The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 35 – Where Fossils and Fuels Lead

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Sep 022016

August 30, 2016
The world that sustains us, whose care we presume we may attend to at our convenience, is but a wisp of dream. The powers of politics, of business and economic interests and of modern civilization itself make observing this simple truth very costly, and contradicting it even more costly. This morning we look briefly at that cost, who pays it, and who exacts it from us.
But first, the news…

Action Alert: Tell DEC to Reject Dominion’s Air Permits for More Fracked Gas in NY

dead end dominionFighting the Constitution Pipeline demonstrated that New York’s DEC can reject fracked gas infrastructure that threatens our water. Now the DEC is charged with considering impacts to public health and climate change in its review of air quality permits.  

Dominion’s “New Market” proposal involves the construction of two new compressor stations, the massive expansion of a third, and other modifications in six counties in order to move a lot more fracked gas in its aging 200-mile-long pipeline through the heart of New York. If permitted, the project will pump 200,000 tons of emissions into the atmosphere every year from the additional compressors. However, more than TWO MILLION TONS of extra carbon dioxide would be generated annually when all of that extra gas is burned. And when methane leakage from production, processing, and delivery is taken into account, the total climate impacts more than double. 
Simply put, approving Dominion’s project will blow New York State’s greenhouse gas emissions limits out of the water.
DEC must protect our health and safety. Will the state approve a project that threatens surrounding communities with pollutants like formaldehyde, toluene, sulfur dioxide, methane, and particulate matter? Volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides also ruin crops and cause respiratory disease. Will DEC approve a project that pushes more gas down a 50-year-old pipe before anyone scrutinizes that pipe’s integrity? FERC—the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—rubber-stamps every project, but New York is not obliged to follow suit.
Join us at air permit hearings on August 29th and 30th and September 1st, and tell DEC to reject Dominion’s “New Market Project.”  There’s plenty to talk about!
Here are some points for commenting on the draft air permits:
  • We OPPOSE these air permits because the state has not conducted a full environmental review of direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts. DEC has the legal AUTHORITY and OBLIGATION to conduct a FULL environmental review. 
  • DEC cannot simply rely on the FERC NEPA process. FERC has NO air permitting authority. It is the DEC’s responsibility to consider air impacts.
  • DEC has the legal AUTHORITY and OBLIGATION to consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in its review.
  • DEC has the legal AUTHORITY and OBLIGATION to address public health. Permitted compressor stations have had negative health impacts on surrounding residents, including unborn children. The DEC must reject permits that don’t address those issues. 
  • DEC must consider the health impacts on those who may not have commented on the air permits: the elderly, children and infants, as well as the nearby Amish community. Pollution from this infrastructure will damage crops and the health of all living near it.
  • Dominion’s models ignored unique site conditions and used non-representative wind data, failing to address temperature inversions and other factors that will prevent dispersion of toxic emissions. DEC must perform its own analysis.
Attend one or ALL of the three Legislative Hearings:
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
6:00 p.m.
Corning Community College, Triangle Lounge
1 Academic Drive
Corning, NY 14830

Thursday, September 1, 2016
Press Conference: 5:00 p.m. 
Hearing: 6:00 p.m. 
Canajoharie Central School District, High School Auditorium
136 Scholastic Way
 Canajoharie, NY 13317


Climate Activists Shut Down National Grid Office in Brooklyn
Demand National Grid Drop Support of Spectra’s AIM Pipeline


Brooklyn, NY – Concerned New Yorkers blocked the doors of National Grid’s downtown Brooklyn office at noon on Monday, August 29 to protest their support of Spectra Energy’s AIM Pipeline, a high-pressure methane gas pipeline that will bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New England. Members of,, and ResistAIM  came together to demand that National Grid end their contract agreement with Spectra Energy. The pipeline’s route runs 105 feet from infrastructure critical to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in New York’s Westchester County.

“National Grid is risking the safety of the 17 million people who live within 50 miles of the aging Indian Point reactor so it can sell gas in other parts of the country and the world,” says Mimi Bluestone of 350Brooklyn, one of eight people arrested as part of the day’s action. “Our governor and our US senators have called on the federal government to withdraw its authorization for this pipeline. But without National Grid’s end-of-pipeline agreement to buy this gas, the project could not be economically viable.”

Both elected officials and local residents have repeatedly raised concerns about the pipeline’s safety.  This past February, Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the pipeline’s builder, Spectra Energy Corp of Texas, to suspend the project pending an independent safety analysis. “The safety of New Yorkers is the first responsibility of state government,” Cuomo said in making the request.  In May, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the pipeline, to halt construction pending such a study. Spectra Energy and FERC have denied the governor’s and the senators’ requests.

The AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) pipeline is designed solely to deliver natural gas to New England; New York is simply a “pass through” state.  The pipeline will enter New York in Rockland County, pass under the Hudson River, and then cross Westchester County en route to Connecticut.

Built in the 1970s, Indian Point Nuclear Power complex remains active and contains decades of spent radioactive nuclear fuel, while over 17 million people live within 50 miles of Indian Point. National Grid, a British multinational, expanded into the United States beginning in 2000 by buying a number of local utilities in New England and New York, including the successor to Brooklyn Union Gas.  It is a major potential customer for the natural gas that the AIM pipeline would transport to New England and so has the power to determine the financial viability of this project.

Last week, National Grid withdrew its petition for a 20-year contract on Spectra’s Access Northeast project; however, National Grid is still expected to purchase gas flowing through the AIM Pipeline and so activists in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York are continuing to call on National Grid to #CanceltheContract.

The AIM pipeline is scheduled to be completed in November 2016, which calls for immediate action. On Monday evening, following the arrests at National Grid, concerned New Yorkers are gathering at the Brooklyn home of Senator Charles Schumer to encourage him to stand with New Yorkers by making a public appearance to denounce the pipeline and calling for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – more details can be found HERE.—Jamie Tyberg, “Climate Activists Shut Down National Grid Office in Brooklyn, Demanding National Grid Stop its Support of Spectra Energy’s Dangerous AIM Pipeline,” ResistAIM, 8/29/16


Power & political persistence

Fitzgerald worked for six newspapers as a writer and editor as well as a correspondent for several news services. He recently published his second novel, “Fracking Justice,” and lives in Valois and Watkins Glen with his wife. His “Write On” column appears Fridays. Contact him at

It’s a generally accepted maxim in politics that persistence equals power — in all levels of politics.

And if that persistence is in the form of action on the part of a highly agitated public, the results can sometimes be awe-inspiring.

Years of wrangling by Watkins Glen and Montour Falls village officials — working closely with citizens — resulted in a plan for a state-of-the-art regional sewer treatment plant on the canal leading into Seneca Lake.

It will replace embarrassingly outmoded facilities in the two villages that at times have presented such health hazards they earned ongoing fines from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The $25 million facility was a hard sell. Local residents were concerned about higher sewer fees and generally preferred patching up the aged facilities with temporary fixes. But in the end pro-new sewer plant forces prevailed, likely ensuring the waters at south end of Seneca Lake will be a lot cleaner when the plant comes online.

Persistence in that case spilled over into the 2015 village elections in Watkins Glen. Incumbents pushing hard for the new sewer plant were tossed out of office by a group campaigning on a vaguely anti-sewer-plant platform.

But the newly elected trustees immediately discovered the strong support for the new plant was equally citizen-based. The trustees quickly dropped their anti-new sewer facility stance in the face of public pressure. Expect them to act as proud as new parents when they cut the ceremonial ribbon opening the regional facility.

Just north of Watkins Glen, citizen persistence is the reason Texas-based Crestwood Midstream unexpectedly announced it is willing to radically alter its proposed salt-cavern liquid propane gas storage project….—Michael Fitzgerald, “Power & political persistence,” Finger Lakes Times, 8/26/16


Natural gas pipeline versus renewable energy

In Tompkins County, the legislature has adopted goals for reduced energy use and carbon pollution reduction that involve a “transition away from natural gas”. Achieving the goals rests on a cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent (from 2008 levels) by 2050.

In our region, as well as in many other areas of the country, new infrastructure designed to carry methane (a.k.a. “natural” gas) is one of the most insidious forms of resistance to that transition. For example, one relatively small pipeline proposed for Dryden has the potential to increase carbon emissions in the county by a volume equal to 30 percent of current levels.

Planning for expanded infrastructure happens in private board rooms, permitting requests are made to agencies at meetings where there are few public visitors, announcements come in the form of small print legal notices or letters that arrive in mailboxes after the plans, and usually the permits are all in line. Nevertheless, since December 2014, when New York Governor Cuomo announced a ban against fracking — the industrial activity of extracting methane from deep below our soil using the technique of high-volume, hydraulic fracturing of the rock — most New York residents are feeling comfortable that we have beaten back the dangers and are home free. NY said NO to drilling

While it is true that had we not been willing and able to say a collective no to the fossil fuel drillers, we certainly would have seen the obvious destruction of environment, community, and local economies that has played out in other parts of the country. However there are four ways that the fossil fuel story affects us—drilling/extraction, storage systems (think about the battle for gas and liquefied propane storage in Watkins Glen), distribution systems (pipelines, rail, and over-the-road transport), and waste disposal (radioactive drill tailings, fracking fluids, and fugitive emissions [greenhouse gases] among them). Of those four, only one particular method of methane extraction is banned in New York.

Not all drilling is banned, and, although currently the economics of extraction keeps the drillers operating in other places, there is no ban on moving frack-extracted gas into, and through, New York…. —Marie McRae, “Natural gas pipeline versus renewable energy,” Tompkins Weekly, 8/21/16


Local Businesses and Environmental Justice Workers Respond to Crestwood’s Modest Proposal

Kayak flotilla on Lake Seneca, setting out for Crestwood facility. CREDIT: Michael Fitzgerald for Earthjustice

Watkins Glen, NY —Seneca Lake has long been known for its natural and picturesque beauty and thriving wine industry, attracting tourists from throughout New York State and around the world.  Gas Free Seneca (GFS), an all-volunteer grassroots organization representing a nearly 400 strong business coalition and 32 municipalities wants to keep it that way calling for the halt to a proposal that would store liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in salt caverns beside Seneca Lake and threaten nearby water sources. A chorus of other key voices in the region were present and raised concerns over the Crestwood gas storage facilities, including Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition, Seneca Lake Communities, 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers, Elected Officials, and Property Owners around Seneca Lake.

The groups convened today at the Marina Park at the foot of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, NY in response to a series of modifications submitted by Crestwood Midstream and its subsidiaries, a Texas based company.  Under the revised plan, only propane would be stored at the facility and Crestwood nixed some of its above-ground construction project, however GFS reiterates its overarching position that these storage facilities have serious health, safety and economic repercussions.  Crestwood’s project has the potential to threaten a nearly 3 billion dollar a year tourist and wine industry that employs nearly 60,000 people. 

“Notwithstanding Crestwood’s recent desperate attempt to sway public opinion by announcing that they are downsizing the proposed gas storage, we stand more resolved than ever that this misguided industrial gas storage project, sited on a steep hillside over the largest body of freshwater in NY State and in the very heart of a world class tourist destination, as evidenced by the many accolades that the Finger Lakes has earned and continues to earn, will never be acceptable. In fact, the changes that Crestwood is proposing simply underscore the fact that we were right all along; the project has transportation safety risks, it would be noisy, ugly and a visual blight that is inconsistent with the Finger Lakes Brand that generations have spent building,” said Gas Free Seneca President Joseph Campbell.  

“Finger Lakes wines have repeatedly won the Governor’s Cup, many of them from Seneca Lake, because we are blessed with the right terroir, the right water, and generations of hard-working people who have made the Region what it is today”, said winery owner Vinny Aliperti, whose Billsboro Syrah recently won the distinguished Governor’s Cup Award.  “We simply cannot afford to have any industry threaten what we have fostered here in the Finger Lakes, and Crestwood Midstream Partners’ plan for gas storage, even with the recently proposed changes, does just that.  Governor Cuomo’s continued support is appreciated and essential.  We urge him to deny all permits to Crestwood and its subsidiaries.”

GFS also announced that they have sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging his consideration of the LPG project, stating “This kind of unstable geology makes the caverns along Seneca Lake profoundly unacceptable for gas storage, making a relocation of its gas storage operations to a more suitable site the only acceptable concession Crestwood could make.”  

“Crestwood’s voluntary concessions mean nothing until they are translated into binding and enforceable legal obligations,” said Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice, counsel for Gas Free Seneca.  “What’s more, none of its promises addresses the most serious risks presented by the storage of liquid petroleum gas in unstable underground salt caverns.“…—Deborah Goldberg, “Coalition On Seneca Lake Representing 1.2 Million New Yorkers Voices Staunch Opposition To Crestwood Midstream Gas Storage Facilities, Despite Recent Concessions,” Earthjustice, 8/23/16


North Dakota Authorities Pull Water from Protest Camp: Won’t Allow Portable Toilet Service

CREDIT: Photo from Facebook

CANNON BALL, NORTH DAKOTA — In an attempt to “break up” the camp, the State of North Dakota on Monday removed the water tanks of drinking water for the #NoDAPL protesters.

The water tanks removal was ordered on Monday by the State of North Dakota Homeland Security Division Director Greg Wilz, who cited the security of the equipment used as his reason for making his decision.

“Based on the scenario down there, we don’t believe that equipment is secure,” Homeland Security Division Director Greg Wilz said.

There is some irony in the removal of the water, because water is exactly one of the main reasons why the demonstrators have been protesting the Dakota Access pipeline that if completed will cross several waterways in North Dakota.

Occupy the Prairie, Dakota Style

OccupyPrairieNEAR CANNON BALL, N.D. — Horseback riders, their faces streaked in yellow and black paint, led the procession out of their tepee-dotted camp. Two hundred people followed, making their daily walk a mile up a rural highway to a patch of prairie grass and excavated dirt that has become a new kind of battlefield, between a pipeline and American Indians who say it will threaten water supplies and sacred lands.

The Texas-based company building the Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the project a major step toward the United States’ weaning itself off foreign oil. The company says the nearly 1,170-mile buried pipeline will infuse millions of dollars into local economies and is safer than trucks and train cars that can topple and spill and crash and burn.

But the people who stood at the gates of a construction site where crews had been building an access road toward the pipeline viewed the project as a wounding intrusion onto lands where generations of their ancestors hunted bison, gathered water and were born and buried, long before treaties and fences stamped a different order onto the Plains.

Leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation lies just south of the pipeline’s path, say the protests are peaceful. Weapons, drugs and alcohol are prohibited from the protest camp. Children march in the daily demonstrations. The leaders believed the reports of pipe bombs were a misinterpretation of their calls for demonstrators to get out their wooden chanupa pipes — which have deep spiritual importance — and pass them through the crowd.

The conflict may reach a crucial moment on Wednesday in a federal court hearing. The tribe has sued to block the pipeline and plans to ask a judge in Washington to effectively halt construction.

The pipeline runs overwhelmingly along private land, but where it crosses bodies of water, federal rules come into play and federal approvals are required.

The tunt=”297″ data-total-count=”3252″ribe says the pipeline’s route under the Missouri River near here could threaten its water supplies if the pipeline leaks or breaks, and it says the United States Army Corps of Engineers failed to do proper cultural and historical reviews before granting federal approvals for the pipeline.

“This is our homeland,” said Phyllis Young, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. “We are Dakota. Dakota means friend or ally. Dakota Access has taken our name.”

In legal filings, the corps rejects those claims. It says it consulted extensively with tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux, and it says that tribe has failed to describe specific cultural sites that would be damaged by the pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners says it has the necessary state and federal permits and hopes to finish construction by the end of the year. The pipeline’s route starts in the Bakken oil fields of western North Dakota and ends in Illinois.

With the fate of the land here and this $3.7 billion project in the air, people here have decided to take action. They are occupying the prairie….—Jack Healy, “Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline,” The New York Times, 8/23/16

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe does not want its water source contaminated in the event of a pipeline rupture.

While the water provided by the state was welcomed, many protesters bring their own water into the camps set up around the protest site.

Since Thursday, August 11, 2016, the date of the first arrests, the number of protesters has grown to over 2,000. Some estimate the number to be closer to 4,000. American Indians and supporters have come from all directions. Representatives from tribes as far as California on the west and North Carolina on the east.—Levi Rickert, “North Dakota Authorities Pull Water from Protest Camp: Won’t Allow Portable Toilets to be Emptied,” Native News Online, 8/23/16


Climate Change Happened Today


Click to listen to podcast

The Red Cross estimates that the recent Louisiana flooding is the worst natural disaster in the US since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Yet Louisiana journalists noticed a distinct lack of coverage of the historically damaging rainfall for days after the devastation was clear. Even the public editor of The New York Times called the paper out for failing to give Louisiana the attention it deserved. 

Andrew Revkin agrees. He writes for the Dot Earth blog at the Times, teaches at Pace University, and co-hosts the Warm Regards podcast about climate change. He talks to Brooke about the peculiarities of the story (the rainstorm didn’t get a name, for instance) and how it fits into a bigger pattern of disastrous weather that accompanies climate change.—Brooke Gladstone, Bob Garfield, “Climate Change Happened Today,” On The Media – WNYC, 8/26/16


Where Fossils and Fuels Lead

Siren Song

Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington have published a new study that suggests the toxic organic vapor contamination in and around oil and gas fracking wells result more from sloppy drilling and operations, and are not inherent to the extraction process itself. Source: Hildenbrand et al. (2016)

[This is industry’s response to health reports on living near fracking sites, from Dr. James Conca, a geochemist, an energy expert, an authority on dirty bombs, a planetary geologist and professional speaker. It calls to mind Margaret Atwood’s memorable poem, cited below–Editor

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible…—Margaret Atwood, “Siren Song,” Poetry Magazine, 2002]

When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last year that hydraulic fracturing would be banned in the State of New York, he cited the lack of scientific data on public health effects. He also said more study needed to be done to determine where emissions were coming in the fracking and extraction cycle.

That study has now been done. Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington published a study that indicates contamination from fracking wells are highly variable but result more from operational inefficiencies than from the extraction process itself.

In other words, it’s sloppy drilling methods that are the worst part of fracking.

A biased call for unbiased honesty

Junk science long has been endemic to the debate over “climate change” (i.e. “global warming). And it appears to have fully infiltrated the debate on fracking as well.

A study released last week by a group of six researchers, according to them, “provides evidence that (hydraulic fracturing used to extract natural gas from shale) is associated with nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in a general population representative sample.”

Pennsylvania residents with the highest exposure to active fracking “are nearly twice as likely” to suffer from such symptoms, they claim…—”The fracking debate: A call for honesty,” The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 8/27/16

The study, “Point source attribution of ambient contamination events near unconventional oil and gas development”, was published on Friday in the Science of the Total Environment. The researchers found highly variable levels of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds (BTEX) in and around fracking sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can have harmful health effects in humans.

What was important was that the emissions were not from the fracking itself, but from a variety of onsite activities that were carried out in a poor or sloppy fashion….—James Conca,”Fracking Really Isn’t So Bad,” Forbes, 8/28/16


NASA Study Links Methane “Hot Spot” to Oil-and-Gas Infrastructure Leaks

The Four Corners region is home to the largest concentration of methane emissions in the nation. This map shows how those emissions varied in average background concentrations from 2003-2009. (Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan)

While some connected to the oil-and-gas industry have tried to argue that the Four Corners methane hot spot — the largest concentration of methane emissions in the nation — is naturally occurring due to underground coal formations, a new study definitively links the hot spot to fugitive methane leaks from oil-and-gas processing sites in New Mexico.

Researchers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology conducted research by flying over a 1,200-mile portion of the state’s San Juan Basin, and using specialized cameras, found more than 250 high-emitting sites, including gas wells, processing plants and storage tanks that have helped fuel more than 50 percent of the methane hot spot.

According to the study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, more than two-thirds of the massive plume — which accounts for nearly a tenth of the oil-and-gas industry’s annual emissions — is coming from only 25 mostly oil-and-gas processing facilities. Only a few methane sources surveyed by researchers came from natural seeps from underground formations, and one included a vent from a coal mine.

In 2014, San Juan county oil-and-gas producers reported nearly 1,038,103 metric tons of methane emissions. During the past year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has taken action to limit methane emissions in the federal and tribal lands in the San Juan Basin.

After a satellite-based study released the first image of the hot spot in 2014, researchers and scientists have sought to identify its causes. This week’s study puts to rest arguments that minimize the oil-and-gas industry’s role in causing the plume.

“This is low-hanging fruit,” said Thomas Singer, who is senior policy advisor at Western Environmental Law Center, referring to the need for the industry to control and capture its methane emissions. “All of the oil-and-gas emissions have known solutions. Many of them are not costly…. This is eminently doable.”

Because only a fraction of the super-emitting sites are disproportionately contributing to the plume, the study concludes that reduction of these emissions can be easily achieved through better monitoring and detection practices. Likewise, Singer points to a report by ICF International which found that collectively, leaks, flaring and venting from oil-and-gas sites on tribal and federal land in New Mexico set the national record for waste — squandering nearly $100 million worth of gas in 2013….—Candice Bernd, “NASA Study Links Methane “Hot Spot” to Oil-and-Gas Infrastructure Leaks,” Truthout, 8/19/16


The troubling evolution of corporate greenwashing

Demonstrators protest against Nestle water bottling operations in California. According to news reports, Nestle, which operates five bottling plants in California, uses 244m gallons of water annually. Reports also said that its state water permit expired 27 years ago. Photograph: Eugene Garcia/EPA

In the mid-1980s, oil company Chevron commissioned a series of expensive television and print ads to convince the public of its environmental bonafides. Titled People Do, the campaign showed Chevron employees protecting bears, butterflies, sea turtles and all manner of cute and cuddly animals.

The commercials were very effective – in 1990, they won an Effie advertising award, and subsequently became a case study at Harvard Business school. They also became notorious among environmentalists, who have proclaimed them the gold standard of greenwashing – the corporate practice of making diverting sustainability claims to cover a questionable environmental record.

The term greenwashing was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, back when most consumers received their news from television, radio and print media – the same outlets that corporations regularly flooded with a wave of high-priced, slickly-produced commercials and print ads. The combination of limited public access to information and seemingly unlimited advertising enabled companies to present themselves as caring environmental stewards, even as they were engaging in environmentally unsustainable practices.

But greenwashing dates back even earlier. American electrical behemoth Westinghouse’s nuclear power division was a greenwashing pioneer. Threatened by the 1960’s anti-nuclear movement, which raised questions about its safety and environmental impact, it fought back with a series of ads proclaiming the cleanliness and safety of nuclear power plants. One, featuring a photograph of a nuclear plant nestled by a pristine lake, proclaimed that “We’re building nuclear power plants to give you more electricity,” and went on to say that nuclear plants were “odorless […] neat, clean, and safe”.

Some of these claims were true: in 1969, Westinghouse nuclear plants were producing large amounts of cheap electricity with far less air pollution than competing coal plants. However, given that the ads appeared after nuclear meltdowns had already occurred in Michigan and Idaho, the word “safe” was arguable. Westinghouse’s ads also ignored concerns about the environmental impact of nuclear waste, which has continued to be a problem.

The mysterious case of the stolen towels

In 1983, when Jay Westerveld first got the idea for the term greenwashing, he wasn’t thinking about nuclear power – he was thinking about towels. An undergraduate student on a research trip to Samoa, he stopped off in Fiji to surf. At the sprawling Beachcomber Resort, he saw a note asking customers to pick up their towels. “It basically said that the oceans and reefs are an important resource, and that reusing the towels would reduce ecological damage,” Westerveld recalls. “They finished by saying something like, ‘Help us to help our environment’.”

