. Do the same to Sierra Club or the League of Women Voters—steal email and unpublished reports and publish modified, falsified versions—and the trust that citizens give to those organizations dissipates. Such lost trust is very hard, if not impossible, to reinstate. But without such organizations reporting to the people and channeling opinions from them, our democracies badly falter.

That’s why the Citizen Lab report is so very important. It’s not simply a report of the cyberthreats faced by Russian civil society, but even more importantly, it is a harbinger of threats to come for American civil society as well. Every civic organization should read this report very carefully, map its own risks and dangers, and then start instituting serious cyber protections. This is a new and uncharted territory for many civic organizations, which lack the resources that governments and industry have for protecting themselves. Yet these protections are absolutely critical. I am grateful to Citizen Lab for so graphically demonstrating this crucial issue.—Susan Landau, “An Important Russian Hacking Story,” Lawfare , 6/2/17

Susan Landau is a faculty member in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Department of Social Science and Policy Studies, where she works on cybersecurity, privacy, and public policy. She has been a senior staff Privacy Analyst at Google, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Wesleyan University and has held visiting positions at Harvard, Cornell, and Yale, and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. She is the author of Surveillance or Security? The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies (MIT Press, 2011), and co-author, with Whitfield Diffie, of Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (MIT Press, 1998, rev. ed. 2007).

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Resistance Persistance

A women’s movement grows in ‘the most Trumpian place in America’

Photography by Abbey Oldham

The women gathered hesitantly in front of the county courthouse , many of them holding signs. At first there were a few, then a few more, and then more than 70. It was early February, and they had come to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban. At first, as they marched down Main Street, they got thumbs up and honks of support. But it wasn’t long before the counter-protesters arrived, men holding signs that said “Make America Great Again,” “Trump” and “These People are Stupid!”

Soon, a parade of pickup trucks followed, led by a truck full of fraternity brothers from the nearby college in Buckhannon, a small town in north central West Virginia. As men whooped and hollered, and did a “burn out ” — spinning their wheels while stationary, until their treads burned and smoked on the asphalt — the women were doused in a giant cloud of black smoke. Some were hit with pebbles and debris. When another truck dropped firecrackers, the women, some with children, tried not to run or scream.

Among them was Lisa Hollen, a soft-spoken speech pathologist, who had changed jobs after the 2016 election because of how pro-Trump the school she worked at had become. To her, Trump had always been a wealthy, “larger-than-life loser,” a man who made womanizing comments on the Howard Stern Show and acted like a bully on reality TV, even long before he was a political candidate. After he was elected, the principal at Hollen’s school told the teachers not to talk about Trump’s victory, which Hollen thought was not very good advice. Not after the scene at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School on the day after the election, when kids in the hallways chanted “Build a wall!” And not after one of her seventh grade students said that “people who voted for Hillary Clinton should be taken out in the yard and shot.”

To Hollen, addressing Trump’s win was not about being a “cry-baby liberal.” But she knew most of Buckhannon saw it differently.

Buckhannon, population 5,639, is a deeply conservative town, and long has been. While coal is its past, oil and gas are its likely future. It’s a town where guns are sold at yard sales, where Pentecostal churches are nearly as common as restaurants, and where distrust of Hillary Clinton is visceral and deep-seated. Even back when the state was a Democratic stronghold, Upshur County, where Buckhannon is located, stubbornly voted red . Last November, it went more than 75 percent for Trump; the town’s mayor calls it “the most Trumpian place in America.”… —Elizabeth Flock, “A women’s movement grows in ‘the most Trumpian place in America’,” PBS News Hour, 5/31/17

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In praise of Trump pulling out of the Paris climate pact

© Getty Images

To the dismay of our allies, the White House could any day announce the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But as a patriot and climate activist, I’m not dismayed. I actually want to pull out.

The value of the Paris Agreement is in its aspirational goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not in its implementation mechanisms, which are voluntary, insufficient, and impossible to monitor. But that modest goal will be breached shortly, which makes the agreement a kind of fig leaf, offering political cover to those who would soft-pedal the runaway climate crisis a while longer. 

The U.N. Conference of the Parties is certainly not the organization to constrain powerful, retrenched fossil fuel interests and other bad climate actors and rogue climate states. The Paris agreement affords oil, gas and coal companies a globally visible platform through which to peddle influence and appear engaged on climate change while lobbying for business as usual. That won’t save the climate.

At what point do we give up wishful, incremental thinking — that reason will prevail, the free market will adjust, the president’s daughter and son-in-law will dissuade him from the worst climaticide, the Democratic Party will do something, or prior policies which tinker on the margins like the Clean Power Plan won’t be totally obliterated?  

I’d argue we’ve reached that point. If Trump withdraws from the Paris Agreement, at least we will have clarity instead of false hope.…—Ken Ward, “In praise of Trump pulling out of the Paris climate pact,” The Hill, 5/31/17

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One of 2 gas leaks discovered at Aliso Canyon still leaking more than a week later

Porter Ranch Estates sit at the foothills near the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. SoCalGas is reporting that it found two new gas leaks at the facility on lines operated by Crimson Resource Management and has plugged one of them. (AP file photo by Michael Owen Baker)

Two new natural gas leaks have been reported at the Aliso Canyon field near Porter Ranch, one of which is still leaking more than a week after first being discovered. But this time it’s not the Southern California Gas Co. storage facility that’s the source, according to the company.

Instead, SoCalGas workers found two separate leaks in equipment they say is operated by Denver-based energy company Crimson Resource Management.

SoCalGas sent a notification to residents in the Aliso Canyon area saying that on May 24, a SoCalGas field employee discovered a “minor” gas leak from a threaded fitting on a 3-inch line operated by Crimson Resource Management.

Further reading: State regulators probing latest oil and gas leak at Aliso Canyon storage facility

In a Hazardous Materials Spill Report filed with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, SoCalGas said it told Crimson about the leak, which Crimson said it would fix by May 30.

However, SoCalGas said in the report that its personnel saw on June 1 that Crimson hadn’t fixed the leak. On that same day, SoCalGas said, its personnel found an open valve on a Crimson oil production line that also was releasing gas into the atmosphere.

SoCalGas closed and plugged that valve, stopping the gas release, the company said.

The first gas leak from the 3-inch line has not yet been repaired, state regulators said Friday [June 3].…— Antonie Boessenkool, “One of 2 gas leaks discovered at Aliso Canyon still leaking more than a week later,” Los Angeles Daily News, 6/4/17

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Judges side with tribe; big win for Pine Ridge Reservation

Crow Butte, seen from the south, has historical and cultural significance for tribal opponents of uranium mining at the landmark in northeastern Nebraska. COURTESY/Panhandle Trails

PINE RIDGE –– The Oglala Sioux Tribe and activists scored a win on May 26, when federal administrative judges ruled that Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has failed to take “a hard look” at cultural resources in recommending renewal of a uranium mining license for Crow Butte Mine, near here. The decision delays permitting.

The tribe, intervening in the license renewal application for the mine in Dawes County, Nebraska, adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, argued that the staff recommended approval in violation of its rights under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA.

Resolving in favor of the tribe’s argument, an oversight panel established by the Atomic Licensing and Safety Board ruled: “The NRC staff has not met its identification obligations” under the two laws, “nor has the NRC staff, in its environmental assessment, undertaken a hard look under NEPA at cultural resources within the license area.”

The board requested the staff “remedy its noncompliance,” in other words: go back to the drawing board and address tribal concerns over historical and cultural sites of relevance before any permitting.

An attorney for interveners, David Frankel thanked people who have supported the legal costs of the intervention.

Nancy Kile, an Oglala activist in the Sisterhood to Protect Sacred Water, which is based in the mining impacted town of Crawford, Nebraska, said the ruling is a case of the oversight panel making government personnel follow the rules they should have initially.

“Woo hoo!” she said: “A federal agency determined a foreign company did not properly consult with First Nations.”

Crow Butte Mine is a decades-old project of the world’s largest publicly traded uranium mining company, the Canadian Cameco Corp., which is facing federal tax-dodging allegations in its home country and an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service over $32 million in U.S. back taxes. The company is reducing uranium well-field development at its Wyoming operations, as its stock values are crashing.—Talli Nauman, “Judges side with tribe; big win for Pine Ridge Reservation,” Native Sun News, 6/1/16

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Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change deal

Fact Checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee examine several of President Trump’s claims from his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord on Thursday. (Click to view video) Credit:: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

In his speech announcing his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, President Trump frequently relied on dubious facts and unbalanced claims to make his case that the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy. Notably, he only looked at one side of the scale — claiming the agreement left the United States at a competitive disadvantage, harming U.S. industries. But he often ignored the benefits that could come from tackling climate change, including potential green jobs.

Trump also suggested that the United States was treated unfairly under the agreement. But each of the nations signing the agreement agreed to help lower emissions, based on plans they submitted. So the U.S. target was set by the Obama administration.

The plans are not legally binding, but developing and developed countries are treated differently because developed countries, on a per capita basis, often produce more greenhouse gases than developing countries. For instance, on a per capita basis, the United States in 2015 produced more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China — and eight times more than India.

Here’s a roundup of various statements made by the president during his Rose Garden address. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios in roundups of speeches.…—Glenn Kessler, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, “Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change dealThe Washington Post, 6/1/17

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Leaked Draft Shows How U.S. Weakened Climate Change Wording in the Arctic Declaration

A study in U.S. State Department’s perfidy (Click for full view)

The day before the Arctic Council met for its biannual ministerial last week, the United States requested six changes to the intergovernmental declaration that was to be issued—each of which weakened the language on climate change.

The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body representing all eight Arctic states, does not make policy, but the diplomatic work accomplished there is intended to trickle back to the countries and result in changes. An important part of that is the declaration issued at the end of each two-year chairmanship, which is signed by top officials from each country, to acknowledge the scientific and diplomatic work that was accomplished and to state the council’s goals going forward.

The last-minute move by the United States to weaken the document can be seen as a test case for what we can expect at larger, more consequential meetings of international organizations dealing with global warming issues and policy as President Donald Trump rolls back U.S. climate policies and backslides on international commitments.

At last week’s meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson brought the United States’ chairmanship to an end and passed the torch to Finland. When the declaration was released, it was applauded by some for its inclusion of language about the Paris climate agreement and climate change .

“There was a great deal of debate as to whether or not climate would even be addressed in the declaration,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said at a public event on Wednesday. “It is significant to note that not only was it addressed, it was acknowledged in the Fairbanks declaration that climate change is happening, that we’re seeing impacts in the Arctic at twice the rate as in other places, and it is attributable to emissions.”

Whit Sheard of the Circumpolar Conservation Union, an observer to the council, said he was relieved to see the final text. “I thought it was pretty impressive,” he said.

But those in the negotiations know how much more aggressive it could have been.…

…The sixth and final proposed change dealt with the findings of a report produced by a working group of the Arctic Council called “Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic.” The report presented the stark and far-reaching implications of climate change in the Arctic, and the earlier version of the draft included some of those findings.

The council noted “with concern that the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice in two decades, that melt processes in the Arctic may have greater impact on global sea level rise than previously estimated, and that changes in the Arctic may be affecting weather in mid-latitudes.”

Each point referred to a finding of the SWIPA report , a study that involved hundreds of scientists and which synthesized peer-reviewed science on various Arctic-related issues.

Further reading Seven facts you need to know about the Arctic methane timebomb
How Much Should You Worry About an Arctic Methane Bomb?
Antarctica’s Larsen C Iceberg Is on the Brink of Breaking Off
Methane release from melting permafrost could trigger dangerous global warming
Nitrous Oxide Poses Fresh Threat to the Arctic

The United States asked to delete that paragraph entirely.

Though the final version “notes with concern” the report’s findings and calls for the adoption of the report’s recommendations, it does not include the actual findings.—Sabrina Shankman, “Leaked Draft Shows How U.S. Weakened Climate Change Wording in the Arctic Declaration ,” InsideClimate News , 5/9/17

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Will Trump’s Slow-Mo Walkaway, World in Flames Behind Him, Finally Provoke Consequences for Planetary Arson?

Now that it seems virtually certain that Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, and the climate movement is quite rightly mobilizing in the face of this latest dystopian lurch, it’s time to get real about something: Pretty much everything that is weak, disappointing, and inadequate about that deal is the result of U.S. lobbying since 2009.

The fact that the agreement only commits governments to keeping warming below an increase of 2 degrees, rather than a much safer firm target of 1.5 degrees, was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that the agreement left it to individual nations to determine how much they were willing to do to reach that temperature target, allowing them to come to Paris with commitments that collectively put us on a disastrous course toward more than 3 degrees of warming, was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that the agreement treats even these inadequate commitments as non-binding, which means governments apparently do not have anything to fear if they ignore their commitments, is something else that was lobbied for and won by the United States.

The fact that the agreement specifically prohibits poor countries from seeking damages for the costs of climate disasters was lobbied for and won by the United States.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, right, speaks as Sens. Edward Markey, Maria Cantwell, and Tom Carper listen during a news conference to urge President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the Paris climate accord at the Capitol, May 24, 2017, in Washington. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The fact that it is an “agreement” or an “accord” and not a treaty — the very thing that makes it possible for Trump to stage his action-movie slow-mo walk away, world in flames behind him — was lobbied for and won by the United States.

I could go on. And on. Often the U.S. had help in this backroom bullying from such illustrious petro-states as Saudi Arabia. When aggressively lobbying to weaken the Paris accord, U.S. negotiators usually argued that anything stronger would be blocked by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. And that was probably true. But some of the weakening — particularly those measures focused on equity between rich and poor nations — was pursued mainly out of habit, because looking after U.S. corporate interests is what the United States does in international negotiations.

Whatever the reasons, the end result was an agreement that has a decent temperature target, and an excruciatingly weak and half-assed plan for reaching it. Which is why, when it was first unveiled, James Hansen, arguably the most respected climate scientist in the world, called the agreement “a fraud really, a fake,” because “there is no action, just promises.”

But weak is not the same as useless. The power of the Paris Agreement was always in what social movements resolved to do with it. Having a clear commitment to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C,” means there is no room left in the global carbon budget to develop new fossil fuel reserves.

…It was oil companies like the one Tillerson worked at for 41 years whose relentless lobbying helped ensure that the commitments made in Paris lack any meaningful enforcement mechanisms. That’s why one month after the agreement was negotiated, Exxon Mobil, with Tillerson still at the helm, came out with a report stating that “we expect oil, natural gas, and coal to continue to meet about 80 percent of global demand” between now and 2040. It was a bald expression of hubris by the purveyors of business as usual. Exxon knows full well that if we want a decent chance of keeping warming below 1.5-2 degrees, the stated goal of the Paris Agreement, the global economy needs to be virtually fossil-free by mid-century. But Exxon could offer those assurances to its investors — and claim it supported the agreement — because it knew that the Paris accord had no binding force.

It’s the same reason why the Tillerson faction of the Trump administration thought it could reconcile staying in Paris while simultaneously dismantling the centerpiece of the United States’ commitment under the agreement, the Clean Power Plan. Tillerson, better than almost anyone on the planet, knows how legally weak the agreement is. As CEO of Exxon, he helped make sure of that.

So as we try to make sense of this latest drama, make no mistake: The Trump administration was never divided between those who wanted to shred the Paris Agreement and those who wanted to respect it. It was divided between those who wanted to shred it and those who wanted to stay in it but completely ignore it. [Emphasis added. —Editor] The difference is one of optics; the same amount of carbon gets spewed either way.

Some say that’s not the point — that the real risk in the U.S. withdrawing is that it will encourage everyone else to lower their ambition, and soon everyone will be breaking up with Paris. Perhaps, but not necessarily. Just as Trump’s health care disaster is encouraging states to consider single payer more seriously than they have in decades, Trump’s climate arson is so far only fueling climate ambition in states like California and New York. Rather than throwing in the towel, coalitions like New York Renews, which is pushing hard for the state to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2050, are getting stronger and bolder by the day.

…And there is another call that is increasingly being heard from social movements around the world — for economic sanctions in the face of Trump’s climate vandalism. Because here’s a crazy idea: Whether or not it’s written into the Paris Agreement, when you unilaterally decide to burn the world, there should be a price to pay. And that should be true whether you are the United States government, or Exxon Mobil — or some Frankenstein merger of the two.

A year ago, the suggestion that the U.S. should face tangible punishment for putting the rest of the rest of humanity at risk was laughed off in establishment circles: Surely no one would put their trade relationships in danger for anything so frivolous as a liveable planet. But just this week, Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times, declared, “If the U.S. withdrew from the Paris accord, the rest of the world must consider sanctions.”

We’re likely a long way from major U.S. trading partners taking that kind of a step, but governments are not the only ones that can impose economic penalties for lethal and immoral behavior.  Movements can do so directly, in the form of boycotts and divestment campaigns targeting governments and corporations, on the South African model. And not just fossil fuel corporations, but Trump’s branded empire as well. Moral suasion doesn’t work on Trump. Economic pressure just might.

It’s time for some people’s sanctions.—Naomi Klein, “Will Trump’s Slow-Mo Walkaway, World in Flames Behind Him, Finally Provoke Consequences for Planetary Arson?The Intercept, 6/1/17

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4 ways U.S local leaders are starting to respond to Trump’s climate withdrawal

New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. joined cities around the world in lighting their city halls green to show support for the Paris Agreement on climate change. Clockwise from upper left: Barcelona, Paris, Warsaw, Boston, Mexico City, New York. (C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group)

When U. S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw his country from the Paris Agreement on climate change, he singled out one U. S. city to make his case. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh,” he said. “Not Paris.”

The mayor of Pittsburgh was not amused.

“I’m appalled that the President used my city to justify his unacceptable decision, as most other Pittsburghers are,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement on Thursday. “I was one of the nation’s mayors who went to Paris to fight for the accords, and my city, which has finally bounced back from decades of industrial carnage, will do all it can to promote its own environmental standards.”

Further reading: Despite Trump withdrawal, cities and states will ensure climate action moves forward

Peduto’s was one of hundreds of verbal volleys criticizing Trump’s decision. But many leaders of U. S. cities and states have been responding with more than words. Here’s four ways they’re fighting back against Trump and showing that they’re ready to stick with the spirit of the Paris Agreement regardless of what Trump does.

1. Doubling down on the Paris accord

While national governments are the only official signatories to the Paris Agreement, part of what has given the accord global momentum is the voluntary commitments made by other actors. Cities are chief among them, with more than 2,500 municipalities pledging to take action in the effort to fight climate change since the agreement was negotiated in 2015.

[Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities?]

Thursday afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reaffirmed that commitment with an announcement of an impending executive order “to honor the goals of the Paris agreement”. Already, the city has committed to reducing the Big Apple’s carbon emissions by 80 percent from 2005 to 2050.

The same day, the city council of Portland, Oregon, passed a resolution to move the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. That pledge has become the gold standard in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, led by Vancouver, which hosted a summit last month to help cities reach that ambitious target.

     Further reading: At ‘renewable cities’ forum, envisioning a city that produces more energy than it uses

And in Pittsburgh, Peduto also issued an executive order reaffirming that the city’s climate plans remain in line with the Paris Agreement. In July, city leaders are expected to publish the third version of the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan, which will likely one-up the city’s previous climate commitments. This effort to continually reach for more ambitious climate targets is keeping in line with the accord, whose premise is that countries will “ratchet up” their emissions reduction plans every five years.

2. Forming an alliance of states

Just hours after Trump’s decision was made public, three U. S. states with the largest economies  — California, New York, and Washington State — announced they are forming something called the United States Climate Alliance. While the exact function of the alliance remains unclear, a press statement released by Washington Governor Jay Inslee made clear some of the pact’s intentions.

“New York, California and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U. S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U. S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan,” the statement read. The Clean Power Plan was former U. S. President Barack Obama’s emissions-reduction effort, which he brought to the table at the Paris talks that forged the climate agreement.

As one signal of how states might deliver on that promise, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a USD 1.65 billion investment in renewable energy, the largest single such procurement by a U. S. state.

Since Thursday, the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico (a self-governing U. S. territory), Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia announced they would join the alliance. These states all voted against Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election, although some have governors affiliated with Trump’s Republican Party, suggesting the alliance has bipartisan support. Six other states — Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, and Ohio — also have announced their intention to meet their goals under the Paris Agreement, although they have not formally joined the alliance. Three of these states voted for Trump last year. In addition, eight of these states are signatories to the Under 2 MOU. That’s a pledge by “subnational” governments around the world, initiated by California Governor Jerry Brown, to take actions necessary to keep the world’s mean temperature from rising by more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100.

3. Putting money on the table

In his announcement, Trump decried the money that the U. S. pledged to implementing the Paris Agreement. A small part of that money would go to the U. N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Bonn-based office that coordinates global implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In response to Trump’s announcement, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity arm of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vast fortune, pledged USD 15 million to make up the funding gap.

That amount, however, is relatively small compared to the USD 3 billion the U. S. had previously pledged for the Green Climate Fund, which supports climate-related efforts in developing countries. The Obama administration had delivered only USD 1 billion by the time it left office in January, and Trump has signaled that he would zero out any future payments.

4. Standing in solidarity

Trump launched his first salvo against U. S. climate policy in March when he vowed to scrap the Clean Power Plan. At the time, the newly formed Mayors National Climate Action Agenda fired back, writing an open letter signed by 75 cities representing 42 million U. S. residents.

     Further reading: Climate-friendly cities pledge solidarity with U. S. mayors ahead of Trump presidency

That group, now calling themselves Climate Mayors, was at it again on Thursday. As of press time, 211 mayors have added their signatures to their latest missive, which reads in part: “We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”

Already, mayors are showing a desire to turn this solidarity into action. In March, they told automakers they were ready to make huge investments in electric vehicles — provided that car manufacturers can meet their need for utility trucks, vans, fire trucks and other vehicles more specific to municipal needs than private consumer preferences.—Gregory Scruggs, “4 ways U.S local leaders are starting to respond to Trump’s climate withdrawal,” Citiscope, 6/2/17

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Exxon Shareholders Approve Climate Resolution: 62% Vote for Disclosure

How to hit the brakes on climate change

ExxonMobil shareholders voted Wednesday to require the world’s largest oil and gas company to report on the impacts of climate change to its business—defying management, and marking a milestone in a 28-year effort by activist investors.

Sixty-two percent of shareholders voted for Exxon to begin producing an annual report that explains how the company will be affected by global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement. The analysis should address the financial risks the company faces as nations slash fossil fuel use in an effort to prevent worldwide temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Last year, 38 percent of Exxon shareholders supported essentially the same measure, which at the time was a record.

The vote at Exxon shows the rapid erosion of support for the company’s defiant stance on climate disclosure, and it caps a shareholder meeting season that saw unprecedented support for greater corporate disclosure on climate change. In recent weeks, shareholders voted in favor of climate risk analysis at two other major energy companies, Occidental Petroleum and PPL, Pennsylvania’s largest utility. Climate-related shareholder resolutions also garnered record support at other big U.S. utilities that rely on fossil fuels: Dominion Resources (47.8%), Duke Energy (46.4%) and DTE Energy (45%).

Further reading  Exxon chief urges Trump to back climate agreement
Trump Advisers Wage Tug of War Before Decision on Climate Deal
The Global Reaction to Trump’s Climate-Change Decision
Exxon’s Nod to Climate Change: A Board Member Who’s an Expert on It

In a week when President Donald Trump is expected to either back out of the Paris accord or scale down the U.S. commitment to cut carbon emissions, the vote at Exxon shows that momentum for action on climate is growing without White House leadership.  

Mainstream investment firms are asking harder questions of companies as scientific evidence of the need for deep de-carbonization of the global economy mounts.  Investigations, first by InsideClimate News  and then by the Columbia University School of Journalism and the Los Angeles Times, also showed that Exxon long knew of the risks posed by climate change, yet its leaders avoided disclosing those risks to the public and instead sowed doubt about the science. Attorneys general for New York and Massachusetts are now leading an investigation into whether Exxon misled shareholders  in violation of securities laws.

The oil industry and its allies are mounting a defense, with prominent industry analyst Daniel Yergin, the powerhouse lobby of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others opposing calls for climate change scenarios to be integrated into corporate financial disclosure. They say that securities law on disclosure is meant to inform investors of potential returns, not to implement social policy.

But institutional investors argue that climate risk is a long-term financial risk that should be integrated into financial reporting.

BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, with $5.1 trillion in assets under management, and several major global investors —including State Street, Aviva, and Legal & General—have signaled that they want more transparency on climate change risk. BlackRock’s first vote against corporate management on climate came this year against Occidental, where it was the largest institutional investor.

“I think we are witnessing a truly historic shift in shareholder support for these resolutions,” said Andrew Logan, director of the oil and gas program at Ceres, a nonprofit that works with institutional investors on sustainability issues. “It’s a sign that the world is getting ahead of the oil industry. When you have very conservative institutions like BlackRock and Vanguard taking these positions, you know the issue has changed in some fundamental way.”…—Marianne Lavelle, “Exxon Shareholders Approve Climate Resolution: 62% Vote for Disclosure,” InsideClimate News, 5/31/17

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Sinkhole forms in front of Mar-a-Lago; metaphors pour in

Sinkhole surrounded by metaphors, outside Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

A large sinkhole has formed in front of Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach estate belonging to President Trump.

Town officials posted a run-of-the-mill advisory about the sinkhole Monday morning:

“A 4′ x 4′ sinkhole has formed on Southern Boulevard directly in front of Mar-a-Lago,” the traffic alert read. “It appears to be in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach Utilities distribution crews have secured the area and will most likely need to do some exploratory excavation today.”

    Further reading: U.S. Interior Department Suppresses Sea Level Rise Study Conclusion

But where utility workers saw a repair project, the Internet saw a giant opening — for metaphors.…—Amy B Wang, “Sinkhole forms in front of Mar-a-Lago; metaphors pour in,” The Washington Post, 5/22/17

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It’s Not Just The Park Service: ‘Rogue’ Federal Twitter Accounts Multiply

Multiple Twitter accounts claiming to be run by members of the National Park Service and other U.S. agencies have appeared since the Trump administration’s apparent gag order. The account owners are choosing to remain anonymous. David Calvert/Getty Images

[A quick scan of a few of these rogue accounts show they are still active and leaking information or unauthorized views regarding their departments.—Editor]

“Rogue” accounts that have the look of those by real federal agencies are spreading like wildfire on Twitter.

The AltUSNatParkService Twitter account has gained more than 1 million followers and inspired the creation of many more “unofficial resistance” accounts for specific national parks and other entities, including accounts like Rogue NASA and AltUSForestService .

Some of these accounts — this list has compiled more than 80 of them — initially claimed to be run by members of these organizations, but many have since altered their descriptions, or in the case of the alternative National Park Service have said the account was handed off to environmentalists and activists.

But that’s just it. These are all claims. None of the account owners have come forward and identified themselves. Instead, they are choosing to remain anonymous and continue tweeting out facts about climate change and directly opposing the Trump administration.

While the accounts are making news with their defiant tweets and stances against President Trump, it should be noted that accounts of this type are not new. In fact, this has been happening for years as people have created accounts to mimic the language and tone of a North Korean News Service as well as more comedic accounts for fictional television characters like Tina from Bob’s Burgers .

Further reading Rogue National Park Accounts Emerge On Twitter Amid Social Media Gag Orders
The “alt” government agencies on Twitter are telling you everything President Trump won’t
Trump Reportedly Called National Park Service Over Inauguration Crowd Photos

What’s different about the number of rogue accounts that have come about as a result of the Trump administration’s apparent gag orders on some federal agencies is that this form of expression could be a logical way to oppose a media blackout.