Westerveld wasn’t actually staying at the resort – he was lodging at a “grubby” guesthouse nearby, and had just snuck in to steal some clean towels. Even so, he was struck by the note’s irony: while it claimed to be protecting the island’s ecosystem, he says, the Beachcomber – which, today, describes itself as “the most sought-after destination in the South Pacific” – was expanding. “I don’t think they really cared all that much about the coral reefs,” he says. “They were in the middle of expanding at the time, and were building more bungalows.”…—Bruce Watson, “The troubling evolution of corporate greenwashing,” The Guardian, 8/20/16


Living Near a Fracking Site Is Tied to Migraines, Fatigue

CREDIT: Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air

Living near a natural gas hydraulic fracturing site is associated with increased rates of sinus problems, migraines and fatigue, according to new research.

Scientists had 7,785 randomly selected participants in a large Pennsylvania health system fill out health questionnaires. About a quarter met criteria for one or more of three disorders: chronic rhinosinusitis, migraine headaches and severe fatigue.

The study, in Environmental Health Perspectives, ranked participants according to how closely they lived to fracking sites and larger wells. Compared with those in the bottom one-quarter by this measure, those in the top one-quarter were 49 percent more likely to have sinusitis and migraines, 88 percent more likely to have sinusitis and fatigue, 95 percent more likely to have migraines and fatigue, and 84 percent more likely to have all three symptoms.

List of the harmed

Locations of people harmed in proximity to fracking wells. CREDIT: William Huston. Click to view animated map

Current list, updated as of August 14th, 2016
*PDF version here – List of the Harmed

The following is an ever-growing list of the individuals and families that have been harmed by fracking (or fracked gas and oil production) in the US.

Should you encounter any issues (misinformation, broken links, etc.) or if you are/know someone who should be added to this list, please contact us at—”List of the harmed,” Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, 8/14/16

1. Pam Judy and family
Carmichaels, PA
Gas Facility:
Compressor station 780 feet away
Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds, blood test show exposure to benzene and other chemicals

2. Darrell Smitsky
Hickory, PA
Gas Facility:
Range Resources Well, less than 1,000 ft
Water – toluene, acrylonitrile, strontium, barium, manganese
Rashes on legs from showering.
Symptoms (animal):
Five healthy goats dead; fish in pond showing abnormal scales; another neighbor comments anonymously

3. Jerry and Denise Gee and family
Tioga County, Charleston Township, PA
Gas Facility:
Shell Appalachia natural gas well
Water – methane
Relocated, pond contaminated

http://www.sungazettePond….—”List of the Harmed,” Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air

The senior author, Dr. Brian S. Schwartz, a physician and environmental epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, acknowledged that there may be variables the researchers did not account for, and that this was an observational study that does not prove cause and effect.

But, he said, “there have now been seven or eight studies with different designs and in different populations, and while none is perfect, there is now a growing body of evidence that this industry is associated with impacts on health that are biologically plausible. Do we know the exact mechanism? No. That requires further study.”…—Nicholas Bakalar, “Living Near a Fracking Site Is Tied to Migraines, Fatigue,” The New York Times, 8/25/16


Saudi Permian: A Race To The Bottom

Remember the shale gale and Saudi America? The scale of those outlandish delusions has now dwindled to plays in a few counties in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Saudi Permian.

It’s a race to the bottom as investors double down on the tight oil companies that can still tell a growth story. Permian-weighted E&P companies are the temporary darlings of Wall Street as other tight oil plays have lost their luster.

A Silly Price Rally: Catch-22

We are in the middle of a truly silly price rally. Other rallies of 2015 and 2016 took place despite substantial production surpluses and too much inventory. Then, there was some hope that higher prices might result if over-production could be brought under control. Now, the world’s production and consumption are near balance but oil prices remain mired in the $40 to $50 per barrel range.

Figure 1. World liquids production minus consumption shows that the present market is as close to balance as it ever gets. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. Click for full-size Figure 1

This current rally will end badly because there is something more fundamental keeping prices low. Despite repeated assurances from IEA and EIA that demand growth is strong, it is not strong enough to draw down out-sized global inventories.

Hope for an OPEC production freeze at next month’s meeting in Algiers is the main factor driving this rally. The problem is that the world liquids market is as close to balance as it ever gets—over-supply has been less than 0.5 million barrels per day for the last two months (Figure 1). Oil prices were more than $100 per barrel at similar or greater production surpluses in 2013 and 2014.

In 2015, when the average production surplus was 2 million barrels per day, it was a different story. Over-production is not the problem now as it was then. If OPEC freezes production, it won’t make any difference.

Inventories exceed all historical levels. The world remains over-supplied because there is too much oil in inventory.

As long as oil prices are are range-bound between about $40 and $50 per barrel, it makes more sense to store oil than to sell it. The carrying cost of storage is less than what can be made by rolling futures contracts over each month. Inventories will stay high until prices break out of their current range but out-sized inventories make that impossible. Catch-22.—Art Berman, “Saudi Permian: A Race To The Bottom,” The Petroleum Truth Report, 8/22/16


Arctic Death Rattle

Arctic Ocean clear of sea ice

As of August 17th U.S. Naval Research Lab measurements of Arctic sea ice over a 30-day period “shows that the multi-year sea ice has now virtually disappeared,” Storms over Arctic Ocean, Arctic News, August 19, 2016. This means the Arctic has lost its infrastructure. It’s gone.

That means no more 20’-25’ multi-year thick ice, leaving two-dimensional “ice extent” with little thickness and no substantial mass, which charlatans use to prey upon the public’s climate science ignorance by crowing about how far and wide the “ice extent” is during freeze-over so that anthropogenic global warming is made to appear as a hoax. These keynote mountebanks at staged speaking events mislead the public about climate change. They’re found high and low.

In turn, the Arctic negatively affects the entire Northern Hemisphere (source: Jennifer Francis, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences) by altering jet streams at 30,000-40,000 feet altitude, which turns normal weather patterns upside down, wreaking havoc throughout the hemisphere. But, much more significantly, loss of Arctic ice exposes the planet to risks of a crushing blow to the planetary ecosystem, without warning.

Going forward, Arctic ice will consist of young, thin, new yearly ice that easily fractures, turns to slush, turns darker, much more prone to absorbing sunlight, which, unfortunately, could bring on a worldwide catastrophe. Fasten your seat belts!

Ever since the last Ice Age, the Arctic has performed a huge favor by serving as a deep freeze over gigatons of frozen methane (CH4). That locked-in-ice methane, especially in shallow waters where it can make it to the surface in bubbles (already studied by teams of scientists), is a beastly monster beyond anything Hollywood has ever dreamed; it makes Godzilla look like a little whippersnapper.

Natalia Shakhova, head of the Russia-U.S. Methane Study at International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska believes it is possible that a 50-gigaton (Gt) burp of methane erupts along the shallow waters (50-100 m) of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, thereby actuating a fierce self-reinforcing feedback process leading to runaway global warming (5Gt of CH4 is currently in the atmosphere). In turn, life on Earth hits a thud!

Still, it’s important to note that the “50-gigaton burp of methane” theory is extraordinarily controversial among climate scientists. Whereas, the startling loss of Arctic ice mass is irrefutable via actual measurement, and it is glaring evidence of global warming, as heat melts ice!…—Robert Hunziker, “Arctic Death Rattle,” Counterpunch, 8/22/16


A widening 80 mile crack is threatening one of Antarctica’s biggest ice shelves

Credit: Project MIDAS. Click for full view

For some time, scientists who focus on Antarctica have been watching the progression of a large crack in one of the world’s great ice shelves — Larsen C, the most northern major ice shelf of the Antarctic peninsula and the fourth largest Antarctic ice shelf overall.

Larsen C, according to the British Antarctic Survey, is “slightly smaller than Scotland.” It’s called an ice “shelf” because the entirety of this country-sized area is covered by 350-meter-thick ice that is floating on top of deep ocean waters.

The crack in Larsen C grew around 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) in length between 2011 and 2015. And as it grew, also became wider — by 2015, yawning some 200 meters in length. Since then, growth has only continued — and now, a team of researchers monitoring Larsen C say that with the intense winter polar night over Antarctica coming to an end, they’ve been able to catch of glimpse of what happened to the crack during the time when it could not be observed by satellite.

The result was astonishing.

The rift had grown another 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) since it was last observed in March 2016, and has widened to about 350 meters, report researchers from Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic Survey funded collaboration of researchers from Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities in Wales and other institutions. The full length of the rift is now 130 km, or over 80 miles.

What this means is that it may be only a matter of time before we see the loss of an enormous chunk of Larsen C — a historic event that would bring to mind the losses of the Larsen A ice shelf in 1995 and the sudden breakup of Larsen B in 2002. When that last event happened, the National Snow and Ice Data Center remarked that Earth had lost a major feature that had “likely existed since the end of the last major glaciation 12,000 years ago.”

“We previously showed that this will remove between nine and twelve percent of the ice shelf area and leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever,” write Adrian Luckman, Daniela Jansen, Martin O’Leary and members of the Project MIDAS team.  “The trajectory of the rift now implies that the higher of these two estimates is more likely.”

The amount of ice that could be lost would be around 6,000 square kilometers, or 2,316 square miles — nearly the size of Delaware, said O’Leary, a glaciologist at Swansea University and one of the team’s members, by email.

“It’s hard to tell how soon it could break – we really don’t have a good handle on the processes which control the timing of the crack propagation,” O’Leary said. “It’s a lot like predicting an earthquake – exact timings are hard to come by. Probably not tomorrow, probably not more than a few years.”…—Chris Mooney, “A widening 80 mile crack is threatening one of Antarctica’s biggest ice shelves,” The Washington Post, 8/22/16


Revealed: Ex-FERC Commissioner’s Multiple Rulings Favored Energy Companies His Wife Lobbied For

Numerous rulings by a former Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) favored energy companies his lobbyist wife worked for at the time, a DeSmog investigation can reveal.

Philip Moeller left FERC in late 2015 after nearly ten years on the Commission.

Throughout his entire tenure, Moeller’s wife, Elizabeth Moeller, was employed as a lawyer and lobbyist for the Washington DC-based firm Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman LLP (Pillsbury Winthrop).

According to internal FERC documents obtained by DeSmog, the Commission’s counsel repeatedly authorized Moeller to rule on matters concerning companies represented by his wife or others at Pillsbury Winthrop.

Elizabeth Moeller’s Timely Move to Pillsbury Winthrop

A month before Moeller was nominated by President George W. Bush to FERC in March 2006, Elizabeth Moeller, a veteran Capitol Hill lobbyist, moved from the firm of Squire Patton to Pillsbury Winthrop.

One of her first clients at the new firm was Puget Sound Energy (PSE), a FERC-regulated utility providing electricity and gas to more than a million costumers in the Northwest.

Ex-FERC Commissioner’s Multiple Rulings Favored Energy Companies His Wife Lobbied For

According to congressional disclosure documents, Elizabeth Moeller had consistently lobbied for PSE from April 2006 to April 2014 on various issues relating to climate change, energy policy, and taxation. During the same time span, Commissioner Moeller sat on many FERC rulings involving PSE, where he ruled in favor of the company.

In 2007, Moeller and the Commission approved the upgrade and expansion of a PSE storage facility.

A year later, they approved PSE’s merger with a consortium led by the investment firm Macquarie.

Soon after, Moeller was involved in approving PSE’s purchase of Sumas Pipeline Company’s natural gas import facility in Whatcom County, Washington.

In 2011, FERC approved PSE’s rate increase. Two years later, Moeller approved PSE’s new service agreements with Morgan Stanley Capital.

FERC Allows Moeller to Sit on Rulings

When first nominated to FERC, Moeller disclosed to the Commission the conflict relating to his wife’s work.

In a letter to FERC’s Designated Agency Ethics Official, Moeller stated he would “not participate personally and substantially, if confirmed, in any particular matter that will have a direct and predictable effect on my spouse’s employment interest in Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.”

Office of Government Ethics rules strictly forbid public officials from working on matters where they have a personal financial stake, unless authorized in writing by the agency’s Ethics Official….—Itai Vardi, “Revealed: Ex-FERC Commissioner’s Multiple Rulings Favored Energy Companies His Wife Lobbied ForDeSmogBlog, 8/22/16


California Climate Policies a $48 Billion Boon for State’s Economy, Analysis Finds

A new analysis by a non-partisan business group finds that California’s climate policies have been a boon for the state’s economy.

Assembly Bill 32, also known as AB 32 or the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, requires California to reduce climate-cooking greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — which meant cutting emissions about 25 percent from where they were at in 2006, when AB 32 was passed by the California State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to the analysis from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2analysis, AB 32 and related climate policies have pumped some $48 billion into the state economy over the past decade while helping create about 500,000 jobs.

The emissions targets established by AB 32 and the programs that were created to achieve them have funded solar, wind and energy efficiency projects in communities across California and given clean energy investors and companies confidence in the state’s energy market. The upshot, E2 found, is that every single one of the state’s 80 Assembly districts have benefited from the Golden State’s climate leadership over the past decade.

“It’s clear that AB 32 and related policies are already paying off big time for California’s economy,” E2 executive director Bob Keefe wrote in a blog post. “Today, the state is by far the nation’s leader in clean energy jobs and investments. No other state comes close.”

California is on pace to meet the emissions reductions set by AB 32, and legislators are now considering Senate Bill 32 (SB 32), which require the state to take the next step and reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But, according to the LA Times, “it appears that lawmakers will punt, rather than vote, on one of the most important environmental decisions facing California.”

California Governor Jerry Brown reportedly plans to continue pushing for the legislation, even if he has to take it directly to voters via a ballot measure campaign in 2018.

Gov. Brown isn’t the only one urging the passage of SB 32: A bipartisan group of California mayors representing eight of the largest cities in the state is calling for state legislators to pass SB 32 without delay.

“Our cities continue to bear witness to the consequences of a changing climate,” the mayors wrote. “From record heat and fire to the continued water quality and availability challenges of the drought, we are increasingly challenged by the consequences of climate change.”

Nearly 200 business leaders have also weighed in with their support of SB 32, writing in a letter that “Businesses and investors need the market certainty that a new climate target will create, and we need it this year to avoid disruption of the economic growth and job creation in this sector that California has enjoyed as a result of our climate policies.”

Nearly 60 business, environmental, public health, and consumer advocacy groups, including the American Heart & Lung Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the U.S Green Building Council, California, have also written a letter, which was delivered to all members of the California Assembly. In it, the groups wrote:

We must keep driving down carbon pollution to avoid the worst effects of climate change, which is already taking a toll. Wildfires burn longer and hotter. Droughts are more severe. And sea level rise threatens our coasts. But California is showing how to reduce fossil fuels and grow clean energy in every corner of the state. A YES vote on SB 32 shows the world that the California legislature will continue to lead the fight for clean air, thriving communities, and a healthy planet.

Any delay in passing new climate targets will send the wrong message to the clean energy industry in California and could send businesses to other states that are actively recruiting clean energy technology companies, Nicole Lederer, chair and co-founder of E2, said in a statement….—Mike Gaworecki, “California Climate Policies a $48 Billion Boon for State’s Economy, Analysis Finds,” DeSmog Blog, 8/19/16


English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch

Garry Charnock near some of the many solar panels in Ashton Hayes, England. Mr. Charnock, a former journalist, started the town’s emissions-reduction effort about 10 years ago. CREDIT: Elizabeth Dalziel for The New York Times

ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.

But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change. Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.

As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”

One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches…. —Tatiana Schlossberg, “English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch,” The New York Times, 8/21/16


And That’s A Wrap! Thanks for all those who sent notices of action and alerts, story ideas, bushels of peaches… More needed every week! Send to

The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 34 – Night of the Living Deniers

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Aug 262016

August 28, 2016
As climate catastrophes not seen in living memory wrack the globe, the remnants of climate change denial seem more like the zombies in the cult classic movie “Night of the Living Dead,” not quite alive, not quite dead either, even though they sometimes advise themselves that their arguments never made sense.
But first, the news…

Action Alert: Support our Seneca Lake Defenders in court:

Where: Reading Town Court
Map here

When: Weds, 8/24 5-9 pm
Arraignments for 24 Defenders
More info: FaceBook Event

Where: Hector Town Court
5097 NYS Rte 227
Burdett, NY 14818

Map here
When: Weds, 8/24 5:30 pm
Laura Salamendra’s Pre-trial Hearing
More info: FaceBook Event


The power of the gavel

Public meetings at both ends of Seneca Lake have taken ugly turns in recent weeks. Citizens have been angry with elected officials, and elected officials are equally miffed at the audience members.

Yes, we are talking about you, Seneca Falls and Schuyler County.

But a major factor in all this contentiousness is how such meetings are conducted.

It’s a given the most powerful person in any public meeting is the one who wields the gavel — a chairman or chairwoman.

The gavel wielder (holding a real hammer-like gavel or not) is the center of the meeting, usually following an agenda that he or she has set, often deciding who gets to speak and when.

It’s that “speak and when” that riles up members of audiences, especially when the chair is stingy in how much public comment is allowed. Or shuts public comment down completely.

The Town of Reading in Schuyler County for years has been the poster child for denying citizens the right to speak at town board and planning meetings….—Michael Fitzgerald, “The power of the gavel,” Finger Lakes Times, 8/19/16


Action Alert: Oral Arguments in Sierra Club and Hudson River Fishermans Assoc. Water Permitting Case

Where: Part 16, 60 Centre Street, Room 222,
New York County Supreme Court
Manhattan, New York, NY

See Map Here
When: Wed., Aug. 31 at 2:30 pm If you will be near New York City August 31, please consider attending this vital suit brought against the DEC’s procedures of simply giving industries and utilities whatever water they request under the new regulations on water withdrawal from water commons.

Oral arguments in the second suit filed by Sierra Club and Hudson River Fisherman’s Association challenging DEC’s procedures in issuing water withdrawal permits under New York’s new law will be heard Wed., August 31, 2016 in New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan. The case, Sierra Club and HRFA v. Martens II, Index No. 100524/2015, challenges DEC’s issuance of a water withdrawal permit to Consolidated Edison for its East River generating station to take up to 373 million gallons of water per day from the East River in the Hudson River estuary.

The hearing will be before Justice Alice Schlesinger at 2:30 pm in Part 16, 60 Centre Street, Room 222, Manhattan. Attorney Richard Lippes from Buffalo will present the oral argument for the petitioners. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

For more information about the case, see: Second Suit Filed Challenging DEC on Water Withdrawal Permits
For more info on attending contact:
Rachel Treichler
Law Office of Rachel Treichler
7988 Van Amburg Road
Hammondsport, NY 14840


Action Alert: Tell DEC this is not good enough!

Radiation monitors like this vertical meter at Chemung County landfill are not sufficient to detect radium in shale gas drill cuttings in trucks entering the landfill. Photo by Matt Richmond.

Window-dressing New York landfills with ineffective monitors does nothing to stop radioactive shale gas drilling wastes from being deposited in our landfills.

Comment on the radiation monitoring requirements in DEC’s proposed revisions to New York’s solid waste landfill regulations. Comment Deadline September 13, 2016.

DEC’s proposed revisions to New York’s solid waste (Part 360) regulations still allow drill cuttings to be disposed in landfills. This continues to put our environment and public health at an unacceptable risk. DEC has the opportunity to fully protect New York from fracking wastes in the Part 360 revisions by banning shale gas drilling wastes in our landfills. Tell them they must do so by sending them comments today.

DEC’s proposal to require that all municipal solid waste landfills in New York install fixed radiation detection units at their entrances is not good enough.  This requirement does not prevent radioactive fracking waste from entering New York’s landfills.

For more info, talking points, sample letter: Tell DEC this is not good enough!


Night of the Living Deniers

Why Climate Change Can’t Be True
(Even Though it is)

Imagine a mathematician basing his or her entire life’s work on the premise that 1+1 = 3. Absurd, right? Yet a few years ago I came to the conclusion that I had done exactly that when it came to my views on climate change. Here was my flawed formula.

I had spent nearly ten years of my life writing, speaking and teaching on biblical stewardship. As an evangelical theologian, I was (and am) passionate about helping Christians understand the full meaning of what it means to be a faithful steward in every area of their life. That included care for God’s creation.

Add to that that I’m a product of the 60’s when we believed that science was trustworthy on most things. I have no reason to doubt conclusions that come from a broad consensus of scientists. I am no conspiracy theorist, and I have a basic trust in the veracity of scientific data, especially when it is confirmed on a broad scale.

What is the conclusion that I drew from the combination of my passion for stewardship plus a basic trust in science? I was an adamant climate change denier. Yup, 1+1 = 3. Global warming was a hoax. Environmentalism was a word you said with a sneer on your lips. I cared for God’s creation and held science in the highest regard, all while sitting at home watching Whale Wars and rooting for the Japanese whaling ships (seriously). For some unknown reason I lived comfortably with this irreconcilable internal contradiction.

Finally, this absurdity became intolerable, forcing me to question how I got here, and why it had been so easy to establish and remain in such a paradox for so long. I have come to the conclusion that for me, and perhaps for far too many of us in the evangelical church, the answer can be summed up in one word; conditioning….—Dr. Scott Rodin , “Why Climate Change Can’t Be True (Even Though it is),” The Steward’s Journey, , 5/1/15


Watch This Physicist Try Desperately to Explain Climate Change to a Politician Who Denies It


Having Professor Brian Cox explain the human element of climate change to Malcolm Roberts, a science-denying newly elected senator from Australia, is an exercise in futility. Yet, Cox did his best to explain the evidence to a man who refuses to accept any of it during an exchange on the ABC show Q&A:

Roberts’ refusal to admit the obvious boils down to his conspiracy theories that “the data has been corrupted” by NASA (it has not), that there are single years in the past that were just as hot as today (ignoring the overall warming trend), and that the empirical evidence for climate change doesn’t exist (even though it does).

Roberts wants data… but only data that confirms his misguided views. It’s like Creationist Ken Ham dismissing any piece of evidence for evolution that doesn’t fit into a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. How can you debate someone on a scientific issue when you can’t even agree on what a “fact” is?


Australia’s New Climate Science Denialist Senator Malcolm Roberts Has A History of Harassing Academics

Malcolm Roberts is a former Australian mining consultant who thinks the United Nations is using the “scam” of human-caused climate change as a cover story while it builds an all-powerful world government.

He’s also just been elected as an Australian Senator.

Roberts will sit in Australia’s upper house as a member of the far-right One Nation party that wants to ban Muslim immigration and investigate climate scientists for “fraud and corruption”.

Since his election, Roberts has been given blanket coverage in the Australian media, with high profile interviews on flagship shows on the publicly funded ABC.

Even the BBC has written about Roberts, with a headline: “Australia senator Malcolm Roberts calls climate change a UN conspiracy.”

At every opportunity, Roberts, a former coal face miner, has claimed there is “no empirical evidence” to show that carbon dioxide from burning the coal that he used to dig up affects the climate.

As climate science denial goes, Roberts’ position is as far to the fringe as you can go, mixing conspiracy theories with outright rejection of the conclusions of science academies and institutions across the world that humans are causing climate change….—Graham Readfearn, “Australia’s New Climate Science Denialist Senator Malcolm Roberts Has A History of Harassing Academics,” DeSmogBlog, 8/11/16

More disturbing is that only one of these two speakers has the ability to do something tangible to reverse climate change… and that’s the guy who refuses to admit we can do anything about the problem. Cox, on the other hand, can educate people all he wants about the science, but it feels futile when elected officials write it off as a hoax….—Hemant Mehta, “Watch This Physicist Try Desperately to Explain Climate Change to a Politician Who Denies It,” Patheos Atheist, 8/17/16


How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing With Climate Change

Risk analysis groups have detected an increased frequency of Atlantic hurricanes due to climate change, forcing insurance companies to rethink their models. Photo by Flickr user Brian Birke

When it comes to the calculating the likelihood of catastrophic weather, one group has an obvious and immediate financial stake in the game: the insurance industry. And in recent years, the industry researchers who attempt to determine the annual odds of catastrophic weather-related disasters—including floods and wind storms—say they’re seeing something new.

“Our business depends on us being neutral. We simply try to make the best possible assessment of risk today, with no vested interest,” says Robert Muir-Wood, the chief scientist of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a company that creates software models to allow insurance companies to calculate risk. “In the past, when making these assessments, we looked to history. But in fact, we’ve now realized that that’s no longer a safe assumption—we can see, with certain phenomena in certain parts of the world, that the activity today is not simply the average of history.”

This pronounced shift can be seen in extreme rainfall events, heat waves and wind storms. The underlying reason, he says, is climate change, driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions. Muir-Wood’s company is responsible for figuring out just how much more risk the world’s insurance companies face as a result of climate change when homeowners buy policies to protect their property.

First, a brief primer on the concept of insurance: Essentially, it’s a tool for spreading risk—say, the chance your house will be washed away by a hurricane—among a larger group of people, so that the cost of rebuilding the destroyed house is shared by everyone who pays insurance. To accomplish this, insurance companies sell flood policies to thousands of homeowners and collect enough in payments from all of them so that they have enough to pay for the inevitable disaster, plus keep some extra revenue as profit afterward. To protect themselves, these insurance companies even buy their own policies from reinsurance companies, who make the same sorts of calculations, just on another level upward….—Joseph Stromberg, “How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing With Climate Change,” Smithsonian Magazine, 9/24/13


Electricity Rate Hikes to Fund Gas Pipeline Projects Banned

Spectra Energy’s planned Access Northeast project has been the subject of sustained protests in Massachusetts. Credit: Peter Bowden via Flickr

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down a controversial “pipeline tax” that would have allowed electric utilities in the state to raise rates to pay for natural gas pipeline projects.

The decision is a major setback for pipeline company Spectra Energy and its proposed Access Northeast project, which would have significantly increased the flow of natural gas along an existing pipeline from New Jersey to eastern Massachusetts.

The ruling comes on the heels of several other favorable developments for  renewable energy. In May, the same court upheld the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, which mandates an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation on Aug. 8 that requires local utilities to get 1,600 megawatts of their combined electricity from offshore wind farms by 2027.

“I think it’s a potentially historic turning point,” David Ismay, an attorney with Conservation Law Foundation, a Massachusetts based environmental advocacy organization, said of the combined rulings and legislation. Ismay was the lead attorney for CLF, one of two parties that filed suit against the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU), which had initially allowed a rate increase to pay for the $3 billion project.

“I think it’s a shot across the bow of the fossil fuel industry,” Ismay said. “If they are smart, they are waking up and thinking how they can get into offshore wind.”…—Phil McKenna, “Mass. Court Bans Electricity Rate Hikes to Fund Gas Pipeline Projects,” InsideClimate News, 8/19/16


Senator Inhofe’s Majik Snowball


February 26, 2015 4:22 PM EST – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) brought a real snowball onto the Senate floor to discusses climate change. (C-SPAN)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has, once and for all, disproven climate change. While “eggheads” at “science laboratories” were busy worrying about how the increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere was leading to a long-term upward shift in temperatures and increased atmospheric moisture, Inhofe happened to notice that it was cold outside. Weirdly cold outside. So cold, in fact, that water falling from the sky had frozen solid.

So he brought some of this frozen water into the Capitol and onto the Senate floor to show everyone, but mostly to show the eggheads.

He referred back to the time that his kids made an igloo — and then dropped his bombshell: “It’s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable.” Inhofe, who is also chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, then turned to his prop for a bit of “scientific analysis.”

“So,” he said, throwing the snowball to the sitting Senate president, “catch this.” Whether the snowball was caught was not known at the time of writing.

How cold is it out? It is below freezing! Last week it was even colder, so cold that records in the region were being broken. Today? Eh, not so much. Especially compared to the history of temperatures on this day.

Now, global warming skepticism skeptics might argue that Inhofe, the author of a book about global warming called “The Greatest Hoax,” is using one bit of weather-related data to try to disprove a well-established, very long-term trend. They might note that temperatures in February are supposed to be cold in the Northern Hemisphere since it is a season called “winter.” They might point out that at the same time D.C. was very cold, the West Coast was very warm, which is less expected during “winter.” And they might note that the government did indeed declare 2014 to be the warmest year on record, a detail that is not disproven by a snowball in the year 2015. (The sad irony of that, though: Much of the eastern U.S. recorded colder than normal temperatures — and that is where Inhofe goes to work.)

But those skepticism skeptics are wrong. Why? Look at that snowball.—Phillip Bump, “Jim Inhofe’s snowball has disproven climate change once and for all,” The Washington Post, 2/26/15


New Rules Require Heavy-Duty Trucks to Reduce Emissions by 25% Over the Next Decade

New emissions standards could save the trucking industry an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs through 2027, the federal government said on Tuesday. Credit Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times

The Obama administration on Tuesday issued aggressive new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. The rules are expected to achieve better fuel efficiency and a bigger cut in pollution than the version that was first proposed last year.

EPAHeavyVehicleEmissionsStandardsOfficials said the new standards would require up to a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions for big tractor-trailers over the next 10 years, and somewhat smaller improvements for delivery trucks, school buses and other large vehicles.

Over all, administration officials said the new rules would cut 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions through 2027 and represent a global benchmark for reducing vehicle-exhaust pollutants linked to climate change.

A Rare Agreement on Climate Rules

With most of President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change tied up in litigation, it is heartening, if not downright astonishing, to see an industry targeted by an aggressive rule to reduce greenhouse gases welcoming that rule. It is also heartening to be able to provide proof to a reflexively hostile Congress – whose members yap incessantly about “job-killing regulations” and “executive overreach” – that regulators and industry can, in fact, produce a mutually acceptable result….—Editorial Board, ” A Rare Agreement on Climate Rules,” The New York Times, 8/20/16

The carbon-reduction target is 10 percent more than when the rules were proposed last year, and was made tougher after a public comment period.

“We are way out ahead of any other country,” said Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the trucking industry would save an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs through 2027 and reduce petroleum consumption by two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the new rules.

“We are at a pivotal point in our fight against climate change and its catastrophic consequences,” Mr. Foxx said in conference call announcing the new standards….—Bill Vlasic, “New Rules Require Heavy-Duty Trucks to Reduce Emissions by 25% Over the Next Decade,” The New York Times, 8/16/16


Bankrupt coal companies get break on clean-up costs

Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Just about every big coal mining company in America is in bankruptcy, or emerging from it. That includes the world’s largest private sector coal firm: Peabody Energy.

Peabody won court approval to set aside just a small amount of money for environmental cleanup – a mere 15 cents on the dollar. That leaves the states in which it operates at risk for the rest.

The whole question here is, if coal companies wobble and fall down for good, who pays for the cleanup? The process of removing water pollution, planting trees and shrubs and returning the topsoil is expensive and time-consuming.

In Peabody’s case, the court and three key mining states agreed to let the company put up just a fraction of the cleanup money that would be required.

“They’re trying to shift the costs from the coal mining companies back to the states, and basically onto taxpayers,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said. “And unfortunately, for example, the state of Indiana seems to have agreed to take 15 to 17 cents on the dollar.”

States were never supposed to face this situation. In the 1970s, after decades of failed companies simply walking away from shuttered mines, Congress required firms to purchase bonds and guarantee 100 percent of the money for environmental reclamation.

But many states made exceptions. Companies in solid financial condition could simply “self-bond” and put up their own assets as collateral….—Scott Tong, “Bankrupt coal companies get break on clean-up costs,” MarketPlace, 8/18/16


Coal Ash Pollution and Political Corruption: Chaos in North Carolina Regulatory and Public Health Agencies


Megan Davies, North Carolina’s chief epidemiologist, resigned this week in the latest bit of drama over drinking water safety — drama that involves the state’s biggest utility and the administration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Davies, who accused state officials of deliberately misleading residents, gives up her post of seven years and an $188,000 annual salary.

The story begins in 2014, when a Duke Energy power plant spilled 40,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater into the Dan River. The ash is a byproduct of burning coal, and it’s harmful to people and ecosystems, containing silica, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.

In the aftermath of the spill, public concern grew over Duke’s 32 coal ash storage sites around the state. Many of them were revealed to be unprotected, sitting in unlined basins — just heaps of coal ash in giant pits, leaching toxic elements and a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium into the water table.

Soon after, hundreds of households near the storage sites were told by state officials not to drink from their wells due to concerns over water quality. In April 2015, Duke Energy began providing bottled water to those homes.

The do-not-drink order, however, didn’t last. A year after warning residents that their well water wasn’t safe, representatives from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services changed their minds, writing to the impacted households that their water was actually fine.

Testing, however, showed that well water near the coal ash sites still had levels of hexavalent chromium higher than in the municipal water supply. And Duke Energy, it turned out, had lobbied the state to reverse the do-not-drink order, even though nothing about most of the storage sites had changed. There were still unlined coal ash sites dotting the state, and there were still toxins in the water.

The optics for the state government were bad. McCrory was an employee of Duke Energy for nearly 30 years before becoming governor, and several state employees disagreed with the decision to reverse the do-not-drink order. This included Ken Rudo, a toxicologist for the Department of Health and Human Services, who believed that it was Duke’s connection to the government that led to the reversal of the order. Emails from within the department show that Rudo pushed back against DHHS’s decision and removed his name from the letter telling residents that their water was safe.

This information came to light when the Associated Press obtained a copy of a deposition Rudo gave in July as part of a lawsuit filed against Duke by the Sierra Club and other conservation groups. Duke tried, unsuccessfully, to seal the documents, but in court Rudo accused his boss — state public health director Randall Williams — of lying to the public.

“The state health director’s job is to protect public health,” said Rudo. “And in this specific instance, the opposite occurred. He knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it wasn’t.”

When the story came out, Williams and Department of Environmental Quality representative Tom Reeder responded by publishing an open letter portraying Rudo as a rogue scientist who doesn’t understand water toxicology.

Rudo, however, was not alone in criticizing the state. After Williams and Reeder’s public take-down of Rudo, Davies, the state’s top epidemiologist, resigned in protest.

“The editorial signed by Randall Williams and Tom Reeder presents a false narrative of a lone scientist in acting independently to set health screening levels and make water use recommendations to well owners,” Davies wrote in her resignation letter this week, adding that she had personally briefed the state on the well problem multiple times in 2015.

Davies wrote that resigning from her position is a huge loss, both professionally and personally. But, she continued, “I cannot work for a Department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public.”

Meanwhile, the hundreds of families living near coal ash sites remain in limbo. The state says their water is fine, but levels of hexavalent chromium are still high, so residents are left to decide for themselves whether to drink the water or not. If they choose not to, Duke is still delivering bottled water every two weeks. But, according to a company spokesperson, it’s not because the water isn’t safe; they’re just being good neighbors….—Katie Herzog, “Chief NC scientist resigns, accuses GOP administration of misleading the public about water quality,” Grist, 8/15/16


Why the extreme Louisiana floods are worrying but not surprising

Louisiana flood, August 2016 – Photo: Common Dreams flickr/cc

The Louisiana floods, which have now killed at least six and led to the evacuation of 20,000, were the result of a bizarre confluence of weather events that are becoming suspiciously more common as the planet’s climate continues to warm. 

First off, the atmosphere was primed for heavy rain for days on end along the central Gulf Coast, with precipitable water values (the amount of water vapor in a column of air above a specific location) hitting record levels in Louisiana — beating out readings seen during tropical storms and hurricanes going back to 1948.

Click for full-size chart

A near-record warm Gulf of Mexico helped add water vapor to the air, with bathtub-like water temperatures near 90 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the Gulf.

Another factor contributing to the heavy rain was the slowly swirling storm system itself, which was a relatively weak area of low pressure that succeeded in wringing the moisture out of the atmosphere like a wet sponge. 

The storm — which dumped rain on the region from 6 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Monday — had tropical characteristics, with a warm air mass located near the center. Day after day, massive thunderstorms erupted around the storm’s center, dumping rains over the same water-logged region.

Some spots picked up more than a foot of rain in 24 hours and 2 feet in 72 hours, an indication of the extreme efficiency with which the storm was converting water vapor in the air into rainfall….—Andrew Freeman, “Why the extreme Louisiana floods are worrying but not surprising,” Mashable, 8/15/16


New Jersey Communities Unanimously Say ‘No’ to the Penn East Pipeline

Wickecheoke Creek, C1 Stream, Hunterdon County, New Jersey

On a Tuesday evening in late July, Dr. Tullis Onstott, Professor of Geo sciences at Princeton University – and in 2007 named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people in the world – stood in front of the Hopewell Township, New Jersey, Board of Health and swore under oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Onstott offered expert testimony citing the potential long-term cumulative impact on New Jersey’s regional water supply should the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approve the construction of the proposed $1.2 billion PennEast pipeline slated to carry natural gas 114 miles from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania through the pristine upper reaches of the Delaware River Watershed to a terminus outside Trenton.

Onstott’s testimony was sobering.

“PennEast pipeline’s proposed path would blast a trench through the heart of a region with the highest arsenic concentration in the state of New Jersey,” he said, explaining in detail how the arsenic trapped in the rock beneath the thin soil could be released leading to the loss of potable ground water that supplies the rural and semi-rural communities of three hundred-year-old Hunterdon County; and one hundred-fifty-year-old Mercer County, home of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Arsenic is designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen, and it is the single largest pollutant of wells and water supplies in the state of New Jersey.

“The proposed pipeline route crosses every aquifer recharge zone that provides drinking water to local communities and every wetland that discharges water into the Delaware Raritan Canal,” said Onstott.

“These fractured rock aquifers,” he added, “are the sole source of water for the wells of hundreds of communities and farms. The aquifers are extremely sensitive to this type of construction because the six feet deep trench exposes the rock formation to air releasing the arsenic into the shallow water table. Even worse during the pipeline’s operation, methane leakage and the current from its cathodic shield will continue to mobilize arsenic for decades to come. There is not that much groundwater here to begin with, and the rainfall in this part of the world is not that great either. Dilution of this arsenic from fresh water recharge will be limited.”

He concluded that, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Pipelines Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) need to be made aware that certain types of hydro-geological conditions make large-scale natural gas pipelines fundamentally incompatible with the safety of the communities living near them and high arsenic fractured bedrock is one of them.”

Click for full-size map

“Why?” he asked, “would the PennEast consortium risk the drinking water for thousands of people? They would have had to have been blind not to know this before they proposed their route.”…—Joy Stocke, “New Jersey Communities Unanimously Say ‘No’ to the Penn East Pipeline,” The Huffington Post, 8/17/16


And That’s A Wrap! Keep sending yer friendly neighborhood editor action announcements, alerts of all sorts (they don’t make us nervous at all!), news stories, watermelons and peaches to

The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 33 – The Moral Dilemma of Climate Change

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 33 – The Moral Dilemma of Climate Change
Aug 262016

August 16, 2016
At what point do we become willing to throw resources into reversing the causes of climate change? When it makes good economic sense? When our health or our children’s is involved? When it becomes apparent that we are spending the resources of all future human generations? When we recognize that we depend on the well-being of all life, not just our own well-being?
But first the news

A Critique of Crestwood’s Modest Proposal to Cut Back Some Gas Storage Maybe

We Are Seneca Lake protesters block a truck from exiting the Crestwood gas storage facility on August 4, 2015. (image: We Are Seneca Lake)

Watkins Glen, NY—In a last-ditch attempt to make its project palatable to residents of the Finger Lakes, yesterday Crestwood’s attorneys promised the Department of Environmental Conservation that it was cutting back the scale of its plans to store explosive gases in old salt caverns under the shores of Seneca Lake.  These promises did not impress members of We Are Seneca Lake.

“Butane storage was always a minor part of the project,” noted Ruth Young, of We Are Seneca Lake and former Schuyler County Legislator and former Democratic Committee chair in Schuyler County.  “This slight reduction from 2.1 to 1.5 million barrels still builds 70 percent of the propane storage, and changes nothing about the plans to store methane. The risks still remain and threaten Seneca Lake as a drinking water source, a tourist hotspot and world-class wine region.”

“These reductions are not enough,” a We Are Seneca Lake spokesperson. “It’s like a smoker promising to cut back from 3 packs to 2 packs a day with a promise not to smoke in bed: it still puts the kids in the house at risk for asthma and house fires. Underground gas storage in any quantity is inherently unsafe. We do not want an Aliso Canyon at Seneca Lake.”

Crestwood’s decision to scale back to reduce risks and impacts in the face of overwhelming public opposition is validation for what We Are Seneca Lake and other groups opposed to the plans have said since the beginning: pressurized gas storage in unlined salt caverns brings with it inherent dangers.

Crestwood has still not addressed the very serious issue of cavern integrity that continues to be under review by the DEC appointed Administrative Law Judge, and the threat to the salinity level of the lake. Storage of LPG in these caverns in the 1970s corresponded with an increase in Seneca Lake’s salinity.  Further, it appears that the state employee who signed off on the permit for the propane storage project was never authorized to do so, another issue that is currently under review in the adjudicatory proceedings.

Thirty-two municipalities around Seneca Lake have passed resolutions in opposition to Crestwood’s plans.  The outlier remains Schuyler County.

On Monday night, the Schuyler County Legislature ignored a standing-room only crowd of constituents, business owners, and Seneca County Supervisor Steve Churchill voicing opposition to gas storage plans.

Legislative Chairman Denis Fagin, founder of Fagan Engineering, a company with extensive involvement in the oil and gas industry and pipelines, took the role of Crestwood defender during the proceedings.  The resolution passed 6-2, even though only two people spoke in favor of the resolution. Legislators Van Harp and Michael Lausell voted against it.

Crestwood’s revised proposal has been submitted in an unconventional method directly to the Administrative Law Judge in a letter and it is unclear whether it will be accepted.  The full revised plans should be made available for public review.  It is clearly an attempt to placate opposition by removing some of the visual surface impacts of mass industrialization.  All transport LPG by truck and rail are being scrapped, and propane will be transported by pipeline only….—Lindsay Speer, “Crestwood Promises Minor Changes to Gas Storage Plans at Seneca Lake. We Are Seneca Lake vows to continue opposition,” We Are Seneca Lake Media, 8/9/16


Court Tomorrow in Reading: Action Alert!

Join us and support 17 brave Defenders as they are the first to be arraigned before Judge Brockway.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Town of Reading Court
3914 County Rte 28 (directions/map here)
First group
at 5:00 pm;
Second group
at 7:00 pm. Check our Facebook Event Page on Aug 15 for a list of names.

Bear witness with your silent presence in the courtroom. Wear blue for solidarity.

For continuing to provide free legal defense to hundreds of Defenders, we need ongoing financial support. Please donate to We Are Seneca Lake’s legal defense fund:

For more info on our 22-month-long non-violent civil disobedience campaign to stop gas storage expansion on Seneca Lake, visit our website and Join Us!


Action Alert: Dominion New Market Pipeline Public Hearings & Comments

Click for full size

DEC is holding 3 public hearings on Dominion’s New Market Project:  Aug 29th, 30th, Sept 1st.

Please mark your calendar and hold the date. 

Morrisville may be closest for central NY.

Corning is the place for Southern Tier and Western NY people to head for, 75 miles west of Binghamton, 40 miles from Ithaca, and 90 from Rochester.   Large numbers of people’s interests at stake here. 

Canajoharie is right on the thruway and only 40 minutes from Albany, an hour from Utica, if that, so a great place for Capital district area people to go, and still close to the Leatherstocking region.

Date: Monday, August 29, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Morrisville State College
Crawford Hall Room #107
80 Eaton Street
Morrisville, NY 13408

Date: Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Corning Community College
Triangle Lounge
1 Academic Drive
Corning, NY 14830

Date: Thursday, September 1, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m.

Location: Canajoharie Central School District
High School Auditorium
136 Scholastic Way
Canajoharie, NY 13317

Check out the Facebook event  page here with sample letters, email address for comments, and all hearing locations and times.


Lifton urges New Market pipeline hearing in Ithaca

(Photo: NICK REYNOLDS / Staff Photo)

State Assemblywoman Barbara Liston and an Ithaca environmental activist are calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to hold a hearing in Ithaca regarding the proposed Dominion New Market Pipeline expansion.

Last week, the DEC agreed to extend the comment public period from Aug. 5 to Sept. 12 on the air quality discharge permit.

That decision came within days of Walter Hang, of Toxics Targeting Inc., of Ithaca, revealing a series of unremediated petroleum spills dating to the 1990s along the proposed pipeline’s route — including two in the Town of Dryden.

Hang and Lifton, D-Ithaca, want the public comment period to be extended on the water quality certification portion of the permit as well.—Nick Reynolds, “Lifton urges New Market pipeline hearing in Ithaca,” Ithaca Journal, 8/10/16


The Moral Dilemma of Climate Change

We’ve Already Used Up Earth’s Resources For 2016 — And It’s Only August

Global warming, deforestation, soil erosion and depletion of water resources are just some of the impacts of accumulating “ecological debt.”/ Getty Images

It’s less than eight months into 2016 and the ominous day is already nearly upon us: Earth Overshoot Day, previously known as Ecological Debt Day, is a reminder of the enormous toll we take on the Earth.

The day marks the juncture when humanity’s demand for ecological resources exceeds what the planet can replenish annually. In 2016, it falls on Monday, which means people have already consumed an entire year’s worth of the world’s resources ― and we still have four months to go until the year’s end.

For the rest of 2016, we’ll be “living on resources borrowed from future generations,” as the World Wildlife Fund pointed out when we failed last year….—Dominique Mosbergen, “We’ve Already Used Up Earth’s Resources For 2016 — And It’s Only August,” Huffington Post, 8/8/16


Hot All Over: Heat pushes New York electricity usage toward record high

Click fo to see full size.

With air conditioners cranked up to offset 90-plus temperatures, electricity usage statewide surged Thursday to its highest level so far this year. It was expected to climb even higher Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, officials at the East Greenbush-based New York Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s electric grid, said it had notified participants in NYISO’s voluntary demand response programs that it might need them to reduce their electric use Friday afternoon.

Power loads on Thursday topped 32,000 megawatts and by early Friday afternoon were approaching 31,000 megawatts. Usage typically peaks in late afternoon.

The all-time record peak was 33,956 megawatts reached July 19, 2013.

One megawatt typically can supply 800 to 1,000 homes.

The demand response programs pay participants, typically large industrial and commercial users, to voluntarily cut their electricity use when conditions threaten to stress the electric grid, according to NYISO spokesman David C. Flanagan.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday directed state agencies to cut their electric use by turning off lights, closing window shades, shutting down unused computers and other electrical devices, and raising air conditioning temperatures….—Eric Anderson, “Heat pushes New York electricity usage to annual high,” Times Union, 8/12/16


When Protest Becomes Sacrament: Grady Sisters Heed a Higher Call

The Grady sisters, (L-R) Ellen, Teresa and Clare, protest in Seneca Lake. (Photo: Nicholas Kusnetz)

On a warm May morning, two dozen people wearing blue shirts formed a neat line in front of the gates of a natural gas compressor station in central New York. The facility lay hidden somewhere in the trees behind them, and just beyond was Seneca Lake, a 38-mile azure gash through deep green hills that provides drinking water to 100,000 people. The sun crept over a ridge on the far side of the lake. It was still early enough to intercept the day’s first delivery.

Within minutes, a tanker truck neared the gates and pulled onto the shoulder. Word soon came that sheriff’s deputies were on their way, and the protesters started singing a verse that became a spiritual anthem of the civil rights movement.

We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water
We shall not be moved

Leading the song were three sisters, each in their 50s, who had come to protest the expansion of a gas storage facility here. Ellen, Clare and Teresa Grady, together with two other siblings who weren’t there that morning, have organized their lives around acts like these. The Gradys were raised in the radical Catholic social justice community of the Vietnam era. Their parents worked with Daniel and Philip Berrigan, brothers and Catholic priests famous for their anti-war raids on draft offices in the 1960s and ’70s. As part of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, they aim to “live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ.”