There are several accounts related to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has reportedly been targeted by the Trump administration over its climate research. Accounts like @ungaggedEPA and Stuff EPA Would Say list similar missions: to “flood the Web with real climate facts” and say things the EPA “is unable to tell you.”

So even if these accounts are just run by supporters and not actual members of the agencies, do they still serve a purpose? Probably.

It’s true that most senators or congressional representatives probably don’t spend a ton of time looking for constituents on Twitter. So some of these accounts are encouraging their followers to take action by calling their congressional representatives and providing scripts for what to tell their lawmakers.…— Wynne Davis, “It’s Not Just The Park Service: ‘Rogue’ Federal Twitter Accounts Multiply,” All Tech Considered | NPR , 1/27/17

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Chevron: The Worst Stock In The Dow

Summary

The decrease in the price of oil per barrel has severely impacted Chevron’s revenue, profits, and cash flow.

For the last 4 years, Chevron has produced negative cumulative free cash flow, and has financed dividend payments with debt.

Chevron has made operational improvements, but still needs the price of oil to be at least $50/barrel to produce enough free cash flow to cover their dividend.

Based on my two-stage discounted cash flow model, I project 2% downside in Chevron’s stock.

Given the decrease in the price of oil, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) has reduced capital expenditures and operating expense in an effort to produce more free cash flow. Despite this, I still consider Chevron to be the worst stock on the Dow Jones and one of the worst dividend stocks on the market. This opinion is based on the following 3 factors:

  1. Chevron has not been able to afford their dividend payment for the last 4 years, which has resulted in depleted cash reserves and increasing debt. Chevron has a plan to produce enough free cash flow this year, but this is highly dependent on the price of oil and still presents a tremendous amount of risk. Chevron will likely continue being a slave to their dividend for years to come.
  2. The divergence of the price of oil relative to Chevron’s stock price has never been greater, which indicates the stock is overvalued.
  3. My two-stage discounted cash flow analysis also indicates that the stock is overvalued, even in a scenario where the price of oil increases considerably over the next 5 years.

Chevron’s Financial Snapshot

Click for full view

The decrease in revenue, net income, free cash flow, and EPS have all been a result of the decrease in the price of oil.

Click for full view

As I’ll discuss below, Chevron’s reducing cash balance and increasing debt is a result of continuing to pay a large dividend even with a significant free cash flow shortage over the last couple of years.

    Further reading: Big Oil piles on debt

Chevron Hasn’t Been Able to Afford Their Dividend for Years

I consider Chevron to be one of the worst large-cap dividend stocks on the market, if not the worst. The first thing I look at in a dividend stock is their payout ratio. I use free cash flow, which is the cash flow left over for companies to use at their discretion. As you can see in the table below, Chevron has produced negative free cash flow 3 out of the last 4 years. This has equaled a cumulative $38 billion free cash flow shortage over that time period. So how did Chevron pay for this? They used cash reserves and increased debt. There’s nothing I hate more than a company financing dividend payments with debt.…—Robert Riesen, “Chevron: The Worst Stock In The Dow – Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX),” Seeking Alpha, 6/2/17

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EPA halts methane rule for oil and gas industry

Credit: Robert Howarth

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday halted methane emission standards for oil and gas companies in its latest move to unwind Obama administration climate change rules, amid reports that the United States will withdraw from a global climate change agreement.

The agency issued a 90-day stay of the 2016 New Source Performance Standards for the oil and gas industry, which require companies to capture fugitive emissions, obtain engineer certifications and install leak detention devices while it reconsiders the rule.

The rule, completed last year under former President Barack Obama, was due to go into effect on June 3.

Further reading Methane Emissions: the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas
After Request from Waste Industry, EPA Will Reconsider Landfill Methane Rules
How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas
Senate unexpectedly rejects bid to repeal a key Obama-era environmental regulation
Canada’s Environmental Minister McKenna plans crackdown on pollution from oilpatch

The EPA said it expects to prepare a proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay.

Environmental groups vowed on Wednesday to block the EPA move in court.

“The Trump administration is giving its friends in the oil and gas industry a free pass to continue polluting our air,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We will fight Trump’s latest polluter giveaway in court.”

The Environmental Defense Fund also said it would sue the EPA to block a rollback of the rule.…—Valerie Volcovici, “U.S. EPA halts methane rule for oil and gas industry,” Reuters, 5/31/17

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New York City Divests from Wells Fargo

Mayor De Blasio and Comptroller Stringer Announce Plan to Cut Ties With Wells Fargo for City Deposits and Banking Transactions

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott M. Stringer jointly announced today that they will vote to prohibit New York City from entering into new contracts for deposits with Wells Fargo, as well as suspend the bank’s role as a senior book-running manager for NYC General Obligation and Transactional Finance Authority bond sales.

The New York City Banking Commission, which is scheduled to meet today, and of which the Mayor and the Comptroller are members, approves and oversees the banks that hold City deposits. Currently, Wells Fargo holds contracts with the City to provide banking services, including to operate “Lock Box” services that hold taxes and fees collected by the City. There is approximately $227 million of City dollars held in Wells Fargo accounts currently. Additionally, Wells Fargo acts as a trustee to the New York City Retiree Health Benefits Trust, which has current assets of approximately $2.6 billion. Recently, Wells Fargo received a Federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating of “needs improvement.” The ban will be revisited only when the bank’s rating is raised.

As such, today the Mayor and Comptroller will vote to prevent agencies from entering into new banking services or related contracts with Wells Fargo, as well as bar agencies from renewing or extending existing contracts on expiration. The City will also suspend the use of Wells Fargo as a senior book-running manager for municipal bonds – a position that allows the bank to take the lead on City bond sales – for one year. The only allowable exemption will be for affordable housing financing, which has a direct benefit to New York City residents.

Further reading 2 Cities To Pull More Than $3 Billion From Wells Fargo Over Dakota Access Pipeline
LA Moves Toward Divesting from Wells Fargo in DAPL Protest
Who’s Banking on the Dakota Access Pipeline?
Wells Fargo: Mea Non Culpa

… In February, Mayor de Blasio sent a letter to 17-banks and financial institutions urging an immediate withdrawal of financing for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The people of Standing Rock should not be threatened by the greed of a few wealthy oil industry executives ,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The Dakota Access Pipeline not only poses a threat to our environment, but to the human, tribal and water rights of the entire Standing Rock Reservation. We deplore allowing our pension funds to run the risks of being associated with such a dangerous and misguided project .”—Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ, “New York City Divests from Wells Fargo ,” Last Real Indians , 5/31/17

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 22 – Recrudescent Pipelines

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 22 – Recrudescent Pipelines
May 302017
 

May 30, 2017
We begin this edition with a recap of a heart-warming victory, a bold action by the Town of Dryden, and a memorial to a storied activist who passed away last week. The national and international turmoil seems emblematic of much (but not all!) that is happening in our nation. There has been much evidence of devolving vital matters that can only be expressed with such an ugly term as ‘recrudescent.’
But first the news.

Recent Media Coverage on Gas Storage Issue

We wanted to give you a recap of some of the recent media coverage revolving around the gas storage issue​, and to express our deep gratitude to all of you who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the past 6 and a half years to protect the Finger Lakes​. Remember, Crestwood’s plan was like a 3-legged stool; they wanted to store liquid propane, butane and natural gas. Last August they took liquid butane off the table and they just announced their suspension of the natural gas expansion.

Together, we have beaten back two of the three legs and the stool is ready to topple. Together, we will prevail in sending Crestwood back to Texas. Onward!

In the news:

A Recent five part series on WENY TV:

  1. WENY “Seneca Lake Showdown: “Crestwood Midstream Discusses LPG Proposal for Watkins Glen” 05.15.2017 : Will Ouweleen
  2. WENY “Seneca Lake Showdown: Opposing Agencies in DC Weigh in on Proposal” 05.16.2017 : 
  3. WENY “Seneca Lake Showdown: Local Support and Opposition Weigh In” 05.17.2017 : Will Ouweleen, Yvonne and Joseph; Dennis Fagan, Crestwood VP Brad Bacon
  4. WENY “Seneca Lake Showdown: Hutchinson, KS Explosion” 05.18.2017
  5. WENY “Seneca Lake Showdown Part 5: Reed, Gillibrand Weigh in on LPG Proposal” 05.19.2017

Notes on the WENY Series:

  • Parts 1 & 3: Will Ouweleen is featured in parts 1 & 3.
    Yvonne and Joseph in part 3: “Local Support and Opposition Weigh In.”
  • Part 3: The best of this segment is Chair of the legislature Dennis Fagan using his favorite scare tactic, feigning concern that Schuyler County will take a big hit in revenue and jobs if the salt plant closes, and later in the same segment Crestwood VP Brad Bacon stating unequivocally that they would never do that.
  • Part 4: The disaster at Hutchinson, Kansas, and what can happen when gas migrates out of the storage caverns and comes to the surface through old abandoned brine wells like the ones we have in downtown Watkins Glen.
  • Part 5: We get strong support from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

—Yvonne Taylor, “Recent Media Coverage on Gas Storage Issue,” Gas Free Seneca, 5/27/17

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Dominion pipeline project delayed

Credit: Nick Reynolds

After months of effort by local anti-natural gas activists, the under-construction expansion of a Dominion Transmission-owned compressor station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road will be delayed as it is forced to apply for a special use permit from the Town of Dryden.

The news, which came by way of a pair of press releases from the town and local organization Mothers Out Front, revealed that additional work would be taking place on the site, which will require Dominion to seek further approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the pipeline the station is a part of. The Town of Dryden now has the oversight to evaluate the plan as it currently exists, and it will be debated whether or not Dominion’s proposal will pass. 

Frank Mack, Communications Project Manager for Dominion Energy, said the project was paused after a reconsideration this week, but that the additional work would proceed as planned.

“After a brief meeting earlier this week, the New Market Project team re-examined its construction activities at Borger Station and determined that changes to the project are not required,” Mack wrote in an email statement. “We intend to continue construction of the project as originally designed and as currently permitted, and we will not be requesting any changes.”

Further reading: Related: Dominion Attempts To Calm Pipeline Concerns

The pipeline, dubbed the New Market Pipeline, was undergoing infrastructure improvements in order to increase the pipeline’s capacity to meet the energy demands of customers in the Hudson Valley served by Brooklyn Union Gas and New York State Electric and Gas and their desire to purchase cheaper, domestically-produced gas, rather than rely on imports from Canadian gas markets.

The Town of Dryden will be suspending the SWPPP (storm water pollution prevention plan) approval and building permit.  In addition, the Town of Dryden will require Dominion to apply for an amended Special Use Permit (SUP) and go through Site Plan Review, which was previously not required. The compressor station, which falls in a wetland that is part of the Cascadilla Creek watershed, was the subject of heavy scrutiny from organizations like Toxics Targeting (a local contaminant consulting and research firm) and Mothers Out Front, who have a led a widespread canvassing and email campaign in an effort to rail against the project, and in the wake of the delay news announced a community meeting addressing their next steps regarding the Borger expansion on June 5 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Varna Fire Hall in Varna.

“I am encouraged to see that the residents of Ellis Hollow will now have the protections of the Town of Dryden’s comprehensive plan and the zoning codes, including the special use permit process,” said Katie Quinn-Jacobs, volunteer team co-coordinator for Mothers Out Front in a statement. “On behalf of our dedicated volunteers and all those who have worked with us, I would like to extend a  heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the Town of Dryden for supporting our grassroots outreach work and responding to our concerns.”—Nick Reynolds, “Dominion pipeline project delayed (for now),” Ithaca Times, 5/25/17

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In Memoriam: Robert H. Boyle, a Watchdog of the Hudson River

Robert H. Boyle, at his home in 2000, was a crusading conservationist and a founder of the widely replicated group Riverkeeper. Credit Richard L. Harbus

Robert H. Boyle, a Brooklyn-born sportswriter and angler who became the unofficial guardian of the Hudson River as a crusading conservationist and a founder of a widely replicated watchdog group called Riverkeeper, died on Friday in Cooperstown, N.Y. He was 88.

The cause was cancer, his daughter, Stephanie Boyle Mays, said.

Mr. Boyle’s childhood affection for the river and for fishing — he went to boarding school in Highland Falls, N.Y. — were rekindled when he moved to Croton-on-Hudson from the West Coast in 1960 only to discover that decades of neglect had left the river (actually a tidal estuary) threatened by industrial pollution.

In 1965, he joined Scenic Hudson and other groups in a lawsuit against a proposed Consolidated Edison power plant at Storm King in the Hudson Highlands, warning that water-intake equipment would kill small fish.

Their suit resulted in the first federal court ruling affirming the right of citizens to mount challenges on the basis of potential harm to aesthetic, recreational or conservational values as well as tangible economic injury.

In 1970, as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, Mr. Boyle was among the first journalists to report that North American fish were contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. He also sounded an early alarm about global warming in his articles 30 years ago.

In 1980, the settlement of the Storm King suit, brought by several environmental groups against utility companies and government agencies, led to the formation of the Hudson River Foundation, a research organization endowed by acknowledged polluters. Mr. Boyle’s Fishermen’s Association had proposed such a group years before.…—Sam Roberts, “Robert H. Boyle, a Watchdog of the Hudson River, Dies at 88,” The New York Times, 5/22/17

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A Modest Proposal: The Banner needs a few smackeroos

With the seeming end of the campaign to prevent Crestwood from expanding its methane storage, the volunteer publishing resources on which We Are Seneca Lake’s newsletter, The Banner have depended, are being allocated elsewhere in the near future. And so the editor needs to find a way for this publication to become financially self supporting: we need for the first time the need to pay for some web resources. It seems that perhaps $300 might be all we need to function annually. If you haven’t gotten completely worn out trying to read The Banner each week and would like to contribute a bit toward its continuing as a compendium of news, science, regulations, judicial actions and the doings of activists locally, regionally and globally, please email the editor and put “a modest proposal” in the subject line.

We haven’t figured out exactly how much we need yet, and want to make sure we don’t receive more than necessary, which would tempt the editor with petty embezzlement. This seems a more reasonable way to get a few hundred dollars than going through the whole exercise of writing grants to foundations (which the editor is completely naive about). Thank you for your consideration. Now for that news…

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Recrudescent Pipelines

Leaked Documents Reveal Counter-terrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to ‘Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies’


A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counter-terrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.

Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component” and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters. One report, dated February 27, 2017, states that since the movement “generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse.” Drawing comparisons with post-Soviet Afghanistan, the report warns, “While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.”

More than 100 internal documents leaked to The Intercept by a TigerSwan contractor, as well as a set of over 1,000 documents obtained via public records requests, reveal that TigerSwan spearheaded a multifaceted private security operation characterized by sweeping and invasive surveillance of protesters.

Energy Transfer Partners has continued to retain TigerSwan long after most of the anti-pipeline campers left North Dakota, and the most recent TigerSwan reports emphasize the threat of growing activism around other pipeline projects across the country.

As policing continues to be militarized and state legislatures around the country pass laws criminalizing protest, the fact that a private security firm retained by a Fortune 500 oil and gas company coordinated its efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement to undermine the protest movement has profoundly anti-democratic implications. The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan’s militaristic approach to protecting its client’s interests but also the company’s profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures. Energy Transfer Partners has continued to retain TigerSwan long after most of the anti-pipeline campers left North Dakota, and the most recent TigerSwan reports emphasize the threat of growing activism around other pipeline projects across the country.

The leaked documents include situation reports prepared by TigerSwan operatives in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas between September 2016 and May 2017, and delivered to Energy Transfer Partners. They offer a daily snapshot of the security firm’s activities, including detailed summaries of the previous day’s surveillance targeting pipeline opponents, intelligence on upcoming protests, and information harvested from social media. The documents also provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles.

TigerSwan did not respond to a request for comment. Energy Transfer Partners declined to comment, telling The Intercept in an email that it does not “discuss details of our security efforts.”…—Alleen Brown, Will Parrish, Alice Speri, “Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to ‘Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies’,” The Intercept, 5/27/17

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As It Seeks to Slash EPA Science Office, Trump Administration Insists It Isn’t Anti-Science

The Office of Research and Development has been at frontlines of virtually every environmental crisis. Trump wants to cut its funding in half

Almost 1,000 people attended the People’s March for Climate in Boise. Credit: Harrison Berry

When the city of Toledo temporarily lost access to clean drinking water several years ago after a bloom of toxic algae, the Environmental Protection Agency sent scientists from its Office of Research and Development to study health effects and formulate solutions.

The same office was on the front lines of the Flint water crisis and was a critical presence in handling medical waste from the U.S. Ebola cases in 2014.

Thomas Burke, who directed ORD during the last two years of the Obama administration and was the agency’s science adviser, calls the office the nation’s “scientific backstop in emergencies.”

President Trump’s 2018 budget would slash ORD’s funding in half as part of an overall goal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent.

A statement from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not directly address the cuts to ORD, but offered broad defense of the proposed agency budget, saying it “respects the American taxpayer” and “supports EPA’s highest priorities with federal funding for priority work in infrastructure, air and water quality, and ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.”

ORD has no regulatory authority, but it conducts the bulk of the research that underlies EPA policies. ORD scientists are involved in “virtually every major environmental challenge the nation has,” Burke said. Diminishing the role and input of the office, he said, risked leaving the country “uninformed about risks and public health.”

“In time, you’re flying blind,” he said. “Everything becomes a mystery.”

Further reading Scientists just published an entire study refuting Scott Pruitt on climate change
As Seas Around Mar-a-Lago Rise, Trump’s Cuts Could Damage Local Climate Work
Trump Budget’s Cuts to Climate ‘Totally Inexplicable,’ Former Agency Heads Say

Trump’s budget, released Tuesday , reflects the president’s wish list. The numbers likely will change by the time it goes through the congressional appropriations process, but the proposed cuts are consistent with the administration’s push against environmental regulation and scientific funding. Many of the cuts fall on agencies involved with climate change research, including the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

…Christine Todd Whitman, a former EPA administrator who worked for George W. Bush from 2001 to June 2003, said the proposed ORD cuts are more drastic than anything she can remember.

Whitman said she expects Congress will restore much of the funding, but she worries about the message behind the budget.

“A budget to me was always a policy document,” she said. Regardless of what Congress does, this administration’s policy “indicates to me [that] they’ll be looking for other ways to … stifle the research and slow it down,” she said.

OMB and the EPA did not return requests for comment about the ORD cuts.

ORD is one of several EPA programs listed under a section of the budget called “2018 major savings and reforms.” The others include EPA enforcement (24 percent cut); Superfund, which cleans up toxic waste sites (30 percent); categorical state grants (45 percent); and funding for watershed protection, energy efficiency and voluntary climate programs, which would be eliminated.

The budget states the ORD reductions would allow the EPA to “focus on core Agency responsibilities … At lower funding levels for the Office of Research and Development, the Agency would prioritize intramural research activities that are either related to statutory requirements or that support basic and early stage research and development activities in the environmental and human health sciences.”

Whitman and Burke said ORD already does that — and halving the budget would make it virtually impossible to meet EPA’s regulatory mandate.

ORD is “the backbone of the scientific research that goes on,” Whitman said. “Every regulation promulgated by EPA is based in science.”

Whitman said the EPA was tasked with cleaning up the Hart Senate Office Building in 2001 after then-Sen. Tom Daschle received an envelope containing anthrax powder. Whitman remembers asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a safe standard of anthrax exposure. The CDC didn’t know, she said, so ORD did the research and set it at zero.

“These are the kinds of things you lose” when you de-fund the “national nerve center of the science challenges facing not just the EPA, but all the states and all the communities,” Burke said.…—Lisa Song, “As It Seeks to Slash EPA Science Office, Trump Administration Insists It Isn’t Anti-Science ,” Boise Weekly | Pro Publica, 5/27/17

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Gas Not The Answer: Where Is BP’s Plan B?

BP’s Juniper LNG Platform at launch

Summary

  • California electricity production in 2017 from renewable power has grown substantially and gas contribution has fallen significantly.
  • The transition forcing closure of the Navajo coal plant is not just a gas substitution story; solar PV is a significant player.
  • All of the 25% decrease in coal powered electricity in Iowa since 2008 has been replaced by wind; gas is not a significant contributor to power generation in Iowa.
  • Tucson Electric Power’s solar PV + batteries power purchase agreement at less than 4.5c/KWh foreshadows the end of gas peaking plants.
  • BP’s business totally focused on dramatic expansion of oil and gas; there is no plan B.

What is happening? … straws in the wind

i) Is coal being replaced by natural gas?
ii) It isn’t just about coal, renewable energy is now displacing gas…
iii) Solar PV + batteries now cheaper than peaking gas

…Batteries have additional benefits over a gas turbine system for stabilizing the grid, especially for preventing voltage/frequency oscillations after fast changes in load or generation. This is because batteries have a very fast response time (milliseconds) in comparison with a gas turbine (8-30 sec). For reasons explained in the link, a 10 MW battery system provides equivalent short term response to a 100 MW gas turbine..…—Keith Williams, “Gas Not The Answer: Where Is BP’s Plan B? – BP p.l.c. (NYSE:BP),” Seeking Alpha, 5/26/17

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Bears Ears National Monument Is the Next Standing Rock

Indian Creek in Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. (U.S. Bureau of Land Management)

There may not be a pipeline at stake, but if Donald Trump has his way, Bears Ears National Monument in Utah could be stripped of its federal protections and become the next front in the battle between indigenous rights and oil profits.

The breathtakingly beautiful landscape, occupying 1.3 million acres, is sacred to five Native American tribes, including the Navajo and Hopi, who set aside their differences and pushed the government for years to protect the land from myriad threats. Their efforts paid off: Just weeks before the end of his tenure, President Barack Obama designated the area as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

Bears Ears is rich with indigenous history, housing countless ancient pueblos, petroglyphs, rock paintings and precious archeological sites where tribal communities conduct ceremonies even today.

Further reading: Interior Dept names 26 monuments under review

But Obama’s designation of Bears Ears as a national monument was roundly denounced by Utah’s legislators, who have pushed for oil wells to be drilled in the area. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch called Obama’s action “the height of executive hubris” in a Washington Post editorial titled “It’s time to undo the federal land grab of Bears Ears.” Hatch lauded Trump, saying he had “never seen a president so committed to reining in the federal government and so eager to address the problems caused by these overbearing monument designations.”

The day after Hatch’s editorial was published, Trump signed an executive order to “review” all national monument designations since 1990, echoing the Utah senator’s exact words in calling Antiquities Act protections “a massive federal land grab.” Trump directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make final recommendations on many monuments within 120 days of his executive order. But he singled out Bears Ears, demanding a decision in just 45 days, which were up Friday.

Trump promised to keep federal land protections in place during his campaign but changed his tune when Utah’s Republican contingent threw its support behind him. That apparent quid pro quo has been well documented. As Mary Ellen Tustin at the Center for American Progress wrote, “President Trump’s embrace of the Utah delegation and its pet cause is especially interesting given that most of the delegation’s members were vocal in their opposition to him during the presidential primary.”

No president has ever reversed a previous administration’s national monument designation, and it is unclear whether Trump has the authority to do so. Still, the anticipated decision by Zinke to reverse Bears Ears’ protection is a dangerous step, especially if Trump’s reversal of Obama’s decision to block the Dakota Access pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D., is any indication.…—Sonali Kolhatkar, “Bears Ears National Monument Is the Next Standing Rock,” Truthdig, 5/26/17

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NATO joins the Pentagon in deeming climate change a threat multiplier

President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May await a photo opportunity at a NATO summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A new NATO special report concludes that climate change is the ultimate “threat multiplier”—meaning that it can exacerbate political instability in the world’s most unstable regions—because by intensifying extreme weather events like droughts, climate change stresses food and water supplies. In poor, arid countries already facing shortages, this increased stress can lead to disputes and violent conflicts over scarce resources. As the report concludes:

“…food, water and climate are intimately connected with the sectors of economic development, demography, energy, ecosystems and urban planning—to name but a few interrelated sectors. The international community must improve the international food market to increase stability of prices and availability. Last but not least, the Parties who have ratified the 2015 Paris climate agreement must live up to their pledges, including on climate financing for developing countries.”

While the NATO report’s main focus is on exploring the specifics of food and water scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa, it also effectively documents the overall role that climate change plays in exacerbating the problem. One study just published in Environmental Research Letters examines how scientists can better characterize and inform risk management actions, for example by identifying the values that are at risk and by framing key information in a way that clearly communicates why decisions matter. As study co-author Peter Gleick explains:

“The new NATO study highlights the growing risks of violence in the Middle East linked to food and water problems worsened by accelerating climate change. These are worries also identified by US intelligence and military experts and will have to be factored into any assessments of national security priorities and actions for the future.”

And it’s not just NATO; the Defense Department considers climate change a threat multiplier as well . In fact, Gleick published an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the connections between environment and security over 25 years ago In that piece, Gleick noted that “migrating populations in search of more benevolent environmental and social conditions may undermine regional peace and security … the era of the Cold War may soon be replaced by the era of environmental conflict.”

A quarter century later, we’re still grappling with the interconnections between environment and security, which are becoming increasingly evident. For example, another of Gleick’s papers found that the global warming-amplified drought in Syria contributed to that region’s civil unrest . Donald Trump is about to visit Sicily, which has been flooded with refugees from the region. These are the types of climate change-amplified risks that concern the Pentagon and NATO.

Further reading G7 talks: Trump isolated over Paris climate change deal
Trump Ends Trip Where He Started: At Odds With Allies and Grilled on Russia
In Europe, World Leaders Try To Change Trump’s Mind On Climate Change
GOP Letter Urging Trump to Dump Climate Deal Gets Legal Argument Wrong, Law Experts Say

Climate change may be humanity’s worst-ever risk management failure. We’re causing rapid changes to the climate of the only planet we inhabit, on which we and every other species on Earth rely. Human civilization only developed over the past 10,000 years, during which time the Earth’s climate entered a relatively stable period. This stability allowed humans to settle in areas where we could rely on relatively consistent weather patterns, and develop agricultural production based on stable weather and climate. But we’re now raising Earth’s temperature at a rate 20 to 50 times faster than normally happens when it transitions out of an ice age. This rapid climate destabilization threatens the foundations of human society.…—Dana Nuccitelli, “NATO joins the Pentagon in deeming climate change a threat multiplier ,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , 5/25/17

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U.S. Wind Energy Installations Surge: A New Turbine Rises Every 2.4 Hours

The wind energy industry supports more than 100,000 jobs, and the past three months have kept workers busy with installations, according to AWEA. Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

Every two and a half hours, workers installed a new wind turbine in the United States during the first quarter of 2017, marking the strongest start for the wind industry in eight years, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released on May 2.

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Much of the demand for new wind energy generation in recent years has come from Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, GM, Walmart and Microsoft that are buying wind energy in large part for its low, stable cost.

Click for full size map

The significant increase this past quarter, when 908 new utility-scale turbines came online, is largely a result of the first wave of projects under the renewable energy tax credits that were extended by Congress in 2015, as well as some overflow from the prior round of tax credits. The tax credits’ gradual phase-out over a period of five years encouraged developers to begin construction in 2016, and those projects are now beginning to come online.

A recent AWEA-funded report projects continued steady growth for the wind energy industry through 2020. Energy analysts, however, say that growth could slow after 2020 as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires.

“We are in a PTC bubble now between 2017 and 2020,” said Alex Morgan, a wind energy analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which recently forecast wind energy developments in the U.S. through 2030. “Our build is really front-loaded in those first four years. We expect that wind drops off in early 2020s to mid-2020s, and then we expect it to come back up in the late 2020s.

A key driver in the early 2020s will be renewable portfolio standards in states like New York and California, which have both mandated that local utilities get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

By the mid-2020s, the cost of unsubsidized onshore wind will be low enough to compete with both existing and new fossil-fueled generation in many regions of the U.S., Morgan said.…—Phil McKenna, “U.S. Wind Energy Installations Surge: A New Turbine Rises Every 2.4 Hours,” InsideClimate News, 5/3/17

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Thai Environmentalists Seek Easing of Protest Restrictions

A man holds up a sign protesting against a proposed coal-fired plant on Thailand’s coast, in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 17, 2017. The Thai government has put on hold construction of the plant near the pristine beaches on the Andaman Sea

Thai environmental activists are calling for the military government to withdraw orders that currently place severe curbs on protests against industrial and development programs.

Since taking power in May 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has looked to tough legislation, including articles in the interim charter able to override all other laws and regulations.

In 2016, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha applied the laws from Article 44 of the charter to revise environmental regulations and allow infrastructure development to cover a wide range of sectors.

New orders override local laws

These areas include construction of transportation systems, hospitals, irrigation systems and special economic zones for industrial development.

The government orders override regulations governing town planning, ministerial regulations or laws set by local authorities, planning acts and local regulations.

Environmentalists say the orders speed up the process for construction of controversial projects, but leave local people and the environment without protection.

Sor Rattanamanee Polka, a lawyer from the Community Resource Center Foundation, told local media the situation for community rights campaigners “will be more difficult unless the NCPO revokes the orders,” which currently “severely violate people’s rights and diminish environmental protection in favor of large projects.”…—Ron Corben, “Thai Environmentalists Seek Easing of Protest Restrictions,” Voice of America, 5/26/17

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Dakota Pipeline Builder Rebuffed by Feds in Bid to Restart Work on Troubled Ohio Gas Project

One of Energy Transfer Partners’ state violations involved the release of “several million gallons” of thick mud, used for drilling underground, into some of the state’s highest quality wetlands. Credit: Ohio EPA

The builder of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline was told by federal regulators Thursday that it cannot resume construction on new sections of its other major project, the troubled Rover gas pipeline in Ohio, following a massive spill and a series of violations .

In mid-April, Energy Transfer Partners spilled several million gallons of thick construction mud into some of Ohio’s highest-quality wetlands, smothering vegetation and aquatic wildlife in an area that helps filter water between farmland and nearby waterways.

New data reveals the amount of mud released may be more than double the initial estimate  of about 2 million gallons. Fully restoring the wetlands could take decades, Ohio environmental officials have said.

Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered Energy Transfer Partners to halt construction there on May 10.

Further Reading Fearing More Pipeline Spills, 114 Groups Demand Halt to Ohio Gas Project
Dakota Pipeline Builder Under Fire for Ohio Spill: 8 Violations in 7 Weeks
Dakota Pipeline Is Ready for Oil, Without Spill Response Plan for Standing Rock
Major New Pipeline Proposed Next to Enbridge Line That Ruptured in 2010
Crude Slumps Below $50 as Market Is Underwhelmed by OPEC Deal

At the time, FERC told the company it could continue work at the rest of its construction sites, but it could not start new operations. The order identified eight future work locations to be temporarily off limits.

Energy Transfer Partners quickly informed FERC  that construction had, in fact, already started at two of the sites on the list ahead of the order. The company asked to be allowed to continue work at the Captina Creek location in eastern Ohio and the Middle Island Creek site in northwestern West Virginia, arguing that immediately halting work would increase the risk of spill or other environmental impacts there.

Click for full size map

According to the company’s letter to federal regulators, “any remedial action to withdraw and then re-disturb the [Captina Creek] area at a later date will greatly increase the likelihood of a release from surface erosion into the creek.” Energy Transfer Partners also noted that if work stopped in West Virginia, a drilling hole could collapse and the company would risk losing some of its drilling equipment.

FERC was not swayed. On May 25, regulators told Energy Transfer Partners  that the work sites would remain barred after their own assessment showed the construction zones were stable.…—Zahra Hirji, “Dakota Pipeline Builder Rebuffed by Feds in Bid to Restart Work on Troubled Ohio Gas Project ,” InsideClimate News , 5/26/17

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How a Small Town Is Standing Up to Fracking

Stacy Long, on her property in Grant Township (right), has been fighting to stop her town from being used as a toxic waste dump. Mike Belleme for Rolling Stone

On October 24th, 2012, several agents from Pennsylvania General Energy, an oil-and-gas exploration company, met privately with local officials from the rural western Pennsylvania community of Grant Township. Fracking was booming in Pennsylvania, and PGE had been trucking tens of thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater to faraway injection wells in Ohio. Developing an injection well somewhere in Pennsylvania could save the company around $2 million a year, and Grant Township, a swath of woods and hayfields slightly larger than Manhattan and populated by a mere 741 people, seemed like an especially good spot.

Most of the meeting’s attendees – which included the three Grant Township supervisors, a rep from the local state senator’s office and an official from the county’s office of planning and development – will not speak about the event. But about 10 months later, one of the supervisors passed along a notice to a retired elementary-school teacher named Judy Wanchisn. In lettering so small “you need a magnifying glass to read,” says Wanchisn, the notice declared that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “plans to issue an Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit to PGE  . . .  to construct and operate one class II-D brine disposal injection well.” Wanchisn had no idea what that meant, but she could tell it was bad.

Wanchisn, now 74, lives about a mile from the proposed injection-well site, in a modest white ranch house overlooking East Run, a creek that’s popular with anglers and home to an ancient salamander species called the hellbender. She was born and raised in Grant Township and taught elementary school for 20 years in the neighboring community of Purchase Line. When she received the EPA announcement, she was enjoying her retirement, spending days with grandkids and girlfriends, gardening and taking care of her husband, who has a heart condition. But she soon found herself spending more time in front of the computer, researching injection wells.

…Oil-and-gas companies in Pennsylvania once delivered fracking wastewater to sewage-treatment plants. But in the summer of 2008, residents began noticing that their water had developed a funny taste and their dishwashers were malfunctioning. A steel plant reported the water was corroding its machinery. Last year, the EPA banned the practice. The majority of fracking wastewater produced in Pennsylvania is now treated in industrial facilities and reused in fracking wells. Eventually, the mixture becomes too toxic to handle, at which point it is pumped into an injection well. In 2011, a well operated by EXCO Resources oozed waste for four months into a remote forest in central Pennsylvania. A landmark study published last year in Environmental Science & Technology, co-authored by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, determined that a West Virginia injection-well site was “impacting the stream that runs through the area.” USGS studies have also linked injection to earthquakes in Ohio, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Judy Wanchisn, who rallied neighbors to fight back. “People didn’t want anyone messing around with their water,” she says. “They understand ‘you poison my water and I don’t have a home.'” Mike Belleme for Rolling Stone

Essentially, Wanchisn learned, the ground beneath her would be used as a vast toxic-waste storage locker. PGE planned to inject 42,000 gallons of fracking wastewater a day into a layer of rock 7,500 feet beneath the ground, where it was to remain for eternity. The pumping would continue 24 hours a day, every day, for half a generation or more – Wanchisn’s teenage grandchildren could be married with children, and PGE would still be injecting fracking waste.

…As the Trump administration and Congress continue to dismantle environmental regulations, the question remains: Who will fight back? To some extent, we have already seen the answer. It is rural communities, it is poor communities, it is communities of color, places like Standing Rock, and Flint, Michigan, and Grant Township, vulnerable communities that again and again find themselves on the front lines of the fight for a cleaner world. These are the places where industry goes to dump its waste and do its dirtiest work. “It is areas that suck,” says Long. “Areas that don’t have a population, or at least a wealthy, educated population. It is areas like Grant Township. We are a sacrifice zone.”…—Justin Nobel, “How a Small Town Is Standing Up to Fracking ,” Rolling Stone, 5/22/17

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    1. (present – Vol. 3, No. 09)
    2. (Vol. 3, No.08 – Vol. 2, No. 50)
    3. (Vol. 2, No. 49 – Vol. 2 No. 40)
    4. (Vol. 2. No. 39 – Vol. 2, No. 28)
    5. (Vol. 2. No. 27 – Vol. 2, No. 18), etc.

The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 21 – Tales of the Abnormal

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 21 – Tales of the Abnormal
May 232017
 

May 23, 2017
In the face of so many actions from the White House that require informed and focused resistance, activists are challenged to balance between intense, on-going campaigns and the need to address a stream of blurted new issues from an administration which hardly seems to aspire to focused messages and coherent action. And thus hitherto unthinkable actions begin to have the trappings of ‘normal.’
First the news.

Senate hearing on Trump’s FERC nominations

Notice : Senate Committee On Energy & Natural Resources Hearing:
When : May 25, 2017 10AM
Where: Dirksen Senate Office Building
Room 366
Washington, DC

HEARING ANNOUNCEMENT

COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

This notice is to advise you of a hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The hearing will be held on Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building  in Washington, DC .  

The purpose of the hearing is to consider the nominations of Mr. Dan R. Brouillette of Texas to be Deputy Secretary of Energy, and Mr. Neil Chatterjee of Kentucky and Mr. Robert F. Powelson of Pennsylvania to be Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.    

The hearing will be webcast live on the committee’s website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the hearing is complete. Witness testimony will be available on the website at the start of the hearing.

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UNFRACTURED
A hopeful documentary about fighting with your whole heart

UNFRACTURED follows introspective biologist and mother [and damn good poet— Editor] Sandra Steingraber as she reinvents herself as an outspoken activist and throws herself into a an environmental war that many believe is unwinnable.

Branded a “toxic avenger” by Rolling Stone, Sandra quickly emerges as a leader of New York’s biggest grassroots movement in decades. Determined to win an uncompromising battle with the oil and gas industry, Sandra decides she must fight with her whole heart—devoting all her time, energy, and money to the cause. But as the film opens, her personal life is thrown into crisis when her husband Jeff begins having one stroke after another. She knows her family needs her at home, but Sandra can’t stop—not until she and her allies win a state-wide ban on fracking.

I know—and the people all gathered here today know—that the work we must do to ban fracking is bigger than any one of our individual tragedies. Because we are fighting for everyone’s sons and daughters and husbands and families. Because we are fighting for life itself!”— Sandra Steingraber, in a rally speech shortly after Jeff’s stroke

Sandra believes that fracking (a natural gas extraction process the drills horizontally through the Earth and shatters the bedrock with water and toxic chemicals) contaminates the environment and threatens our health. For the past thirty-five years, Sandra has been trying to protect people’s heath by encouraging us to protect the environment. But her efforts have always failed. Now, as fracking threatens to come into her rural community in upstate New York, Sandra must succeed. She believes her children’s lives depend on it.

Shot over the last year of the historic fight against fracking in New York, Unfractured offers an intimate perspective on an epic battle. We watch as Sandra debates the gas industry, delivers fiery rally speeches, and marches alongside other protestors. But when Sandra realizes that scientific evidence alone is not enough to win a ban, she visits anti-fracking activists in Romania, who have inspired her from afar. In Romania, she is trailed by unmarked cars and pepper sprayed by police. Back at home and motivated by her experiences abroad, Sandra joins with her neighbors to lead a civil disobedience campaign, is arrested for blockading a gas storage site, and is hauled away to jail.


About making the film:

Sandra and I had worked on a film together previously, Living Downstream (www.livingdownstream.com ), based on Sandra’s book of the same name. That film followed Sandra as she traveled around North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. When we screened the film at its [March, 2010] World Premiere in Ithaca at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Shaleshock was there, to educate the audience members on the hazards of fracking. Around the same time, Sandra published “Shale GameOrion Magazine. This was the first time I’d really heard of fracking. But over the next few years, as Sandra and I toured the film around, I watched her become more and more involved in New York’s anti-fracking movement. 

I was really captivated by the time, energy, and money that was being committed to the fight by so many regular people. I was amazed by the political power that citizens were displaying, and the profound commitment thousands of New Yorkers had to the movement. I would watch videos of speeches, rallies, and press conferences on YouTube from my home in Toronto, and I would get goose bumps. I knew then that the story of the fight against fracking in New York was the kind of story I’d like to tell in my next documentary. 

What has emerged out of the 200 hours of footage that I shot—and out of the approximately 50 hours of footage that was supplied to me by the amazing videographers who have been working alongside the local grassroots activists—is really the story of one activist’s experience of the movement. The film follows Sandra as she works at the state level, speaking at rallies and press conferences in Albany. Then if follows her as she travels to Romania to learn about the anti-fracking activists there. Finally, it comes back and follows her experience of the We Are Seneca Lake campaign. In the end, it’s the story of one woman’s work amongst a community of thousands.

WASL’s blockades are a big part of the film, which features four such actions. The film features footage captured by many of the videographers who were also blockading or working alongside the activists, including Heriberto (Eddie) Rodriguez, Bob Nilsson, Colleen Boland, and Faith Meckley. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who was involved for allowing me to capture some of the key moments from the early days of this important grassroots struggle.—Chanda Chevannes

For more info on the film’s debut and viewing opportunities: updates on screenings can be found at the UNFRACTURED Facebook page. Also get updates from Chanda herself by signing up for Chanda Chevannes’ newsletter. And check in for updates also at the UNFRACTURED website.


Unlike other films on the issue, this documentary is not a polemic on the harms of fracking. Instead, this observational documentary is an intimate look at one activist’s convictions, hopes, and sacrifices. Ultimately, UNFRACTURED takes us through a battle of astonishing international significance and into the life and mind of a complicated and compelling woman, asking us to consider the risk and reward of activism.— Chanda Chevannes, “UNFRACTURED: A hopeful documentary about fighting with your whole heart ,” Unfractured , 5/15/17

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Letters:

Mr. President, governing is not so easy, is it?

Dear Mr. President from a Village Trustee:

Tony Del Plato, at dinner with his family.

Greetings.

We’re both winners. You are the president of the United States and I am a trustee of the Village of Interlaken, in the heart of the Finger Lakes. We’re about the same age, white and male, and grew up in New York City. First electoral posts for both of us. Political virgins! Ha! Ha!

It’s exhilarating to be congratulated, isn’t it? Of course some plaudits are insincere, even dishonest. Some friends have offered their condolences. They say it’s a “thankless job.” You know what that’s about. After 100 days, you’ve been getting lots of push back trying to make America great again. Do you think dismantling the administrative state will make things right?

You now represent the interests of nearly 319 million Americans as well as Trump Incorporated. My village, of which there are less than 700 residents, is among 550 villages in New York. The state also has 932 towns, 62 counties and 62 cities. We’re all obliged to follow the U.S. Constitution.

What do you think about being in the business of governing? More complicated than closing casinos or hustling steaks. There are so many rules and protocols. What to do, when, how and with whom. Who to talk to and who not to talk to. It’s no wonder you get facts confused.

As I’m finding out, governing is more than pronouncements and declarations. It’s not all rallies and cheers. But it’s trumpets and fanfare for you. You show up for the ceremony and after signing an executive order you get to give away a pen.

I’ve been on the job a brief time since being sworn in by the village clerk on April 3. I have attended workshops like “Boot Camp for New Municipal Representatives” that includes open meetings, ethics and taxation strategies.

I am a Water Protector and a newly appointed Water Commissioner of my village. I have a much smaller but no less important job than you. I have visited the village water pump house and I am familiarizing myself with our waste water treatment plant too. Can you keep your eyes peeled on America’s vast water network from 5th Avenue, D.C. or Mar-a-Lago?

I recently heard that your EPA secretary is considering hiring a private law firm to rewrite the regulations for the Waters of the United States. You probably know that these laws protect streams, lakes and wetlands. Are government lawyers unable to edit these regs? Will these new laws gut the administrative apparatus of the EPA and help you get the job done quickly?

You campaigned as a peoples’ man who would “clean out the swamp of corruption” in Washington. How is that going? As you know, there are still huge trust issues between citizens and the elected officials who spend our tax dollars. According to The New York Times, New York leads the nation in political corruption. Interlaken has its own problems.

Lastly, about the Chinese hoax. Do you really believe this or are you playing “chicken” with the climate and the rest of the world? I don’t have to tell you, do I? This is a big issue to a lot of us. More than 200,000 people visited you recently at the White House.

According to a Gallup Poll in March, half of Americans are now concerned with global warming. Furthermore, a March CBS/Minnesota poll found 68 percent of Americans agree with the conclusions of 97 percent of the world’s scientists, that human activities are significantly impacting the climate.

The facts include melting glaciers releasing methane from the permafrost; warming and rising of the oceans; CO alerts in London, Beijing and LA; the atmosphere is now measuring 410 parts/million of CO2 and climbing. I know you don’t want to hear it. Computer models are only guestimates about how fast or vast the impacts will be, based on what we know. Many problems will arise from what we don’t know.

Mr. President, do you listen to people or do you just tweet them and egg ’em on at rallies? You had to be a talker in the NYC real estate world. Yeah, you bluffed and conned your way in and out of deals. When you didn’t know something, hell if you’d admit it! Keep ’em guessing. Make it up as you go along. You know, bait ‘n’ switch. As long as you close a deal. Is this any way to run a country?

I’ll write again and let you know how it’s going.

—Tony Del Plato, ” GUEST APPEARANCE: Mr. President, governing is not so easy, is it? ,” Finger Lakes Times , 5/7/17

Tony Del Plato is project manager for Solar Seneca. He has been a chef for over 30 years. He currently is a partner of A Stone’s Throw B&B in Interlaken and he is an Interlaken Village Board member

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For a poisoned mother and her children

A visit with Stella Martin in Palenville in the Catskills of NY to view and report on the toxic landfill contamination from illegal dumping that has led to cadmium, arsenic, lead poisoning and seizures in her children. Credit: Environmental Coffee House

Stella Renee Martin moved in to upstate NY over a decade ago, but as many people who live upstate know, being a valued resident is counted in the generations one’s family has lived in a locale, not  in the years or even in the decades.   Stella took great pride in the little house she made her own for her kids and herself in Palenville, NY.  She planted a garden with the right plants to attract the birds and butterflies she loved.  She didn’t worry that her house was adjacent to a landfill, and trucking company.  The permit for dumping was for yard waste only.

In 2012 and 2013 large trucks filled with anything but yard waste started dumping in the landfill; large quantities of construction and demolition debris, and other unknown, questionable stuff.   Stella became very ill, along with her young children living next to this landfill; originally mystified by the symptoms she slowly became certain that the landfill and the dust from it were the cause of her and her kids’ sickness.   Her children started having seizures and she started having problems with her throat and breathing.  Her son’s eyes started rolling in his head and he had uncontrollable tremors at times, her daughter’s seizures got worse.  Stella discovered that she herself had lesions in both her brain and her lungs; her memory was severely impacted.

Stella discovered most horrifically that they have cadmium in their blood.  The kids are suffering from learning disabilities attributed to environmental exposure. Stella is on disability for the environmental brain damage she has sustained.

She stood up for herself and her children in a manner akin to a mother bear.   She spoke out and went to town board meetings etc., to try to get some kind of help for her situation; she called the DEC, EPA, DOH and others.   She researched like a Harvard graduate student and recorded and videotaped huge quantities of information and data.  Unfortunately for her, she is not a third generation good old boy like the landfill owner, but a transplant from the Western US.  Somehow all her efforts and evidence were ignored, she was castigated as insane.   The landowner and others even called child protective services on her, but luckily CPS sided with her.   The landowner is friends with many including the sheriff, and his wife worked for the town of Catskill (of which Palenville is a part) for thirty years; he was the victim in many locals’ eyes.  

Stella and her kids, meanwhile, have moved away from the property and while they still suffer from the impacts, their symptoms are getting better, further evidence that something about the location was making her extremely sick, according to the pediatrician who convinced her that she had to move from the environment.  However, she has to pay a high rent in order to keep the three dogs and two cats she owns.  Likely due to the contamination, her AKC registered dogs seem not to be able to conceive, a significant financial loss; hopefully they will heal.   Her house was paid for long ago, but is lost to her due to the contamination. To pour salt into the wound the town also condemned the house despite all demands by the zoning board having been met, of course possibly in retribution for her reporting zoning violations at the landfill. 

The landfill owner has filed a slander suit against Stella Renee saying she has lost him business. The case is currently in the discovery phase and Stella Renee has to provide the landfill owner’s lawyers with all the evidence she has gathered including all her medical files, and all the videotapes and recordings.

Cheers for Stella Renee’s lawyer who is demanding discovery evidence as well, including the landowner’s financial statements The best discovery request from Stella’s lawyer is a demand that the landfill be tested. The best way to prove that Stella Renee Martin has not been slandering but has been speaking the truth, and that the wetlands too are being poisoned, is to test the landfill’s soil for the same toxins in Stella Renee and her children’s systems.  Much manipulation of the landfill of late could require extensive digging, up to and including excavation, to extract the right soil for testing.  Stella and her  lawyer hope the testing might lead to a bigger RCRA lawsuit down the line as much of the landfill has made its way into the wetlands, and by extension into the drinking water of the town of Saugerties

Want to donate? Here are a couple of ways to do that:

  • Donate at this GoFundMe page the website donation is preferable due to lower fees, but any donation in any form would be most appreciated by Stella and her kids. 
  • Donations can also be sent directly via PayPal to palenvillecatskilllandfill@gmail.com

For more info visit the Facebook page and the website Stella started: Catskill/Palenville Toxic Landfill Experience.

Realizing that there are likely hundreds of families in similar straits, Stella has also started a facebook support page for families who are being poisoned by landfills, industries, etc. and are not being heard nor helped, she asks that people share this with any who might need support or even just the  realization that they are not alone.  She hopes nationwide strategies might be born from this. See the Families Aware of Toxic Environments (FATE) Support Facebook Page.—Mary Finneran, “For a poisoned mother and her children,” We Are Seneca Lake Media, 5/16/1

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Tales of the Abnormal

FCC votes to overturn net neutrality rules

John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight” rips hilariously through the FCC’s proposed rules rolling back ‘net neutrality.’

[The internet has become a primary organizing tool for activists the world over, and especially in the United States. Net neutrality – the requirement that all data moving on the net be treated the same – has long been under attack by internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and is a vital issue for activists. Trump’s appointee to head the agency which regulates the internet, Ajit Pai, formerly of Verizon, wants to pull the plug on net neutrality. We present here a few resources for you to get acquainted with the issues. The John Oliver video also contains information on how to send a Public Comment to the FCC.—Editor]

The US Federal Communications Commission has voted to overturn rules that force ISPs to treat all data traffic as equal. Commissioners at the agency voted two-to-one to end a “net neutrality” order enacted in 2015.

Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, said the rules demanding an open internet harmed jobs and discouraged investment. Many Americans and technology firms filed objections to the FCC’s proposal prior to the vote .

“This is the right way to go,” said Mr Pai ahead of the vote on Thursday.

Further reading These are the arguments against net neutrality — and why they’re wrong
About Net Neutrality — The New York Times
Ajit Pai and John Oliver have two very different opinions about net neutrality
How to send comments to the FCC on its proposal to revoke net neutrality

In a statement, the FCC said it expected its proposed changes to “substantially benefit consumers and the marketplace”. It added that, before the rules were changed in 2015, they helped to preserve a “flourishing free and open internet for almost 20 years”.

Equal access

The vote by the FCC commissioners is the first stage in the process of dismantling the net neutrality regulations. The agency is now inviting public comment on whether it should indeed dismantle the rules. Americans have until mid-August to share their views with the FCC. This call for comments is likely to attract a huge number of responses. Prior to the vote, more than 1 million statements supporting net neutrality were filed on the FCC site.…—”FCC votes to overturn net neutrality rules ,” BBC News , 5/19/17

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EPA asked the public which regulations to gut — and got an earful about leaving them alone

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency put out a call for comments about what regulations are in need of repeal, replacement or modification. The effort stemmed from an executive order issued by President Trump earlier this year instructing agencies to reexamine regulations that “eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation” and/or “impose costs that exceed benefits.”

More than 55,100 responses rolled in by the time the comment period closed on Monday — but they were full of Americans sharing their experiences of growing up with dirty air and water, and with pleas for the agency not to undo safeguards that could return the country to more a more polluted era.

“Know your history or you’ll be doomed to repeat it,” one person wrote. “Environmental regulations came about for a reason. There is scientific reasoning behind the need for it. It is not a conspiracy to harm corporations. It’s an attempt to make the people’s lives better.”

“Have we failed to learn from history, and forgotten the harm done to our air, water, and wetlands?” wrote Karen Sonnessa from New York. “If anything, regulations need to be more stringent. I remember the days of smog, pollution, and rivers spontaneously combusting. EPA is for the people.”

Some respondents made moral and religious arguments.

“Reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and limiting the effects of climate change is one of the greatest moral challenges of our time,” the Rev. John D. Paarlberg wrote, defending the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, an effort to regulate carbon emissions from power plants that the Trump administration has vowed to roll back. “For the sake of the most vulnerable among us, for the sake of future generations, for the sake of the planet, please do not undermine the Clean Power Plan and other critical environmental protections.”

Some folks resorted to all caps.

“Regulations are PROTECTIONS. Please enforce all existing clean air and water protections and consider creating more,” wrote Kristine Anstine.

“So here are my thoughts on doing away with existing EPA regulations, or doing away with the EPA itself: ARE YOU BLOODY CRAZY?????” wrote another.

One commenter simply wrote the word “No” over and over, 1,665 times.

The thousands of comments echoed those at a three-hour “virtual listening session” that the EPA held earlier this month, in which a litany of callers — some representing environmental groups, others who identified themselves as concerned citizens — urged the agency not to jettison protections for clean water and clean air in the name of reducing burdens on corporations.…—Brady Dennis, “EPA public comments favor environmental protections for air and water,” The Washington Post, 5/16/17

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Struggling Nuclear Industry Lobbies State Governments For Help

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, in Londenderry Township, Pa., was the site of a partial meltdown in 1979. The plant, with its one still-functioning reactor, is having trouble selling its power because it’s more expensive than other resources, including natural gas.

[Some respected environmental and climate justice activists have begun to call for a reconsideration of nuclear energy as a clean, sustainable energy source. This is a position, often offered as a solution to the evident need to find a utility-scale alternative to a methane-driven future, which deserves a full discussion, bringing forward its virtues, liabilities and responsibilities. A newsletter such as The Banner is a poor place to hold a debate on the matter. One hopes such a public debate or seminar can be arranged, so the matter is given its full due and subjected to critiques that are answered. Or perhaps found to be imponderables, in some matters.  The following two articles are intended to do little else than explore the issue from a few different perspectives. The articles haven’t been chosen nor vetted by nuclear scientists engineers or designers. It is hoped that what you find here is taken as the beginning of a discussion, and certainly not the last word.—Editor]

Just like coal companies, America’s nuclear power industry is having a tough time. It faces slowing demand for electricity, and competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables. And now, touting itself as a form of clean energy, the nuclear industry is lobbying state legislatures with a controversial pitch for help.

“Nobody’s in the mood for a bailout,” says anti-nuclear activist Eric Epstein, as he considers where to put up a poster in the Amtrak station in Harrisburg, Pa. It has the iconic image of Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer, and saying, “I want you to stop the bailout of nuclear power in Pennsylvania.”