By the time they were in their 20s, Ellen and Clare were sneaking into weapons facilities with the Bible-inspired anti-nuclear Plowshares movement. That’s where Ellen met her future husband, Peter De Mott, with whom she built a family devoted to faith and protest. After 25 years of marriage, De Mott died suddenly—he fell out of a tree in an accident— leaving behind Ellen and their four daughters.

Ellen’s and Clare’s first arrest here came last year in direct response to Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. The papal letter issued an urgent plea for action on what Francis called “global environmental deterioration,” as grave a threat as nuclear war. The sisters’ stand at the gates of the Seneca Lake compressor station was not simply an act of protest, but a sacrament, like the Eucharist or marriage. 

“We’re trying to live the call to not be silent in the face of injustice,” Ellen said, “and live the call to love one another and love creation.” 

The sisters are hardly leaders of this protest movement, which goes by the name We Are Seneca Lake. A steering committee loosely coordinates a diverse collection of grandmothers, parents, students and other community members who have been coming to these gates every couple of weeks for nearly two years to block deliveries and, usually, to get arrested.

With more than 400 people led away in police cars and paddy wagons across 50 blockades so far, the campaign is perhaps the nation’s longest-running act of environmental civil disobedience. They see the gas project not simply as a threat to the lake, but also an affront to the state’s ban on fracking, enacted two years ago by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The expansion of the storage facility here, approved by federal authorities in 2014, would allow more gas from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania and beyond to flow through here, deepening reliance on fossil fuels. The sisters, and this movement, slide into a space left open by the lack of a clear national energy policy. Infrastructure projects such as these are effectively shaping the nation’s energy future. Once built, they are hard to close, costing jobs and threatening local economies.

Activists around the country are similarly devoting their efforts to stopping individual fossil fuel projects. In Georgia, landowners fought off a major energy company from building a pipeline for refined oil. In Massachusetts and Washington state, protesters have blocked trains hauling crude. In Colorado, Utah and Louisiana activists have disrupted auctions of oil and gas leases. Running through all these disparate acts of protest is the unifying theme to “keep it in the ground.”…—Nicholas Kusnetz, “When Protest Becomes Sacrament: Grady Sisters Heed a Higher Call,” InsideClimate News, 8/10/16


Anthropogenic Climate Disruption and its Moral Challenges

CREDIT: Petter Rudwall.

 “… we will not win the battle for a stable climate by…arguing, for instance, that it is more cost-effective to invest in emission reduction now than disaster response later.  We will win by asserting that such calculations are morally monstrous, since they imply that there is an acceptable price for allowing entire countries to disappear, for leaving untold millions to die on parched land, for depriving today’s children of their right to live in a world teeming with the wonders and beauties of creation.” – Naomi Klein

All roads lead to Rome for me these days, Rome being the looming catastrophe of global climate change/warming. Journalist Dahr Jamail, in a series of in-depth articles on the subject, more aptly calls it “anthropogenic climate disruption” ( “Anthropogenic” places the responsibility where it seems to belong, on the shoulders of humans with our shortsighted addiction to fossil fuels, money, and consumption. “Disruption” means this is not ordinary change, but something well beyond the normal cycles of planetary systems.

As Naomi Klein documents in her recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, the underlying systemic dynamics that are engendering climate disruption also give rise to most if not all of our other major crises: income inequality, financial breakdowns, racism, colonialism, war-making and militarism, weapons production and sales, threats to democracy at home and abroad, air, water, and soil pollution, radiation, and depletion—and on and on.  Making the radical changes needed to mitigate climate disruption will also go a long way toward resolving these other crises.

Most of us know what changes are needed, but feel helpless to implement them. We can (and do) limit our consumption, recycle, etc, but if we live in a first world country, we cannot help contributing to resource depletion, pollution, and climate disruption just by going about our daily lives.  That is because our economic, political, and social systems are unsustainable, no matter what we as individuals do.

Rebecca Solnit addresses this quandary in a recent article:

Many people believe that personal acts in private life are what matters in this crisis. They are good things, but not the key thing. It’s great to bicycle rather than drive, eat plants instead of animals, and put solar panels on your roof, but such gestures can also offer a false sense that you’re not part of the problem.

You are not just a consumer. You are a citizen of this Earth and your responsibility is not private but public, not individual but social. If you are a resident of a country that is a major carbon emitter, as is nearly everyone in the English-speaking world, you are part of the system, and nothing less than systemic change will save us.—Rebecca Solnit, “The age of capitalist fossil fuel dependency is over,Ecological Buddhism

So we find ourselves faced with a profound moral dilemma. No matter how much we want to live in harmony within the web of life on Earth, our “Industrial Growth Society” looks the other way, looks to profit and power rather than the common good.  And our choices at the ballot box, in the workplace, at the market, and even in our homes are severely circumscribed by the hegemony of this economic system….—Molly Brown, “Anthropogenic Climate Disruption and its Moral Challenges,” Work That Reconnects, 2/2/15


Short-term Goodies versus Long-term Harm: The Ethical Dilemmas of Climate Change

Climate change presents a perfect moral storm because of the mutually reinforcing challenges it poses.

While the world’s scientists, policymakers, and members of civil society get ready for the Paris climate conference (COP21) taking place this and next week, I wondered: Will any philosophers be invited to participate in the talks? If the role of philosophy is to make people think critically, one could argue philosophers should have a relevant seat at a conference that is likely to play a decisive role in our planet’s future. As the climate debate becomes increasingly at risk of falling hostage to endless political debates, I spoke with philosopher Stephen Gardiner in order to reflect on the ethical and moral complexities of climate change, which he likes to call the “Perfect Moral Storm.

IRENE PEDRUELO: When one googles “environmental ethics” or “environmental philosophers” the number of results is strikingly low. Are there not that many philosophers and ethicists reflecting on this issue, which is considered by many to be the issue of our century and probably of many to come?

STEPHEN GARDINER: Environmental ethics really only started as a subfield of philosophy in the 1970s, and the field has shifted from an original concern with how do we value nature, how do we understand our place in it, to more of an interest in environmental issues as human issues involving justice and especially global, inter-generational justice. But there actually aren’t that many people even in philosophy who specialize in environmental ethics and consistently write papers in those areas, although that is changing over time.

IRENE PEDRUELO: You have claimed that climate change is fundamentally an ethical issue, not a scientific or political one. Why?

STEPHEN GARDINER: I understand climate change as a major ethical challenge, a perfect moral storm. It is a genuinely global problem; it is very seriously inter-generational and ecological; our theories in philosophy, economics, and other areas of relevance to public policy are not at all robust when it comes to thinking about these kinds of problems; and similarly, our public institutions are not well formed, in my view.

If we take future generations as an example, it turns out that there are long time lags between the benefits of our activities that produce carbon dioxide and cause global warming, and the costs and the negative impacts—many of which won’t arise for at least several decades, maybe centuries. So we face this background temptation to take the short-term goodies, if you like, and then pass on a really big check for those goodies to other people who we will never meet and who will never meet us and be able to hold us accountable. There is no one to stop us—no one even to raise a voice on behalf of these future people, except us. We are vulnerable to ways of thinking about the problem that hide these ethical aspects, because they are uncomfortable to raise and because they make it quite clear that we are behaving in a reprehensible manner. We are vulnerable to what I call “moral corruption.”…—Irene Pelorus, Stephen Gardiner “Short-term Goodies versus Long-term Harm: The Ethical Dilemmas of Climate Change,” Policy Innovations, 11/30/15


A Closer Look at Urban Methane Pollution

Photo Source: allenran 917 / Flickr

The United States produces approximately 33 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year. A majority of this gas is converted to electricity at power plants or used for industrial purposes, but about one third ends up making the journey from the well head, through underground pipelines, and into our homes and businesses. How much of this gas gets lost along the way—whether it’s through leaky equipment or other factors—is important because of the damaging climate impacts of methane pollution. And a new study published this week in Environmental Science and Technology is helping to expand our understanding of methane emissions in urban environments.

The study—a multi-year collaboration led by Washington State University and included researchers from Aerodyne, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Purdue and Pennsylvania State universities—used a variety of techniques to measure the rate at which methane is lost to the atmosphere in Indianapolis, Indiana.

This is the second paper in which EDF’s research partners have looked at methane pollution in an urban environment, and the results reveal regional variations. Last year researchers in Boston—an old city with a vast network of aging local gas pipelines—found natural gas was being emitted at a rate of about 38 kilograms per person. That’s enough natural gas to fuel about 200,000 homes each year. By contrast, in Indianapolis—which recently replaced much of its leak-prone, cast iron pipelines with tighter plastic pipes—emissions were almost 50 percent less per person. These results confirm our previous understanding that old pipes are prone to leaks. But, it also indicates that aging gas pipelines are not the only source of natural-gas derived methane emissions.

This study, similar to the one in Boston, relied on measurements from aircraft flying downwind of the city as well as from sensors placed on cell towers to detect emissions from the city. These results were then paired with site-level measurements and other data. Not unlike other EDF-coordinated studies, this study found that when estimating emissions based on site-level measurements, methane emissions were lower than aircraft or tower-based measurements. In fact in Indianapolis, airborne methane emissions estimated from the aircraft or tower data were anywhere from 3.5 to 6.9 times higher than emissions estimated from specific sources, such as pipes and metering and regulating stations.

The difference between the amount of emissions found at the source versus in the air, from regional methane pollution studies suggest that there are other city sources, beyond the natural gas pipeline and delivery system. Indianapolis has far fewer miles of leaky pipes than Boston, but its fossil fuel emissions still clocked in at a higher rate than previous research indicates—like our methane mapping of gas utility pipelines in these cities. This tells us that some combination of other natural gas sources, like gas meters, furnaces, boilers and hot water heaters are most likely responsible for at least a part, and maybe a significant fraction, of these yet uncharacterized local emissions.

Landfills are another major source to consider. For example, researchers found that one of the largest landfills in Indianapolis was responsible for about one third of the city’s total methane pollution. This revelation comes as EPA just finalized revised emission standards that limit methane emissions from both existing and future-built landfills. There are still additional, important opportunities to reduce methane from these types of biological sources that can complement federal and state efforts to curb this pollution across the oil and gas industry, the nation’s largest methane emitter….—Steven Hamburg, “STUDY: A Closer Look at Urban Methane Pollution,” Environmental Defense Fund, 8/4/16


Preventing Emissions of ‘The Other Methane’

China plans to cut meat consumption by 50%

China now consumes 28% of the world’s meat, including half of its pork. Photograph: Wong Campion/Reuters

The Chinese government has outlined a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50%, in a move that climate campaigners hope will provide major heft in the effort to avoid runaway global warming.

New dietary guidelines drawn up by China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day. The measures, released once every 10 years, are designed to improve public health but could also provide a significant cut to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Chinese Communist party has found unusual allies among Hollywood celebrities, with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron involved in a series of new public information adverts encouraging Chinese people to consume less animal flesh to help the environment.

Should the new guidelines be followed, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from China’s livestock industry would be reduced by 1bn tonnes by 2030, from a projected 1.8bn tonnes in that year.

Globally, 14.5% of planet-warming emissions emanate from the keeping and eating of cows, chickens, pigs and other animals – more than the emissions from the entire transport sector. Livestock emit methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while land clearing and fertilizers release large quantities of carbon.

“Through this kind of lifestyle change, it is expected that the livestock industry will transform and carbon emissions will be reduced,” said Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center on Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation.

“Tackling climate change involves scientific judgment, political decisions, entrepreneurial support, but at last, it still relies on involvement of the general public to change the consumption behavior in China. Every single one of us has to believe in the low-carbon concept and slowly adapt to it.”…—Oliver Milman, Stuart Leavenworth, “China’s plan to cut meat consumption by 50% cheered by climate campaigners,” The Guardian, 6/20/16


New Evidence Suggests Big Oil Didn’t Borrow Big Tobacco’s Playbook to Lie to the Public About Climate Change—They Actually Wrote It


A recent analysis of more than 100 industry documents conducted by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) [see “What They Knew and When,” CEIL–Editor], a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, has revealed that the oil industry knew of the risks its business posed to the global climate decades before originally suspected.

It has also long been assumed that, in its efforts to deceive investors and the public about the negative impact its business has on the environment, Big Oil borrowed Big Tobacco’s so-called tactical “playbook.” But these documents indicate that infamous playbook appears to have actually originated within the oil industry itself.

If that is true, it would be highly significant—and damning for Big Oil—because the tactics used by the tobacco industry to downplay the connection between smoking and cancer were eventually deemed to have violated federal racketeering laws by a federal court. The ruling dashed efforts by Big Tobacco to find legal cover under the First Amendment, which just happens to be the same strategy that ExxonMobil and its GOP allies are currently using to defend the company against allegations of fraud. If the playbook was in fact created by the oil and gas industry and then later used by ExxonMobil, it ruins the company’s argument of plausible deniability, making it highly likely that the company violated federal law….—Reynard Loki “New Evidence Suggests Big Oil Didn’t Borrow Big Tobacco’s Playbook to Lie to the Public About Climate Change—They Actually Wrote It.” Alternet, 8/10/16


Save the Animals, Save the Planet?

Emerging research shows species conservation has a positive impact on lowering carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Researchers have found healthy sea otter populations have a positive effect on removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Credit: Getty Images

Save the planet and you will save its creatures. That point seems obvious. It turns out, however, that the reverse may be true, too.

A growing body of research suggests that the decline of many of Earth’s largest and most majestic animals—such as elephants, wolves and whales—could actually speed global warming because of the underappreciated role they play in mopping up carbon dioxide emissions.

Plants and microbes have gotten most of the attention for their ability to store carbon. But a small group of scientists is showing that some animals can influence the types—and numbers—of plants that populate their environments.

Click for full-size chart

With more than half of the world’s largest land animals already either threatened or endangered, the goal is to highlight a hidden climate benefit of species conservation before it’s too late.

“What we’re finding is, when we start looking, that animals have an incredible potential to shape how much carbon is taken up by ecosystems,” said Oswald J. Schmitz, a professor of ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

In an opinion article to be soon published in Ecosphere, Schmitz and lead author Christopher C. Wilmers look at gray wolves in North America. They found that a healthy population of wolves may enhance boreal forests’ ability to soak up carbon, while in the grasslands of Yellowstone National Park, an abundance of wolves may limit that ability.  

Schmitz, Wilmers and several colleagues published the first major synthesis of work on the topic in 2014. They searched for studies in which scientists were able to quantify an animal’s effect on the carbon cycle over decades, and where the animal was removed or reintroduced. The result was an analysis of six ecosystems, including the African savanna, where the wildebeest, a wide-ranging herbivore that weighs up to 550 pounds, roams the grasslands in vast herds….—Nicholas Kusnetz, “Save the Animals, Save the Planet?,” InsideClimate News, 8/15/16


Native Americans, ranchers and farmers set up “Camp of Sacred Stones” to defend land and the Missouri River from the Dakota Access Pipeline project

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies protest construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Waniya Locke)

Amidst the cries of “protect our water, protect our land, protect our peoples,” Native Americans, ranchers and farmers are standing their ground along a highway in North Dakota. They are blocking the crews of Energy Transfer Partners — a Dallas-based company whose workers are protected by both police and armed, private security personnel — from accessing the site of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The roughly 1,200-mile-long pipeline would transfer about a half million barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents of its construction worry that a leak or rupture would spell disaster for not only the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, but for all communities along the Missouri River that depend on it for drinking and agriculture.

At least 10 arrests have been made. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told the Bismarck Tribune that those arrested “were not staying within bounds set by law enforcement and getting in the way of surveyors working on the pipeline.” The arrests included a pediatrician and a grandmother who allegedly crossed the highway to check on a buffalo pasture.

As reported by Truthout in May of this year, Lakota youth, protesting the proposed construction of the pipeline, began a relay race from their Spirit Camp in Cannonball, North Dakota, to the office of the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Nebraska, to deliver a petition against the pipeline. The Corps later decided to grant the necessary permits and green light the pipeline’s construction.

The runners decided to then continue their relay all the way to Washington, DC. As they did, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed for both a permanent and preliminary injunction to block the pipeline’s construction. The case for the preliminary injunction, filed on August 4 to halt construction immediately, is set to be heard on August 24.

As the tribe prepared for the case, they were issued a 48-hour work notice that informed them construction was set to begin on the Dakota Access Pipeline on the morning of August 10.

That’s when the “Camp of Sacred Stones” was set up in Cannonball, North Dakota, along the Missouri River. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, put the call out to land defenders to come to the camp to peacefully resist through prayer and solidarity….—Jason Coppola, “Lakota Lead Native Americans, Ranchers and Farmers in Fight Against Dakota Access Pipeline, Truthout, 8/13/16


The Impact of Removing Tax Preferences for U.S. Oil and Gas Production

Click for full-size view

The tax treatment of oil and gas investment in the United States has been a contentious policy issue for decades. Reform advocates argue that eliminating tax preferences for producers of oil and gas could increase government revenues by billions of dollars each year while defenders of the existing tax regime contend that changing it would lead to large declines in domestic oil and gas production and to significant job destruction. Against the backdrop of low oil prices and increased domestic production, Gilbert E. Metcalf models firm behavior in response to the potential loss of each of the three major tax preferences in the United States. The potential losses are measured as equivalent price impact (EPI), the percentage drop in the price of oil or gas that would reduce the profitability of drilling a well as much as tax reform would.

The author finds that removing tax preferences would increase the global price of oil by only 1 percent by 2030. Domestic oil production could drop 5 percent and global consumption could fall by less than 1 percent in that time frame. Meanwhile, domestic natural gas prices could rise between 7 and 10 percent, and both domestic gas production and consumption could fall between 3 and 4 percent. The author concludes that the estimated effects of removing the preferences on energy prices, domestic production, and global consumption suggest that none of the three preferences directly and materially improve U.S. energy security or mitigate climate change. If eliminated, however, they could enhance U.S. influence to advocate for international climate action and generate fiscal savings….—Gilbert Metcalf, “The Impact of Removing Tax Preferences for U.S. Oil and Gas Production,” Council on Foreign Relations Report


EPA’s Fracking Finding Misled on Threat to Drinking Water, Scientists Conclude

A researcher with the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and environmental testing firm URS measure methane emissions at natural gas production site. Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering

An Environmental Protection Agency panel of independent scientists has recommended the agency revise its conclusions in a major study released last year that minimized the potential hazards hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water.

The panel, known as the Science Advisory Board (SAB), issued on Thursday its nearly yearlong analysis of a June 2015 draft EPA report on fracking and water. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that accompanied the analysis, the panel said the report’s core findings “that seek to draw national-level conclusions regarding the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources” were “inconsistent with the observations, data and levels of uncertainty” detailed in the study.

“Of particular concern,” the panel stated was the 2015 report’s overarching conclusion that fracking has not led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.” The panel said that the EPA did not provide quantitative evidence to support the conclusion.

“The SAB recommends that the EPA revise the major statements of findings in the Executive Summary and elsewhere in the final Assessment Report to clearly link these statements to evidence provided in the body of the final Assessment Report,” the panel wrote to McCarthy.

When the draft water study was issued last year, the oil and gas industry seized upon the conclusion to back its contention that fracking does not pose a threat to water.

In a blog post responding to the SAB’s analysis, the industry group Energy in Depth maintained that the draft study’s topline claims on fracking’s water pollution stand. “The panel does not ask EPA to modify or eliminate its topline finding of ‘no widespread, systemic impacts’ to groundwater from fracking,” it wrote.

EPA Won’t Investigate Scientist Accused of Under-estimating Methane Leaks

David Allen, Melvin H. Gertz Regents Chair in Chemical Engineering

A former Environmental Protection Agency adviser will not be investigated for scientific fraud, the EPA’s Inspector General recently decided. The office was responding to environmental advocates who had charged that David Allen’s work had under-reported methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The North Carolina advocacy group NC Warn had filed a 65-page petition with the Inspector General calling for an investigation into a pair of recent, high-profile studies on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas production. The group alleged that Allen, the studies’ lead author, brushed aside concerns that the equipment he used underestimated the volume of methane emitted. It argued his conduct rose to the level of fraud.

Methane is a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term. Knowing exactly how much of the gas escapes from the oil and gas wells, pipelines and other infrastructure is a key part of ongoing efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. Following NC Warn’s complaint, 130 organizations called on the EPA’s Inspector General to expedite an investigation into the allegations.

“This office declined to open an investigation. Moreover, this [case] is being closed,” the Inspector General’s office wrote in a July 20 letter to NC Warn.

The EPA letter did not provide information on how the agency came to its decision not to open an investigation…. —Phil McKenna, “EPA Won’t Investigate Scientist Accused of Underestimating Methane Leaks,” InsideClimate News, 8/12/16

The EPA said it would weigh the SAB’s recommendations and that it aimed to publish  the final report before the end of the year. “EPA will use the SAB’s final comments and suggestions, along with relevant literature published since the release of the draft assessment, and public comments received by the agency, to revise and finalize the assessment,” spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in an email.

Environmentalists welcomed the SAB’s assessment of the draft study and said they hoped it would lead to changes in the report’s conclusions.

“The EPA failed the public with its misleading and controversial line, dismissing fracking’s impacts on drinking water and sacrificing public health and welfare along the way,” said Hugh MacMillan, senior researcher at Food & Water Watch. “We are calling on the EPA to act quickly on the recommendations from the EPA SAB and be clear about fracking’s impacts on drinking water resources.”…—Neela Banerjee, “EPA’s Fracking Finding Misled on Threat to Drinking Water, Scientists Conclude,” InsideClimate News, 8/12/16


And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to all who furnished materials for this issue. Much appreciated! Send more, along with local peaches and home-made chocolate chip cookies to

The Banner, Vol. 2 No. 30 – The Bridge to Nowhere

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 2 No. 30 – The Bridge to Nowhere
Jul 262016

July 26, 2016
The media is being flooded with proposals from politicians, regulators, lobbyists and industry that the only way to get to clean energy is to keep doing what they’ve refused to re-evaluate for four decades: continue using fossil fuels until someone, somewhere decides that we are all going to get real about moving to fuel-less energy. That bridge was already burned before we would ever get to it. In this editon, we consider the “Bridge Fuel” with some rigor, as well as look critically at some simplisms regarding alternative energy. But first the news…

10,000 March in Philly Calling for a Clean Energy Revolution


At high Noon Sunday, with temperatures heading toward 95 degrees, I’m confident I was not the only one preparing to march through the streets of downtown Philadelphia who recalled that old elementary-school story about the wig-wearing drafters of the Declaration of Independence huddled inside of Independence Hall on a sweltering July day.

In fact, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Independence Hall was the literal destination of this march to declare our independence from fossil fuels.

In spite of the dangerous heat—or maybe precisely because there are now simply way too many extremely hot days like this one—marchers showed up in huge numbers and they brought with them a revolutionary frame of mind.

Convened by Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and Americans Against Fracking—for which I serve as science advisor—the March for a Clean Energy Revolution attracted more than 10,000 people and was endorsed by more than 900 environmental, health, labor, political, faith, justice, indigenous and student organizations groups from all 50 states of the union.

The day kicked off with a press conference at city hall that featured local and national advocacy leaders as well as individuals from communities decimated by various fossil fuel extraction, transport and storage projects.

All together, these speakers called on current and future elected leaders to ban fracking, keep fossil fuels in the ground, stop dirty energy, transition to 100 percent renewable energy and ensure environmental justice for all.

“As the first national organization in America to call for a ban on fracking, Food & Water Watch has seen the movement expand dramatically, becoming a major issue in the battle over the Democratic nomination for the presidency,” the organization’s founder and executive director Wenonah Hauter said. Food & Water Watch served as a lead organizer of the march.