Epstein has been a nuclear watchdog since 1979, when one of the reactors at the nearby Three Mile Island plant partially melted down, bringing the industry’s growth in the U.S. to a standstill. Four decades later, Epstein says nuclear power is just too expensive, and he doesn’t want his state to do what New York and Illinois already have.

Both states recently agreed to give billions in subsidies to the nuclear industry by essentially broadening the definition of clean power. Supporters say the move will help combat climate change, since nuclear plants don’t emit carbon.

“The system we have today is designed around ‘How do I deliver the cheapest megawatt-hour of electricity in the next hour?’ says John Kotek of the Nuclear Energy Institute, “without reflection of the environmental impacts, for example or the importance of fuel-supply diversity, or reliability.”

Further reading Nuclear power is necessary part of energy transition
Unable To Compete On Price, Nuclear Power On The Decline
Lessons Learned From Three Mile Island’s Meltdown
The Curve of Binding Energy: a Journey Into the Awesome and Alarming World of Theodore B. Taylor, John McPhee – Kirkus Review
Alternatives: Molten Salt Reactors
Lessons from Fukushima
Fukushima nuclear reactor radiation at highest level since 2011 meltdown (2/3/17)
30 years later: Chernobyl disaster could trigger more cancer, deaths

Around the country, five nuclear plants have retired in the past five years, and another five are scheduled to close within a decade. In Pennsylvania, the Three Mile Island plant — which still has one functioning reactor — is having trouble selling its power because it’s more expensive than other sources, like natural gas.

But the bailouts are facing opposition from those competing power producers, especially the booming natural gas industry.

“We are not anti-nuclear,” says Stephanie Wissman, head of the Pennsylvania division of the American Petroleum Institute. Her group is part of a new coalition opposing nuclear subsidies, a coalition that includes gas trade groups, manufacturers, and the AARP. They argue the subsidies are unfair, and will lead to higher energy bills.

Wissman says nuclear plants are “an important part of the energy mix. However, they’ve got to play by the same rules as every other energy source.”

The debate has put environmental groups in a tough spot, and left them divided. Climate change is a big priority for many of them, and they’ve traditionally supported subsidies for renewables. But Jackson Morris, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says nuclear power is neither clean nor renewable.

“We do recognize that it does have low-carbon attributes,” he says. “But it’s by no means on the same playing field as truly renewable resources, like wind, solar, and energy efficiency.”

NRDC has been willing to go along with some nuclear bailouts, but only when they also included more support for renewables.…—Marie Cusick, “Struggling Nuclear Industry Lobbies State Governments For Help ,” NPR , 5/16/17

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Repeated warnings preceded collapse of a Hanford tunnel storing deadly wastes

An emergency sign flashes outside the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Benton County Tuesday, May 9, 2017, in Washington state after a portion of an underground tunnel containing rail cars filled with radioactive waste collapsed at a storage facility. Manuel Valdes/AP

A series of warnings by state and federal experts, stretching back more than thirty years, preceded this week’s cave-in of a tunnel in Hanford, Washington, that holds lethally radioactive debris from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to government documents.

A 20-foot by 20-foot hole in the roof of a storage tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., Tuesday, May 9, 2017. U.S. Department of Energy via AP (Click for full size)

A report in 1980 for the Energy Department, which oversees safety and cleanup work at the site, said that wooden beams holding up the tunnel had lost a third of their strength by then. A contractor for the department pointed to the issue again in 1991, warning that by the year 2001, the beams would be further degraded.

 

A group of academic experts, working under contract to the department, said more alarmingly in a 1,969-page report in August 2015 that the roof of the tunnel in question had been seriously weakened and that a “partial or complete failure” could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dangerous levels of radiation.

No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month — the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored — a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole. Afterward, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.

The tunnel was one of two at the Energy Department’s Hanford reservation used as dumping grounds from 1960 to 2000 for radioactive machine parts, vessels, and other equipment. It was, in short, a tangible expression of the department’s policy of covering over some of its nuclear bomb-making detritus and effectively pretending it isn’t there.

The neglect followed a blunt warning 26 years ago from the State of Washington — cited in a 1991 Energy Department contractor’s report — that the tunnels were not a safe repository and that the wastes should be moved elsewhere.…—Peter Cary, Patrick Malone, “Repeated warnings preceded collapse of a Hanford tunnel storing deadly wastes,” Center for Public Integrity, 5/12/17

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U.S. Bank Becomes First Major Bank to Stop Financing Pipeline Construction

U.S. Bank has become the first major bank in the U.S. to formally exclude gas and oil pipelines from their project financing. This groundbreaking change to their Environmental Responsibility Policy was publicly announced at the annual shareholders meeting in Nashville in April.

In addition to no longer providing “project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines,” the bank has stated that relationships with their clients in the oil and gas industries will be subject to “enhanced due diligence processes.”

As recently as March 2017, U.S. Bank has renewed commitments with Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and with Enbridge Energy, whose pipelines operate within Minnesota. However, advocates are hopeful that the bank’s newly released policy will limit other kinds of financing relationships with these industries.

“U.S. Bank’s new policy is an important step in protecting the environment and moving towards a fossil free future,” said Wichahpi Otto, a volunteer with the climate justice group MN350, who traveled to Nashville for the shareholders meeting. “We applaud them for responding to the community and contributing to worldwide efforts to address climate change.”

This move comes after ongoing pressure on U.S. Bank locally from MN350 and from the Minnesotans for a Fair Economy coalition, and on banks nationally from indigenous groups including Honor the Earth, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Dakota Access resistance movement.…—350.org, “U.S. Bank Becomes First Major Bank to Stop Financing Pipeline Construction,” EcoWatch, 5/15/17

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The company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline just had 18 leaks and a 2 million gallon spill on another project

Drilling mud discharged into a wetland area along the Tuscarawas River south of the town of Navarre. The affected area is 1,000 feet long and 500 feet wide. (Ohio EPA)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has curtailed work on a natural-gas pipeline in Ohio after the owner, Energy Transfer Partners, reported 18 leaks and spilled more than 2 million gallons of drilling materials.

The pipeline regulator blocked Energy Transfer Partners, which also built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, from starting horizontal drilling in eight areas where drilling has not yet begun. In other areas, where the company has already begun horizontal drilling, the FERC said drilling could continue.

The FERC also ordered the company to double the number of environmental inspectors and to preserve documents the commission wants to examine as it investigates the spills.

The biggest spill, in a pristine wetland along the Tuscarawas River about 50 miles south of Akron, covered 6.5 acres, the commission said, “coating wetland soils and vegetation with bentonite clay and bore-hole cuttings.” A video provided by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency showed drilling mud a foot or two deep.

Energy Transfer Partners has asserted that the spills of nontoxic drilling mud, used to cool and lubricate drilling equipment, were inadvertent and had been predicted in its permit application to build the Rover gas pipeline. The horizontal drilling is done to place pipelines well below ground to minimize the chances of contamination of rivers or wetlands.

However, the FERC said that its staff has “serious concerns” regarding the magnitude of the largest spill, “its environmental impacts, the lack of clarity regarding the underlying reasons for its occurrence, and the possibility of future problems.”

It said that the largest spill was “several orders of magnitude greater than other documented inadvertent returns for this project.”

Further reading  Rover Pipeline Owner Disputing Millions Owed After Razing Historic Ohio Home
Fearing More Pipeline Spills, 114 Groups Demand Halt to Ohio Gas Project

The commission, which regulates all natural gas pipelines, said that “a stoppage of additional drilling is warranted to facilitate a review of Rover’s efforts to search for and locate any potential releases.”

The Ohio EPA has fined Energy Transfer Partners about $400,000 and  asked the FERC for support. Craig Butler, the Ohio EPA director, said the company’s response had been “dismissive,” “exceptionally disappointing” and unlike any other response he has seen from a company in his 27 years at the agency.

The Rover pipeline is $4.2 billion project that would link the shale-gas-rich regions of Appalachia to Michigan and Ontario.…—Steven Mufson, “The company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline just had 18 leaks and a 2 million gallon spill on another project,” The Washington Post, 5/10/17

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How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas

Devon Energy’s Beaver Creek gas plant outside Riverton, Wyo. The company was prepared to install sophisticated equipment to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollution. Since Scott Pruitt assumed the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency, the company has pulled back from its proposals. Credit Ryan Dorgan for The New York Times

FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. — In a gas field here in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion.

Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen.

But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Further reading: EPA Pruitt’s ties to Devon Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry
Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General
Financial Backers Of Epa Pick Scott Pruitt Have Faced Hundreds Of Pollution Actions

Devon, in a letter dated Feb. 22 and obtained by The New York Times, said it was “re-evaluating its settlement posture.” It no longer intended to move ahead with the extensive emissions-control system, second-guessing the E.P.A.’s estimates on the size of the violation, and it was now willing to pay closer to $25,000 to end the three-year-old federal investigation.

Devon’s push-back, coming amid an effort to ease a broad array of federal environmental rules, is the first known example under the Trump administration of an accused polluter — which has admitted violating the law — backing away from a proposed environmental settlement. It is already being hailed by other independent energy companies as a template for the future.…—Hiroko Tabuchi, Eric Lipton, “How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas,” The New York Times, 5/20/17

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Federal Agents Went Undercover To Spy on Anti-Fracking Movement, Emails Reveal

When more than 300 protesters assembled in May at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood, Colorado — the venue chosen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for an auction of oil and gas leases on public lands — several of the demonstrators were in fact undercover agents sent by law enforcement to keep tabs on the demonstration, according to emails obtained by The Intercept.

The “Keep it in the Ground” movement, a broad effort to block the development of drilling projects, has rapidly gained traction over the last year, raising pressure on the Obama administration to curtail hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and coal mining on federal public lands. In response, government agencies and industry groups have sharply criticized the activists in public, while quietly moving to track their activities.

The emails, which were obtained through an open records act request, show that the Lakewood Police Department collected details about the protest from undercover officers as the event was being planned. During the auction, both local law enforcement and federal agents went undercover among the protesters.

The emails further show that police monitored Keep it in the Ground participating groups such as 350.org, Break Free Movement, Rainforest Action Network, and WildEarth Guardians, while relying upon intelligence gathered by Anadarko, one of the largest oil and gas producers in the region.

“Gentlemen, Here is some additional intelligence on the group you may be dealing with today,” wrote Kevin Paletta, Lakewood’s then-chief of police, on May 12, the day of the protest. The Anadarko report, forwarded to Paletta by Joni Inman, a public relations consultant, warned of activist trainings conducted by “the very active off-shoot of 350.org” that had “the goal of encouraging ‘direct action’ such as blocking, vandalism, and trespass.”

The protesters waved signs and marched outside of the Holiday Inn. The auction went on as planned and there were no arrests.

Aggressive Stance

Despite a relatively uncontroversial protest, the tactics revealed by the emails, recent public statements, and other maneuvers suggest that the federal government is beginning to take a more aggressive stance toward the Keep it in the Ground movement.

“I’m really wondering what more the BLM is up to,” said Jeremy Nichols, a climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “Some of the emails indicate more extensive intel gathering on their end.”

“Why are climate activists, who are only calling on the BLM to follow President Obama’s lead and heed universally accepted science, facing this kind of uphill response?” Nichols asked rhetorically. “It’s a shame that the BLM has turned climate concerns into a law enforcement issue instead of a genuine policy discussion.”

During a congressional hearing in March, Neil Kornze — the agency’s Director and former senior policy advisor for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid — appeared to compare the anti-fracking activists to the armed anti-government militia members who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

“We have had a situation where we have had militia; we’ve had people raising arms at different times. We are on heightened alert and we are concerned about safety. And so a situation that we are not used to, separating out who is a bidder and who is not, gives us pause,” Kornze said, explaining to GOP congressman that his agency faced “abnormal security” concerns.…—Lee Fang, Steve Horn, “Federal Agents Went Undercover To Spy on Anti-Fracking Movement, Emails Reveal,” The Intercept, 7/19/16

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Exxon Climate Fraud Investigation Widens Over Missing ‘Wayne Tracker’ Emails

Credit: David McNew

The probe of ExxonMobil by the New York Attorney General’s Office is widening. Investigators have taken depositions of company executives and issued additional subpoenas to determine whether the company may have destroyed evidence connected to an alias email used by former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.

The disclosure was made Friday in arguments filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a Manhattan federal court. He is seeking dismissal of a request by Exxon for an injunction that would halt his investigation into the oil giant involving whether it misled shareholders and the public about the risks of climate change.

Attorneys for Schneiderman did not elaborate in the 25-page document on the scope of the expanded investigation other than to suggest that it involved the recent disclosure that Tillerson, now U.S. secretary of state, used an email alias when discussing issues including climate change and the risk that it posed to the company.

New York and Massachusetts investigators denounced the company’s attempt in federal court to derail their parallel inquiries as a vexatious legal tactic that has no chance of succeeding.

“So far, this federal action’s primary purpose has been to investigate the NYOAG’s Investigation,” the New York brief states.

The filings by Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey represent the first round in a series of legal jousts expected over the course of the summer before U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni.

The two attorneys general argued that the proper venue for Exxon to fight the investigations, which are based on each state’s fraud statutes, are in the respective state courts. Having a federal court intervene could mean that states might lose their autonomy in future investigations. “If this action proceeds, even to discovery, federal judges regularly could be called upon to determine when a recipient of a document subpoena may learn details of, or even halt, the state investigation that generated the subpoena,” according to the New York brief.

Healey’s office echoed that position in its brief.

The disclosure by Schneiderman’s office of a widening investigation focused on the possible destruction of evidence that heightened the stakes.

“In this ongoing investigation, the NYOAG has served additional subpoenas upon Exxon,” according to the New York brief. “For example, because of concern about spoliation of documents, and in conformance with proceedings before the New York court on that issue, the NYOAG has taken, pursuant to subpoena, testimony of witnesses who may possess information relevant to spoliation.”…—David Hasemyer, “Exxon Climate Fraud Investigation Widens Over Missing ‘Wayne Tracker’ Emails,” InsideClimate News, 5/20/17

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Buoyed by Trump, the Climate Change Counter-Movement Gains Momentum

Protesters demonstrate against President Donald Trump’s executive order outside the White House in Washington, DC, March 28, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

On April 28, the Trump administration took down the vast majority of the EPA’s Climate Change Website, including pages for: Basic Info, Causes of Climate Change, Future of Climate Change, Science, Impacts, Extreme Weather, Adapting, Reducing Emissions, What EPA is Doing, and What You Can do. What is the authority for this administration, under the guise of “updating this administration’s priorities,” to erase 20 years of climate science from our national EPA website? How can politicians, in three or four short months, decide that a generation of climate science is invalid? What gives them this authority?

The answers to these questions are closely tied to almost a billion dollars in annual funding by ultra-conservative policy institutes, according to research from Drexel and Stanford. It has been labeled the climate change counter-movement (CCCM.) We all know what the CCCM is, and in 2013 academic publishing, Professor Robert Brulle defined this phenomenon and evaluated its purpose and budget. From this peer reviewed work:

The climate change counter-movement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming…. Like a play on Broadway, the counter-movement has stars in the spotlight — often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians — but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.

Looking at what is going on behind the scenes is what Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexler University, published in his paper, “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” December 21, 2013. Brulle did this research while on a year-long stay at Stanford.

Brulle says the movement began in 1989, coincident with the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This work looks at 118 CCCM organizations funded by 140 foundations that have been identified in the academic literature as participating in the climate change counter-movement. Internal Revenue Service records for 91 Conservative foundations and think tanks funded by 140 foundations were evaluated.

The funding comes from: American Enterprise Institute — 16 percent, Heritage Foundation — 14 percent, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace — 8 percent, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research — 6 percent, Cato Institute — 5 percent, Hudson Institute — 5.5 percent, Atlas Economic Research Foundation [now Atlas Network] — 4 percent, Americans for Prosperity — 4 percent, Heartland Institute — 3 percent, Reason Institute — 3 percent, Media Research Center — 3 percent, Mercatus Center — 3 percent, National Center for Policy Analysis — 3 percent, Competitive Enterprise Institute — 3 percent, and on into the night.…—Bruce Melton, “Buoyed by Trump, the Climate Change Counter-Movement Gains Momentum,” Truthout, 5/19/17

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BP’s Unthinkable Is Happening Now

Huge traffic jams tie up the streets in New Delhi, India. Credit Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times, via Getty Images

For some time I’ve been focused on the contradictions between BP’s (NYSE:BP) projections and business planning with what is happening in relation to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Here I suggest that there is dramatic news concerning electric car growth in both China and India that will fundamentally change BP’s (and other oil and gas majors e.g. ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)) business planning. This is no longer in the distant future.

BP 2035 outlook

In the BP 2017 Energy Outlook, transport accounts for 56% of global oil demand, but in the electric vehicle discussion BP focuses on cars (20% or 19 Mb/d). In the fine print BP puts SUVs in the trucks section (another 24% or 23 Mb/d). I’ve argued elsewhere that buses and trucks are rapidly electrifying. I think that cars, buses and trucks are in play when considering electric vehicles. So we are talking about 44% of global oil production threatened by electric vehicle implementation.

BP’s 2017 Energy Outlook envisages by 2035, 6% electric vehicles or 4.5% BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles). The most extreme case (which is not taken seriously) would give ~3x this penetration or 13.5% BEVs.

BPs projections are that by 2035 just 10% of the new car numbers will be BEVs. In other words BP sees ICEs overwhelming dominant for car transport even in 2035.

BP’s Spencer Dale and Thomas Smith summed up the threat of BEVs to oil consumption in the following statement. “EVs are not likely to be a game changer for the growth of oil demand over the next 20 years, where the increasing prosperity in emerging Asia is likely to swamp the impact of even a very rapid increase in electric cars.” Note that not only is the impact of EVs dismissed, but because this means dramatic expansion of ICE vehicles, oil consumption keeps on growing in the BP scenario.

BP said electric cars would not be a “game changer” for the oil industry. Spencer Dale, BP group’s chief economist, said:

It’s not Teslas and the US. It’s the fact that 2 billion people, much of that in Asia, are moving to middle incomes, can buy their first motor car and that drives up oil demand. It’s that stuff that really matters.

News from China and India

The above statement from BP has the key assumption that massive growth in car numbers will almost all be through purchase of ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cars.

China has just announced that electric cars are going to account for essentially all growth of car sales as of now. China’s April “road map” plans to have 20% (7 million) of new annual sales to be electric vehicles by 2025 (that is in 8 years), with 2 million electric car sales by 2020. In an extraordinary move China is seeking to have 8% of new car sales in China being electric vehicles in 2018 (next year!!). This is not only an emerging problem for the oil industry, it is also a big problem for foreign car makers without electric cars available in China next year.

Further reading: China and India Make Big Strides on Climate Change

And the story for Indian electric car/ICE substitution is similar, if not more dramatic (all vehicles electrified by 2032). A report just released by key Indian think tank NITI Aayog and the Rocky Mountain Institute is confronting for the ICE industry. The scale of the projected changes is huge: 1 Gigaton of CO2 emissions saved and savings of $60 billion in annual petrol/diesel costs in 2030. More than 80% of India’s petroleum is imported. The report seeks a different direction from the personalised ICE tradition of the US. It involves decarbonising and integrating different forms of transport, including non-motorized transport in densely populated areas. There is a lot to digest in this report, which indicates that India could be the 3rd largest automotive market by 2026, with local manufacture of 2,3, and 4 wheel electric vehicles. It involves an integrated approach to moving people involving much more than personalised transport.

This is an earthquake for BP.…—Keith Williams,”BP’s Unthinkable Is Happening Now – BP p.l.c. (NYSE:BP),” Seeking Alpha, 5/19/17

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Trump Plans to Slash Renewable Energy Budget by 70%

The Trump administration is planning to put the U.S. Department of Energy’s budget for its renewable energy and energy efficiency program on the chopping block with a proposal to slash it by 70 percent.

That’s according to a draft 2018 budget proposal obtained by Axios.

It shows $613 million for sustainable transportation in 2017, but just $184 million for 2018—a nearly 70-percent drop. There was $451 million for renewable power in the budget for 2017 but $134 million proposed for 2018—a 70-percent drop. There was $762 million for energy efficiency in 2017 and $160 proposed for 2018. That’s a 79-percent drop.

In total, the data obtained by Axios show that U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy budget went from $2,073 million in 2017 to a proposed $636 million for 2018, which marks a nearly 70-percent decrease.

The news outlet’s Amy Harder writes that the plan is unlikely to get congressional approval but is important nonetheless, as “[i]t puts a low marker down to negotiate with Congress. The lower the starting point, the lower the ultimate numbers could well end up.”

Rep. Keith Ellison reacted to the news on Twitter, writing: “Cutting renewable energy by 70% will not only cost us jobs, it will worsen public health & hurt our environment!”

A recent analysis of U.S. Department of Energy data by the Sierra Club backs up the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair’s claim about the job costs.

“Clean energy jobs, including those from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart grid technology and battery storage, vastly outnumber all fossil fuel jobs nationwide from the coal, oil and gas sectors. That includes jobs in power generation, mining and other forms of fossil fuel extraction,” the conservation group found.

Nationwide, “clean energy jobs outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to 1; and they outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by 5 to 1,” the group wrote.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s offices for nuclear power and fossil-fuel energy, would also be cut, Axios also reported, though by a smaller margin—31 percent and 54 percent respectively.…—Andrea Germanos, “Trump Plans to Slash Renewable Energy Budget by 70%,” EcoWatch, 5/17/17

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Huge Victory: Blackfeet Nation To Control Its Own Water After 35-Year Battle

A majority of tribal members approved the Blackfeet Water Compact and Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act with Montana and the federal government, by a vote of 1,894 to 631.


Harry Barnes, Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, called it a “historic day for the Blackfeet people,” and well worth the time that Blackfeet staff and leaders had put into the effort the past four decades.

“My faith in the wisdom of the people’s vote has come to reality,” he said in a statement.

The history of the struggle between the tribes in Montana, and the State of Montana, over water rights began in the 1970s, when the federal government filed court water rights cases on behalf of all Montana tribes.

Montana filed competing water rights cases in state court. The U.S. and the tribes challenged Montana’s assertion that it had jurisdiction over Indian water rights on the reservation. What ensued was a history of court battles, meetings and negotiations that eventually led to the compact agreed to by Montana and the federal government. The last step was an April 20 vote by the Blackfeet membership.

A finalized water rights agreement would provide more than $470 million in federal funding for projects that would provide important improvements to watersheds, as well as jobs and benefits for members of the Blackfeet Nation. The projects in the settlement focus on improved water usage on the Reservation for community water supplies, irrigation, fisheries, recreational lakes, energy projects, resolution of environmental issues and other water related uses. (Click for full size map)

The compact confirms the Tribe’s water quantity and rights, the Tribe’s jurisdiction and its authority to manage those rights on the reservation. Montana’s legislature ratified it in 2009, Congress approved the bill, and it was signed by President Barack Obama in January 2017.…—”Huge Victory: Blackfeet Nation To Control Its Own Water After 35 Years Battle ,” Counter Current News, 5/14/17

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Thanks to global warming, Antarctica is beginning to turn green

Moss on Green Island. (Matt Amesbury)

Researchers in Antarctica have discovered rapidly growing banks of mosses on the ice continent’s northern peninsula, providing striking evidence of climate change in the coldest and most remote parts of the planet.

Amid the warming of the last 50 years, the scientists found two different species of mosses undergoing the equivalent of growth spurts, with mosses that once grew less than a millimeter per year now growing over 3 millimeters per year on average.

“People will think of Antarctica quite rightly as a very icy place, but our work shows that parts of it are green, and are likely to be getting greener,” said Matthew Amesbury, a researcher with the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and lead author of the new study. “Even these relatively remote ecosystems, that people might think are relatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effects of human induced climate change.”

The study was published Thursday in Current Biology, by Amesbury and colleagues with the University of Cambridge, the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Durham.

Less than 1 percent of present-day Antarctica features plant life. But in parts of the peninsula, Antarctic mosses grow on frozen ground that partly thaws in the summer — when only about the first foot of soil ever thaws.

The surface mosses build up a thin layer in the summer, then freeze over in winter. As layer builds on top of layer, older mosses subside below the frozen ground, where they are remarkably well preserved due to the temperatures.

Amesbury said that made them “a record of changes over time.”…—Chris Mooney, “Moss in northern Antarctica is having a growth spurt because of climate change, researchers say,” The Washington Post,5/18

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 20 – Celebrations and Desecrations

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 20 – Celebrations and Desecrations
May 162017
 

May 16, 2017
The news of the week was a poignant mixture of victory, celebration, and further desecration of indigenous lands and evidence of damage mankind as done to our world in pursuit of the chimera of “endless growth.” As Wendell Berry put it, “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”
First the news.

Deadline May 19th!
Comments urgently needed on DEC’s SEQR and Scoping Proposals

The DEC has proposed amendments to SEQR to streamline the SEQR process.  These proposals fail to address the huge gap between actual practices at the local level and current SEQR law.

  • Local governments too often give SEQR short shrift or bypass SEQR entirely.   
  • Involved agencies and their agents lack personnel who are qualified to evaluate health impact and other complex issues.  
  • There are no penalties for dismissing substantive public comments. 
  • Proposed SEQR changes allows a government entity to bboth propose a project and act as the SEQR decision-maker. 

We need people to push for a robust SEQR process with incentives or penalties to ensure compliance.  Comments should call for SEQR enforcement, participation of qualified experts, and protection against conflicts of interest.

The DEC proposes to make SEQR more responsive through mandatory public scoping.  However, early public input should not preclude incorporation of substantive new information throughout the SEQR process.  In addition, experience shows that public scoping has little benefit when lead agencies simply ignore substantive public comments.  SEQR regulations should require a public comment period on the draft scope, allot more than 60 days for experts to evaluate the comments, and require incorporation of public comments into the final scope unless they are unreasonable or irrelevant.

For further comment talking points, see leading SEQRA attorney Arthur Giacalone’s excellent blog “Proposed SEQR regulations: developers and SEQR-adverse agencies win, the environment and public lose,” or  download the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Comments and Dr. Alison King’s Comments (both in MS Word format).

Send your comments on the proposed SEQR regulations to:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Permits,
Attn: James J. Eldred, Environmental Analyst
625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1750,

or by e-mail to: seqra617@dec.ny.gov.

  • E-mailed comments should be submitted in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word document format
  • Comments will be accepted until the close of business Friday May 19, 2017.

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March with We Are Seneca Lake in the Ithaca Festival Parade

When: Friday, June 2, 2017
Assemble: 6:30 to 7:00 pm
Where E. Jay St & Cayuga St.
Ithaca, NY
Parade:  7:00-8:30 pm
 
Once again, the annual Ithaca Festival organizers invited We Are Seneca Lake to march in their parade. Join us for a fun event where you’ll be cheered on by thousands! We’ll march for about 20-30 minutes. 
Please RSVP at the Facebook event page, and share it with friends,
or by email to Jan Quarles <janq99@gmail.com>.
 
If you’re interested, RSVP now and then check the FB event page during the week of the event for more precise details, like our meeting time and place. Wear your WASL t-shirts! If you need t-shirts for yourself or your kids, email your size(s) to Jan Quarles.

We have lots to celebrate, now that Crestwood has decided to abandon its plan to expand methane (so-called “natural gas”) storage on Seneca Lake. Protesting FERC’s permit for this dangerous plan was the reason why WASL sprang up in October 2014. Now, after 657 citzen arrests for peaceful civil disobedience, WASL has achieved its initial goal, thanks to YOU and many other citizens, groups, and municipalities in our region. This is a major campaign won, if not the entire struggle. 

In the face of intense and constant public pressure, Governor Cuomo withheld the state’s signature under FERC’s permit for this plan. Likewise, he continues to withhold — for 6 years now — the state’s permit for Crestwood to store LPG in the crumbly salt caverns of the Seneca lakeshore. Let’s remain vigilant and make sure this doesn’t change. Onward together!

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First Annual Ithaca Reggae Fest to benefit Cayuga Lake
When: Saturday, June 24, 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Where: Stewart Park
1 James L. Gibb Drive
Ithaca, NY.  

The event is dedicated to the protection of Cayuga Lake through a vibrant celebration of Ithaca’s legendary reggae community and its history. Brought to you in part by the Friends of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca Reggae Fest is presented in collaboration with the following local water protectors to raise awareness about the restoration and protection of Cayuga Lake:

Finger Lakes Land Trust
Cayuga Lake Watershed Network
Community Science Institute
Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom
New Roots Charter School
Ellis Hollow Art & Ecology Collective
Hydrilla Task Force

A vibrant celebration of Ithaca’s legendary reggae community and its history presented by Jason Sokoloff, The Haunt and The Dock featuring:
Beginning with opening prayers, blessings, intentions and 108 yoga based sun salutations led by Yoga for the Earth for the waters of the Cayuga Lake Watershed.Food vendors all day, along with beverages available by Ithaca Beer Company!
Tickets $10-$15 at www.ticketfly.com
RSVP & share the Facebook event page

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Celebrations and Desecrations
Natural Gas Storage Plan Halted at Seneca Lake

The We Are Seneca Lake civil disobedience campaign kicked off on Oct. 25, 2014. CREDIT: Colleen Boland

[In the course of this article Dr. Sandra Steingraber discusses the strategic, tactical and logistic guidelines she and her colleagues in We Are Seneca Lake developed. The campaign was designed to enable ordinary working people to take part in an extended series of highly effective peaceful direct action that caught the attention of the national and local press throughout its course of about a year and a half. The combination of direct action and successful media campaigns forced the hand of the local and state authorities while subjecting those who participated in direct action to minor misdemeanor charges. It was a brilliantly conceived campaign of non-violent action, and has inspired countless actions across the region, the nation, and possibly internationally.—Editor]

The news broke Wednesday in the most banal of venues: the biweekly environmental compliance report submitted by Arlington Storage Company to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Deep in the third paragraph of section B, this wholly owned subsidiary of the Houston-based gas storage and transportation giant, Crestwood Midstream, announced that it was walking away from its FERC-approved plan to increase its storage of methane (natural gas) in unlined, abandoned salt caverns along the shoreline of Seneca Lake .

In its own words, “Arlington has discontinued efforts to complete the Gallery 2 Expansion Project.”

It was a blandly expressed ending to a dramatic conflict that has roiled New York’s Finger Lakes region for more than six years. Together with a separate—and still unresolved—plan for lakeside storage of propane (LPG) in adjacent salt caverns, Crestwood’s Arlington operation has been the focus of massive, unrelenting citizen opposition that has taken many forms.

The Gas Free Seneca Business Coalition has, at last count, 398 members. Together with the more than 100 members of the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition , this group has been a powerful voice in promoting wine and agri-tourism—a $4.8 billion industry in New York State—as the centerpiece of the Finger Lakes economy, deploying renewable energy systems for wineries and providing an alternative vision to Crestwood’s plan to turn the region into “the gas storage and transportation hub” for entire Northeast. In letters, petitions, press conferences, interviews and editorials, these business leaders have made clear that industrialized gas storage on Seneca Lake—with all the attendant pipelines , compressor stations, flare stacks and air pollution—is incompatible with the pristine environment on which wine and tourism depend.

Local business leaders have also hammered home the message that gas storage is all risk and no reward for the region. The gas—methane or propane—is not intended for local use. All of it would be sent, via pipeline, to burner tips far from the Finger Lakes. Moreover, shoving massive amounts of fossil fuels into crumbly salt mines creates, as it turns out, only a handful of jobs.

Meanwhile, 32 municipalities—representing 1.2 million residents—have passed resolutions against gas storage on Seneca Lake. These efforts have played an important role in generating political pressure, capturing media attention , and raising awareness among community members about the public health threats created by storing highly pressurized, explosive gases in abandoned salt caverns situated below a lakeshore in an area crossed by geological fault lines.

Seneca Lake serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Even absent earthquakes or catastrophic accidents, simply pressurizing the briny salt caverns with compressed gases may salinate the lake in ways that could potentially violate drinking water standards.

And then there’s the direct action movement . We Are Seneca Lake—in which I have participated—has engaged in protests, marches and repeated acts of civil disobedience. Since October 2014, when construction on the Arlington project was authorized to begin and all legal appeals to FERC were exhausted, more than 650 arrests have taken place at the gates of the Crestwood compressor station site on the hillside above Seneca Lake. For the act of blockading trucks on Crestwood’s driveway, some of us have gone to jail , serving sentences as long as nine days, while others have had their charges dismissed “in the interests of justice.”

As the months went by, Crestwood, waiting on remaining approvals from New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), did not begin construction.

We Are Seneca Lake continued protesting.

When the state clearances still did not arrive, FERC granted Crestwood a two-year extension to “accommodate the New York DEC’s underground storage approval process.”

We Are Seneca Lake continued protesting.

The power of our all-season civil disobedience movement did not lie in the daring risks that we took—no one ever scaled fences, rappelled down walls, went limp, or chained themselves to heavy equipment. We called ourselves the Girl Scouts of civil disobedience because participants engaged in actions whose sanctions were intentionally limited to violation-level charges (trespass or disorderly conduct).

Tantamount to traffic tickets, such charges do not result in criminal records (although one might choose, by refusal to pay a fine, to serve a jail sentence). This practice allowed arrestees to represent a diverse cross-section of area residents. Ranging in age from 18 to 92, Seneca Lake Defenders have included teachers, nurses, doctors, midwives, farmers, winemakers, faith leaders, town board members, military veterans, mothers, fathers, chefs, bird watchers, cancer survivors and numerous disabled individuals.

Further listening: Susan Arbetter, “Crestwood will not expand natural gas storage at Seneca Lake,” Capitol Pressroom |WCNY, 5/12/17

Our goal was to showcase the breadth and depth of citizen opposition to gas storage. Accordingly, we sought to make civil disobedience as inclusive as possible for as many people as possible, and, for those whose conscience so led them, as safe as possible.

We sustained our movement, season after season, by careful vetting of all participants, meticulous preparation for each action, and requiring that all those risking arrest or playing support roles undergo a training session in non-violence. As a result, We Are Seneca Lake maintained high levels of personal discipline during our actions and, through our almost ceremonial approach to civil disobedience, won the (somewhat begrudging) respect of the county sheriff and his deputies.

David Braun, Co-Founder, Americans Against Fracking

We did not turn away luminaries. Seneca Lake Defenders have, variously, included filmmaker Josh Fox , actors James Cromwell and John Hertzler, and environmental leaders Bill McKibben, Rachel Marco-Havens, David Braun and Wes Gillingham.

Seneca Lake Defenders blockaded while reading aloud from Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change , while enjoying a potluck of local food, and while performing a concert. Our efforts were featured in the New Yorker and the New York Times , as well as in local and regional media. We have received messages of solidarity from around the world.

…”None of these gas storage facilities are a problem until they are. And once you see first-hand the kind of devastation and disruption they cause—as I have seen at Aliso Canyon—you begin to understand your moral responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen somewhere else, to someone else,” Braun said. “I risked arrest at Seneca Lake because we only need to look at how the last bad idea turned out to know what the next one is going to do.”…—Sandra Steingraber, “Huge Victory: Natural Gas Storage Plan Halted at Seneca Lake,” EcoWatch, 5/11/17

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Dear Gas Free Seneca Members and Friends,

We write today to ​celebrate the news that Arlingto​n Storage Company​, a subsidiary of Crestwood Midstream, has announced their intent to ​discontinue plans to store more natural gas in the abandoned salt caverns on Seneca Lake​, their so called Gallery 2 project​.

​ Earth​j​ustice, our most capable and confident legal advisors, will be asking FERC​ to rescind their approval permanently, and encouraging the DEC to deny permits ​outright ​for underground natural gas storage.

​​Crestwood has admitted they cannot find sufficient market demand for the Seneca Lake natural gas storage.  Without your support, we would not have been able to file as Intervenors with FERC and delay this project for years until it became obsolete.​

This is a huge victory for Gas Free Seneca and the People of the Finger Lakes who have fought so hard and thoroughly to prohibit gas expansion on Seneca Lake.

​Remember that this is only one leg of the project, and we must remain vigilant in stopping the propane storage project as well. But we all deserve to take a victory lap and celebrate this news.  The GFS Business Coalition ​has been instrumental in voicing our community’s strong and unified opposition to Texas-based Crestwood and their plans to rebrand the Finger Lakes as the “Gas storage hub of the Northeast!”

While many organizations, towns, and individual citizens of the Finger Lakes played significant roles in staging our opposition, it is the Gas Free Seneca Business Coalition Members who brought the gravitas.

Together you represent ​nearly 400 independently owned and operated small businesses, which are the heartbeat of the Finger Lakes.

Without you, this victory would not be possible.  This battle has been won but the war wages on.  We must remain united

​and strong to prohibit Crestwood’s  plans to store LPG (propane) in the salt caverns.

Now, we need to be more vocal than ever with our Governor and the DEC to ​deny permits to store LPG.

Thank you for the courage, the financial and emotional support, and the perseverance to remain ​steadfast in our 6+ year battle to send Crestwood back to Texas.

We are the People of the Finger Lakes and we stand victorious once again!

Cheers,
Yvonne & Joseph

Founders, Gas Free Seneca

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Reshaping Our Economy to Serve All People

Where : First Congregational Church of Ithaca
309 Highland Road
Ithaca, NY 14850

When : Saturday, May 20, 7:00PM
Sunday, May 21, 11:15AM
Saturday dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. before the 7:00 p.m. lecture by advance reservation; suggested donation of $5.00 per person or $10.00 per family for the dinner.  She will also deliver the sermon at the 10:00 a.m. worship service.

All events are free and open to the public.

The First Congregational Church of Ithaca will host Dr. Edith Rasell for lectures and discussions on economic justice.  Rasell will guide participants considering the purpose of the economy, the causes of rising income inequality, how it can be seen through the eyes of faith, and what can we do about it.

Saturday’s lecture covers “Where We Are and How We Got Here:  Does It Have to be Like This?” and Sunday’s will be “What Can be Done so People and Creation May Thrive”.

Dr. Rasell is known for her ability to make economic matters understandable, relevant, and interesting. She writes and posts information about and assessments of current economic issues on her webpages, accessed through the UCC’s economic justice home page http://www.ucc.org/justice_economic-justice . Her writing has also been featured by the Center for American Progress and on the blogs of the AFL-CIO, Sojourners, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness.

Rasell is on the national staff of the United Church of Christ (UCC) serving as Minister for Economic Justice. She works with UCC congregations around the country as well as with national and international organizations to bring greater economic justice to all. especially the poor and marginalized.  Rasell holds a Ph.D. in economics and is a licensed UCC minister. 

Rasell’s presentations entitled “Reshaping Our Economy to Serve All People” at the First Congregational Church are coordinated by the Adult Education Committee are this year’s Ruth Foote Workshop on Applied Christianity. The Foote endowment brings a distinguished theologian, pastor, church leader, missionary, or other recognized Christian authority or worker in the field of Christian ethics and service for a weekend of study and worship.

For further info or to volunteer for meals and child care contact the church office at 257-6033 or office@fccithaca.org

In addition to her duties with the UCC, Rasell serves on the boards of Interfaith Worker Justice, the National Farm Worker Ministry, and the Cleveland Ecumenical Institute for Religious Studies.

Before joining the UCC she worked at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a highly regarded, progressive think tank in Washington, D.C., where her primary areas of research were labor economics (e.g., job quality, wages), health care financing; and social insurance programs (Medicare and Social Security). Rasell was also the director of EPI’s Economic Analysis and Research Network, a nationwide association of state-based research groups that examine living standards and other issues of importance to working people.

Rasell has testified before congressional committees on a variety of workplace issues, health care, and Social Security, and has been cited by major daily newspapers as well as radio and television network news and information programs. Her work has been published in the American Economic Review, the New England Journal of Medicine, and other journals and the popular press.

First Congregational Church of Ithaca is a member of the United Church of Christ.  For more information, visit www.fccithaca.org

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Letter to the Editor: Crestwood’s Idea of Accountability

Dear Editor,

I don’t know if Governor Cuomo or anyone in NY has picked up on the article in Oil Patch, but it should offer a sense of relief to the 100,000 people who get their drinking water from Seneca Lake and are worried that Crestwood’s planned gas storage facility poses a threat.

As a responsible corporate citizen, Crestwood made a dollar per gallon match for their million gallon spill of toxic waste water into Bear Den Bay in July 2014. They donated a million dollars for a new Head Start center in Mandaree, ND. Mandaree’ drinking water intake is located at the mouth of Bear Den Bay. As far as Crestwood is concerned, that donation squares everything away. It was a cheaper alternative to actually cleaning up the spill, which never happened. Researchers from Duke University have shown that contaminated soil and water are still present along the tributary that carried the spill to the bay.

So, not to worry if Governor Cuomo allows Crestwood’s LPG storage facility at Seneca Lake to be built and the lake gets contaminated. All will be forgiven after Crestwood builds something nice for the community in Watkins Glen. Perhaps a Cuomo/Crestwood water treatment plant.

Bill Kitchen, Johnstown, NY

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Narragansett Indian Tribe: FERC Violated the National Historic Preservation Act

Ceremonial Stone Landscape, Turtle, Killingworth, CT Photo credit: Doug Harris (under license for one-time use only: please do not copy or distribute outside of this edition of The banner.)

Here is a textbook example of how FERC abuses the process for Indian tribes. We have a strong case against FERC, and the Narragansett tribe’s Historical Preservation Office will need funds to proceed. If anyone has ideas about raising money, please email Anne Marie Garti.

Rhode Island’s Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO) filed a request for rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today, accusing the agency of violating the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by delaying the study of ceremonial stone landscapes until a year after it issued its environmental assessment of the project and by failing to consult with NITHPO to resolve adverse impacts to over twenty religious and cultural features. This is a breach of FERC’s fiduciary duty to the Indian tribe.

FERC authorized Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC (TGP) to proceed with construction on the Connecticut Expansion Project on April 12, 2017.

FERC’s order said that all the environment conditions had been met and federal authorizations received. NITHPO’s request for rehearing shows that procedures required under Section 106 of the NHPA were not followed.

“Instead of consulting, FERC just told us what TGP was going to do,” said Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

TGP’s Treatment Plan calls for destruction and reconstruction of one-third of the seventy-three ceremonial stone landscapes. Mr. Harris characterizes this plan as an act of desecration.

“These are ‘prayers in stone,’ ” Mr. Harris said. “If you take them apart and reconfigure them, then what you have is an artistic replica of something that was spiritual. Once you remove the stones, the spiritual content is broken.”

FERC not only failed to engage in meaningful consultations with the tribal historical preservation office, it also delayed studying these cultural resources until it was too late to protect them.

You will learn a lot about Indian Law and how FERC violates the NHPA by reading these documents:

Further reading Motion to Intervene
Request for one-day extension
Answer in Opposition to Notice to Proceed
4/12/17 Staff Order Authorizing Construction
Narragansett Indian THPO Requests Rehearing

“The NHPA requires federal agencies to study cultural resources before they issue a license, so that adverse impacts can be avoided,” said Anne Marie Garti, attorney for NITHPO. “FERC admitted that by the time the survey of ceremonial stone landscapes was performed it was too late to pick an alternative. That means FERC broke the law.”

If you wish to support the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office in this effort, please make your check payable to “Creative Thought and Action” and write “CSL” in the “For:” line. Mail to:
Rene Theberge
250 Shutesbury Road,
Amherst, MA 01002

In addition to its statutory requirements, FERC is obligated to hold government-to-government consultations with Indian tribes. It is not authorized to delegate this duty to TGP or to any other project proponent. Federal agencies are also required to treat tribal resources like assets in a trust. By waiting until it was too late to avoid these cultural resources, FERC breached its fiduciary duty to NITHPO.—Doug Harris, “Narragansett Indian Tribe: FERC Violated the National Historic Preservation Act,” Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, 5/9/17

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Peruvian Supreme Court rules against Newmont

U.S. gold miner loses case against potato farmer on appeal

The Supreme Court of Peru has ruled in favour of a farmer that Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) claimed was illegally occupying land it wanted to develop into the Conga mine.

The U.S.-based gold miner appealed a decision by a lower court in 2014 that ruled in favour of potato farmer Máxima Acuña.

Community opposition to the $5 billion copper and gold project forced Newmont to walk away from it last year.

Further Reading: EARTHWORKS | Peruvian Supreme Court Acquits Máxima Acuña de Chaupe

A subsistence farmer in Peru’s northern highlands, Máxima Acuña stood up for her right to peacefully live off her own land, a plot of land sought by Newmont and Buenaventura Mining to develop the Conga gold and copper mine.

Ms. Acuña, who has been at the forefront of the opposition against the Conga project since it was first proposed in 2010, was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Newmont decided to halt construction work at the project in November 2011, after violent protests led by governor Gregorio Santos forced the country’s government to declare a state of emergency.

Minera Yanacocha, one of the two local companies working with Newmont on the now mothballed project, tried hard to win local support, but was unable to secure it.…—Andrew Topf, “Peruvian Supreme Court rules against Newmont,” MINING, 5/3/17

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Two EPA science board members resign in protest

Two members of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) science panel resigned Friday in protest after the agency dismissed [nine] other scientists from the board earlier this month.

Carlos Martin and Peter Meyer said in a Friday letter that they would leave the Board of Scientific Counselors’ (BOSC) Sustainable and Healthy Communities subcommittee. In a letter Martin posted on Twitter, the scientists said their resignation stems from the EPA’s decision not to renew two other scientists’ positions within BOSC.

Further reading: EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers; Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels

What? me worry?

…Environmentalists, scientists and Democrats have criticized plans to include industry officials on the science boards that inform EPA regulations. 

But Trump administration officials at the agency — and Republicans in Congress — have pushed to expand the voice of regulated industries in EPA scientific discussions.…—Devin Henry, “Two EPA science board members resign in protest,” The Hill, 5/12/17

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Cove Point Update: May Fourth a huge success

Thanks to you, our May The Fourth Be With You call-in day was a big success!

So many of you called to ask Governor Hogan to order a quantitative risk assessment (QRA) for the Dominion Cove Point terminal that his phone lines were jammed at times. Our own Cindy Peil (pictured above) managed to intercept the governor in person and deliver a packet about the need for a QRA to him, as well as a Frack-Free Maryland poster made by Jeff Dixon. Donny followed that up with another in-person visit to deliver a letter to the Governor.

We won’t stop putting the pressure on Governor Hogan. Help us continue this work by making a donation to We Are Cove Point now [see below for donations link—Editor].

This week, We Are Cove Point joined folks in Richmond at the Dominion shareholders meeting to demonstrate resistance in a variety of exciting ways. Some front lines advocates, including from Cove Point, went inside to ask direct questions of Dominion CEO Tom Farrell.

“Overall, the meeting felt like a good use of time. Dominion’s CEO, its executive board, and many of its employees and investors witnessed first-person accounts of many of the negative impacts their company has been having on people throughout the mid-Atlantic. Additionally, we got to see how Dominion is deciding to present itself in light of the major criticisms it’s been receiving. Every single one of Dominion’s major projects in the area is facing steep grassroots resistance from impacted people.”

Further reading: Report from the Dominion shareholders meeting

There are two other upcoming events we’d like to share with you:

  • The next Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community meeting will be on May 16 at 6:30 p.m., at the Southern Community Center, 20 Appeal Ln., Lusby, MD.
  • Dominion’s discharge permit hearing regarding 45,000 gallons of runoff entering Cove Point wetlands every day. The hearing will be held at the Calvert Library from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. on May 17. More details are on the Facebook event page . The library is at 850 Costley Way, Prince Frederick, MD.

We’re keeping up the fight against Dominion’s dangerous fracked gas export terminal. Can you help us get a little closer to victory? Please donate now.—”We Are Cove Point Update – May Fourth a huge success!,” We Are Cove Point, 5/11/17

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The Gas Rush

Never before in American history has so much money been spent trying to convince people that burning a fossil fuel is the answer to our climate and energy problems. It’s The Gas Rush, from Green Street Radio.—Tony Ingraffea, “The Gas Rush,” Green Street Podcast, 5/1/17

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Bomb Trains that Could Hollow Out Cities

How the Railroad Administration Secretly Allowed LNG-by-Rail

[The two railroad tank cars used in the night-time trial runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks of this LNG train each carried about 12 tons of LNG, equivalent to about 149 tons of TNT. The MOAB super-bomb recently dropped on an ISIS tunnel system in Afghanistan by the U.S. Air Force had the equivalent power of 11 tons of TNT, or about 7.4% of one of these LNG rail tank car’s explosive force. If these tank cars have an accident that results in penetration into either LNG chamber, the resulting explosion will inevitably involve the other tanker also, resulting in an explosion the size of quite a few MOAB bombs. If you find an error in these figures, please email banner@wearesenecalake.com. I am hoping there is an error!—Editor]

In 2015, a federal rail agency authorized the Alaska Railroad Corporation to ship its first batch of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail in Alaska, but granted this permission behind closed doors, according to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and provided to DeSmog.

The documents, a series of letters and legal memoranda obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), show that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) may have violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by permitting the shipping of LNG, a highly combustible and flammable material, via rail without any public notification or comment period. The agency granted the Alaska Railroad Corporation a legal exemption under 49 C.F.R. § 174.63(a).

Further reading: Alaska Railroad to become first in U.S. to haul liquefied natural gas

That federal statute mandates that a “carrier may not transport a bulk packaging … containing a hazardous material in container-on-flatcar (COFC) or trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC) service … unless approved for transportation by” the FRA

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), a rail industry lobbying group, has since petitioned the FRA for the ability to ship LNG tankers by rail (as opposed to containers or trailers on flatcars), filing the request on January 17, according to documents on file at Regulations.gov.

AAR petitions for rule making to authorize the transportation of methane, refrigerated liquid (“LNG”), by rail in … tank cars,” reads the AAR petition. “LNG should be authorized for rail transportation because it is a safe method of transporting this commodity, LNG shippers have indicated a desire to use rail to transport it, and because railroads potentially will need to transport LNG for their own use as a locomotive fuel.”

In its petition, AAR — whose members include nearly all of the major rail companies — says that natural gas companies want to explore transporting LNG by rail in various regions around North America.

“Notwithstanding the requirement for a special approval, customers have expressed interest in shipping LNG by rail from Pennsylvania to New England, and between the U.S. and Mexico,” wrote AAR. “Authorizing transportation of LNG by rail likely would stimulate more interest.”…—Justin Mikulka, Steve Horn, “Documents: How the Railroad Administration Allowed LNG-by-Rail Without Public Review,” DeSmogBlog, 5/10/17

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Climate activists shut down Chase bank branches in Seattle; arrests made

Thirteen Chase bank branches in Seattle saw business disrupted by activists in an effort to stop loans to tar-sands oil-pipeline projects. Police report they have made arrests.

Roxanne White, right, a member of the Yakama Nation, sings during a protest inside a Chase bank branch Monday, May 8, 2017, in Seattle. Climate activists opposed to oil pipeline projects demonstrated at several JPMorgan Chase bank locations in Seattle on Monday, calling on the bank not to do business with TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Climate activists disrupted business at 13 branches of JP Morgan Chase bank in Seattle on Monday in an effort to stop loans to tar-sands oil-pipeline projects.

By late afternoon police had made 26 arrests of demonstrators, including activists who locked themselves together and refused to leave two bank branches, said Emily Johnston, communications manager for 350 Seattle, a nonprofit climate-action group that helped organized the demonstrations.

The actions were led in part by Indian activists who took part in the Standing Rock encampment demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Monday’s actions were intended to move the opposition to fossil-fuel development to the next battleground: financing of new tar-sands pipelines, including the Keystone and Trans Mountain projects.

“What we really have to do is shine a really bright light on how devastating these projects are,” Johnston said. Activists plan to keep the pressure on banks needed to finance the projects, she said. “If we can make these projects as politically toxic as they are for the environment, maybe they will get cold feet.”

At the Chase bank branch on Second Avenue, where activists began their disruption just after noon, Seattle police officers patiently stood by for hours but made no move to arrest demonstrators in the bank who were performing a Native American round dance, circling the shuttered teller windows, singing and drumming.

The bank became an impromptu longhouse of sorts as Native American leaders told stories and shared teaching, prayers and songs for demonstrators and their allies.

Rachel Heston, a Muckleshoot tribal member, burned a sage bundle at a shuttered teller window, a medicinal cleansing.

Chase is just one of many major banks expected to be approached by pipeline developers to loan money for their projects. Activists say they want to “name and shame” lenders that invest in pipeline construction and convince prospective lenders it’s not worth the public-relations hit to bankroll tar-sands projects.

Each action was a little different. In Fremont, a karaoke dance party was underway, while the Second Avenue branch was given over to song and prayer.

As the afternoon wore on, activists at the Second Avenue branch ordered cheese pizza. The sidewalk outside was given over to lively street theater as activists unfurled a tarp as a mock oil spill and encircled it wearing yellow plastic suits reminiscent of hazmat work. They chanted “Chase bank is toxic, don’t fund the KXL!” as other activists displayed a black inflatable “pipeline” that stretched for half a block.…— Lynda Mapes, “Climate activists shut down Chase bank branches in Seattle; arrests made,” The Seattle Times, 5/8/17

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 19 – Fossil Fuel Independence?

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May 142017
 

May 9, 2017
After years of landsmen telling rural citizens they needed to consider the good of the country and our nation’s need for energy independence, the oil & gas frackers now are exporting it — into a glutted market. This week we look at the hypocrisy of ‘energy independence’ and other oligarchic moves by the Trump administration, and the economic miasma of fracking.
But first the news.

Living in Harmony group to meeting:
discuss and write public comments
on DEC’s proposed SEQR rule changes

If you are concerned about protecting the environment, but don’t know how to get involved, here is your opportunity!

When: Tuesday, May 9, 7:00PM
Where: Henrietta United Church of Christ
1400 Lehigh Station Road
Rochester, NY 14467

We are in a public comment period for amendments to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), which can be submitted until May 19. Some of these proposed amendments seem like good changes, others may impede public input in the future.

What is SEQR? It requires state and local government agencies to balance the environmental impacts with social and economic factors when deciding to approve or undertake an action (for example, build an apartment complex, retail store or other development).

On Tuesday, May 9 at 7 pm, the Living in Harmony group will meet with all interested persons to talk about the proposed changes to SEQR. Our purpose for the meeting will be to write individual letters with our public comments. Your work will be completed at the meeting – no homework! But here are some rich source materials:

No experience or previous knowledge required for this activity – come, learn and send in your comments. Come and get involved! 

WiFi will be available for those who what to email comments during the meeting.

Questions? Need more info? Contact Elizabeth Pixley eypixley@gmail.com (or call 585-334-0977).

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Dump-funded Councilman votes: keep Seneca Meadows open;
later physically assaults councilman for asking him to recuse himself

Uproar ensues as Seneca Falls council member with campaign donations almost totally from Seneca Meadows refuses to recuse himself from voting to rescind law closing the dump in 2025

Tensions were running high during Friday’s special meeting where the Seneca Falls Town Board voted 3-2 to enact Local Law No. 2 of 2017.