“Today, after Listening to the science, more Americans are opposed to fracking than support it,” Hauter noted, referring to the most recent Gallup poll that shows that Americans oppose fracking 51 to 36 percent.

Also speaking at the press conference, Teresa Hill of ACTION United decried the plan to turn Philadelphia itself into a major energy hub for fracked gas, which includes a proposed import/export terminal on the Delaware River.

Hill specifically called on Gov. Tom Wolf to say no to the expansion of oil and gas at the Southport site.

“Over one quarter of children in Philadelphia have asthma, primarily in lower income communities of color. We have the right to breathe, but corporations like the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery are poisoning us,” Hill said.

Pennsylvania’s Gov. Wolf is serving this week as the honorary chair of the DNC Host Committee…. —Sandra Steingraber, “10,000 March in Philly Calling for a Clean Energy Revolution,” EcoWatch, 7/25/16





The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently issued draft air and water permits for Dominion’s “New Market Project”—a proposal to pump 112 MILLION cubic feet of additional FRACKED GAS every day through a 50-year-old, 200-mile-long pipeline.

Running through the Finger Lakes, Utica, Albany and all points in between, this dangerous project would result in the construction of two toxic compressor stations and the massive expansion of a third. It would threaten people’s health and safety, perpetuate our state’s addiction to fossil fuels, and pump millions of tons of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year.
Last year, DEC staff agreed to hold public hearings before making a decision on this project. But now the agency is reneging on its promise, saying that New Yorkers have only until August 5th to submit written comments. This is outrageous.


CALL GOVERNOR CUOMO: 518-474-8390 (Press 3 to preferably speak with a person, or 2 to leave a message)
Talking Points:

  • Extend the comment period on Dominion’s “New Market Project” and schedule public hearings as DEC had promised. New Yorkers have a right to be heard!
  • Dominion’s project would push significantly more gas through a 50-year-old pipe that has likely been weakened over time by corrosion and cracks. If the DEC rubber-stamps this project, it could put the lives and property of New Yorkers in grave danger.
  • This project would result in millions of tons of additional greenhouse gases being pumped into the air each year, violating Governor Cuomo’s pledge to fight climate change.
  • A recent independent analysis suggests that Dominion submitted false and possibly fraudulent information on compressor station noise. The state must investigate this information submitted to the NY Attorney General before considering permits for the project.

Requests for extension of comment period:
Email DEC
Commissioner Seggos̊ and  Chris Hogan

All comments to the DEC on Dominion MUST be sent to a dedicated email address for this project,

Email Governor Cuomo at his website:
More info: Sample letter to the Governor (txt format for easy copy/paste)
More info

Twitter: @PeopleNotPipes


A Plane Just Flew Around The World
Without A Single Drop Of Fuel

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Solar Impulse 2 flies above Giza pyramids earlier this month.

More than a year after it first took to the skies, a solar-powered plane has completed an epic around-the-world journey without burning a single drop of fuel.

The revolutionary, single-seat Solar Impulse 2 touched down Tuesday morning in Abu Dhabi, at the same airport where it embarked back in March 2015. Over the last 16 months, Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard and fellow pilot Andre Borschberg took turns flying the aircraft nearly 27,000 miles, tallying eight world records along the way.

Speaking to those gathered on the runway at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi, Piccard said the journey is more than just a triumph for aviation ― it’s a major achievement in energy.

“We have traveled 40,000 kilometers without fuel. Now it’s your turn to take it further,” Piccard said. “We have enough solutions, enough technologies. We should never accept the world to be polluted only because people are scared to think in another way. The future is clean, the future is you, the future is now.”

The aircraft is made mostly of carbon fiber and is powered by 17,248 solar cells attached to its wings, which recharge four lithium polymer batteries. Despite its 236-foot wingspan, it weighs roughly the same as a Ford Explorer ― nearly 200 times lighter than a Boeing 747. It reaches a top speed of 90 mph.

Solar Impulse 2’s worldwide tour included stops in India, China, Japan, Italy, Spain and several U.S. locations, including Hawaii, San Francisco, Phoenix, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and New York. The last of the trip’s 17 legs took the aircraft from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, a total of 1,674 miles in a little over 48 hours….—Chris D’Angelo, “A Plane Just Flew Around The World Without A Single Drop Of Fuel,” Huffington Post, 7/26/16


Activist Profile: Meet Rachel Marco-Havens, Seneca Lake Defender

Rachel Marco-Havens, Youth Engagement Director, Earth Guardians (

When I came to know about Crestwood’s Storage facility beneath the shores of Seneca Lake. I was in Albany at my first Rally—in response to the ban (for now) on hydraulic fracking in NY. We Are Seneca Lake rang out through the crowd, and I heard you. Your story brought me to open my eyes even wider to the truth of the danger this industry has us facing. I had been working to scope a corporate water grab in my community, and at the same time waking up to the massive fossil fuel infrastructure build-out across the country.

Everywhere I looked there was another dangerous “project” being rubber stamped. All I could think was, We are all in the same boat—there are thousands of defining issues of our time, just ask those on the front lines. In the last almost two years, I have had the great fortune of working with some astonishingly courageous environmental leaders and every one of them rose up out of the threat to the health and safety of their communities. Please forgive me for taking until now to truly join you in support, but I will continue to stand with you. We are all Seneca Lake! Rachel Marco Havens


Fighting Fracking to Save the Land

Louise Sullivan Blum 5

Louise A. Blum

It is so hot my skin is slick with sweat. My shirt clings to my back with a disagreeable tenacity. The sun bores down with all the subtlety of a drill bit; overhead, a few clouds wrestle half-heartedly for rain and give it up. It is an unseasonably warm day in late May, but then again, aren’t all the seasons coming earlier these days? It’s hard to remember what the weather is supposed to be. We stand in a line, side by side: before us the road, behind us the vast bowl of Seneca Lake, all around us the rolling hills and vineyards of the New York Finger Lakes. If you kept your eyes closed, you could imagine that all was right with the world. You could forget that beneath the lake lie hundreds of acres of depleted salt caverns and that just behind us, Crestwood Midstream, a Texas-based energy company, is gearing up for work. But of course we are not here to forget. We are here to remind. We form a human blockade before these gates, to prevent the trucks from entering or leaving, to interfere with business, or, at the very least, to bear witness to a crime that is about to be committed: the storage of that liquid propane gas in those abandoned, unlined salt caverns beneath a lake that provides the drinking water for a hundred thousand people.

A constant stream of traffic barrels past; drivers honk vigorously, give us the thumbs up, or, sometimes, a gesture of another kind.

“So why do you do this?” the reporter asks. “Why stand all day in the sun?” My brain struggles to connect some thoughts, but they disperse like the clouds beneath the sun’s fierce glare. “What do you hope to accomplish?” he asks.

He’s a nice guy; he waits patiently for my response. We had thought that Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking in New York State had put an end to all this. We wouldn’t end up like our neighbor, Pennsylvania, its mountains fracked beyond recognition, its streams cloudy, its water poisoned. But the industry’s latest response to the claims of pollution has been to propose the use of LPG—that is, liquid petroleum gas—instead of water to frack the wells. Pumping methane, propane, and butane into the earth to fracture rock has been touted as much more “environmentally conscious” than the use of water. Whereas water returns to the surface along with the natural gas, bringing with it all the chemicals that are used in fracking, LPG remains obediently where it’s been put: in the earth.

It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the environmental consciousness of such a concept.

But it’s the perfect way to get around that pesky fracking ban.

Or so they hope.

There are about a dozen of us standing here today. The reporter has been here all day; he’s suffered in the sun as well. His question seems the most basic one there is, and yet I don’t know how to answer it. What do I hope to accomplish? An end to fossil fuel use? Will standing here on this godforsaken highway, attempting to blockade a multimillion dollar industry really bring an end to the impending catastrophe of climate change?…—Louise A. Blum, “Fighting Fracking to Save the Land,” Utne Reader, 6/15/16


The Bridge to Nowhere

A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will Undermine U.S. Climate Goals

Oil Change International; Appalachian Voices; Bold Alliance; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Earthworks; Environmental Action; Sierra Club (national);; Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League; Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (Virginia & West Virginia); Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter; Friends of Water (West Virginia)

A new report out from Oil Change International, in partnership with 11 other local, regional, and national organizations, shows that current projections for U.S. natural gas production – fueled by a boom in the Appalachian Basin – will lock in enough carbon to bust through agreed climate goals.

The report, entitled, “A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will Undermine U.S. Climate Goals,” takes an extensive look at the climate implications of proposed natural gas infrastructure in the Appalachian Basin.

The report highlights three key facts:

  1. There are 19 key new proposed natural gas pipelines in the Appalachian basin. All of them are incompatible with the Paris target and existing US climate goals;
  2. Stopping this new supply infrastructure is critical to the keep it in the ground movement’s goals of stopping infrastructure that creates carbon lock-in; and
  3. All new energy projects must pass a climate test to prove their viability in a climate safe world. These new gas pipelines fail that test.

From the Executive Summary: U.S. Gas Production Growth Is Out Of Sync With Climate Goals

The potential for further growth in gas production represents a major challenge for U.S. climate policy. The Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 178 nations as of June 2016, establishes the goal of “holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.”1 The current U.S. long-term climate target – which may not be enough to achieve the ‘well below 2 degrees’ goal set in Paris – is an emissions cut of 83 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.2

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest projection for U.S. gas supply and demand (Annual Energy Outlook 2016) shows a 55 percent increase in production and a 24 percent increase in consumption by 2040. The difference between the greater rise in production than consumption would go to export, making the U.S. a major exporter of natural gas in the coming decades. This projection also sees U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions declining only around 4 percent from 2015 levels, in stark contrast to the climate leadership this Administration has strived for.

The currently planned gas production expansion in Appalachia would make meeting  U.S. climate goals impossible, even if the Administration’s newly proposed methane rules are successful in reducing methane leakage by 45 percent. Our calculations show that the rise in gas consumption projected by the EIA would alone lead to emissions that would surpass the current long-term U.S. climate target by 2040, even after accounting for methane leakage cuts. This ignores the emissions from the production (and consumption) of exported gas. In other words, even if gas were the only source of greenhouse gases in 2040, it would still blow the U.S. carbon budget. This makes it clear that the growing use of gas is out of sync with U.S. climate goals….— “A Bridge Too Far: How Appalachian Basin Gas Pipeline Expansion Will, Undermine U.S. Climate Goals,” OilChange, 7/23/16


Letter to the Editor: Regarding New York Energy Czar’s Outburst at State Electrical Grid Operator NYISO

[It is important that in enthusiasm for renewable energy that important matters of power distribution not be obscured. Mr. Abraham brings a significant viewpoint to the intersection of many aspects of this matter.–Editor]

Gary Abraham, attorney, Private public interest law focusing on environmental and land use regulation, administrative proceeding and civil litigation

On July 8, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) filed comments on the NY Public Service Commission’s (PSC) Case 15-E-0302, “Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Implement a Large-Scale Renewable Program and a Clean Energy Standard” in support of Governor Cuomo’s “Clean Energy Standard”, a policy goal to provide 50% of the state’s energy with renewable resources by the year 2030 (the 50 X 30 goal).

On July 13, Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance in Governor Cuomo’s administration, and former Chairman of the Board of NYSERDA, wrote to NYISO criticizing the accuracy and motives behind the NYISO comments. Kauffman accuses NYISO of promoting the interests of fossil fuel producers. Here is a guided tour of the importance of NYISO’s comments, and introduces and summarizes the NYISO comments before turning to Kauffman’s criticisms.

Cuomo administration fires back at grid operator over clean energy comments

Richard Kauffman. | Columbia SIPA via YouTube

Richard Kauffman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy czar, fired back at the New York Independent System Operator Wednesday after the state grid manager publicly criticized the state’s Clean Energy Standard in a recent filing reported by POLITICO New York.

In a scathing letter to NYISO head Brad Jones, Kauffman accused the nonprofit corporation of using outdated models and unreliable information and said it was beholden to fossil fuel generators.

“Your recent filing to the Public Service Commission and recent press report on the Clean Energy Standard are misleading, incomplete, and grossly inaccurate,” Kauffman’s letter reads. “The filing reveals an alarming lack of developed analysis and understanding into the imperative to address climate change by transitioning to a clean electric system, and how a modern grid can be developed and operated.”

The NYISO manages the state’s wholesale power market, setting prices and dispatching power where it is needed throughout the state.

Late Friday afternoon, the NYISO filed comments with the state saying its goal to power the state with 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 was unrealistic unless a massive investment in new transmission lines were undertaken. The filing suggested 1,000 miles of bulk power transmission lines would have to be built in the next 14 years.

The filing was uncharacteristic of the normally staid corporation and came as a surprise to the Cuomo administration. Environmental advocates accused the NYISO of being beholden to traditional fossil fuel generators that may see more renewable energy as a threat…. —David Guambusso, “Cuomo administration fires back at grid operator over clean energy comments,” Politico, 7/13/16

NYISO is “responsible for operating the bulk power transmission system and administering wholesale energy markets in New York. That is, NYISO operates the electricity grid for the entire state. This is a daunting task, requiring NYISO to direct power generators to adjust their output to avoid transmission congestion, excessive surges and blackouts so that New Yorkers can be assured that the lights go on when they flip the switch. NYISO’s institutional role is to ensure the reliability of the grid.

All grid-connected electricity is generated less than a second before it is used, as energy storage on the scale required to manage a state electric grid will not be available in the foreseeable future. NYISO’s comments are focused on the effect on reliability of adding significantly more intermittent large-scale renewable power generators to the grid.

The most immediate issue that state agencies seeking to achieve the Clean Energy Standard now face is the fact that large-scale wind power facilities (wind farms) are concentrated in the North Country and western New York, too far from the centers of highest electricity demand in the New York City metropolitan area. Indeed, generation from these sources exceeds demand in the regions where wind farms are located. Transmission congestion prevents that power from reaching the state’s demand load centers, and the state lacks ancillary services needed to balance the on-again, off-again nature of wind (and to a lesser but significant extent, solar) power.

Most solar power in New York is not generated at a utility-scale, like wind power, but is instead utilized as “distributed energy generation”, that is, locally. Distributed energy can make its users less dependent on the grid and, in some configurations, entirely free of the grid. Complete freedom from the grid, however, generally requires prohibitively expensive storage or backup energy sources. Most solar power is wired into the grid under New York’s “net metering” program, allowing the generator’s electric meter to run backwards during the times of power generation and producing a credit against the generator’s electric bill. The generator still relies on grid-supplied electricity, even when generating solar power.

Large-scale intermittent renewables cannot operate this way. Instead, the grid itself must be carefully balanced by NYISO calling up power suppliers that can start up and shut down quickly. In almost all cases these are natural-gas fired combined cycle power plants with or without cogeneration (steam-powered electric generation alongside gas combustion). NYISO’s comments focus on the challenge that adding significantly more wind power creates for managing the grid in this way.

In its comments, NYISO notes that the Department of Public Service (DPS), which provides staff to the PSC, studied the Clean Energy Standard and projects that, in order to achieve the 50 X 30 goal, approximately 5,000 gigawatts (GWh) per year will be needed from small-scale solar, and 29,000 GWh/year from utility-scale wind, including imports from Ontario and Quebec.

However, DPS believes 90% of these renewables will be sited in upstate New York. While there are at least two major transmission upgrades planned that will improve transport of this electricity downstate, NYSIO’s comments emphasize that this will not be enough “to deliver all renewable resources’ energy production simultaneously.” “If the system is undersized at any point between the renewable generator locations and the load centers, renewable generation may likely be curtailed, jeopardizing achievement of 50% by 30.”

Curtailment of renewable generation is already occurring in western New York because wind power cannot be transported outside the region. New York requires retail distributors of electricity to utilize wind power when it is generated, ahead of other sources. As a result, electricity generated by Niagara Falls is frequently not used. This occurs because “renewable penetration in the upstate regions outweighs the load in those same regions.” “Additional renewable resources built in the western and northern portions of the State will exacerbate the transmission constraints that limit energy transfers across the State.” To avoid this result, “nearly 1,000 miles of new bulk power transmission” to downstate, and additional sub-transmission infrastructure to get wind power into the bulk power system will be needed. Thus a major planning effort must be undertaken to ensure new wind farms are sited in the best places. The existing concentration of wind farms in the North Country and western New York, where their power is underutilized, reflects the absence of planning up to now.

In order to achieve 50 X 30, “more pronounced up-ramp and down-ramp patterns that have not historically been experienced and managed by [grid] system operators” must also be planned for, and NYISO concludes new market incentives will be needed “to procure sufficient flexible resources necessary to maintain system reliability.” As noted previously, these fast-ramping power plants will inevitably call for greater utilization of natural gas.

Another problem, also tied to the physical constraints on grid-supplied electricity, is how to provide energy resources “during periods when system loads are highest (e.g., on-peak summer hours).” Wind farms perform “about 14% during on-peak hours (e.g., estimated wind resource unavailability of 86%),” while utility-scale solar farms perform about 45% during on-peak hours. (Non-intermittent power plants, whether fossil-fueled, nuclear or renewable perform 90% or better.) To ensure reliability and achieve 50 X 30, intermittent resources will need to be added at multiples of their rated (maximum design) capacity.

Finally, NYISO notes that in 2015, 31% of New York’s electricity was provided by nuclear power plants. Extremely low natural gas prices threaten to put these plants out of business. NYISO recommends “a short-term nuclear retention program is a necessary bridge to retain existing, zero-emission nuclear generators until a market-based solution can be implemented.”

Chairman Kauffman responds to these comments by pointing to “technology changes, increases in distributed energy and simply smarter markets and operations” which, he says, will “allow the system to easily accommodate renewable resources.” However, it is hard to find any concrete information that shows how easily this might be, and the concerns raised by NYISO have been echoed in other states and European nations but solutions have proven elusive.

Kauffman points to “vast expertise in system planning and operations” at New York’s Public Service Commission, which “has held two technical conferences, 24 public statement hearings and received more than 6,000 public comments to date, with a significant number expressing strong support” for the Clean Energy Standard. But no specific information developed in PSC’s review of the policy (Case No. 14-M-0101) is identified. Nevertheless, Kauffman labels NYISO’s concern for proper planning a “call for delay.”

Kauffman’s work at NYSERDA emphasized the benefits of utility-scale wind power. the agency under Kauffman issued the 2015 State Energy Plan, but the document discusses goals and futuristic scenarios and proposes little in the way of plans or programs. The Plan’s emphasis is on large-scale renewables: “Through the Plan, New York will build upon the State’s existing momentum to accelerate deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources along the path toward the scale that is needed to ensure a clean, resilient, and affordable energy future.”

No basis is given in Kauffman’s letter to NYISO for his central criticism of the agency, that it does not know “how a modern grid can be developed and operated.” He says that “NYISO’s paradigm of analysis is outdated — a world where large power plants produce electricity based upon a fixed demand and where electrons flow in one direction.” However, in its comments NYISO acknowledges the important role of distributed generation and programs that reduce demand.

Resiliency of the grid and affordability of electricity are neglected in Kauffman’s letter. NYISO’s comments focus on resiliency and affordability but support the state’s clean energy goals. New York has one of the highest electricity rates in the nation. According to NYSERDA’s own research, the national average cost to ratepayers per kilowatt-hour was 9.14 cents in 2007, when New York’s average was 15.39 cents. Only Connecticut was higher. The disparity between the national average and New York’s has continued largely unchanged to the present. Electricity generation accounts for less than one-quarter of New York’s CO2-e GHG emissions: in 2005 NYSERDA estimated 277,100 million tons of CO2-e was emitted in NY, 88.5% of which was from fuel combustion; and 25.2% of fuel combustion resulted from electricity generation (transportation accounted for 33.6%).

It appears that Chairman Kauffman is taking umbrage with NYISO needlessly. The PSC is taking the lead role in advancing the Clean Energy Standard, and NYISO uses the analyses by PSC and its staff for “projected renewable resource build-out and associated energy production figures (e.g., capacity factors).” The fundamental problem which NYISO urges calls for careful planning is the mismatch between the intermittency of large-scale renewables and way electricity grids operate everywhere in the nation, not just in New York.

Wind farms have been controversial in every community in New York where they have been proposed. With turbines now being made over 600 feet tall with blade spans longer than a football field, they cannot avoid making a lot of noise, and the research shows complaints by residents who live with them in Europe and densely populated rural areas like upstate New York are largely caused by long-traveling very low frequency noise that passes through walls and windows. Environmental organizations criticize the significant bird and bat fatalities caused by wind turbines, and are beginning to question whether their benefit outweighs such impacts. Wind developers jealously hide the data about these impacts as “proprietary information.”

If we are to get to 50% renewables by 2030, much more planning should go into where new wind farms are sited and whether they can be efficiently utilized without breaking the backs of ratepayers. That is all that NYISO seems to saying.—Gary Abraham, attorney


How Individualist Economics Are Causing Planetary Eco-Collapse

Life on Earth May Continue
if a Solid Business Model for it Can Be Devised

A selection from the cover of Green Capitalism: The God That Failed. (Image: WEA Books)

While capitalism has brought unprecedented development, this same motor of development is now driving towards ecological collapse, threatening to doom us all. Adam Smith’s capitalist economics can offer no solution to the crisis because the crisis is the product of the same dynamic of competition-driven production for market that generates the ever-greater accumulation of wealth and consumption that Smithian economists celebrate. In his 1996 book The Future of Capitalism, Lester Thurow lucidly captured the socially suicidal aggregate impact of individualistic economic decision-making:

“Nowhere is capitalism’s time horizon problem more acute than in the area of global environmentalism… What should a capitalistic society do about long-run environmental problems such as global warming or ozone depletion?… Using capitalist decision rules, the answer to what should be done today to prevent such problems is very clear — do nothing. However large the negative effects fifty to one hundred years from now might be, their current discounted net present value is zero. If the current value of the future negative consequences is zero, then nothing should be spent today to prevent those distant problems from emerging. But if the negative effects are very large fifty to one hundred years from now, by then it will be too late to do anything to make the situation any better, since anything done at that time could only improve the situation another fifty to one hundred years into the future. So being good capitalists, those who live in the future, no matter how bad their problems are, will also decide to do nothing. Eventually a generation will arrive which cannot survive in the earth’s altered environment, but by then it will be too late for them to do anything to prevent their own extinction. Each generation makes good capitalist decisions, yet the net effect is collective social suicide.”

Lester Thurow, almost alone among mainstream economists as near as I can tell, recognizes this potentially fatal contradiction of capitalism — even though he is no anti-capitalist and wrote the book from which this excerpt is drawn in the hopes of finding a future for capitalism…—Richard Smith, “How Individualist Economics Are Causing Planetary Eco-Collapse,” Truthout, 7/21/16


Conservatives and Climate Change | Series

(Illustration by Rene Cruz)

Who are the conservative leaders on climate change? What do they want to do about it? A growing number of Republicans and conservative thinkers are coming up with ideas for cutting emissions, pricing carbon, and promoting clean energy, but their approaches don’t get much attention in the media or in the political sphere. We’re setting out to change that — to set aside snark and try to foster constructive dialogue.

The conservative response to climate change

In the past, climate change has been a wedge issue between conservatives and liberals, but that tide appears to be turning. On Jan. 21, the U.S. Senate voted 98-1 for an amendment that says climate change is real, not a hoax. Fifteen Republican senators voted for an amendment stating that humans play a role in climate change, and five GOP senators even voted for an amendment stating that human activity significantly contributes to climate change.

This demonstrates growing agreement that climate change is an issue. But as conservatives, do we need an answer to climate change, and if so what does that answer look like?

Climate change has become a bipartisan issue — and one that we as conservatives can’t afford to ignore. A recent ORC International poll found that 83% of Americans believe the climate is changing. Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions found that even 51% of Republicans believe that climate change is happening or will happen in their lifetimes.

Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, articulated that in a polling memo last year, “Voters won’t elect climate denier in 2016, GOP stance hurts with independents.” Most Americans are clear on this: They want action on climate change.