The new local law rescinds a previously passed local law entitled the “Waste Disposal Law,” which would have closed Seneca Meadows in 2025 — and prevented any additional landfill operations from opening in Seneca Falls.

As it turns out though, tensions continued to run high after the vote.

Seneca Falls Town Councilor Dave DeLelys says he went to Parkers restaurant in downtown Seneca Falls shortly after the meeting ended. While being seated, he was intercepted by Thomas Ruzicka, who also serves on the Town Board.

As DeLelys was being seated by the host, he says that Ruzicka grabbed him by the shirt — pulling him close to his face, yelling things at him.

“He said something of I should have told him about not voting because the public knew he took money from the Landfill,” DeLelys recounted. “I did nothing. It happened so fast.”

DeLelys says that “a few men” had to pull Ruzicka off of him, and that the 70-year-old had no reaction to the confrontation.

The Councilor went on to explain that he turned around — went back to the front of the restaurant — and called Seneca Falls Police Chief Stuart Peenstra to report the incident.

As to whether charges will be pressed or if there is an active investigation into the matter — Chief Peenstra says that an investigation is underway.…—Tammy Whitacre, “EMOTIONS SPILL OVER: Alleged physical altercation between Town Councilors being investigated by SFPD,” Finger Lakes Times, 5/6/17

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Pipeline protesters arrested at Otis State Forest after blocking access roads

SANDISFIELD, MA — Eighteen protesters were arrested this morning at the Otis State Forest after blocking an access road to a pipeline construction site, according to Massachusetts State Police.

Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline has started cutting trees within the forest, owned by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, for a natural gas pipeline project.

While the names of those arrested for trespassing have not been officially released, one of those detained is Ron Coler, a member of the Ashfield Board of Selectmen, according to reports from the field.

Members of the “Sugar Shack Alliance” posted a manifesto to Facebook this morning before forming a human shield and blocking two access roads to the Berkshire County construction site:

“We are here. We are not leaving. We will stop the CT Expansion fracked gas pipeline — for Otis State Forest and everywhere around the world. We are more powerful than #KinderMorgan .#KeepItInTheGround.#Resist.”

The group posted live video saying they won’t let trees be cut “without a fight.” Members of the Sugar Shack Alliance blocked access to the Otis State Forest, where Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has begun cutting trees for its Connecticut Expansion project.…—Mary C. Serreze, “Pipeline protesters arrested at Otis State Forest after blocking access roads,” MassLive, 5/2/17

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Exporting Independence?

Trump Administration’s Push for Gas Exports
Faces Market Glut

The Golden Pass Products liquefied natural gas terminal in Sabine Pass, Tex., in 2014. The Energy Department has authorized Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum to export domestically produced gas from the terminal. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

HOUSTON — The Trump administration is moving to make the United States the world’s leading exporter of natural gas as a central component of both energy and trade policy.

But whether global markets, currently awash with gas, will play along remains a long shot over the next several years. Any breakdown of talks to remodel the North American Free Trade Agreement, which set the regulatory framework that allowed gas exports to Mexico to triple over the last six years, could also get in the way.

The administration’s ambitions were explained emphatically last month by Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and they were followed up by the Energy Department’s authorization last Tuesday for a Texas export terminal that Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum have pursued for years. Other administration plans include opening the way for more gas exports from Oregon to serve Asia.

…But construction has begun on so many terminals in recent years in Australia, Malaysia, Russia and the United States that supplies of liquefied gas shipped in tankers are expected to increase by nearly 50 percent over the next five years while global gas demand is increasing by less than 2 percent a year.…—Clifford Krauss, “Trump Administration’s Push for Gas Exports Faces Market Glut,” The New York Times, 4/1/17

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Killing Energy Star: A Popular Program Lands on the Trump Hit List

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It is widely regarded as a success — a voluntary program that has been a win-win for industry, consumers, and energy conservation. So why does the Trump administration want to get rid of Energy Star?

Consider Haiku, a line of sleek, quiet, and smart ceiling fans. Haiku fans can be equipped with temperature and humidity sensors, as well as LED lights, and they can be controlled by a mobile phone, a Nest thermostat, Amazon’s Alexa, or a Jawbone fitness tracker, which will turn off a bedroom fan once a user falls asleep. Not incidentally, Haiku fans are energy efficient — they capture the top nine spots among 423 ceiling fans certified by Energy Star, the federal government’s popular energy efficiency program. 

The Trump administration wants to shut down Energy Star, a 25-year-old program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its plan to slash the EPA budget. While the White House was expected to try to rein in EPA — the agency was a Trump target during the presidential campaign — the move to eliminate Energy Star is surprising. About 16,000 companies and organizations, including Big Ass Solutions, Haiku’s parent company, have chosen to participate. Last week, more than 1,000 participants — including major manufacturers such as United Technologies, real estate firms such as CBRE Group and retailers such as Staples — asked Congress to protect the program. 

“We applaud Energy Star,” says Jon Bostock, the chief financial officer of Big Ass Solutions and a former manager in General Electric’s appliance unit, who knows the program well. “It has pushed brands. It’s driven a ton of innovation. It’s provided value for the customer.”  

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, fast-growing Big Ass is the kind of company Trump professes to like. It manufactures industrial, commercial, and residential fans, mostly in the United States, where it employs nearly 900 people. Because Energy Star is voluntary — no company is required to participate, and no consumer is obligated to buy certified products — Bostock says he can’t see why the government would want to eliminate it.

He’s not alone. “A lot of people have been wondering about that,” says Lowell Ungar, senior policy advisor at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a Washington-based nonprofit.

“This is a program that’s working,” Ungar adds. “People, almost universally, know what it is. They trust the brand. The retailers love it because it enables them to market better products. Why mess with a program than is helping consumers, saving energy, improving air quality, and creating jobs?”

Says Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, which is lobbying to save Energy Star: “It’s inexplicable.”…— Marc Gunther, “Killing Energy Star: A Popular Program Lands on the Trump Hit List,” Yale Environment 360, 5/4/17

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Institute Index: The overblown job creation claims for expanded offshore drilling

Claims being made about the job-creating potential of offshore oil and gas drilling fail to take into account the potential economic losses caused by damaged ecosystems. (Photo of oil from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster on a barrier island off the Louisiana coast by NOAA.)

Date on which President Trump signed an executive order directing the Interior Department to review and potentially rewrite the Obama administration’s five-year plan that closed the Atlantic and other waters to offshore drilling through 2022: 4/28/2017

Number of new jobs President Trump claimed would be created by expanding offshore drilling to new areas: “countless”

Number of days after Trump signed the order that the American Petroleum Institute called for opening the Eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling, citing among other reasons the job creation potential: 3

Number of jobs that the Republican Party is claiming would be created by opening up the Atlantic alone to drilling: nearly 280,000

Year in which a report by Texas-based Quest Offshore, commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association, arrived at that figure: 2013

Number of jobs the Quest report said Atlantic drilling would create in just North Carolina: 55,000

Year in which Douglas Wakeman, an economics professor at North Carolina’s Meredith College, released an analysis of the Quest report that found its job claims were dubious: 2015

Number of times in its report that Quest specified what estimates of future oil prices it used, even though production depends on price: 0

Price a barrel of oil was selling for at the time Quest produced the report: $105.49

Price a barrel was selling for this week: around $48

Price at which production in high-cost areas falls off: $50

Between March 2015 and March 2016, amid plummeting oil prices, number of oil and gas jobs lost in just Louisiana: 10,000

According to a 2016 federal study, number by which the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster reduced jobs in the Gulf of Mexico’s seafood industry: up to 9,315

Total number of spills that have been reported from offshore drilling platforms and pipelines in U.S. waters from 2001 through 2015: 725

Total number of jobs along the Atlantic Coast alone that depend on healthy ocean ecosystems: nearly 1.4 million

Factor by which the number of U.S. jobs provided by ocean tourism and recreation exceeds those provided by offshore drilling: 12

Number of local businesses, chambers of commerce, tourism and other industry groups that are opposing offshore exploration and/or drilling in the Atlantic due to concerns about its negative economic impact: over 48,000

Number of times the Quest study considered potential job losses from offshore drilling: 0

—Sue Sturgis,”Institute Index: The overblown job creation claims for expanded offshore drilling,” Facing South, 5/2/17

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Natural gas royalty revision leaves Pa. family paying $5,700

Some landowners who are receiving next to nothing, or even negative, royalty payments are asking drillers to turn off their wells. CREDIT: Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News via AP

Russ Forba opened his natural gas royalty statement on Monday and got a bitter surprise.

Mr. Forba was featured in a Post-Gazette article on Sunday describing nine months when Chesapeake Energy Corp. calculated that the costs of piping and marketing the Marcellus Shale gas extracted from beneath his family’s northeastern Pennsylvania farm exceeded — by $112,000 — the family’s share of the gas sales.

The family received no checks from Chesapeake during those months, when the company sold more than 2 billion cubic feet of gas from under the farm, but the Oklahoma-based oil and gas operator assured the family it had zeroed out the negative balance.

Further reading Unfair Share: How Oil and Gas Drillers Avoid Paying Royalties
How to Read Your Oil and Gas Royalty Statement
A Pennsylvania landowner challenged his gas royalty deductions — and won
Hints on Negotiating an Oil & Gas Lease [pdf from Texas A&M University]

The company said it is its practice not to use past costs in such cases to offset future royalties and, until Monday, it had applied that policy to the Forba family.

But the monthly statement Mr. Forba opened this week showed that Chesapeake had revised down the selling price and revised up the post-production expenses from April 2015, a month when the family already received no royalty because costs outweighed sales.

Now, Chesapeake reduced his family’s current royalty by $5,700 to recover those costs.

“Basically, we are paying for them to take gas from underneath our property for the month of April 2015,” Mr. Forba said. “It is exactly what they said they would not do.”…—Laura Legere, “Natural gas royalty revision leaves Pa. family paying $5,700,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 4/28/17

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Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations

The start of a much larger stand-off?

Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves.

Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews.

The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations.

Further reading Federally recognized tribes should brace for possible termination policy under Trump
History of U.S. Indian Termination Policy — 1953-1968

The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property.

“We should take tribal land away from public treatment,” said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. “As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.”

Trump’s transition team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.…—Valerie Volcovici, “Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations,” Reuters, 12/5/16

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A Dam Big Problem: Fracking Companies Build Dozens of Unauthorized Dams in B.C.’s Northeast

A subsidiary of Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned petro giant courted by the B.C. government, has built at least 16 unauthorized dams in northern B.C. to trap hundreds of millions of gallons of water used in its controversial fracking operations.

The 16 dams are among “dozens” that have been built by Petronas and other companies without proper authorizations, a senior dam safety official with the provincial government told the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which began investigating the problem in late March after receiving a tip from someone with knowledge of how widespread the problem is.

Two of the dams built by Progress Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Petronas, are towering earthen structures that exceed the height of five-storey apartment buildings. Petronas has proposed building a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Prince Rupert, which if built would result in dramatic increases in fracking and industrial water use throughout northeast B.C.

The two dams are so large that they should have been subject to review by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). Only if a review concluded that the projects could proceed would the EAO have issued a certificate, and only then could the company have moved on to get the necessary authorizations from other provincial agencies.

But nothing close to that happened because the company never submitted its plans to the EAO before the dams were built.…—Ben Parfitt, “A Dam Big Problem: Fracking Companies Build Dozens of Unauthorized Dams in B.C.’s Northeast,” DeSmog Canada, 5/3/17

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Tundra May Be Shifting Alaska to Put Out More Carbon Than It Stores, Study Says

The tundra about 35 miles north of Nome, Alaska. A new study suggests that the state, with its huge stretches of tundra and forest, may be shifting from a net sink, or storehouse, of carbon to a net source. Credit Esther Horvath

As global warming continues, a big unknown is what will happen to the carbon balance between the atmosphere and the land, especially in the far north. Will Arctic and near-Arctic regions continue to take more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through plant activity than they release, or will they release more than they store?

A new study suggests that Alaska, with its huge stretches of tundra and forest, may be shifting from a net sink, or storehouse, of carbon to a net source. The study focused on one possible cause: warmer temperatures that keep the Arctic tundra from freezing until later in the fall, allowing plant respiration and microbial decomposition — processes that release carbon dioxide — to continue longer.

Roisin Commane, a researcher at Harvard, and others studied atmospheric carbon dioxide in the state, using measurements from aircraft and a 40-year record from sensors operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Barrow, in the North Slope Borough.

They found that carbon emissions from the North Slope tundra in October, November and December had increased by 70 percent since the 1970s. “We were surprised by the magnitude of CO2 coming out in the fall,” Dr. Commane said.

The study was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Further Reading More Permafrost Than Thought May Be Lost as Planet Warms
Arctic’s Winter Sea Ice Drops to Its Lowest Recorded Level
Spiking Temperatures in the Arctic Startle Scientists

The aircraft measurements, which include more of Alaska and were taken from 2012 to 2014, suggest that the boreal forest covering much of the southern half of the state remains a net storehouse of carbon dioxide. But the amounts stored are more than offset by the increasing tundra emissions, the researchers conclude.

Steven C. Wofsy, a Harvard professor and an author of the paper, said the findings suggested that the state was becoming a source of carbon dioxide. “But it doesn’t prove that yet,” he said.…—Henry Fountain, “Tundra May Be Shifting Alaska to Put Out More Carbon Than It Stores, Study Says ,” The New York Times, 5/8/17

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Keystone XL: the final leg and the myth of Trump’s job promise

“Nebraska is the last hope for stopping this,” says Art Tanderup, sitting on the lawn close to the solar panels that provide most of the energy to his farm. Spring comes a little earlier here than in South Dakota and Montana. The 2ft deep snow drifts that had blanketed the farmland melted a month ago, revealing acres of harvested corn stubble that is now being readied for replanting.

This year’s crop cycle brings with it a sense of unprecedented foreboding for Tanderup and his wife Helen, who returned to the century-old family farm in 2011, hoping for a quiet retirement.

The night of Donald Trump’s election brought tears here. “I thought: ‘Here we go again,’” says Helen. “We’re going to be fighting the Keystone pipeline again.”

The Tanderups’ farm, like many properties in the XL’s pathway in this state, sits above the Ogallala aquifer, which they depend on for their drinking and farm water. The pipeline would also come within 600ft of their farmhouse.

Their land had become something of a hub for resistance against the XL during the second term of the Obama administration. In recent summers crop artists had cut anti-XL artworks into the outlying corn fields, and in 2014 Neil Young and Willie Nelson headlined a protest concert on the field the XL is set to cross. The Tanderups stood at the side of the stage as 8,000 people watched the Canadian troubadour sing: “End fossil fuel, draw the line. Before we build one more pipeline”, lines from his newly written protest song Who’s Gonna Stand Up?

It may have taken years, but the former president eventually paid attention.

But Trump and his aggressive brand of “America first” nationalism bring with it a challenge the Tanderups can’t help but feel daunted by. The president has sold the project as a major job creator for the US – even though the facts don’t support all of his claims.

Further reading Keystone pipeline defiance triggers further assault on citizens’ rights
Life on the Keystone XL route: where opponents fear the ‘black snake’

As Art says, the state of Nebraska , and more precisely its Public Service Commission, stands as the last major obstacle to TransCanada and the new president from getting shovels in the ground.

Unlike Montana and South Dakota, the XL has no approved pathway in the state of Nebraska and the commission, comprising five elected officials, is set to rule on the company’s proposal later this year. Public hearings are set for August, and Tanderup and a coalition of other resistant landowners are preparing to lobby hard.…— Oliver Laughland, Laurence Mathieu-Léger, “Keystone XL: the final leg and the myth of Trump’s job promise,The Guardian, 5/4/17

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Lawsuit Bans Fracking Across Much Of California

The federal government effectively banned hydraulic fracturing on 1 million acres of public land in California as part of a legal settlement with environmental groups this week.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will halt plans to lease public land for fracking until it reworks a resource management plan to auctioned off drilling rights in California.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD), Earthjustice and local groups sued the BLM, alleging the agency didn’t consider all the potential environmental impacts of fracking in its regulatory review of opening up federal lands to drilling.

The settlement requires BLM to submit extremely strict environmental impact filings and will continue what CBD calls a “de facto leasing moratorium.” BLM hasn’t sold a single lease of public land in California for fracking since 2013.

“If energy development ever takes place on federally owned land in California it would be done under the world’s strictest oil and gas regulations, including the nation’s most comprehensive rules to ensure the safety fracking, which is a routine well-stimulation technique used here for over 50 years,” Dave Quast, California director of the pro-industry group Energy In Depth, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

CBD also challenged BLM’s  assumptions about how much fracking would occur and alleged that opening up public lands to fracking could contaminate the state’s groundwater and cause earthquakes.

“This is a big victory for California and a major blow to Trump’s plan to turn our public lands over to oil companies,” Brendan Cummings, CBD’s conservation director, said in a statement. “Despite the petroleum industry’s stranglehold on the White House, these beautiful wild places are still off limits to drilling and fracking. That protects our water, wildlife and climate from fracking pollution.”…—Andrew Follett, “Enviro Lawsuit Bans Fracking Across Much Of California,” The Daily Caller, 5/7/17

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Investors worth $20 trillion call for climate change action

Investors want the governments of the world’s largest economies to introduce clear plans to implement the Paris Accord. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Some of the world’s biggest investors have pleaded with governments of the world’s largest economies, including Australia, to stick with their commitments to tackle climate change and to introduce carbon pricing to help achieve them.

There is strong speculation that American President Donald Trump could renege on his country’s commitments under the Paris Accord signed in 2015, which aimed to hold temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Now a group of investor organisations, committed to encouraging action on climate change has written to member nations of the G7 and G20 calling on all participants to move to implement the Paris agreement. The G7 is due to meet in Italy later this month and includes America, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain.

Current signatories to the letter manage $20 trillion and in their letter also call for measures to encourage investments that will reduce climate change including carbon pricing, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and introduce standardised international reporting rules for companies to disclose their climate risks. 

Further reading Climate March draws thousands demanding Trump acts on environment
Trump’s EPA chief calls for an ‘exit’ from the Paris agreement

It is expected that more investors will sign up the letter ahead of the G20 meeting in July.

“While the private sector can provide the investment required to build a secure, affordable and low emissions global energy system, we urge the G7 to set strong policy signals which provide the investment certainty needed to drive trillions of dollars into new clean energy investment opportunities,” Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia said.…—Mathew Dunckley, “Investors worth $20 trillion call for climate change action,” The Sidney Morning Herald, 5/8/17

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EPA fires members of science advisory board

What? me worry?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fired members of a scientific advisory board yesterday.

The agency quietly forced out some members of the Board of Scientific Counselors just weeks after leaders told them their tenure would be renewed, said Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University and one of those dismissed.

The board is tasked with reviewing the work of EPA scientists and provides feedback that can be a powerful voice in shaping the agency’s future research. The cuts “just came out of nowhere,” Richardson said.

“The role that science has played in the agency in the past, this step is a significant step in a different direction,” he said today. “Anecdotally, based on what we know about the administrator, I think it will be science that will appear to be friendlier to industry, the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and I think it will be science that marginalizes climate change science.”

EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are two main science advisory boards at EPA, both of which can hold significant sway over policy and regulation. The Trump administration has proposed a major weakening of both.

Earlier this year, the White House proposed slashing funding for the Science Advisory Board by 84 percent. Such a cut would essentially cripple the work of the 47-member board of outside scholars.

House Republicans have passed legislation to reform the Science Advisory Board, a move critics say is designed to increase the voice of industry in rule making. That bill is still awaiting Senate approval.

Richardson said about developments, “This is a significant step toward the erosion of science, and I think that it is happening subtly throughout the agency with this very large proposed budget cut to the Science Advisory Board.”

At an April meeting, the Board of Scientific Counselors discussed the importance of climate change research at EPA and “the growing need for information on, and understanding of, climate change and responses to its impacts,” according to an agenda. They also talked about the importance of considering climate change as a stressor in areas of non-climate research.

The Trump administration has already sent signals that it does not value some areas of federal research, in particular climate science and work that could lead to further regulation of the fossil fuel and chemical industries.…— Scott Waldmann, “EPA fires members of science advisory board,” American Association for the Advancement of Science, 5/6/17

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Is air quality in China a social problem?

The human and fiscal cost of air pollution is irrefutable. After identifying air pollution as carcinogenic in 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has tracked air quality to measure its effect on stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. China and India each had 1.1 million air pollution-related deaths in 2015, accounting for half of the world’s total air pollution deaths that year. In China, University of California at Berkeley physicists estimated in a 2015 report that air pollution leads to about 4,000 premature deaths a day. Chinese leaders face the difficult choice of prioritizing economic growth or environmental and social welfare, which compromises its ability to cultivate its national power. Additionally, China’s air-quality concerns have harmed China’s international image, adversely affecting Chinese soft power. In this question, we compare pollution levels with other countries, assess the social consequences of China’s air pollution, and explain what generates China’s pollution.

An Air Quality Index (AQI) is an indicator for reporting the safety level of air in a specific location. The AQI used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scaled between 0 and 500 with “breakpoints” (e.g. 0, 50, 100, 150,…500) that correspond to a defined pollution concentration. The color coding in the below graphic corresponds to EPA standards.

Click for interactive charts

How does air quality in China compare with other countries?

Countries with a developing or developed industrial sector must often face the trade off between the perceived economic limitations of environmental regulation, and environmental and public welfare. The challenge is not a recent phenomenon. Advanced economies, like the United Kingdom and United States, continue to work toward environmental protection while supporting their economic and industrial sectors. The challenge arguably has greater repercussions for developing countries, as their economic development often depends on industrial output.

…Emerging markets face the same cost-benefit trade offs as wealthier countries like the United Kingdom and United States. As both are large, developing countries, India makes the most obvious point of comparison for China. In 2015, the average concentration levels of particulate matter in India surpassed China. Whereas the concentration of PM2.5 decreased by 17 percent in China from 2010 to 2015, pollution levels increased in India by 13 percent during the same time period. In Mumbai alone, air pollution-related government and personal health expenditures totaled as much as $77.8 billion in 2011. A 2017 Greenpeace report estimates that there are 1.2 million air-pollution-based deaths per year in India, and that India lost 3 percent of its GDP due to air pollution in 2015. To help curb the pollution problem, the Indian government has enacted a number of measures ranging from a graded air quality rating response system to mandating emission-reducing catalytic converters for motor vehicles.

Air pollution tends to be localized due to topography, weather patterns, and industry location. Along the Beijing-to-Shanghai corridor, where China’s pollution is most concentrated, 10 percent of the land area has been associated with 34 percent of China’s PM2.5 emissions (particle matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter). The American Lung Association has found that counties in southern and central California—including Los Angeles, Fresno-Madera, and Bakersfield—experience the most particle matter and ozone air pollution. The report attributed this phenomenon to this region’s high levels of drought, fires, and burning wood as a heat source. Thus, air-quality regulations must also address industrial and geographic details at the local level.…—”Is air quality in China a social problem?ChinaPower Project | Center for Strategic and International Studies

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The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 18 – Mindless Mining

 The Banner, Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 18 – Mindless Mining
May 142017
 

May 2, 2017
The news of the week, of course, is the Second Peoples Climate March. You can read it everywhere, so we’ll cover it briefly here. Our focus this week is on an issue We Are Seneca Lake began with: mindless mining and mindless use of mines. We will look at a few current problems and a wonderful national solution!
But first the news.

SCRAM: Sullivan County Residents Against Millennium

All Hands On Deck Action Alert. Now is the Time to Resist Millennium Pipeline. the Fight is Nowhere Near Over! 

It’s time to tell FERC (and the three other agencies that can stop Millennium Pipeline) that Millennium’s expansion plans are not wanted, and as we have discovered, not legal. Delaware Riverkeeper has put together an easy link to send your thoughts to three different agencies.  Follow the instructions here and SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA WIDELY AND OFTEN.

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Lou Allstadt: U. S. Energy Transition, the Plight of Fossil Fuels and the Rise of Renewables

CREDIT Emma Tannenbaum for The New York Times

When : Wednesday, 3 May
Where : Templeton Hall

63 Pioneer Street
Cooperstown, NY 13326

The event is free and open to the public.

Lou Allstadt, former executive Vice-President of Mobil Oil and current Trustee of the Village of Cooperstown, will speak on the urgent need to confront the challenge of climate change by adopting a national carbon tax and dividend policy.

Mr. Allstadt will lay out the complexities of our energy systems, the financial and operational difficulties the fossil fuel industry is facing, and the growth of renewables. The transition is happening but not fast enough to avoid devastating climate changes. He will then discuss ways to speed up the transition, including, more regulations, a concentrated effort like the Moon Program, or a Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax.

Mr. Allstadt was recently instrumental is getting the Village of Cooperstown to divest its fossil fuels assets. He also played a major role in the successful struggle against fracking for natural gas in New York State.

Further reading: Once an Oil Executive, Now a Crusader Against Fossil Fuel Stocks,” The New York Times

For more info contact: Adrian Kuzminski, Moderator, Sustainable Otsego: adriankuzminski@gmail.com

Co-sponsored by Positive-Action Cooperstown, Sustainable Otsego, and Otsego 2000

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Your Public Comment needed: A Critique of the DEC’s SEQR and Scoping Proposals

The DEC has proposed amendments to SEQR “to streamline the SEQR process without sacrificing meaningful environmental review.”  These proposals fail to address the huge gap between actual practices at the local level and current SEQR law.

  • Local governments too often give SEQR short shrift or bypass SEQR entirely.   
  • Involved agencies and their agents lack personnel who are qualified to evaluate health impact and other complex issues.  
  • There are no penalties for dismissing substantive public comments. 
  • Proposed SEQR changes allows a government entity to bboth propose a project and act as the SEQR decision-maker. 

We need people to push for a robust SEQR process with incentives or penalties to ensure compliance.  Comments should call for SEQR enforcement, participation of qualified experts, and protection against conflicts of interest.

The DEC proposes to make SEQR more responsive through mandatory public scoping.  However, early public input should not preclude incorporation of substantive new information throughout the SEQR process.  In addition, experience shows that public scoping has little benefit when lead agencies simply ignore substantive public comments.  SEQR regulations should require a public comment period on the draft scope, allot more than 60 days for experts to evaluate the comments, and require incorporation of public comments into the final scope unless they are unreasonable or irrelevant.

For further comment talking points, download the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Comments and Dr. Alison King’s Comments (both in MS Word format).

Send your comments on the proposed SEQR regulations to:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Permits,
Attn: James J. Eldred, Environmental Analyst
625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-1750,

or by e-mail to: seqra617@dec.ny.gov.

  • E-mailed comments should be submitted in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word document format
  • Comments will be accepted until the close of business on May 19, 2017.

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The Fracking Moratorium Is in Danger

Intercept contributor Naomi Klein is reporting live from the Climate March in Washington D.C. with guest Anthony Rogers-Wright.

The moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin is at risk. Indications over the past few months have been that the Delaware River Basin Commission is considering drafting regulations that would effectively lift the moratorium that has been in place since 2010. The DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini even testified in court that he doesn’t believe there is a moratorium on fracking.

In this great video from The Intercept of a discussion between our friend Anthony Rogers-Wright and author and activist Naomi Klein at the Climate March in D.C., Klein uses the famous Michelle Obama line, “when they go low, we go high” to describe the way we need to respond to moves like these.

That’s exactly what a huge network of organizations and concerned citizens is doing! When they say lift the moratorium in the Delaware, we say ban fracking outright! An overflow crowd of more than 400 people showed up at the February meeting of the DRBC to deliver that message. They more than filled the room at the March meeting, as well, even though it was the day after the biggest snowstorm of the season.

The DRBC doesn’t meet regularly and they always hold their meetings over two months, so the next two-part meeting has been announced to take place in May and June. We plan to deliver a petition at the June meeting, but that means we need your signature and your help in circulating it to your friends and neighbors.

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Protecting Drinking Water Supplies around Bath

Understanding the Bath Valley-Fill Aquifer

Presentation by Todd Miller, retired USGS hydro-geologist

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 7:00 PM
Bath Fire Hall
50 East Morris St.
Bath, NY

A program on the Bath valley-fill aquifer and how to protect this local drinking water supply will be held Wednesday, May 3, at 7:00 pm at the Bath Fire Hall, 50 East Morris St. in Bath. The program will help residents understand how the groundwater system in the Bath area works and how discharges from chemically contaminated remediation sites in Bath, including former industrial and commercial facilities, may have impacted the aquifer.

Retired USGS hydro-geologist Todd Miller is the featured speaker. Miller is the main author of ten USGS reports on the primary and principal aquifers in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, including the Corning and Elmira valley-fill aquifers. Miller spoke at a program about the Corning aquifer last year in Corning.  The Bath, Corning and Elmira aquifers are all primary aquifers, which means they are highly productive aquifers that are being used as sources of water supply by major public water supply systems. Primary aquifers also provide water supplies for commercial and industrial facilities. Three of New York’s 18 primary aquifers are located on the Cohocton River in Steuben County.

Miller will explain how the Bath aquifer works, including groundwater-surface-water interactions, effects of large pumping wells, recharge and discharge areas, and water quality. His presentation will cover the Bath aquifer study that was done by T. Pagano, D. Terry, M. Shaw, and A. Ingram for USGS in 1984. In addition, Miller will discuss what hydro-geologic data are needed to better understand the aquifer and methods that can be used to protect the aquifer and track flow paths of contaminants.

The forum is sponsored by the Bath Peace and Justice Group and the Finger Lakes Group of the Sierra Club.  The program is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit our Facebook event page or call 607-569-3564.

The program will be videotaped and posted online.  It was featured in a recent segment on WETM .

Map of Steuben County Aquifers

Click for full view

See map at right from Water Quality Strategy for Steuben County , SC Water Quality Coordinating Committee, April 2009, p. 32- 33. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation classifies the three aquifers on the Cohocton River, i.e., the Upper Cohocton River aquifer, the Lower Cohocton River (Bath Area) aquifer, and the Corning Area aquifer, as “primary aquifers,” meaning they are highly productive aquifers that are being used as sources of water supply by major public water supply systems. See Primary & Principal Aquifers , http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/36119.html .

Detailed maps of Bath aquifer available at Geo-hydrology of the valley-fill aquifer in the Bath area, Lower Cohocton River, Steuben County, New York, USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 85-4095, Timothy S. Pagano, D.B. Terry, M.L. Shaw, and A.W. Ingram, https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/wri854095

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An Anniversary Victory Lap for the Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline

Proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline map

[It has been an honor to meet so many of you and learn from you while we “carry the torch.”

I trust that you realize that Becky and I would have been merely “howling in the wind” without your support and that of hundreds of other activists. Think about what the Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline grassroots group accomplished by virtue of education, determination and consistency.

To wit, the attendee numbers that SNYFGP amassed for rallies, forums and governmental meetings “moved mountains,” didn’t it?

Yes indeed, this one year old “One Year Anniversary” article from the Register Star was a victory lap, but it is also intended to act as a reminder to us all. As you know, there are many other fossil fuel battles to fight locally, in NYS and beyond.

The transition to cleaner and safer energy use is not over yet and we can’t afford to get complacent because there is too much at stake!”

Until we met again
Bob Conners
]

CANAAN — “Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” said Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist.

And Bob Connors and Becky Meier of Canaan have proven it can be done.

When behemoth fossil-fuel corporation Kinder Morgan announced plans under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to locate a 36-inch wide pipeline and a large compressor station partially in northern Columbia, the two began to assemble opposition to the plan.

Kinder Morgan announced last week that it is no longer pursuing the Northeast Energy Direct project. Shortly after, the state Department of Environmental Conservation put the kibosh on the Constitution Pipeline.

Calling their opposition Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline, Connors and Meier held their first meeting at Connors’ house in May 2014. About 10 people attended.

“We set up a board of directors, a Web and Facebook page and used other social media such as Twitter,” he said. “Our lawn signs and logo are quite graphic and got our message across very succinctly.”

The group’s first public forum, held at the Canaan Congregational Church, was attended by 130 people.

There was, at the time, “a general acceptance of the existing three fracked gas pipelines already entrenched in Columbia County … and little knowledge about how fracking had changed the former natural gas product to unnatural gas mixed with dangerous chemicals,” Connors said. “We repeated the fact that fracking enables pipelines and pipelines enable fracking.

“Grassroots opposition took hold and many property owners in Columbia County were educated by [the group] to deny Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline … the right to survey their properties,” which became a major obstacle for the project, he said. “I also think that they could not get anyone in New Lebanon to sell them the land needed to build a massive compressor station there.”

The corporation then rerouted to southern Rensselaer County to take advantage of National Grid power line right-of-ways, Connors said.

Further Reading: Eye on the Pipelines: Opposition gathers to network of natural gas pipelines from the ‘fracking’ fields

The group held “14 public forums throughout Rensselaer and Albany counties and met with elected officials at every level: local, state, county and federal,” he said.

Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline “got every affected town to write strong resolutions opposing [it],” Connors said. “Both Albany and Rensselaer counties created strong well-water blasting protection laws too.”

The last public forum drew about 500 attendees and 1,400 people are on their mailing list, he said.…—Gail Heinsohn, “Opposition group helps stop gas pipeline from coming in,’ Columbia-Greene Media: News, 4/26/16

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Mindless Mining

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would Require Extensive Mountaintop Removal

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline Click for full view

A new briefing paper details how Dominion Energy‘s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would involve the blasting, excavation and removal of mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridges as part of the construction.

The planned 600-mile interstate pipeline will carry 1.44 billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, cutting through forests, critical animal habitats and pristine mountains that Dominion would be required to “reduce” between 10 to 60 feet, according to the paper released Thursday by the non-profit Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The paper cites data from the draft environmental impact statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) as well as information supplied to FERC by Dominion. It also compiles information from Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software and independent reports prepared by engineers and soil scientists.

“In light of the discovery that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cause 10 to 60 feet of mountaintops to be removed from 38 miles of Appalachian ridges, there is nothing left to debate,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“Dominion’s pipeline will cause irrevocable harm to the region’s environmental resources. With Clean Water Act certifications pending in both Virginia and West Virginia, we call on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to reject this destructive pipeline.”

The paper was released in coordination with the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Nelson County, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition.

Dominion, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. The developer promises that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have “minimal environmental impact” and that “best-in-class restoration and mitigation techniques will be used to protect native species, preserve wetland and water resources, control erosion and minimize emissions.” Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas also have a stake in the project.

As DeSmog reported, President Trump’s team has listed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline among the White House’s top priorities for infrastructure projects.…—Lorraine Chow, “Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would Require Extensive Mountaintop Removal,” EcoWatch, 4/28/17

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Most groundwater is ancient
but contains surprising human fingerprint

We’re talking mostly water that is way older than this fellow, but also a little water that’s slightly younger… CREDIT Don Harrison

Water is typically considered a renewable resource, as the global cycle of evaporation and precipitation constantly redistributes it. But not all sources of fresh drinking water work that way. Some accumulate at modest rates, which can easily be surpassed by extraction for people and crops. In the case of groundwater aquifers, this extraction is sometimes referred to as “mining,” since water that fell as rain long ago can be quickly depleted by wells.

A new study led by the University of Calgary’s Scott Jasechko estimates how much of the Earth’s accessible groundwater is “fossil” water that has been down there for 12,000 years or more, predating the current interglacial climate period. Along the way, the researchers discovered a surprise—that “fossil” water may not be as untouched by human pollution as we thought.

Old water can be bound in dry areas with very low aquifer-refilling rates, or it can reside deeper in wetter regions, often below relatively impermeable rock layers that separate aquifers. Although water that has spent so long in contact with bedrock sometimes picks up problematic geological contaminants, these deeper waters typically enjoy the advantage of being isolated from human activities. Shallow aquifers can contain pesticides, for example, or industrial contaminants.

To find out how much groundwater is ancient “fossil” water, the researchers analyzed existing carbon isotope data from almost 6,500 water wells around the world. Carbon-14, with its 5,730-year half-life, can be used to calculate how long ago the groundwater fell as rain. With a little math, you can work out how much water came from each of several sources, as unique isotopic signatures would need to mix together to produce the final isotopic ratios. The researchers calculated the portion of water from each well that could only be more than 12,000 years old.

Further reading: Taking an inventory of all the water stored under ground

Overall, they estimated that this “fossil” water accounts for fully 42 percent to 85 percent of all groundwater within a kilometer of the Earth’s surface and is dominant in the deeper wells.

The researchers also analyzed another time-keeping isotope: hydrogen-3, also known as tritium. With a half-life of about 12 years, tritium doesn’t hang around too long, and it doesn’t exist naturally in any meaningful quantity on Earth. But during the era of nuclear weapons testing, humans added a fair amount of it in the atmosphere. This several-decades-long spike in tritium acts like a tracer, unambiguously marking any water containing a very young component. (Don’t worry, these trace levels of tritium pose no health risk.)

With that, the researchers could identify groundwater that fell as rain after about 1950, which was obviously mostly found in shallow wells. But here’s where it gets really weird: tritium was also detected in half of the wells that were mostly “fossil” water. So even aquifers filled with ancient waters aren’t safe from modern human contamination—at least some water bearing the mark of human activities is frequently present.…—Scott K. Johnson, “Most groundwater is ancient but contains surprising human fingerprint,” Ars Technica. 4/27/17

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Protect Water for Future Generations
Stop Uranium Mining in the Black Hills

The Epa Is Seeking Public Comments On Permits To Mine Uranium In The Southern Black Hills.

DEADLINE IS MAY 19, 2017

Let’s tell the Environmental Protection Agency NO URANIUM MINING IN THE BLACK HILLS! NOT NOW, NOT EVER.  We’ve stopped uranium mining before, we can do it again!  We’ve held Azarga/Powertech Uranium off since 2010 with the help of many dedicated volunteers, grassroots allies, expert witnesses, and tribal historical preservation officers.  Through these combined efforts we have intervened through the legal channels to prevent this toxic uranium mining from contaminating our water.

We must once again do everything in our power to protect our water’s aquifers; the Madison, Minnelusa, Inyan Kara Group, along with others, from this toxic uranium mining operation.  WATER IS LIFE!

The company now plans to drill 4,000 in situ leach mining wells. The original plan was to drill 1,500.  These toxic wells would be drilled into the Inyan Kara formation on the southwest edge of the Black Hills. After mining, they plan to pump uranium mining wastes back underground into the Minnelusa aquifer through as many as four deep disposal wells. However, there are several other precious aquifers that the company has listed to be tested; Unkpapa/Sundance, Fall River, Minnekahta Limestone, and the Chilson (or Lakota).  This is unacceptable.  We can’t sit idle on this issue.  Please join use at one, or all of the upcoming EPA Hearings.


In-situ mining will foul the waters

I have worked for more than 40 years in the environmental cleanup field for industrial companies and consulting firms on many projects globally where accidental discharges — leaks and spills, etc. — have occurred and resulted in the contamination of groundwater systems.

During my work on these various clean-up projects, pollution control agencies have typically insisted that not enough was known about how and where the ill-fated contamination was moving in the subsurface. Well after well needed to be installed in an effort to try to prove the improvable regarding subsurface fate and transport of contaminants. And it is one thing to clean up an accidental spill or other legacy environmental problems when laws governing the handling of hazardous materials were not as stringent as they are today, but it is quite another to allow a company to inject these materials into the subsurface and thereby purposely create a huge contamination problem.

Further reading: What Is In Situ Leach Mining?

The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued draft permits to Powertech/Azarga for a proposed in situ leach (ISL) uranium mine in Custer and Fall River counties. If approved, these permits would allow the company to operate for 10 years.

ISL mining occurs in the subsurface, within groundwater aquifers. In this case, it would occur in the Inyan Kara aquifer and would include the injection of wastewater back into the Minnelusa aquifer. But people are using the water in these aquifers for drinking water and agricultural purposes, etc. So this is a terrible idea.…—Richard Bell, “In-situ mining will foul the waters,” Rapid City Journal, 4/20/17


All mining companies use the 1872 General Mining Law to gain access to mineral mining.  Anyone can pay a small fee and stake a claim on federal lands.  The claim-holder has an absolute right to mine under the law, and — even worse — they don’t have to pay any federal royalties.

Honor the Treaties and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) (Public Law 89-665; 54 U.S.C. 300101 et seq.) is legislation intended to preserve historical and archaeological sites in the United States of America.

Under the 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty the U.S. Government is mandated to consult with tribal government as Government to Government Relations.  This includes following NHPA rules and regulations with the tribes. However, South Dakota and federal agencies involved in permitting this uranium mining have continuously ignored tribal nations and their expert testimony regarding cultural properties and sacred sites in the target area.

The Treaties are the supreme law of the land according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision.  But that hasn’t stopped mining corporations and unethical politicians from bulldozing through to get what they want.  It’s time to hold the U.S. Government’s accountable for threatening our water supply.…—”Protect Water for Future Generations. – Stop Uranium Mining in the Black Hills,” Black Hills Clean Water Alliance

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This Is What The Climate March Looked Like Across The Country

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Donald Trump may not think climate change should be a priority for the country, but the Climate March protests proved that the American people won’t stand for it.

Hundreds of thousands of environmentalists swarmed the streets of the U.S.’s largest cities on Saturday, urging the White House to take climate change seriously.

Protesters at the Climate March, which was held on Trump’s 100th day in office, denounced the Trump administration for signing executive orders  that slashed policies that flight climate change, all in the name of a coal-focused “energy revolution.”

Further Reading Environmental Protesters Swarm Outside White House as Trump Hits Milestone
The Climate March’s Big Tent Strategy Draws a Big Crowd
The Latest: Climate Protesters in Chicago Target Trump Tower
The best signs from the People’s Climate March

While the main march took place in Washington, D.C., and in front of the White House, hundreds of sister marches were held across the country in a show of solidarity.…—Carla Herreria, “This Is What The Climate March Looked Like Across The Country,” The Huffington Post, 4/30/17

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It’s Still Unclear How Alberta’s Tailings Will Be Cleaned Up
Or Who Will Pay For It

For years, Alberta’s government has reassured the public that it has a plan to ensure the tar sands’ 1.2 trillion litres of hazardous tailings are permanently dealt with after mines shut down.

That assertion is becoming less convincing by the day.

Industry still hasn’t decided on a viable long-term storage technology to begin testing. The fund to cover tailings liabilities in case of bankruptcy is arguably extremely underfunded. And there are concerns from the likes of the Pembina Institute that the future costs for tailings treatment will be far greater than anticipated.

Martin Olszynski, assistant professor in law at University of Calgary, told DeSmog Canada such questions simply can’t be left unanswered.

It would the height of unfairness if at the end of all this massive profit and wealth generation, Albertans were left on the hook for what will be landscape-sized disturbances that are potentially very harmful and hazardous to humans and wildlife,” he said.

Tar sands Tailings Plans Nonexistent

The history of tailings regulations is a short one in the province: there simply hasn’t been anything binding. Toxic tailings have been allowed to expand for decades without any real constraints. The last attempt by the province’s energy regulator to require companies “to minimize and eventually eliminate long-term storage of fluid tailings in the reclamation landscape” completely failed.

Every single company breached their own targets.

Directive 085, introduced by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in July 2016, is intended to rectify that.

On March 17, the AER somewhat surprisingly rejected the first tailings management plan that was submitted under the new rules by tar sands giant Suncor for a series of reasons, including its uncertain timelines and reliance on the “unproven technology” of end pit lakes or water capping (the practice of sealing fine tailings under freshwater with the expectation ponds will evolve into healthy aquatic ecosystems).

What this most recent rejection of Suncor’s proposal suggests to me is they haven’t done the work, and they’re not yet doing the work,” Olszynski says.…—James Wilt, “It’s Still Unclear How Alberta’s Tailings Will Be Cleaned Up Or Who Will Pay For It,” DeSmog Canada, 4/24/17

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D’oh! Donald Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports

Photo by imantsu/iStock

President Donald Trump, who pledged to end the alleged “war on coal” and likes to surround himself with coal miners, may have just ended U.S. coal exports from the West Coast. “In trying to land a blow on the Canadian timber industry,” says Eric de Place, policy director of Seattle, Washington’s Sightline Institute, “Trump may have accidentally knocked out the Western coal industry.” 

On Monday, at the urging of the U.S. timber industry, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 24 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The issue of Canadian lumber imports has been vexed for years, but this latest hardball from Trump—especially at a time when he is threatening to pull the United States out of NAFTA—hit a nerve with Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stand up for Canada’s lumber industry, warning, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.” 

Today, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark dropped a bombshell tweet, saying, “It’s time to ban thermal coal from BC ports.” In a letter to Trudeau, she wrote:

For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port. 

Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports….

In provoking a trade war with our erstwhile friends and neighbors to the north, Donald Trump has started his own War on Coal.…—Paul Rauber, “D’oh! Donald Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports,” Sierra Club, 4/26/17

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New Jersey rejects PennEast application for water permit, gives company new deadline

In this April 17, 2014 photo, workers construct a gas pipeline in Harmony, Pa. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has given PennEast 30 days to correct deficiencies in its water crossing permits. Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

The embattled PennEast natural gas pipeline suffered another blow on Wednesday when New Jersey officials rejected the company’s application for a freshwater wetlands permit, saying its application lacked a long list of information.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gave PennEast another 30 days to submit information ranging from tax maps and historic property information to evidence that landowners have given permission to build the line on their properties, and survey data for water crossings.

The DEP also noted that the company said it had applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a certificate of public convenience, which would grant the company eminent domain authority. But so far, too many landowners have refused access to their properties for surveys.

“The application to FERC for a certificate of public convenience does not yet have legal authority to condemn the pipeline easement,” officials said in a letter the company.

If the additional information is not received within 60 days, the application will be considered withdrawn, the DEP said.…—Jon Hurdle, Susan Phillips, “New Jersey rejects PennEast application for water permit, gives company new deadline,” StateImpact Pennsylvania, 4/26/17

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Philippines Moves to Shut Mines Accused of Polluting

Mines in the mountains of Surigao del Norte, in the southern Philippines, this month. The government is planning a crackdown on mining operations accused of polluting Philippine waters. Credit Jes Aznar for The New York Times

CLAVER, Philippines — The Philippine mining town of Claver is busy with bakeries, fruit stands, pool halls and karaoke bars. In the mountains nearby, bulldozers cling to treeless slopes, scooping out red soil and leaving gaping pits. On the horizon, cargo ships wait to bring nickel ore to China.

Many here are afraid that none of this will last.

“If the mines go, then the jobs are gone too,” said Jayson Reambonaza, 31, who drives a dump truck for one of the area’s many nickel mines.

The Philippines, which exports more nickel ore than any country in the world, is in the midst of a wide crackdown on mines accused of violating environmental protection laws.

In February, Gina Lopez, the acting secretary of the environment, said she was shutting down the operations of 28 of the country’s 41 mining companies. Those companies, which account for about half of Philippine nickel production, have been accused of leaving rivers, rice fields and watersheds stained red with nickel laterite.

On Feb. 14, she followed up by canceling 75 contracts to develop new mines, in what she called a “gift of love” for the Filipino people.

And on Thursday, she said she would soon issue an order banning open-pit mines, calling the pollution of rivers with heavy metals “a perpetual liability.”

“It is time for social justice,” she said in announcing the initial ban in February. “You cannot run your business and affect our farmers and fishermen.”

The crackdown has unnerved the mining industry; the people who depend on it have denounced the move as disastrous for the economy. They are joined in their opposition by indigenous tribes that stand to lose royalties paid by mining companies for use of their ancestral lands.

Environmentalists, religious groups and others have cheered the mine closings, saying that corruption has long given the mining industry free rein to pollute. Among the supporters is the country’s popular president, Rodrigo Duterte.…—Aurora Almendral, “Philippines Moves to Shut Mines Accused of Polluting,” The New York Times, 4/27/17

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El Salvador, Prizing Water Over Gold, Bans All Metal Mining

SAN SALVADOR — Lawmakers in El Salvador voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to prohibit all mining for gold and other metals, making the country the first in the world to impose a nationwide ban on metal mining, environmental activists said.

Declaring that El Salvador’s fragile environment could not sustain metal mining operations, legislators across the political spectrum approved the ban, which had broad support, particularly from the influential Roman Catholic Church.

Supporters said the law was needed to protect the country’s dwindling supply of clean water.

“Today in El Salvador, water won out over gold,” Johnny Wright Sol, a legislator from the center-right Arena party, wrote on Twitter.…—Gene Palumbo, Elisabeth Malkin, “El Salvador, Prizing Water Over Gold, Bans All Metal Mining,” The New York Times, 3/29/17

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Risen From the Grave, Keystone XL Pipeline Again Divides Nebraska

“Make one solid case, one solid point for why this should go through.” — Jeanne Crumly CREDIT: Photographs By George Etheredge For The New York Times

PAGE, Neb. — The fight seemed over. Plans to bury an oil pipeline in the Nebraska dirt, through hilly grazing land near the Elkhorn River and flat expanses of corn farther south, had been halted. Farmers and ranchers who spent years opposing the project moved on with their lives.

But suddenly the pipeline from Canada to Nebraska, known as Keystone XL, is back on the table. As President Trump promised on the campaign trail, he has cleared the way for the project, which his predecessor had blocked.

Republican politicians, many union members and some landowners are cheering the pipeline as a way to create jobs and bring more North American oil to market.

But in spots along the proposed route through Nebraska, including here on the sandy soil of the Crumly family farm, the president’s decision is being met with frustration and resolve to resume the fight.

Jeanne Crumly, who sees Keystone XL as a dire threat to this land, believes Mr. Trump is supporting it without “really giving a hoot of how there are people and livelihoods at stake here.”

“It was going to be where he flexed his muscle,” she said.

State-level permits and easements along the three-state pipeline route are in place in Montana and South Dakota. That leaves Nebraska — where voters overwhelmingly favored Mr. Trump, but where a coalition delayed the pipeline for years during President Barack Obama’s administration — as the best chance to block construction. Nebraska regulators will hear public comment on the project at a 10-hour meeting on Wednesday.

If Ms. Crumly and her allies prevail, several dozen rural landowners will have triumphed over a transnational energy company and the wishes of their president and governor. If they fail, oil will flow through the Crumly property, in a grassy strip between where cows wander and corn grows.…—Mitch Smith, “Risen From the Grave, Keystone XL Pipeline Again Divides Nebraska,” The New York Times. 4/17/17

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This Interactive Map Displays Ship Movements Across the Globe

Researchers at UCL Energy Institute together with London-based data visualization and digital journalism studio Kiln have released this amazing interactive map that plots 250 million data points to show the movements of the world’s commercial shipping fleet during the year 2012. (Hit the play button above to learn more about what is being displayed)

The map was created based on the methodology developed for the Third IMO GHG Study 2014 and AIS data to estimate emissions from five different ship types; container ships, tankers, dry bulk, gas carriers and vehicle carriers.

Based only on ship movements and without a background map, the world’s coastlines are clearly defined, with plenty of variation in ship activity: from the buzz of activity in the East China Sea to the relative quiet of Somalia’s piracy afflicted waters to ship movements in areas where one might not expect them, such as the Arctic and Antarctic. The map also clearly shows the most crucial shipping thoroughfares of all: the canals linking different bodies of water, such as the Panama Canal, opened a century ago to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, and the even older and busier Suez Canal which saw 17,000 transits in 2012 alone.

According to UCL Energy, researchers took AIS data showing location and speed of ships and cross-checked it with another database on vessel characteristics, such as engine type and hull measurements. Using this information, they then were able to compute the CO2 emissions for each observed hour, using the approach laid out in the Third IMO Greenhouse Gas Study 2014. Kiln took the resulting dataset and visualized it with WebGL on top of a specially created base map, which shows bathymetry (ocean depth) as well as continents and major rivers.

For each ship type as well as for the entire global fleet, the map displays the freight carried and CO2 emitted by the ships. Emissions from international shipping for 2012 were estimated to be 796 million tonnes CO2 which is more than the whole of the UK, Canada or Brazil emit in a year. This number can be further broken down into 2.18 million tonnes CO2 per day or 90,868 tonnes CO2 per hour.

To find out more about the interactive map and explore the movements of the global fleet, check out www.shipmap.org.—Mike Schuler, “This Mesmerizing Interactive Map Displays Ship Movements Across the Globe,” gCaptain, 4/22/17

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EPA Seeks Delays in Pending Air Rules Litigation
Emerging Trump Doctrine: Money Is the Wild Card

On April 18th, EPA filed motions in separate cases asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to delay pending litigation over two Clean Air Act (CAA) rules.  In one case, EPA asked the court to delay oral argument, scheduled for May 18th, in the litigation challenging its supplemental findings regarding the cost of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule, which regulates hazardous air pollutant emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  EPA argues that a continuance is appropriate because it intends to review the supplemental finding for possible modification or repeal, citing President Trump’s recent “Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.”

Further reading: BREAKING: DC Circ. Suspends EPA Mercury Rule Litigation

In another case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA is likewise seeking to postpone May 8th oral arguments in litigation challenging EPA’s 2015 Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction (SSM) Rule.  EPA issued a finding with the rule that provisions in 36 states’ state implementation plans (SIPs) failed to meet CAA requirements for SSM events, as well as a “SIP call” requiring each state to fix identified inadequacies.  Numerous parties challenged the Obama Administration’s SSM actions, and EPA is now requesting a continuance to allow it to review the SSM actions for possible modification or repeal.—Mack McGuffey, Andy Flavin, “EPA Seeks Delays in Pending Air Rules Litigation,” Environmental Law & Policy Monitor, 4/19/17

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Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity

‘We are the bystanders who must choose to intervene or be defined by our failure.’ Photograph: Dan Beecham/BBC/Dan Beecham

Most of us have wondered about the human context of past crimes against humanity: why didn’t more people intervene? How could so many pretend not to know? To be sure, crimes against humanity are not always easy to identify while they unfold.

We need some time to reflect and to analyze, even when our reasoning suggests that large scale human suffering and death are likely imminent. The principled condemnation of large scale atrocity is, too often, a luxury of hindsight.

I’m a climate alarmist because there is no morally responsible way to downplay the dangers that negligent policies – expected to accelerate human-caused climate change – pose to humankind.

There can be no greater crime against humanity than the foreseeable, and methodical, destruction of conditions that make human life possible – hindsight isn’t necessary.

…This is not a problem for the distant future. People reading this right risk dying of impacts related to climate change. Anyone who claims global warming is not catastrophic is ill informed – or playing a disingenuous game of privilege. Such a person is probably white, male, living in an affluent nation, politically conservative, and of a relatively wealthy demographic.