While there is broad support for action, there is great disagreement on how to act. Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions found that 79% of Americans agree with the following statement: “You don’t save the environment by wrapping it in red tape, but through encouraging innovation in new technologies that will reduce harmful pollutants like carbon.”

That sentiment seems to convey support for the exact opposite strategy being pursued by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, polling from the Wall Street Journal demonstrates that more than two-thirds of Americans support the president’s climate strategy. This is because Americans have yet to hear a better solution, a conservative solution.

As conservatives, we want action on climate, but, for various good reasons, we don’t like the EPA’s regulatory approach. Where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us at the drawing board….—Kevin Croswhite, “The conservative response to climate change,” WPRI, 1/22/15

Amanda Little, Vanderbilt professor and former Grist columnist, has interviewed key players about their proposed climate solutions and their plans for engaging their fellow conservatives:

  • Republican presidential candidate George Pataki, former governor of New York
  • Michele Combs, a Christian Coalition activist who now leads the group Young Conservatives for Energy Reform
  • N. Gregory Mankiw, a conservative economist who advocates a carbon tax
  • Andy Sabin, a Republican businessman who started the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School
  • Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), a Republican climate leader in the House

—Amanda Little, “Conservatives and Climate Change | Series,” Grist


What Conservationist Conservatives Are Up Against

Former South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis says Donald Trump and his Republican party are “shrinking in science denial” on climate change because they don’t like the solutions proposed by Democrats. But he says there’s a simple conservative solution his party should get behind. Credit: republicEn

A “hoax.” A “con job.” “Bull—-.” These are among the phrases Donald Trump has used in recent years to express his contempt for the science of climate change.

And while the new Republican presidential nominee is out of step with much of his own party on many issues, he’s solidly in the GOP mainstream on this one.


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And while the new Republican presidential nominee is out of step with much of his own party on many issues, he’s solidly in the GOP mainstream on this one.

But former Republican representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina says his party and its new leader are wrong on the science, the politics and the economics of climate change.

“We’re courting disaster,” Inglis says of his party. “We’re basically pulling defeat down upon us by taking on this retro affect that says that climate change isn’t real… (It’s) out of step with where the science is and where the smart money is. … The smart money is already moving to act on climate.”

Inglis aligns himself squarely with that “smart money. After losing a GOP primary to a Tea Party challenger in 2010, despite a 90+ percent conservative voting record, he formed an organization called “republicEn” — for “Energy” and “Enterprise” — that’s pushing for what it calls free enterprise approaches to solving our energy and climate challenges.

Most Republicans, Inglis says, are dismissive of the scientific consensus on climate change because “they don’t like the solutions. They assume that solution is a bigger government.” But he believes there’s “a small government” solution, based on free enterprise.

“What we have here is a problem of economics that has an environmental consequence,” Inglis says. “And so if we fix the economics — which actually is acceptable to many people on the left and on the right — we can bring Americans together and solve this problem, and in the process make some money while we’re serving customers with better energy sources around the world.”

All that’s needed to sieze that opportunity, he says, is “a little touch of government to make everyone accountable for their emissions.”

But that “little touch” is something that’s been a total non-starter among nearly all of Inglis’s fellow Republicans, and many Democrats: a carbon tax, to make polluters pay for the environmental and social cost of their emission. The new Republican party platform explicitly rejects the idea, while simultaneously endorsing a revival of the sagging coal industry, arguably the worst single source of climate-warming pollution….—Peter Thompson, “This Republican says his party’s denial of climate science is ‘courting disaster’ with voters,” Public Radio International, 7/23/16


The GOP is leading an effort to block the military from planning for climate change

A US F-16 fighter jet at the tarmac a military base in Balad, Iraq. Temperatures in Iraq have reached 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the past year. Credit: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

In June, House Republicans attached an amendment to the defense authorization bill that stopped the Defense Department from spending money to plan for climate change.

The amendments blocked funding associated with implementing executive orders — some of which go back to President George W. Bush — that resulted from bipartisan efforts to establish goals across the federal government for energy security, conservation, climate resilience and sustainability.


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The measure was sponsoreDown by Colorado Republican Ken Buck, who posted a statement on his website that reads, in part: “The military, the intelligence community [and] the domestic national security agencies should be focused on ISIS and not on climate change. The fact that the president wants to push a radical, green energy agenda should not diminish our ability to counter terrorism.”

Sherri Goodman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security, has little patience for this kind of thinking.

“It’s simply a reflexive anti-climate vote, without understanding the detrimental impact it will have on our troops, training and our military readiness,” Goodman says. “I think if the members had a chance to hear from our military leadership about how [this planning] protects readiness, not undermines it, how it reduces cost, not raises it, I believe they would have a different view.”

…—Adam Wernick, “The GOP is leading an effort to block the military from planning for climate change,” Living on Earth | PRI, 7/24/16


Two Middle East locations hit 129 degrees, hottest ever in Eastern Hemisphere, maybe the world

Temperatures simulated by the GFS model in the Middle East on Friday reached 129 degrees (54 Celsius). (

The temperature in Mitribah, Kuwait, surged Thursday to a blistering 129.2 degrees (54 Celsius). And on Friday in Basra, Iraq, the mercury soared to 129.0 degrees (53.9 Celsius). If confirmed, these incredible measurements would represent the two hottest temperatures ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere, according to Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters and weather historian Christopher Burt, who broke the news.

It’s also possible that Mitribah’s 129.2-degree reading matches the hottest ever reliably measured anywhere in the world. Both Mitribah and Basra’s readings are likely the highest ever recorded outside of Death Valley, Calif.

Death Valley currently holds the record for the world’s hottest temperature of 134.1 degrees (56.7 Celsius), set July 10, 1913. But Weather Underground’s Burt does not believe it is a credible measurement: “[T]he record has been scrutinized perhaps more than any other in the United States,” Burt wrote. “I don’t have much more to add to the debate aside from my belief it is most likely not a valid reading when one looks at all the evidence.”

If you discard the Death Valley record from 1913, the 129.2-degree reading from Mitribah Thursday would tie the world’s highest known temperature, also observed in Death Valley on June 30, 2013, and in Tirat Tsvi, Israel, on June 22, 1942. But Masters says the Israeli measurement is controversial.

Basra, the city of 1.5 million about 75 miles northwest of the Persian Gulf, has registered historic heat on two straight days. On Thursday, it hit 128 degrees (53.6 Celsius), the highest temperature ever recorded in Iraq, which it then surpassed on Friday, rising to 129.

While the Middle East’s highest temperatures have occurred in arid, land-locked locations, locations along the much more sultry Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman have faced the most oppressive combination of heat and humidity. Air temperatures of about 100 degrees (38 Celsius) combined with astronomical humidity levels have pushed heat index values, which reflect how hot the air feels, literally off the charts.

In Fujairah, on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, the dew point — a measure of humidity — reached 90 degrees (32 Celsius) at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The 90-degree dew point, combined with the air temperature of 97 degrees (36 Celsius), computes to a heat index of over 140 degrees (60 Celsius).

However, this combination of temperature and humidity is so extreme that it’s beyond levels the heat index is designed to measure. The index, developed by R.G. Steadman in 1979, is actually only intended to compute values up to about 136 degrees….—Jason Samenow, “Two Middle East locations hit 129 degrees, hottest ever in Eastern Hemisphere, maybe the world,” The Washington Post, 7/22/16


A Coolant That Threatens to Heat Up the Climate

Illustration by Oliver Munday; Photo by Getty Images

GASES found in air-conditioners, refrigerators and aerosols are among the biggest threats to our climate. Pound for pound, these hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, can be vastly more powerful for planetary warming than carbon dioxide. World leaders are in Vienna to discuss these pollutants and should agree on a plan to quickly replace them with safer alternatives.

HFCs are on track to contribute up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They have become widespread following the phaseout of another refrigerant and aerosol propellant, chlorofluorocarbons, under a 1987 climate treaty known as the Montreal Protocol. CFCs were rapidly depleting the planet’s ozone layer, which shields Earth from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

The treaty has been enormously successful. Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, has called it “perhaps the single most successful international agreement.” Every member of the United Nations has ratified the protocol, and atmospheric concentrations of CFCs have begun to decrease. But the protocol’s exclusive focus on stopping ozone depletion left a loophole. Industry swapped CFCs for HFCs, resulting in a 258 percent increase in the use of heat-trapping HFCs since 1990.

Now we have a chance to significantly reduce the use of HFCs. Dozens of ministers from signatory countries, including Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, have been meeting to draft the parameters of an amendment addressing HFCs that they hope to finalize in Rwanda in October. (Secretary of State John Kerry joined the discussions on Friday.) An ambitious phase down could reduce global warming by .9°F by the end of the century.

That reduction may not sound significant, but it is. Without an amendment, there is little doubt the effects would be devastating, although the science of climate change cannot yet pinpoint the precise damage that would occur.

It is not hard to imagine scenarios where avoiding or delaying .9°F of additional warming proves invaluable, especially when paired with further reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. As warming crosses specific temperature thresholds, scientists expect ice sheets to melt and the Amazon rain forest to die off. Tipping points like these could prove irreversible, and eventually lead to famine and several feet of sea-level rise….—Brent Harris, “A Coolant That Threatens to Heat Up the Climate,” The New York Times, 7/22/16


And That’s a Wrap! Thank you all who send in notices of events and actions, story ideas and news stories. Please send, along with seedless watermelon, to



The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 29 – KaBoom! KaBust!

 The Banner, Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 29 – KaBoom! KaBust!
Jul 202016

July 19, 2016
In a week which showed how divided we Americans are, a longing for peace and justice arose. And the longing extends, for more and more people, in a longing for the justice for the natural world we have spent millennia building, to sustain us and all life. This week we focus on some of the successes and failures of the global fossil fuel market, which yet pretends to be the salvation of human-kind even as it denies its role in bringing us to the brink of collapses.

Environmental Leaders Arrested at Large Seneca Lake Gas Storage Blockade

We Will Not Be Con-Ed; We Will Not Be FERC-ED

NY comes to Seneca Lake

Fifty people from 18 NYS counties, plus 3 CA and NJ residents, form human blockade as part of We Are Seneca Lake campaign

 Local people arrested include 92-year-old biochemist Martha Ferger and Damiani winemaker Phil Davis 

In an address to fellow blockaders, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Wes Gillingham, 56, of Ulster, said, “While we stand here in solidarity with the people of Seneca Lake, we are also standing up against the devastation in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and the bomb trains bringing that fracked oil to Albany. We are standing up against the oil and gas money that pollutes our politics. We are standing up against pipelines rubber-stamped by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

Describing the Aliso Canyon gas storage leak near Porter Ranch, California, that prompted thousands of evacuations, Americans Against Fracking’s David Braun, 45, of Oakland, said, “I am risking arrest with you today because of disasters with gas storage that I have seen up close in my home state. Don’t let it happen here. Don’t turn wine country into fracked gas country. Don’t build Aliso Canyon in New York’s Napa Valley.”

Gas storage is the only industry with the power to take down the entire local economy in the case of an accident, Braun noted. “Winemakers don’t poison the air if they have a bad year. Local farmers won’t force thousands to be evacuated from their homes if their crops don’t produce properly. No other industry does this.”

Earth Guardian’s Rachel Marco-Havens, 46, of Woodstock, said, “We must move to renewable sources of energy now. This summer, as fossil fuel build-out escalates, we will continue to escalate our efforts—for the protection of our children and those to come.”

Salt cavern storage accounts for only seven percent of total underground storage of natural gas in the United States but, since 1972, is responsible for 100 percent of the catastrophic accidents that has resulted in loss of life.

Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was originally approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2014 in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, and possible salinization of Seneca Lake, which serves as a source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

Crestwood also seeks to store two other products of fracking in Seneca Lake salt caverns—propane and butane (so-called Liquefied Petroleum Gases, LPG)—for which it is awaiting a decision by Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Biochemist Martha Ferger, PhD, 92, of Dryden, said, “As a scientist, I know that there is no bigger threat to our planet than climate change. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. Storing methane in the salt caverns here at Seneca Lake will make the problem of climate change worse, not better.”

The 53 blockaders arrested at Seneca Lake today came from 18 New York State counties plus California and New Jersey.  Eight were from Schuyler County.—Sandra Steingraber, “Environmental Leaders Arrested at Seneca Lake Gas Storage Blockade with 50 Others,” 7/18/16


March for a Clean Energy Revolution, Philly, Democrat National Convention – Last chance to get on the bus Gus!

Clean Energy March

July 24, Philadelphia City Hall, 12 pm. Join Sandra in Philly and be a part of the #CleanEnergyRevolution! Learn more at Clean Energy Revolution

Find bus connections here: (currently, Rochester, Waterloo, Ithaca and Binghamton buses available in upstate NY) – plug in your ZIP code

Upstate NY Bus info:

Rochester, NY:
: St. John Fisher Park & Ride 3690 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618
July 24, 2016 4:45 AM,
July 24, 2016 10:15 PM
Nancy Kasper,, 315.587.9349

Waterloo, NY:
Petro Waterloo, 1255 NY-414, Waterloo, NY 13165
July 24, 2016 5:45 AM
July 24, 2016 9:30 PM
Nancy Kasper,, 315.587.9349

Ithaca, NY:

By the pavilion in Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY 14850
July 24, 2016 7:30 AM
July 24, 2016 9:00 PM
Contact Info: Alex Beauchamp,

Binghamton, NY:
Citizen Action office, 477 State St., Binghamton, NY 13901
July 24, 2016 8:45 AM
July 24, 2016 9:00 PM
Contact Info
Alex Beauchamp,


Grass Roots Festival!

GrassRootsFestVOLUNTEERS NEEDED to table for We Are Seneca Lake

Where: Grassroots Festival, Trumansburg, NY
WhenJuly 21-24 (Th-Sun), 2016
Contact: Edgar Brown <>

We Are Seneca Lake has been invited back again this year to table, and keep expanding the narrative of Seneca Lake. Over 5,000 people attend this Festival, so it’s a great opportunity to do outreach for our cause.More Info:  Grass Roots Festival’s web site so you can see the music schedule, choose your favorite bands, and select your volunteer shift accordingly. Camping options and other details are here as well

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED to table for We Are Seneca Lake

Where: Grassroots Festival, Trumansburg, NY
When: July 21-24 (Th-Sun), 2016
Contact: Edgar Brown <>

We Are Seneca Lake has been invited back again this year to table, and keep expanding the narrative of Seneca Lake. Over 5,000 people attend this Festival, so it’s a great opportunity to do outreach for our cause.

More Info:  Grass Roots Festival’s web site so you can see the music schedule, choose your favorite bands, and select your volunteer shift accordingly. Camping options and other details are here as well.

What’s needed:

  • A coordinator to manage volunteer schedules and maintain tabling supplies, including daily set-up and take-down. The Coordinator gets a 4-Day Pass.
  • Volunteers needed for 3-hour or 4-hour shifts per day. Each will get a Day Pass. Enjoy the Festival before or after your shift!

Volunteer Schedule

  1. Thursday, July 21: Music starts at 1 pm; ends at 1 am.  2 tabling shifts (1-4 pm, or 4-7 pm).
  2. Friday, July 22: Music starts at 9 am; ends at 1 am.  2 tabling shifts (12n-3:30 pm;  3:30-7 pm). 
  3. Saturday, July 23: Music starts at 9 am; ends at 1 am. 2 tabling shifts (11a-3 pm; 3-7 pm).
  4. Sunday, July 24: Music starts at 9 am; ends at 10 pm.  2 tabling shifts (11a-2:30 pm; 2:30-6 pm). 
To volunteer, contact Edgar Brown <>.


GrassRoots Festival Orchestra Performs New Composition To Support WASLGrassRoots Fest Orchestra

The highly acclaimed GrassRoots Festival Orchestra, conducted by Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, will perform a newly commissioned piece composed to support the work of We Are Seneca Lake. “From Shale Rock We Rise,” featuring mezzo-soprano Ivy Walz, will premiere on Sunday, July 24 at 9:00 am during the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. Finger Lakes-based poet, Melissa Tuckey, and Finger Lakes–based composer Kathleen Ballantyne collaborated on the project.

“From Shale Rock We Rise” was made possible by funding from Sounding 2020, a music commissioning project initiated by Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey to raise awareness of humanitarian and environmental issues.  A professional recording by Finger Lakes Recording will be available with proceeds to help support the work of We Are Seneca Lake.—Edgar Brown


Kaboom! Kabust!

Fire From New Mexico Fracking Site Explosion Keeps Burning Three Days Later

CREDIT: Kendra Pinto

A massive fire at a fracking site in rural New Mexico that scorched 36 oil storage tanks and prompted the evacuation of 55 residents is dwindling but still burning Thursday, some three days after the first explosion was reported.

The fire that started Monday night is mostly out, WPX Energy, the Oklahoma-based company that owns the site, reported Wednesday. However, “small fires” remained at four of the 36 tanks, the company said. No injuries have been reported and according to the company no drilling was taking place at the site prior to the storage tanks catching fire.

On Thursday morning plumes of smoke continued to billow from the five-acre oil production site located near Nageezi, a Navajo Nation town some 135 miles northwest of Albuquerque, the state’s largest city. The fire has been allowed to burn itself out to prevent the spread of petroleum as fire crews stayed overnight to monitor the site. Some homeowners were allowed to temporarily return to their homes Wednesday to take care of basic needs, according to WPX updates. Meanwhile, the company is conducting air quality monitoring and providing lodging to the displaced families.

Officials said the cause of the fire is still unknown but residents told local media that they heard a series of explosions as the fire started Monday. “It was so loud. Loud pops and explosions. It was tanks exploding. You could see light from the flames reflecting off of the smoke in two giant swirling pillars. It was chaotic,” Kendra Pinto, who lives some five miles from the well site, told The Daily Times. The company said 50 firefighters and company personnel kept the fire contained.

WPX specializes in producing oil and natural gas via hydraulic fracturing. Since it divested from Marcellus shale extraction in Pennsylvania in 2014, the company has focused on developing the oil and natural gas liquids fields it has in Colorado, North Dakota, and New Mexico.

New Mexico has oil and gas resources in its southeast Permian Basin, and the San Juan Basin where the explosion took place. WPX has about 159,000 net acres under lease in the San Juan Basin, according to the Unconventional Oil and Gas Center. The company operates some 880 natural gas wells and holds a joint ownership interest in another 2,400 wells.

State documents show that WPX has in the past received violation notices for drilling wells before receiving all the needed approvals. And the nonprofit Environment New Mexico reported that prior to leaving Pennsylvania, WPX was one of the top 10 violators of health and environmental codes in the state, with 86 violations from 2011 through 2014. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. was number one with 265 environmental and health violations…—Alejandro Davila Fragoso, “Fire From New Mexico Fracking Site Explosion Keeps Burning Three Days Later,” ThinkProgress, 7/14/16


Alaska’s heat wave goes from noteworthy to ridiculous with Deadhorse record

Surface temperature anomalies across North America on July 13, 2016./ weatherbell analytics

Alaska has seen a years-long streak of astonishing warmth, with the warmest year-to-date and warmest June capping it off so far this year.

The heat this week in interior parts of Alaska has been particularly extreme, with one noteworthy all-time high temperature record falling. 

Normally, one high temperature record would not be worth calling out, but this one helps demonstrate the rapid changes taking place in the northernmost reaches of the planet, as air and sea temperatures increase, sea ice retreats and snow cover melts earlier each season.

On Wednesday, Deadhorse, Alaska, which is located on the Arctic coast in northern Alaska near the oil port of Prudhoe Bay, reached 85 degrees Fahrenheit, or nearly 29.4 degrees Celsius. 

This was the mildest high temperature on record at this location, beating the old record of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to climatologist Brian Brettschneider, this was also the mildest temperature on record in Alaska for anywhere within 50 miles of the Arctic Ocean. 

On the same day, the high temperature at New York’s Kennedy International Airport was 82 degrees Fahrenheit (though the weather station at Central Park hit exactly 85 degrees).

Deadhorse’s record came in context of ridiculously mild streak

The record high in Deadhorse was not the only record set during the past week, the past several months, or even the past few years. More records may fall on Thursday before dramatically cooler air moves into interior Alaska, as the Washington Post reported.

According to climatologist Rick Thoman of the National Weather Service in Anchorage, the state has seen wave after wave of unusually mild conditions for the past three years. 

 “Three years of silliness!” Thoman said in an email to Mashable.

From January to June of this year, the statewide average temperature was 30.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 9 degrees  above average. This beat the previous record by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, an unusually large margin for such a record to be broken by….—Andrew Freedman, “Alaska’s heat wave goes from noteworthy to ridiculous with Deadhorse record,” Mashable, 7/14/15


Exclusive: Enbridge, Macquarie vying for stake in $2.2 billion German wind park

The Enbridge Tower, Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, CA, August 4, 2012 file photo. Reuters/Dan Riedlhuber/Files

Canada’s Enbridge (ENB.TO) and Australia’s Macquarie (MQG.AX) are vying for a 49.9 percent stake in EnBW’s (EBKG.DE) 2 billion euro ($2.2 bln) offshore wind park project Hohe See, three people familiar with the deal told Reuters.

EnBW, Germany’s third-largest utility, is asking for final bids by the end of this month, the sources said. One of them said that Enbridge was seen as the front runner in the auction.

With a planned capacity of 500 megawatt (MW), Hohe See is one of Europe’s largest offshore wind park projects and would be EnBW’s biggest park to date, as the group aims to increase the share of renewables in its generation mix to more than 40 percent by 2020 from 19 percent in 2012.

Most upfront financing for offshore wind parks usually comes from utilities, but the price tag of at least a billion euros apiece means that outside money is crucial. Hohe See alone is expected to swallow investments of up to 2 billion euros.

EnBW, Macquarie and Enbridge declined to comment.

Enbridge and Macquarie have emerged as keen investors in Europe’s energy infrastructure sector, which is seeing heavy M&A activity as pension funds and energy groups seek the steady returns big wind parks offer….—Arno Schütze, Christoph Steitz, Stefano Berra, “Exclusive: Enbridge, Macquarie vying for stake in $2.2 billion German wind park,” Reuters, 7/15/16


Why One Regulator Is on ‘Wanted’ Posters in Suburban D.C.

And How a Well-placed Journalist Tries to Discredit Activists with a Single Word

Tony Clark was wrapping up dinner with his family when the doorbell rang.

He didn’t need to answer. He already knew who it was. Anti-fracking activists had followed him home, taping “WANTED” posters with his face plastered on them across his leafy suburban neighborhood outside of Washington. Coming up to his front door was the last straw. He called the police. And as they arrived, Clark’s 9-year-old son asked: “Why are the police here? Is it because you work for the government?”

Clark is one of four members serving on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It’s not the first time his agency has been the subject of high-profile attacks. In the aftermath of the California energy crisis, the panel took heat for failing to clamp down on power-market manipulation by the likes of Enron Corp. It has been so resented by opponents that they’ve used its acronym to say they’ve been “FERC’ed.” But at no time until now, as the commission oversees an unprecedented expansion of the U.S. natural gas pipeline network, have these campaigns been so personal.

“Tracking you down and trying to figure out where you live and basically stalking you to your house is something beyond what would be considered acceptable behavior,” Clark said by phone. “It’s a sad commentary that, even at a fairly young age, kids can kind of sense just because you work for the government you might become the target of something like that.”

“I don’t remember anyone coming to my home — that’s beyond the pale,” said Curt Hebert, who served as the commission’s chairman 15 years ago, at the time of Enron, and is now a lawyer at Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes PLLC. “I never really felt threatened.”

Today, the commission is facing attacks on several fronts. Public Citizen, an advocacy group that bills itself as the people’s voice in Washington, has called out the agency for employing people who later left to take jobs at the companies it regulates. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is accusing the panel of bias because its pipeline program is funded by industry. The agency denies the charge and says safeguards are in place to avoid conflicts of interest by staff. The commission barred the public from attending a meeting in May after the activists said they would step up their protests against the agency.

It was around that same time that Clark’s home and those of other commissioners were targeted.

Taking Land

Beyond Extreme Energy, made up of people fighting an oil and natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have taken issue with the energy commission’s use of eminent domain, whereby the government has the right to seize private land for public use. They’ve brought the fight to the doorsteps of commissioners, said Ted Glick, a co-founder of the group, which has taken responsibility for orchestrating the protest at Clark’s home.

An activist responds with a Letter to the Editor:

In his July 7 article, reporter Jonathan Crawford chose to portray Beyond Extreme Energy”s (BXE’s) protests against FERC in the most negative possible light, which is his prerogative. But he mischaracterized BXE’s approach, and while it is clear that FERC Commissioner Tony Clark did not welcome our visit to his house, it was not done in a threatening way. First, Crawford wrote that we posted “Wanted” posters of the commissioner around his neighborhood, but it was our considered decision not to put the word “Wanted” on our posters because that could be interpreted as threatening — and we are committed to non-violence. The poster heading simply said, “Your neighbor Tony Clark.” Crawford’s “correction” — to calling them “wanted-like posters” — didn’t convey our sentiment. We just wanted the commissioners’ neighbors to know that the decisions they make in the comfort and isolation of their Washington headquarters have serious and sometimes life-threatening ramifications for thousands of people.
I was one of those who visited Clark’s neighborhood. When police arrived they told us to stay away from Clark’s front door and not to make too much noise, but they also told us we could stay all night if we wanted.
Crawford also writes that FERC decisions allow companies “the right to seize private land for public use.” But seizing private property for a corporation’s pipeline or LNG export terminal is not the same as taking land for a school, a hospital or a highway, for the public to use. We’re talking about the taking of private land for private gain – the profits of the pipeline companies that encroach on families’ homes, property, and peace of mind.
The real danger and violence comes not from the nonviolent actions of BXE. It comes entirely from FERC and its commissioners. FERC’s permitting has enabled corporations to use eminent domain to threaten and uproot people’s farms and homesteads. In the process, they empower corporations to hire crews accompanied by police or marshals with automatic weapons to go onto people’s property to cut down thousands of trees, dig enormous trenches, endanger rivers and streams — all to lay pipelines so private companies can feed their hunger for larger profits.
Steve Norris
Asheville, NC

“We would not be going to the commissioners’ homes if FERC was not enabling the taking of the land, and sometimes the destruction of the land, and the health, and the property values for easily thousands, if not tens of thousands,” Glick said….—Jonathan Crawford, “Why One Regulator Is on ‘Wanted’ Posters in Suburban D.C.,” Bloomberg, 7/7/16


BP’s final tab for the 2010 Gulf oil spill? $61.6 billion

Oil skimmers try to clean up oil released from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico before it reaches the sensitive wetlands Wednesday, April 28, 2010. (Photo by Ted Jackson, | The Times-Picayune)

BP said Thursday (July 14) it pegs its total cost of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster at $61.6 billion, the first estimate the company has provided since the spill. That includes a $5.2 billion pre-tax hit to profits for the second quarter this year.

BP said the charge is likely the last major expense related to the Gulf oil disaster after six years of mounting costs. Remaining oil spill costs are not expected to have a “material impact” on the financial performance of the global group, the company said.

BPSpill5thAnniversaryThe British oil giant has avoided giving a total corporate cost of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and ensuing oil spill in light of rising costs. The Macondo well blowout and explosion killed 11 men and unleashed more than 100 million gallons of oil.

Brian Gilvary, BP’s chief financial officer, said in a statement “significant progress” in resolving Gulf oil spill claims over recent months means the company can reliably estimate its final bill.

BP reached a $20 billion agreement in late 2015 with state and federal governments to resolve state and federal claims over the spill, including federal water pollution penalties and state economic damage claims.

The company will start paying the federal settlement later this year. Payments will average roughly $1 billion over 18 years.

Last month, the company agreed to pay U.S. investors $175 million to settle accusations that company management lied about the size and scope of the Gulf spill to keep stock prices from sliding. The settlement was the last of the major disputes related to the disaster.

The company said remaining oil disaster expense will now be a fixed cost on its ordinary balance sheet.

Thursday’s announcement comes ahead of BP’s July 26 earnings report. After taxes, the company expects a $2.5 billion charge on profits related to the oil disaster. It estimates the total after-tax cost of spill claims to be $44 billion.

Gilvary said the company intends to continue selling assets to cover spill claims. The company has sold more than $40 billion in assets in the wake of the disaster.—Jennifer Larino, “BP’s final tab for the 2010 Gulf oil spill? $61.6 billion,” The Times Picayune, 7/14/16


Chinese Energy Giant’s Big Bet on Tar Sands Backfires

Nexen CEO Fang Zhi after a pipeline leak at Long Lake last summer. Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press/Associated Press

CALGARY, Alberta—Three years after spending $15 billion on an ambitious bid to revitalize a troubled tar-sands project in a northern Canadian swampland, one of China’s largest state-controlled oil companies has run out of gas.

Cnooc Ltd. ’s local subsidiary on Tuesday raised the specter of abandoning a core part of its oil-sands operation, after an investigation into two major accidents uncovered a series of managerial and safety lapses at an already-troubled plant.

That marks a dramatic shift from the heady days in 2013 when Cnooc bought Nexen—following two other billion-plus-dollar oil-sands deals by state-controlled Chinese oil companies, PetroChina Co. and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. , known as Sinopec—and points to how far short the Nexen deal has fallen from expectations.

“The deal has turned out to be a bit of a dud for them,” said Gordon Houlden, a China expert at the University of Alberta.

The Nexen acquisition ranked as China’s biggest-ever overseas takeover, surpassed only recently by China National Chemical Corp.’s pending acquisition of Switzerland’s Syngenta SA. In buying Nexen, Cnooc aimed to use it as a beachhead in North America after the failure of a controversial 2005 bid for Unocal, now a unit of Chevron Corp.

“They went in with their eyes wide open thinking there were things they could do to improve Nexen,” said Greg Stringham, an industry consultant who until recently was in charge of tar sands at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Last summer, a pipeline burst at Nexen’s Long Lake facility in Alberta, spilling 31,500 barrels of oil. Company officials said Tuesday that the six-month old pipeline hadn’t been properly moored and its high-tech leak detection system failed. Then in January, an explosion occurred at the Long Lake plant’s crude-processing unit, killing two workers.

Nexen Energy ULC Chief Executive Fang Zhi said Tuesday the two accidents revealed deep flaws in the company’s ability to safely run the facility. He said that before deciding whether to repair the Long Lake processing unit—which would cost an estimated $100 million to fix—Nexen would review the long-term viability of its Alberta operations….—Chester Dawson, “Chinese Energy Giant’s Big Bet on Oil Sands Backfires,” Wall Street Journal, 7/14/16


Proposal in the works for incinerator in Susquehanna County

A developer wants to build an incinerator to process hazardous industrial waste in Susquehanna County, county documents show.

Discussions for the project are in the early stages and details remain locked tight with officials explaining it’s all speculation at this time.

The project needs state and local approval, but construction on an industrial park and incinerator could begin in 2018, according to an April 26 report from county planning Director Robert G. Templeton. Reached by phone Wednesday, Mr. Templeton declined to comment.

The county had put out a call for expanding industrial companies to consider Susquehanna County as a possible new home. A group of developers called Tyler Industrial Park has expressed interest in a spot in New Milford Twp., near the Gibson exit off Interstate 81, said county board of commissioners Chairman Alan M. Hall.

Another group of investors, whom Mr. Hall would not identify amid what he said were early discussions, is considering whether the location is appropriate for a waste incinerator.

Some in the community are concerned about what they say is secrecy surrounding the pending proposal and possible environmental and health risks it could bring if built. It could affect not only New Milford Twp., but the surrounding municipalities, too, said township resident Meryl Solar.

“The time to learn about this and stop it if need be is now, while the deals are being cut behind closed doors,” she said. “If the community isn’t in on the discussions and doesn’t know anything about it, we just get left holding the bag.”

Mr. Hall shunned the notion that the county is keeping secrets….—John O’Connell, “Proposal in the works for incinerator in Susquehanna County,” The Times-Tribune, 5/12/16


Increased Asthma Attacks Tied to Exposure to Natural Gas Production

Natural gas operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region were studied for ties to increased asthma attacks. Credit: Wikimedia

Exposure to more intense shale gas development correlates with a higher risk of asthma attacks among asthma patients, according to a new study of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, one of the nation’s largest and most active fracking regions.

The paper, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association, didn’t examine the exact cause of the trend. But lead author Sara Rasmussen, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said air pollution and stress are both plausible explanations.

Natural gas development releases various air pollutants including particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and sulfur dioxide. The equipment also produces loud noises and bright lights, which can increase anxiety and sleeplessness. Years of research show that all these factors can exacerbate asthma.

The paper adds to the growing research linking the natural gas industry to various health impacts including birth defects, respiratory problems and skin rashes. Rasmussen and her six co-authors launched the study in 2012, about four years after the Marcellus Shale boom took off in Pennsylvania.

Nicole Deziel, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health who was not involved in the paper, praised the scientists’ rigorous research methods. It “represents an important advancement,” she said in an email. “More health studies like this are needed.”

Previous studies relied heavily on less objective data, such as self-reported symptoms, Rasmussen said. But her team had access to detailed medical records from the Geisinger Health System. Geisinger provides care for more than 400,000 Pennsylvania residents, including many who live near shale wells.

Rasmussen said the paper is the first to examine unconventional natural gas development and “objective respiratory impacts,” which refer to incidents reported to health providers in the form of hospital visits or prescriptions….̌—Lisa Song, Nicholas Kusnetz, “Increased Asthma Attacks Tied to Exposure to Natural Gas Production,” InsideClimate News, 7/18/16


Fayetteville Shale boom gone bust

FayetvilleGasSpotPriceHe drives his red pickup off the paved road and onto a dirt path before coming to a stop at a lake.

The heat index has already climbed above 100 degrees on this June afternoon, making it almost unbearable to leave the air conditioning. So Verlon Abram, 65, stays in the truck and points to the 22-acre lake that looks like it has always been there but was built only a few years ago.

The lake is part of Abram’s desire to make a living from the land of his family’s farm in the Wilburn community in Cleburne County. He moved back to the farm after he retired from the Army in 2006.

Abram initially planned to raise cattle. But when drilling rigs and other heavy equipment began rolling into the community, he realized there was an alternative use for his 773 acres.

A crush of companies arrived in north-central Arkansas in the mid-2000s eager to pull natural gas from the Fayetteville Shale, a formation that stretches across the state to the Mississippi River.

The nation was on the verge of a shale boom that would change the American energy landscape.

In Arkansas, it offered a gold-rush opportunity for people like Abram, and thousands of jobs and wealth for local communities.

But it didn’t last.

The energy companies’ success at extracting natural gas from shale soon became their undoing. An oversupply of gas pushed prices to record lows. That led to layoffs, bankruptcies and meager royalty checks.

The glory days of the Fayetteville Shale are over. The main drillers are gone. What remains is sobering. Businesses have closed. Once-bustling highways are mostly empty now, and equipment sits idle along the roadsides.


The early days of the Fayetteville Shale exploration were highlighted by discovery of new geology and development of new technology. There was a lot of optimism about the gas-producing potential of the area, but there was also a hefty dose of skepticism.

This was north-central Arkansas, after all, where acres of green support dairy and cattle farms. There had never been energy exploration there.

Then, while Southwestern Energy Co. was drilling for natural gas in the Arkoma Basin, the potential of shale natural gas was discovered in Arkansas. Until this time, the Barnett Shale in north Texas was the only commercially producing shale formation in the United States….—Jessica Seaman, “Fayetteville Shale boom gone bust,” Fracking News Today | EIN News, 7/17/16


What Earth would look like if the ice melted


We learned last year that many of the effects of climate change are irreversible. Sea levels have been rising at a greater rate year after year, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates they could rise by another meter or more by the end of this century.

As National Geographic showed us in 2013, sea levels would rise by 216 feet if all the land ice on the planet were to melt. This would dramatically reshape the continents and drown many of the world’s major cities.—Alex Kuzoian, “What Earth would look like if the ice melted,” Business Insider, 2/13/15


How B.C.’s Climate Plan is Being Co-opted by Big Oil

This is the second of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Part One addresses B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addresses how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three takes a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. And Part Four focuses on how the oil and gas industry stands to profit from that advisory team’s proposed climate action plan.

In accepting its mission as defined by the government, the Climate Leadership Team (CLT) also implicitly accepted the government’s plan for increased emissions from LNG and from other carbon-intensive development.

As laudable as the CLT’s climate action plan is in most respects, it is wrongly predicated on accommodating the oil industry’s vision for increased fossil fuel extraction.

Which is to say, it is innately co-opted by its mandate, which is wedded to the acceptance of an overriding economic plan for carbon-fueled growth.

That is not to suggest that all, or even a majority, of the CLT members support that economic vision. Far from it.

But in accepting their mandate, they were all obliged to respect the Clark government’s four Cornerstone Objectives as their starting point for climate action.

Those objectives basically obliged the CLT to recommend measures for meeting B.C.’s 2050 GHG reduction target, while also allowing for the added emissions that will flow from the government’s LNG Strategy and from its carbon-intensive B.C. Jobs Plan.

As the CLT noted, if that (or any) Cornerstone Objective “were to be deemed not a priority, the substance of the recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team may well be different.”

Therein lies the fatal flaw of the proposed plan.

Mission Impossible

It rests on an economic foundation that purports to dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions that, in turn, will make the task of reducing those and all provincial emissions by some 80 per cent below 2007 levels vastly more difficult and more costly to achieve.

Accepting that foundation as our starting point for climate action turns B.C.’s “mission improbable” into “mission impossible,” regardless of any theoretical assurances offered to the contrary from any private consulting firm specializing in climate and energy modeling.

I have had enough experience with such environmental and econometric modeling to know how readily compliant with their client’s wishes their statistical outputs tend to be. I am certainly not suggesting they fudge the figures or in any way act unprofessionally; but they are always mindful of the unspoken “truths” their clients hope to prove.

In my experience, it was never too challenging for the government to obtain “proof” that its policies, plans and “business cases” made sense, typically from thoroughly respected and utterly professional firms.

Only history typically makes of an ass of those econometrically-sound leaps of science, faith and mathematically-inspired feats of assumption….—Martyn Brown, “How B.C.’s Climate Plan is Being Co-opted by Big Oil,” DeSmog Canada, 7/14/16


M. King Hubbert and the future of peak oil

Almost synonymous with the term “peak oil” is M. King Hubbert, perhaps the foremost geophysicist of the 20th century, who first theorized about the eventual decline of oil production in the 1930s. His life has now been chronicled by science writer Mason Inman in a new biography entitled The Oracle of Oil.

Depending upon whom you speak with, peak oil is either a catastrophe waiting to happen or a far-off concern that has already been solved or will be soon. Frequently, peak oil is referred to as a myth. What you rarely hear is that peak oil is an empirical fact having already occurred in dozens of countries.

The term “peak oil” simply means that crude oil production for any field, region or country eventually reaches a peak or plateau from which it inexorably declines. Because the amount of oil in the Earth’s crust is finite, it is logical to assume that one day peak oil production will occur worldwide. The concern is that we as a global society are so accustomed to rising oil production that we have built an entire world around that assumption. Will we be ready when oil production begins to decline?

To shed some light on that and other questions author Inman takes us from Hubbert’s early days at the University of Chicago to his famous speech in 1956 (in which he predicted a peak in U.S. crude oil production no later than 1970) to his days in Washington, D.C. working for the U.S. Geological Survey and his fights there concerning the timing of a U.S. oil production peak….—Kurt Cobb, “M. King Hubbert and the future of peak oil,” Fracking News Today | EIN News, 7/17/16


Energy firms gone, but their impact lingers

Lawrence Bengal, director Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission Credit: Rick McFarland Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

As large equipment sits idle in cow pastures of the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas, some locals worry that years of natural-gas drilling there will have lasting consequences for the land and environment.

Drilling in the Fayetteville Shale began in the mid-2000s and came to a halt in December.

“We’re left with hundreds of drilling sites,” said Kathy Golding, who lives in the Heber Springs area. “What happens in the future?”

Energy companies streamed into the area and began hydraulic fracturing, a high-intensity drilling technique known as fracking, to extract natural gas from in the dense shale rock.

Initially, “many people didn’t know what was taking place,” said Buck Layne, president of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce.

“There were a few people in town that knew about the gas business,” he said. “Most people in the area were just learning on the fly.”

Many now worry that fracking can contaminate water or create excessive air emissions that contribute to global warming.

And there is the matter of earthquakes. Small earthquakes in recent years have shaken communities near oil patches across the United States, and many scientists believe they are linked to oil and gas drilling activity.

In Arkansas, drilling in the shale has generated dozens of environmental problems, including oil spills and eroded reserve pits that contain drilling fluids, according to a state agency.

The bulk of the problems — recorded by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality — involved the three largest companies drilling in the formation and were found between 2008 and 2010, the height of the Fayetteville Shale boom. Only a handful of the problems led to formal action by the department.

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel, which reviewed the department’s inspections in the shale between July 2006 and August 2010, found more than 500 violations of water and other environmental regulations resulting from just under 300 inspections.

The panel also said that only 528 inspections were conducted during that four-year period, despite the prevalence of thousands of wells, compressor stations and other facilities in the shale formation. Only nine follow-up inspections were conducted, and inspection reports did not detail the outcomes of the reported violations.

Energy companies say they took steps to minimize the effect to the environment.

Southwestern Energy, one of the leading operators in the shale, works to protect its employees and the environment, said George Sheffer, the company’s vice president of operations for the Fayetteville Shale.

The company has a water conservation program in place to recycle 100 percent of the water it uses in the shale, and is working to lower methane emissions, he said.

“We knew this area — pretty much the foothills of the Ozarks — was a pristine natural area,” Sheffer said.

How well state agencies responded to fracking in Arkansas is a matter of perspective.

Industry and many community leaders say the state effectively monitored the activity. Others, including some environmentalists, disagree, saying regulations struggled to keep up with the speed of the gas exploration.

Residents’ views tend to vary depending on their opinions of fracking and their personal experiences during the boom days.

“The reason I became concerned in the beginning was the gold-rush aspect of the opening up of the Fayetteville Shale,” said Debbie Doss, a member of Arkansas Citizens First Congress, who has studied the environmental effects of the drilling. The organization describes itself as a watchdog group that works for “progressive changes in state policy.”

“I think most of the damage in our area, environmentally, was due to moving in so quickly and the unpreparedness of the state to deal with all of that activity suddenly descending on us,” she said.

Many people familiar with the state’s regulation of the natural-gas drilling activity say fracking was in its infancy when it was introduced in Arkansas.

When the companies moved in to drill in the shale, the state’s regulatory agencies suddenly had to manage a rapidly developing drilling technique that had never been used in the state, they said.

“It was different from the Arkoma, from southern Arkansas,” said Danny Games, who was hired by Chesapeake Energy, one of the main operators in the shale, in 2008. He now is deputy director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

“It just brought about, literally and figuratively, a new set of rules because of the horizontal drilling and the ability to reach more gas from one well head,” Games said.

At the beginning of the Fayetteville Shale boom, drilling moved quickly, and the technology and operations weren’t as sophisticated as they eventually became, said Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh.

“The good news is … I think the technology and the level of confidence and competence in the field has increased, so we don’t see as many issues,” said Keogh, who previously worked in the shale for BHP Billiton LTd. after it bought Chesapeake Energy’s assets in 2011. She joined the department in early 2015.

“It did settle down,” Doss said. “We managed to work with the Oil and Gas Commission and [Department of Environmental Quality], and regulations were improved. But I think primarily it was a thinning-out process of which companies were going to be successful in the shale.”

The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission did not respond to multiple requests for an interview by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette….—Jessica Seaman, “Energy firms gone, but their impact lingers,” Fracking News Today | EIN News, 7/17/16


And That’s a wrap! Thanks to Lindsay Speer and the rest of WASL’s marvy media team for photography and video of Monday’s huge action, blockading Crestwood. Please send organized listings of events, developments in New York regarding water, fossil fuels, air quality, etc. We’ll try to craft them into easy reading in a newsletter without generating reader MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over). Send, along with melons, peaches, local fruit, to

The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 28 – The Pendulum Goes Wild

 The Banner, Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 28 – The Pendulum Goes Wild
Jul 122016

July 12, 2016
Last week the pendulum of fate swung in dizzying fashion, in every dimension of our lives, from civil liberties and official brutality to extremes of good news and bad in the struggle to keep fossil fuel in the ground, climate change and international agreements affecting environmental law. A time in which clinging to hopes and goals simply leaves one feeling swung around like a rag doll.

WASL Call to Action: Escalation Summer 2016

WASL CallA We Are Seneca Lake call to action against climate killing fracked gas storage along Seneca Lake and against all climate killing infrastructure projects in New York State and beyond. The time to act is now. Join us:


Grass Roots Festival!

GrassRootsFestVOLUNTEERS NEEDED to table for We Are Seneca Lake

Where: Grassroots Festival, Trumansburg, NY
WhenJuly 21-24 (Th-Sun), 2016
Contact: Edgar Brown <>

We Are Seneca Lake has been invited back again this year to table, and keep expanding the narrative of Seneca Lake. Over 5,000 people attend this Festival, so it’s a great opportunity to do outreach for our cause.More Info:  Grass Roots Festival’s web site so you can see the music schedule, choose your favorite bands, and select your volunteer shift accordingly. Camping options and other details are here as well

  • A coordinator to manage volunteer schedules and maintain tabling supplies, including daily set-up and take-down. The Coordinator gets a 4-Day Pass.
  • Volunteers needed for 3-hour or 4-hour shifts each day. Each will get a Day Pass. Enjoy the Festival before or after your shift!

More Info:  Grass Roots Festival’s web site so you can see the music schedule, choose your favorite bands, and select your volunteer shift accordingly. Camping options and other details are here as well

Volunteer Schedule

  1. Thursday, July 21: Music starts at 1 pm; ends at 1 am.  2 tabling shifts (1-4 pm, or 4-7 pm).
  2. Friday, July 22: Music starts at 9 am; ends at 1 am.  2 tabling shifts (12n-3:30 pm;  3:30-7 pm).
  3. Saturday, July 23: Music starts at 9 am; ends at 1 am. 2 tabling shifts (11a-3 pm; 3-7 pm).
  4. Sunday, July 24: Music starts at 9 am; ends at 10 pm.  2 tabling shifts (11a-2:30 pm; 2:30-6 pm).
To volunteer, email Edgar Brown


GrassRoots Festival Orchestra Performs New Composition To Support WASL

GrassRoots Fest Orchestra
The highly acclaimed GrassRoots Festival Orchestra, conducted by Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, will perform a newly commissioned piece composed to support the work of We Are Seneca Lake. “From Shale Rock We Rise,” featuring mezzo-soprano Ivy Walz, will premiere on Sunday, July 24 at 9:00 am during the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. Finger Lakes-based poet, Melissa Tuckey, and Finger Lakes–based composer Kathleen Ballantyne collaborated on the project.

“From Shale Rock We Rise” was made possible by funding from Sounding 2020, a music commissioning project initiated by Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey to raise awareness of humanitarian and environmental issues.  A professional recording by Finger Lakes Recording will be available with proceeds to help support the work of We Are Seneca Lake.—Edgar Brown

Court Report in Town of Dix

Paul Passavant appeared before Justice Gregory on July 8th. It was difficult to hear the proceedings over the drone of the two window air conditioning units in the Dix Court.