Further reading: ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases

It is a fact that those least responsible for global warming, the global poor living in the global south, are most immediately vulnerable to climate change. This reality carries profound moral implications. Whole island nations in the southern hemisphere, such as the South Pacific’s Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and the Indian Ocean’s Maldives, are under threat from rising seas.

Citizens of these and other low-lying regions will be, or are already being, forced to assimilate to other lands. When indigenous populations are displaced and subjected to forced assimilation by outsiders exploiting resources for their own profit it constitutes a form of cultural genocide—and history teaches that the large scale displacement of cultural groups can raise the risk of physical genocide.

Consequently, if any nation were to enact policies calculated to systematically destroy cultural lands and displace native people, as climate change will, it would rightly raise international debates over genocide. It makes no difference to populations forced off their homelands whether the resource exploitation responsible is occurring in West Virginia or Papua New Guinea.

The moral, and existential, implications of human-caused climate change should by now have triggered full-scale, World War II style effort to end fossil fuel dependence and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The global community ought to have engaged in a renewable energy “arms race” years ago. Instead, we burn away time while fossil fuel interests fund negligent campaigns of disinformation and politicians stage fake debates over the science of climate change.…—Lawrence Torcello, “Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity,” The Guardian, 4/29/17

Lawrence Torcello is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States. He specializes in moral and political philosophy.

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks for all the action alerts sent in. Send your notices, news stories an your own writing, along with maple syrup (dark, please, not that light ‘table grade’ stuff!), to banner@wearesenecalake.com. And if you’re reading this from a borrowed or shared copy, you too can be a subscriber for $0.00/eternity. Just email your full name to banner@wearesenecalake.com

The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 17 – Teach-in for Trump

 The Banner, Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 17 – Teach-in for Trump
May 142017
 

April 25, 2017
Last Sunday, scientists and supporters took to the streets to demonstrate the vast resistance to Prsesident Trump’s program of installing into his adminsitration people hand-picked to ‘deconstruct’ government, in the words of his chief strategist. This week we celebrate those marches, as well as looking ahead at plans for the Second Peoples Climate March.
But first the news.

Take the Rochester Bus
to the People’s Climate Mobilization March,
Saturday, April 29

Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC) is coordinating 2 buses to go from Rochester to DC.

  • One will leave from the St. John Fisher College Park n’ Ride. ​Only 5 seats left ($40) see details below. Departure Saturday, April 29, 1:00AM/Return Sunday 1:00AM
  • The other will leave from Rochester Institute of Technology and stop at SUNY Geneseo.  ​Only 5 seats left ($40) see details below. Departure Saturday, April 29, 1:00AM/Return Sunday 1:00AM

 

  1. Here’s the link for bus departure times, reserve a seat and/or to donate towards the expense, and lots more info. (Please note the instructions for indicating which of the two buses you want to take!)
  2. Local March & Rally: 11am, Washington Square Park

Some details:

  • Ten seats are available as of this writing, at $20, $40, and $81. Nobody will be turned away for lack of ability to pay; donations are also needed in order to subsidize the reduced rate seats. RPCC would just like to break even.
  • Payment for seats can be done online (service fee applies), or via mailed check/money-order (avoid the fee) – instructions are on the site. Donations made online do NOT incur the fee; RPCC eats that.

Thanks for your desire to be part of the climate change movement!

Any questions:
Info on the buses: rpccbuses@gmail.com
info for local Rochester rally info: rocpcc@gmail.com

Sister Marches: Can’t make it to DC? Find a sister march that’s happening near you.

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Daryl Denning’s Court Appearance

Left to right: Lyn Gerry, Daryl Denning, Mary Ann Denning, at Reading Town Court.

I appeared for my appointed time at Reading Court, 6:45 PM Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Judge Brockway made the trip just to hear my guilty plea. I had written to him a couple of times before the dismissal offer was made to all, stating that I would plead guilty, and was no longer availing myself of limited representation. I also sent notification of this to the defense counsel before the dismissal offer.

The options were again explained to me: accepting the dismissal, continuing the case in my original not guilty plea, or adhering to my decision to plead guilty. I confirmed that these options were understood but that I was prepared to make my statement about my plea of guilty.

In doing so, I expressed my individual beliefs that strongly supported the defense of Seneca Lake and our environment. Judge Brockway intently listened and I hope was sympathetic to the cause.

The required fee of $125 along with a $75 fine were imposed which I paid in full by credit card, along with the small credit card fee. The option of 9 ½ hours of community service was available instead of the $75 fine, but I stated that I felt community service was performed when I stood in defense of Seneca Lake on July 18, 2016, and that the offered community service was not something I wanted to do when considered part of the punitive factors for pleading guilty.—Daryl Denning, reporting on his plea at Reading Town Court. He was supported by the attendance of Lyn Gerry and videographer Heriberto Rodriguez

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Solar Dryden Update

A key vote will be taken by the Town Board determining whether the project will proceed at a special meeting this coming Wednesday, April 26, 7 PM at the Neptune Fire and Hose Company building, 26 Main Street, Dryden.

The vote will be preceded by the conclusion of a public hearing during which anyone concerned can make a comment on the project for up to 3 minutes.

In addition, those concerned can comment by email to the Town Board and its Planning Board by emailing a comment to the Town Clerk: townclerk@dryden.ny.us. Ask the Clerk to Forward to the Town and Planning Board members.

For a quick review of the Dryden Solar Project, download and review this summary

Please share your views at this Special Meeting by attending and commenting, or by emailing the Town and Planning Board Members.

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Letters to the Editor

 Regarding DEC Proposed Amendments Part 380

It is ironic that although New York has banned fracking, there are loopholes that allow radioactive fracking wastes from Pennsylvania be dumped in NY landfills. The public has a chance to address this.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed amendments to its Radiation Program Regulations with the intent of clarifying and improving existing regulations.  The DEC proposes to amend 6 NYCRR Part 380, which regulates the disposal and release of radioactive material within NYS.

Although the proposed DEC amendments are not meant to change the requirements for disposal of radioactive materials, there is palpable need to do just that.  The DEC is accepting public comments through June 5, 2017.   

The DEC states that certain types of radioactive materials, e.g. fracking wastes, are not subject to Part 380 because they are considered naturally-occurring radioactive (NORM). The 1988 Resource Recovery and Conservation Act, a federal law, requires that most industries track and dispose of hazardous materials (hazmat) under tight controls. The problem is, much of the oil and gas industry’s toxic waste, including NORM, has been exempted from that law.

A proposed amendment to subpart 380.2 is to add the term “TENORM” or technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials that have been processed and concentrated.  TENORM is regulated.

It is urgent that we support the  amendment to add this definition, and to insist that it include fracking wastes, e.g. drill cuttings and fluids which are now classified as NORM.  Also, the terms “processed” and “concentrated” are not specifically defined in the regulations but need to be.

Consider that fracking wastes brought from Pennsylvania  are classified as NORM, which the DEC  automatically exempts from the stringent requirements of New York’s low level radioactive waste disposal laws and regulations. Yet, as a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigation revealed in 2012, about  1000 trucks carrying tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfills after their loads exceeded the radiation limit. Now think of the many  tons of Pennsylvania’s frack waste being deposited in New York landfills every year.

It is essential that the DEC regulate fracking wastes to protect life and the environment .  The DEC should be concerned with the unnecessary release of any radiation, whether natural or processed, because there is no real safe amount of radiation.  It is imperative that we urge the DEC to reclassify fracking wastes as TENORM because then it will become a radioactive material that can be regulated.  The DEC has ignored this issue far too long.

Please email comments to  Regs.Radiation@dec.ny.gov and write “Comments on Proposed Part 380” in the subject line of the email.

Karen Biesanz
Corning, NY

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100,000 & Counting For People’s Climate March On Washington On April 29

On April 29, 2017, advocates for solutions to the climate crisis will gather together in Washington, DC, and other sites around the nation. The goal is to show national leaders and the world that attacks on US citizens, communities, and the planet cannot continue.

This date will coincide with the 100th day of the Trump administration. The People’s Climate March on Washington will be a full-scale mobilization to defeat Trump’s fossil fueled agenda, push forward a progressive vision of a clean energy economy, and build real political power.

Why a People’s Climate March?

The People’s Climate March is an opportunity for individuals who are concerned with the significant and harmful effects of global warming on our communities, our health, and our climate to come together. Informed citizens know that we cannot wait to take action to address global warming, as, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “the consequences will continue to intensify, grow ever more costly, and increasingly affect the entire planet — including you, your community, and your family.”…Carolyn Fortuna, “100,000 & Counting For People’s Climate March On Washington On April 29,” Ars Technica, 4/23/17

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Teach-in for Trump

March for Science: Thousands march around the world
to protest Donald Trump’s ‘rejection of science

The largest protest was in Washington DC. Reuters

Countless thousands of scientists and their supporters have marched around the world to protest what they say is Donald Trump’s rejection of science.

From Melbourne to Mexico, people poured onto the streets with colourful banners – some of them funny, many of them pointed – to urge the president not to turn his back on empiricism and facts.

“I’m a science professor. My wife teaches history. The current administration has shown complete disregard for facts and the truth,” Peter Lipke, who was among the marchers in New York, told The Independent.

The protests, which was inspired by the Women’s March, which took place in cities around the globe the day after Mr Trump’s inauguration, were designed to highlight the way Mr Trump has apparently dismissed science on everything from climate chance to the safety of vaccines. During the election campaign, the New York tycoon said climate change was a hoax invented by China.

The organisers pointed out that since then, Mr Trump has rolled back most of the environmental protections enacted by Barack Obama, introduced to try and cut emissions of carbon dioxide. The Republican president has cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and is planning to reduce the grant to the National Institute of Health by 20 per cent.

The marches, held on Earth Day, took place in cities around the world. Probably the largest was held in Washington DC.…—Andrew Buncombe, “March for Science: Thousands march around the world to protest Donald Trump’s ‘rejection of science’,” The UK Independent, 4/22/17

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Trump is Hiring Lobbyists
Top Ethics Official Says ‘There’s No Transparency’

In one case, an official working on energy regulation recently lobbied for oil and coal companies — but the White House won’t say whether he received an ethics waiver.

President Trump has stocked his administration with a small army of former lobbyists and corporate consultants who are now in the vanguard of the effort to roll back government regulations at the agencies they once sought to influence, according to an analysis of government records by the New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.

The Times adds new details to our previous reporting on Trump’s weakening of ethics rules and former lobbyists working on regulations they opposed on behalf of private clients just months ago.

The Times scrutinized financial disclosures of top White House staffers and found that the lobbyists and consultants in their ranks had more than 300 recent corporate clients and employers, including Apple and Anthem, the insurance company.

One striking case involves Michael Catanzaro, an appointee on the National Economic Council whose portfolio includes energy and environmental issues. Catanzaro was formerly a lobbyist for oil and coal companies that strenuously opposed the Obama administration’s clean power regulation. Three industry sources told the Times that Catanzaro is now working on that same issue in the Trump administration.

Even under Trump’s weakened ethics rules, former lobbyists like Catanzaro are not supposed to work on issues that they formerly had lobbied on.

Still, under Trump’s executive order, he can issue waivers at any time to staffers, Catanzaro included, for any reason, and never disclose it.…—Justin Elliott, “Trump is Hiring Lobbyists and Top Ethics Official Says ‘There’s No Transparency’,” ProPublica, 4/15/17

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Trump to Sign Executive Orders on Environment and Energy

The Prirazlomnaya offshore ice-resistant oil-producing platform is seen at Pechora Sea, Russia on May 8, 2016. Sergey Anisimov—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump this week will sign new executive orders before he completes his first 100 days in office, including two on energy and the environment , which would make it easier for the United States to develop energy on and offshore, a White House official said on Sunday.

“This builds on previous executive actions that have cleared the way for job-creating pipelines, innovations in energy production, and reduced unnecessary burden on energy producers,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, Trump is expected to sign an executive order related to the 1906 Antiquities Act, which enables the president to designate federal areas of land and water as national monuments to protect them from drilling, mining and development, the source said.

On Friday, Trump is expected to sign an order to review areas available for offshore oil and gas exploration, as well as rules governing offshore drilling.

The new measures would build on a number of energy – and environment -related executive orders signed by Trump seeking to gut most of the climate change regulations put in place by predecessor President Barack Obama.

A summary of the forthcoming orders , seen by Reuters, say past administrations “overused” the Antiquities Act, putting more federal areas under protection than necessary.

Obama had used the Antiquities Act more than any other president, his White House said in December, when he designated over 1.6 million acres of land in Utah and Nevada as national monuments, protecting two areas rich in Native American artifacts from mining, oil and gas drilling.

The summary also says previous administrations have been “overly restrictive” of offshore drilling.

Late in Obama’s second term, he banned new drilling in federal waters in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans using a 1950s-era law that environmental groups say would require a drawn out court challenge to reverse.… —Reuters, “Trump to Sign Executive Orders on Environment and Energy,” Fortune, 4/23/17

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The Trump Resistance: A Progress Report

The protests over President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns are the latest manifestation of a popular movement with which Republicans increasingly have to contend. Photograph by Radhika Chalasani / REDUX

Saturday was mild and cloudy in Philadelphia—good marching weather for the thousands of anti-Trump protesters who gathered at City Hall and made their way down Market Street to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The atmosphere was upbeat—festive, almost. Many members of the crowd were carrying homemade signs, and their chants filled the spring air: “What do we want? Trump’s tax returns. When do we want it? Now.” “We want a leader, not a tax cheater. We want a leader, not a friggin’ tweeter.”

Eighty-five days into the Trump Presidency, similar scenes played out across the country: from Los Angeles to Boston, from Seattle to Raleigh. In Palm Beach, about three thousand people kicked up a racket near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where the President was spending yet another weekend.

The First Golfer wasn’t pleased. To avoid the protesters, one of whom was carrying a sign that said, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Czar, Putin Put You Where You Are,” his motorcade was forced to take a circuitous route back from Trump International Golf Club, where he had played his sixteenth round since taking office. (That figure comes courtesy of a tally by the Palm Beach Post.) The following morning, Easter Sunday, Trump took to Twitter, grumbling , “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”

The protests weren’t small, of course, and nobody paid for them. They were the latest manifestation of a popular movement that Trump himself has inspired, one that has established itself as an important presence on the national political scene, and with which Trump and his Republican allies and enablers increasingly have to contend.

During their two-week Easter break, many G.O.P. members of Congress were confronted by constituents upset over the Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare. Politico, which dispatched reporters to nearly a dozen town-hall meetings, reported, for example, that the Colorado representative Mike Coffman, a relative moderate, was confronted by a lifelong Republican who demanded that he commit to limiting premiums for people with preëxisting conditions. In Graniteville, South Carolina, a crowd chanted “You lie!” at Joe Wilson, the Republican congressman who famously shouted out the same phrase during a 2009 address to Congress by former President Obama.

Of course, most of the people who are marching and protesting at Republican events might not be G.O.P. voters. But they aren’t all Democratic activists, either. Indeed, what is striking is how many people Trump has mobilized who previously didn’t pay very much attention to what happens in Washington. He has politicized many formerly apolitical people; ultimately, this may be among his biggest achievements as President.…—John Cassidy, “The Trump Resistance: A Progress Report,” The New Yorker, 4/17/17

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Scientists, Feeling Under Siege, March Against Trump Policies

Gathering at the Washington Monument before March for Science on Saturday. Credit: Hilary Swift for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered Saturday in Washington under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.

As the marchers trekked shoulder-to-shoulder toward the Capitol, the street echoed with their calls: “Save the E.P.A.” and “Save the N.I.H.” as well as their chants celebrating science, “Who run the world? Nerds,” and “If you like beer, thank yeast and scientists!” Some carried signs that showed rising oceans and polar bears in peril and faces of famous scientists like Mae Jamison, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie, and others touted a checklist of the diseases Americans no longer get thanks to vaccines.

Although drizzle may have washed away the words on some signs, they aimed to deliver the message that science needs the public’s support.

“Science is a very human thing,” said Ashlee Morgan, a doctoral student in neurobiology at Columbia University. “The march is allowing the public to know that this is what science is, and it’s letting our legislators know that science is vitally important.”…—Nicholas St. Fleur, “Scientists, Feeling Under Siege, March Against Trump Policies,” The New York Times, 4/22/17

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Why EPA’s science and tech office no longer has ‘science’ in its mission

CREDIT: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is emerging as one of the government entities most targeted by the new Trump Administration for change.

In this case, if reports of the administration’s draft budget proposal are accurate, change means wholesale elimination of staff, funding, and programs.

Yesterday, however, an even more remarkable fact came to light.

For the first time in its 45-plus years of existence, the EPA Science and Technology Office no longer has the word “science” in its mission statement.

The news comes via the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which shared it yesterday, as reported by The New Republic.

But since January 30, the word “science” has vanished. The mission statement now says the EPA develops “economically and technologically achievable standards.”

The before-and-after comparison above indicates the changes.

Top-level pages on climate change remain on the EPA’s website after a public furor arose over rumors they would be removed.

But the EDGI notes that other pages have been removed and wording has been changed, including the wording of the mission statement.

This poses the theoretical possibility that the standards by which EPA evaluates current and proposed regulations are judged will change to allow cost concerns to overrule scientific assessments.

A case in point is the repeated claim by auto-company CEOs and their lobbying arm, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, that “up to 1 million jobs” could be lost if the EPA’s emission standards for 2022 through 2025 are left in place.…—John Voelcker, “Why EPA’s science and tech office no longer has ‘science’ in its mission,” Christian Science Monitor, 3/9/17

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U.S. Rejects Exxon Mobil Bid for Waiver on Russia Sanctions

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday at the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington. Credit Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

HOUSTON — The Trump administration delivered a setback to Exxon Mobil on Friday, announcing that it would not grant the oil giant a waiver from sanctions against Russia that would allow drilling in the Black Sea.

The decision, reinforcing barriers erected by the United States over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, was another sign that President Trump has been unwilling or unable to improve relations with the Kremlin early in his term, after pledging as a candidate that he would seek a thaw.

“In consultation with President Donald J. Trump,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a terse, prepared statement, “the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions.”

The prospect of a waiver had drawn denunciations from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. When news of Exxon Mobil’s proposal emerged this week, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, wrote in a Twitter post, “Are they crazy?”…—Clifford Krauss, “U.S. Rejects Exxon Mobil Bid for Waiver on Russia Sanctions,” The New York Times, 4/21/17

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Disney, The Gap and Pepsi urged to quit US Chamber of Commerce

Disney, The Gap and Pepsi are being pressured to quit the US Chamber of Commerce, America’s largest lobby group, amid criticism of its big-money efforts to fight climate change legislation and promote tobacco products.

A coalition of pressure groups including Action on Smoking and Health, Greenpeace, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club have written to the CEOs of the three companies asking them to stop funding the powerful business group.

In a letter to Disney’s boss, Bob Iger, the coalition points to the media company’s commitment to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020, its support of the Paris climate agreement and its ban on depictions of smoking in theme parks and all G, PG and PG-13 movies.

“Unfortunately, the US Chamber of Commerce is doing everything it can to block efforts to combat both climate change and anti-smoking laws and regulations. It opposes the Paris Agreement that you publicly support, is suing to block the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, consistently lobbies against legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and spends millions of dollars in money on elections ads urging voters to back candidates who support the fossil fuel industry and oppose efforts to combat climate change,” they write.

The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization and represents more than 3 million businesses, large and small. Under its president and CEO, Thomas Donohue, who took over the chamber in 1997, it has become a political powerhouse with global influence, although it is secretive about its membership.

Last year alone it spent $104m on lobbying, the most of any lobby group. It has used its influence to fight anti-tobacco legislation across the world. The chamber campaigned against US sanctions on Russia after its incursions into Ukraine and Donohue met Egypt’s authoritarian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, after his recent White House visit.

Further Reading: US Chamber of Commerce lobbies against class actions in UK courts

The activists’ campaign comes as some of the world’s largest companies have quietly severed ties with the chamber. According to an analysis by Public Citizen, at least 13 of the world’s biggest companies (Costco, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Heinz, Mars, Mattel, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Starbucks, Unilever and Walgreens Boots Alliance) have quit the US Chamber of Commerce in recent years amid political disagreements and worries about its stance on the environment.…—Dominic Rushe, “Disney, the Gap and Pepsi urged to quit US Chamber of Commerce,” The Guardian, 4/24/17

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Why people are marching for science: ‘There is no Planet B‘

Thousands of people gathered in the rain Saturday on the soggy grounds of the Washington Monument to turn Earth Day into an homage to science. After four hours of speeches and musical performances, they marched down Constitution Avenue to the foot of Capitol Hill, chanting “Build labs, not walls!” and “Hey, Trump, have you heard, you can’t silence every nerd!”

The March for Science began as a notion batted around online on Reddit after the Women’s March on Washington, which was held Jan. 21, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. The idea snowballed after it was endorsed by numerous mainstream science organizations, which vowed that it would not be a partisan event. It eventually became a global phenomenon, held in more than 600 cities on six continents — and cheered on by scientists on a seventh, Antarctica.

Further reading: Antarctic Researchers Face Bitter Cold To Support The March For Science

“We are at a critical juncture. Science is under attack,” said Cara Santa Maria, a science communicator who is one of several emcees of the four-hour rally that kicked off at 10 a.m. “The very idea of evidence and logic and reason is being threatened by individuals and interests with the power to do real harm.”…—Joel Achenbach, Ben Guarino, Sarah Kaplan, “Why people are marching for science: ‘There is no Planet B’,” The Washington Post, 4/22/17

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Quakers urge Scottish Government to ban ‘destructive’ fracking

Quakers in Britain is calling upon the Scottish government to outlaw fracking, warning the controversial process of extracting oil and gas is “destructive”.

Responding to a public consultation, the organisation called for “bold steps” to be taken in tackling climate change, by supporting renewable and efficient energy instead.

A representative meeting of Quakers concluded: “We have faith we can tackle climate change and build a more sustainable future, but we know this is only possible if fossil fuels remain in the ground.”

“Fracked gas is not the low-carbon solution some suggest and is incompatible with tackling the climate crisis. It is destructive of the environment, land and communities.”…—Alex Williams, “Quakers urge Scottish Government to ban ‘destructive’ fracking,” Premier Christian Radio, 4/22/17

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Making Art at the March for Science

Michelle Lighton, left, and Brenda Cooper at the March for Science in Washington on Saturday.

Inside the Poets for Science tent, Kim Roberts was giving a workshop on poems about insects and spiders.

The tent, set up for the March for Science in Washington on Saturday by the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University, was wallpapered inside and out with poems about the natural world by such writers as Gary Snyder and Kazim Ali. Ms. Roberts was one of several poets from Washington volunteering that day, and her lesson had drawn amateur poets of all ages.

Ryder Gee, 5, had written “Ant”: “Big black ant. Crawling on the porch. Crawling near my foot.” His brother Jordan Gee, 9, had written a poem about a worm enjoying a lunch of “nutritious dirt.”

The boys want to be scientists when they grow up, said their mother, Christina Gee, a psychology professor at George Washington University.

Ms. Roberts had provided the class with a handout titled “Poems on Phylum Arthropoda,” which included “Carpenter Bee” by Natasha Tretheway and “Ode to the Maggot” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Near the tent, Brenda Cooper, a science fiction writer, and Michelle Lighton, an archaeologist, had taken shelter from the rain under some trees. Ms. Cooper’s sign, given to her by a friend, gave a shout out to George Orwell, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood.

Science fiction has the power to bring science home to readers, to “make it visceral, make people feel it, make people cry about it,” Ms. Cooper said. “Many times science fiction has served as a warning.”…—Anna North, “Making Art at the March for Science,” The New York Times, 4/23/17

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Even the Kentucky Coal Museum is going solar

The Kentucky Coal Museum recently added solar panels to its roof. Photo: Courtesy of Bluegrass Solar

BENHAM, Ky. —Inside the Kentucky Coal Museum, visitors can peruse plenty of memorabilia on mining and the commonwealth’s coal camps. But on the roof, they’ll find a display dedicated to an unexpected industry: Solar power.

In a cost-saving move, this museum in eastern Kentucky is embracing the sun as a source of affordable energy and installing approximately 80 solar panels on its roof.

Tre’ Sexton said he was surprised when his company, Bluegrass Solar, was approached about the project. If there was one building in eastern Kentucky that wouldn’t have a solar-power system, you’d think it would be the coal museum, he said.

“Really the first time that I sat down and was talking about it with everybody, I was like…are you for real? They’re really going to go for this?” Sexton said. “I mean, that would be like showing up at a bank and they ask you if you’d mind taking some of this money out of the vault.”

But putting solar panels on top of the coal museum makes sense economically, Sexton said. Public attractions like this one can’t be profitable if they’re dealing with expensive electric bills every month. And people in eastern Kentucky are becoming more interested in alternative energy options.

“It’s like, ‘This might be coal country, but I cannot afford $600 a month.’ And that’s for a home,” he said. “If it’s a business, God be with them, (the bills are) in the thousands.”…—Morgan Watkins, “Even the Kentucky Coal Museum is going solar,” USA Today, 4/8/17

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For First Time Since 1800s, Britain Goes a Day Without Burning Coal for Electricity

The coal-fired Ferrybridge C power station in Northern England closed last year. Credit Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — Friday was the first full day since the height of the Industrial Revolution that Britain did not burn coal to generate electricity, a development that officials and climate change activists celebrated as a watershed moment.

The accomplishment became official just before 11 p.m., when the 24-hour period ended.

Coal powered Britain into the industrial age and into the 21st century, contributing greatly to the “pea souper” fogs that were thought for decades to be a natural phenomenon of the British climate.

For many living in the mining towns up and down the country, it was not just the backbone of the economy but a way of life. But the industry has been in decline for some time. The last deep coal mine closed in December 2015, though open cast mining has continued.

Coal-fired power generation contributes heavily to climate change; burning coal produces twice as much carbon dioxide as burning natural gas. Reducing the world’s reliance on coal and increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have long been part of proposals to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Now on a path to phase out coal-fired power generation altogether by 2025, Britain, also the home of the first steam engine, is currently closing coal plants and stepping up generation from cleaner natural gas and renewables, like wind and solar.

“Symbolically, this is a milestone,” said Sean Kemp, a spokesman for National Grid, Britain’s power grid operator. “A kind of end of an era.”

The first public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882. Since then, the British economy, one of Europe’s largest, was thought to never have gone without power from coal for a whole working day.…—Katrin Bennhold, “For First Time Since 1800s, Britain Goes a Day Without Burning Coal for Electricity,” The New York Times, 4/21/17

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BREAKING: Plastic-eating caterpillar could munch waste

A caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say.

Wax worm caterpillars in a petri dish. CREDIT: César Hernández/CSIC

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic. Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax.

Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world. The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour.

Dr Paolo Bombelli is a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers on the study. “The caterpillar will be the starting point,” he told BBC News. “We need to understand the details under which this process operates. “We hope to provide the technical solution for minimising the problem of plastic waste.”…—Helen Briggs, “Plastic-eating caterpillar could munch waste, scientists say,” BBC News, 4/24/17

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Errata

Due to an oversight (or a lack of oversight), a public showing of the film “The Hudson: River at Risk” was announced to occur on the wrong date in our last edition. It was reported to be shown on Wednesday, April 19th at Cornell University. The film was actually shown there the day previous to publication, on Monday, April 17th, and shown at SUNY New Paltz on April 19, not at Cornell. The editorial board has been properly chastened, and we are happy to offer their regrets for any inconvenience due to their error, particularly to those who may have traveled from New Paltz to Ithaca for the showing.

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