Paul was represented by the We Are Seneca Lake Legal Resource Center’s Sujata Gibson. Sujata gave Judge Gregory the highlights of the Omnibus Motion she had filed on Paul’s behalf, asking the Judge to dismiss the charges. She gave many reasons for this in the motion, but in court spent the most time outlining the insufficiency of the accusatory instruments, in this case the supporting deposition and accusatory statement.

Sujata produced case law where accusatory information almost identical to Paul’s was ruled insufficient by the highest court of the state, and the case was dismissed. Chief Assistant District Attorney Matt Hayden disagreed but did not provide any case law. Judge Gregory denied the motion, saying that he found the accusatory information sufficient. He did grant the motion to compel the prosecution to turn over discovery.

Paul’s trial is currently scheduled for Monday October 17, at 10 AM. This date is subject to change. The judge made a point of explaining that there were upcoming sexual assault cases to be dealt with, NASCAR, and the Wine Festival.

Outside the courthouse, an attorney who had witnessed Sujata’s argument approached us. He told her, “I have never heard anyone argue a violation so thoroughly. No one works that hard for a violation!” He pointed at us. “You are getting your money’s worth!” Michael Dineen informed him that Sujata worked for free, and we all collectively swelled with pride.

Paul Passavant is  Professor of Constitutional Law at Hobart and William Smith college. His will be the first disorderly conduct charge to go trial.—Mariah Plumlee


March for a Clean Energy Revolution, Philly, Democrat National Convention

Clean Energy March

Sandra Steingraber, noted biologist, author, activist and science advisor to the Americans Against Fracking coalition, explains why she’ll be at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution at the Democratic National Convention.

July 24, Philadelphia City Hall, 12 pm. Join Sandra in Philly and be a part of the #CleanEnergyRevolution! Learn more at Clean Energy Revolution

Find bus connections here: (currently, Rochester, Waterloo, Ithaca and Binghamton buses available in upstate NY) – plug in your ZIP code

Upstate NY Bus info:

Rochester, NY:
: St. John Fisher Park & Ride 3690 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618
July 24, 2016 4:45 AM,
July 24, 2016 10:15 PM

Nancy Kasper,, 315.587.9349

Waterloo, NY:
Petro Waterloo, 1255 NY-414, Waterloo, NY 13165
July 24, 2016 5:45 AM
July 24, 2016 9:30 PM
Nancy Kasper,, 315.587.9349

Ithaca, NY:

By the pavilion in Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY 14850
July 24, 2016 7:30 AM
July 24, 2016 9:00 PM

Contact Info: Alex Beauchamp,

Binghamton, NY:
Citizen Action office, 477 State St., Binghamton, NY 13901
July 24, 2016 8:45 AM
July 24, 2016 9:00 PM
Contact Info
Alex Beauchamp,
Watch this space for more info…


Don’t drink the water and don’t wander off the paths around Onondaga Lake

Onondaga Lake – On June 22 over 17,500 people attended the Dave Matthews Band concert at the Lakeview Amphitheater.  Many Onondagas either attended or worked as security staff. Dhiki Drury from Joe Heath’s office and I also attended –it was Dave Matthews Band after all- but also to see for ourselves if Onondaga County’s assertions were accurate that certain areas didn’t need much remediation because “no one will go in the wooded areas.”

Onondaga County officials apparently have never been to an outdoor concert.

The Amphitheater is built on a Superfund site, one that is still undergoing active remediation. While 1-2 feet of clean soil and grass covers much of the areas where concertgoers are, “wooded areas” are covered with only 0.5 feet of mulch, and there are other areas immediately adjacent to the Amphitheater and parking lot areas that have yet to be remediated – that is, have any waste removed or cover placed on them. 

 The Onondaga Nation’s environmental attorney, Alma Lowry, has consistently pointed out that minimal fencing, a lack of signs, and assuming no one will go in these areas puts people at risk. She was right.

We observed hundreds of people walking into unremediated areas between the Orange parking lot and the West Shore Trail in search of a bit of privacy to relieve themselves. One such area was clearly a construction zone marked “authorized personnel only,” but lacking any sort of barrier.  The heavily treed areas to the south had no such warnings or signage. Both areas are part of the Superfund site and currently unremediated.Those trees have grown up over time growing directly on Solvay Waste. I hope no one tried digging a cat hole!

 The parking lots themselves have 2-7’ of gravel over the waste but even within the top 6” there are documented levels of contaminants. These include aluminum, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chromium, hexavalent chromium, mercury, nickel, and pesticides. The area with the most known contamination was to the northern end of the Orange lot, and we were glad to see that area (near the VIP area), had new gravel and mulch on top of the old surface. Sampling of the rest of the parking lot is much more sparse, however, and even the trucks watering the lot could not keep all the dust down. There are no plans for further capping of the parking lot at this time….—Lindsay Speer, “Don’t drink the water” – and avoid “going” in the bushes at the Amphitheater too,” Onondaga Nation, 7/9/16


Hyland Landfill, Angelica, NY Leachate Discharge Permit

Still Time to Email Comments to the DEC on Discharge to the Genesee River

NYS DEC is receiving public comment on the Hyland Landfill (Angelica) SPDES permit to discharge runoff from the site into runoff channels that discharge into the Genesee River. This involves mostly runoff from the surface of the site and from below the site in the groundwater intercept suppression system. SPDES stands for Special Pollution Discharge Elimination System and it is designed to make sites compliant with the Federal Clean Water Act. Some of the pollutants present in the wastes, being disposed of at Hyland Landfill, are not being tested for in the runoff and may be escaping the site undetected.  Immediately downstream is the Genesee River and her aquifers that many homes and communities rely on all the way to the Rochester embayment. 
Your help is needed in sending a email comment to NYS DEC which expresses the need to protect the Genesee River and its aquifer from pollution. You may also want to express your concern that all potential pollutants in the landfill runoff be tested for and existing impact to the immediate downstream sediments and biota be analyzed. It only makes sense for DEC to fully know what is being discharged and potential impact of what they are permitting and if it indeed does fully meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  
DEADLINE for comment is Monday July 11th at close of business in Albany
attn: Lindy Sue Czubernat
re. Hyland SPDES Discharge Renewal

Talking Points: Download this comment from Fred Sinclair, Chairman, Concerned Citizens of Allegany County


The Pendulum Goes Wild

Wobbly Jet Stream Is Sending the Melting Arctic into ‘Uncharted Territory’

Extreme melting in Greenland’s ice sheet last summer was linked to warm air delivered by the wandering jet stream (seen here), which has been linked to extreme warming in the Arctic. Credit: NASA

Extraordinary melting in Greenland’s ice sheet last summer was linked to warm air delivered by the wandering jet stream, a phenomenon that scientists have increasingly tied to global warming.

This interplay of climate phenomena, described in a new study in the journal Nature Communications, is more evidence of the complex ways in which the Arctic’s climate is heading for “uncharted territory,” said the study’s lead author, Marco Tedesco.

The study adds to an emerging theory on the effects of the pronounced warming of the Arctic, where temperatures are rising faster than in more temperate zones, as models have long predicted. Known as “Arctic amplification,” this moderates the normal temperature incline that drives the jet stream. If it makes the jet stream wobble, as some scientists suspect, it would suck warm air up into the Arctic—as was observed in Greenland last year.

The new study analyzes the severe shift in wind patterns last July that transported huge masses of warm, moist air from the Atlantic to the Arctic, dramatically melting the northern reaches of the ice sheet. Never before has the jet stream been seen to intrude so far into the Arctic during the summer, the scientists reported.

Accounting for these shifts is crucial to being able to model how much sea level will rise and how fast. Greenland’s melting is one of the biggest contributors to rising seas, and if its ice were to disappear completely it could raise global sea level by as much as 20 feet.

“The models are not capturing these extreme events like the July melting,” said Marco Tedesco, the study’s lead author. “If we are changing the atmosphere in a way that has not been happening before, with greenhouse gases, then even if we have the tools to make projections based on observations, we won’t know how to model for the future.” Tedesco is a geophysicist with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory….—Bob Berwyn, “Wobbly Jet Stream Is Sending the Melting Arctic into ‘Uncharted Territory’,” InsideClimate News, 7/9/16


Faster Rooftop Solar Growth to Cut Demand From Biggest U.S. Grid


Rooftop-solar panels are being installed in the region covered by the biggest U.S. power grid at a faster pace than expected. That will accelerate the shift away from large generators.

Distributed solar generation on the grid managed by PJM Interconnection LLC, which serves more than 61 million people in the East, jumped 30 percent in April from a year earlier. That rate of growth will likely continue with the extension of tax credits, CreditSights Inc. said in a report Friday. PJM previously forecast that installations would climb by 31 percent this year before slowing to 18 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018.

The rise of solar means that the grid operator may need to secure less supply to meet needs on the hottest days of the year, cutting payouts to owners of nuclear, natural gas and coal plants. Households are going solar as companies like SolarCity Corp. make a big push in parts of the mid-Atlantic states to take advantage of state initiatives.

An increase in energy efficiency, led by the switch to more efficient light bulbs, had prompted PJM late last year to lower its demand growth projections through 2030. Total demand on the grid that stretches from the mid-Atlantic to the Midwest was forecast to increase 1.3 percent in 2017 from this year.

“If rooftop solar grows more than 30 percent, there’s no reason we couldn’t see electricity demand growth go negative in the coming years,” Greg Jones, a New York-based analyst with CreditSights, said in a telephone interview Friday.

One of the drivers for faster growth is the extension of a federal tax credit that reimburses developers 30 percent of the costs of solar projects. The tax credit had been scheduled to expire at the end of this year, but Congress in December unexpectedly extended it. That month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated that the extension would drive about $38 billion of investment in solar power through 2021.

PJM’s projections show a dramatic drop in distributed solar on its grid because they were made based on the assumption the tax credits would expire. “The official load forecast comes out at the end of the year, it gets checked and vetted and reviewed with committees before it’s finalized and put up; and then three days later Congress extended the investment tax credit,” PJM spokesman Ray Dotter said by phone Friday.——Naureen Malik, Brian Eckhouse, “Faster Rooftop Solar Growth to Cut Demand From Biggest U.S. Grid,” Bloomberg, 7/8/16


Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy

Some MEPs fear the proposals would obstruct EU legislators’ ability to privilege renewables over unsustainable fossil fuels. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

The latest draft version of the TTIP agreement could sabotage European efforts to save energy and switch to clean power, according to MEPs.

A 14th round of the troubled negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal between the EU and US is due to begin on Monday in Brussels.

A leak obtained by the Guardian shows that the EU will propose a rollback of mandatory energy savings measures, and major obstacles to any future pricing schemes designed to encourage the uptake of renewable energies.

Environmental protections against fossil fuel extraction, logging and mining in the developing world would also come under pressure from articles in the proposed energy chapter.

Paul de Clerck, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Europe, said the leaked document: “is in complete contradiction with Europe’s commitments to tackle climate change. It will flood the EU market with inefficient appliances, and consumers and the climate will foot the bill. The proposal will also discourage measures to promote renewable electricity production from wind and solar.”

The European commission says that the free trade deal is intended to: “promote renewable energy and energy efficiency – areas that are crucial in terms of sustainability”.

The bloc has also promised that any agreement would support its climate targets. In the period to 2020, these are binding for clean power and partly binding for energy efficiency, in the home appliance and building standards sectors.

But the draft chapter obliges the two trade blocs to: “foster industry self-regulation of energy efficiency requirements for goods where such self-regulation is likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a less costly manner than mandatory requirements”.

Campaigners fear that this could tip the balance in future policy debates and setback efforts to tackle climate change.

Jack Hunter, a spokesman for the European Environmental Bureau said: “Legally-binding energy standards have done wonders to lower energy bills for homes and offices, so much so that energy use has dropped even as the British economy has grown and appliances have become more power-hungry.

“Voluntary agreements have a place, but are generally ‘business as usual’ and no substitute for the real thing. If they became the norm, it would seriously harm our fight against climate change.”…—Arthur Neslen, “Leaked TTIP energy proposal could ‘sabotage’ EU climate policy,” The Guardian, 7/11/16


CA Nukes To Shut Down; NY Nukes Troubled

A view of Indian Point from across the Hudson taken in 2007 (Photo: Daniel Case, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

PG&E has decided to take the aging Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near an earthquake fault in California offline by 2025 and replace its electric power with wind and solar. But the even older Indian Point reactors near New York City continue in service despite defects and opposition. The President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Arjun Makhijani, joins host Steve Curwood to discuss nuclear energy and its future.

LOE   Transcript

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston and PRI, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. The Diablo canyon nuclear power station in California that was built in an earthquake zone thirty years ago is now scheduled to shut down by 2025 with the power replaced by wind and solar. But the operators of a troubled reactor at the even older Indian Point plant just outside New York City are resisting calls to shut that one down. A major accident at Indian Point would endanger millions of people and could become a trillion dollar disaster. Arjun Makhijani from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research joins us to discuss the developments. Arjun, welcome back to Living on Earth.

CURWOOD: Qualify for me the risks to New York City if something were to truly go wrong at Indian Point.

MAKHIJANI: New York City and the heavily populated areas in the environs – Connecticut, maybe other states, New Jersey, depending on the winds and the type of accident, possibly Pennsylvania, – I think if a severe accident occurred at Indian Point much of that area would become uninhabitable.

CURWOOD: So what are the major safety problems with Indian Point? In your view how risky is that set of reactors?

MAKHIJANI: So the major safety problem that caused Friends of the Earth to file a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was that there’s a certain set of quite sensitive bolts inside the reactor. Now there are hundreds of these bolts in Indian Point 2 there are 800 odd bolts, and in a recent inspection, more than 200 of them were found to be corroded or potentially corroded and two of them were actually missing. So you could have a pretty catastrophic situation that would escalate very rapidly. This is recognized by the NRC as far back as 1998 but they didn’t require the reactor operators to do anything. The fact that the NRC has not required routine inspections and the potential damage has built up to 227 bolts, this I think indicates a laxness on the part of NRC that is especially intolerable with respect to a reactor like Indian Point….—Steve Curwood, Arjun Makhijani, “CA Nukes To Shut Down; NY Nukes Troubled,” Living on Earth, 7/8/16


Climate Change Claims a Lake, and an Identity

The dry bed of Lake Poopó near Llapallapani

LLAPALLAPANI, Bolivia — The water receded and the fish died. They surfaced by the tens of thousands, belly-up, and the stench drifted in the air for weeks.

The birds that had fed on the fish had little choice but to abandon Lake Poopó, once Bolivia’s second-largest but now just a dry, salty expanse. Many of the Uru-Murato people, who had lived off its waters for generations, left as well, joining a new global march of refugees fleeing not war or persecution, but climate change.

“The lake was our mother and our father,” said Adrián Quispe, one of five brothers who were working as fishermen and raising families here in Llapallapani. “Without this lake, where do we go?”

After surviving decades of water diversion and cyclical El Niño droughts in the Andes, Lake Poopó basically disappeared in December. The ripple effects go beyond the loss of livelihood for the Quispes and hundreds of other fishing families, beyond the migration of people forced to leave homes that are no longer viable.

The vanishing of Lake Poopó threatens the very identity of the Uru-Murato people, the oldest indigenous group in the area. They adapted over generations to the conquests of the Inca and the Spanish, but seem unable to adjust to the abrupt upheaval climate change has caused.

Only 636 Uru-Murato are estimated to remain in Llapallapani and two nearby villages. Since the fish died off in 2014, scores have left to work in lead mines or salt flats up to 200 miles away; those who stayed behind scrape by as farmers or otherwise survive on what used to be the shore.

Emilio Huanaco, an indigenous judicial official, is down to his last bottles of flamingo fat, used for centuries to alleviate arthritis. He has never used medication for his aching knee.

Eva Choque, 33, sat next to her adobe home drying meat for the first time on a clothesline. She and her four children ate only fish before.

They and their neighbors were known to nearly everyone in the area as “the people of the lake.” Some adopted the last name Mauricio after the mauri, which is what they called a fish that used to fill their nets. They worshiped St. Peter because he was a fisherman, ritually offering him fish each September at the water’s edge, but that celebration ended when the fish died two years ago.

“This is a millenarian culture that has been here since the start,” said Carol Rocha Grimaldi, a Bolivian anthropologist whose office shows a satellite picture of a full lake, a scene no longer visible in real life. “But can the people of the lake exist without the lake?”…—Nicholas Casey, Josh Haner, “Climate Change Claims a Lake, and an Identity,” The New York Times, 7/7/16


Exxon Touts Carbon Tax to Oil Industry

A worker adjusts the valve of an oil pipe at West Qurna oilfield in Iraq in 2010. Exxon Mobil is lobbying other American oil producers to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

In an attempt to combat climate change, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company is asking to be taxed.

Exxon Mobil is lobbying the rest of the American industry, as well as Capitol Hill, for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Exxon has welcomed a tax on carbon emissions since 2009. But December’s Paris Agreement, aimed specifically at keeping most fossil fuel reserves in the ground, has prompted the company to increase its efforts over the past six months to convince the rest of the industry to get on board.

Exxon Mobil’s efforts indicate a shift among American oil producers that follows their European counterparts, including Royal Dutch Shell and BP. Coupled with the Paris agreement and national and sub-national pressures, the industry’s new attitude reflects “a widening acceptance of climate change as a challenge humanity should – and can – tackle,” as Cristina Maza wrote for The Christian Science Monitor when chief executives of oil supermajors, such as BP, Eni, and Statoil, wrote a letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to advocate for a carbon tax in the hottest June on record in 2015.

“Previously Exxon’s positioning on a carbon tax had been passive – ‘Hey, we’re not loving it, but we’re not going to get in the way of it,’ ” Michael McKenna, president of the energy lobbying firm MWR Strategies, whose clients include oil and refining companies, but not Exxon, told the Journal. “In just the last six months, there’s been an uptick in how they are asserting themselves in meetings about how to address this issue.”

“Of the policy options being considered by governments, we believe a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best,” Suzanne McCarron, Exxon’s vice president of public and government affairs, wrote in May in the Dallas Morning News.

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: a tax on fossil fuels, typically levied at the first point-of-sale, coal mine, oil or gas wellhead, or the port or border crossing. The type of tax Exxon Mobil supports is revenue-neutral, meaning the tax would be offset by other taxes being lowered.

A carbon tax has much support among academics, economists, and others in the public policy sector, according to Howard Gleckman of TaxVox. Energy producers, however, have historically resisted it.  

As global temperatures have warmed, and the industry has come under fire, its resistance to the tax has subsided. The European oil executives indicated this in their letter to the United Nations.   

“Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products,” reads the letter the group sent the United Nations, “but carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future.”

From their perspective, increasing the price of carbon emissions is far simpler than regulations imposed on them. And some of the revenue could alleviate how much it hurts customers, wrote Mr. Gleckman of TaxVox.

“Some of the revenue generated by such a tax could be used to cushion the economic blow suffered by low-income households as well as coal mining communities,” he writes. “Extra revenue could be used to reduce individual or payroll tax rates, help finance corporate tax reform, or trim the budget deficit.”…—Ben Rosen, “Why Exxon Mobil is now lobbying for a carbon tax,” Christian Science Monitor, 6/30/16


Which Electric Utilities Recognize the Clean Energy Future We Need?

Click to view full size

Electric utilities tend to take a lot of heat for clouding public understanding of climate change and standing in the way of energy resources that won’t cook the planet.

A number of utilities, for instance, have spent hundreds of millions over the past few years lobbying against the Clean Power Plan. Likewise, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association representing the investor-owned utilities (Io Us) that serve nearly 70-percent of electric customers in the United States, has developed and is executing a multi-million dollar fight against rooftop solar.

It is, of course, unfair to lump all electric utilities together. A couple of recently published reports — including one released Tuesday by Ceres — reveal which investor-owned utilities are climate laggards and clean energy obstructionists, and which are working to transition to the clean, renewable energy future that the atmosphere demands. (Or at least are begrudgingly accepting said transition.)  

The Ceres report looks at actual renewable energy deployment. In Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy Deployment: 2016, the report’s authors analyze and rank investor-owned utilities — which serve over two-thirds of American electric customers — for how much clean energy and energy efficiency they deliver to customers.

This deep dive into deployment nicely complements the findings of an April report from the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi), which scores the nation’s largest utilities across a dozen metrics for clean energy governance and, for lack of a better term, climate acceptance. Or, basically, how well these 25 of the largest investor owned utilities are adapting their businesses for a clean energy future.

So what do these reports tell us?

A handful of utilities are leading; most are still living in the 20th Century

Consider this from the Ceres Benchmarking report: just four of the 30 companies analyzed in the report account for more than half of the total sales of renewable energy.

Of the 30 holding companies examined, which collectively represent 119 individual electric utility subsidiaries, Sempra Energy, PG&E, Edison International, and Xcel Energy ranked the highest.

A close look at this chart from the CERES report reveals three general tiers of renewable energy deployment. Those top four all procured over 20-percent of their electricity from renewable resources, and In Sempra’s case, more than 36-percent. The majority of the holding companies are lumped in the 8- to 13-percent range, and then the bottom third of the bunch are all under 4-percent of renewable energy deployed. (Southern Company didn’t share any data, but their political and operational history would suggest that their delivery of renewable energy is at the bottom of the barrel.)….—Ben Jervey, “CERES Report Reveals Which Electric Utilities Recognize the Clean Energy Future We Need,” DeSmogBlog, 6/28/16


Obama Administration Approved Gulf Fracking During Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Vicissitudes Under Water Granada—Jason DeCaires Taylor,

Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) technology has been widely used to maximize oil-and-gas production in the Gulf of Mexico in recent years, and the government allows offshore drillers to dump fracking chemicals mixed with wastewater directly into the Gulf, according to documents released to Truthout and the Center for Biological Diversity under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

From 2010 to October 2014, the Obama administration approved more than 1,500 permit applications for offshore drilling plans that included fracking at hundreds of wells across the Gulf of Mexico, according to the documents. An unknown number of permit applications have yet to be released, so the scope of offshore fracking in the Gulf is likely larger.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

A controlled burn of oil spilled during the Deepwater Horizon disaster sends pillars of smoke into the air in the Gulf of Mexico on June 9, 2010. (Photo: Deepwater Horizon Response)

During this time regulators issued more than 300 “categorical exclusions” to exempt drilling plans that included fracking from complex environmental reviews [emphasis added – Ed]. The use of categorical exclusions has been under heavy scrutiny since 2010, when the media learned that BP’s drilling plan for the Deepwater Horizon rig was categorically excluded from review in the months before a deadly explosion on the platform caused the worst oil spill in United States history.

Federal records show that regulators approved several drilling plans involving fracking in the Gulf of Mexico even as the Deepwater Horizon disaster unfolded and oil from a broken well spewed into the Gulf for weeks on end.

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster should have been a wake up call that we need to move away from offshore drilling,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in an interview with Truthout. “But now the federal government is rubber-stamping practices like fracking without doing any environmental review or notifying the public, and it’s just another disaster waiting to happen.”…—Mike Ludwig, “Obama Administration Approved Gulf Fracking During Deepwater Horizon Disaster,” Truthout, 6/24/16


Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming?


As sea levels rise in the next century, even a $3 billion wall won’t keep Lower Manhattan above water.

It’s a bright spring day in New York, with sunlight dancing on the East River and robins singing Broadway tunes. I’m walking along the sea wall on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with Daniel Zarrilli, 41, the head of New York’s Office of Resilience and Recovery – basically Mayor Bill de Blasio’s point man for preparing the city for the coming decades of storms and sea-level rise. Zarrilli is dressed in his usual City Hall attire: white shirt and tie, polished black shoes. He has short-cropped gray hair, dark eyes and an edgy I’ve-got-a-job-to-do manner. Zarrilli may be the only person in the world who holds in his head the full catastrophe of what rising seas and increasingly violent storms mean to the greatest city in America. Not surprisingly, instead of musing about the beautiful weather, he points to the East River, where the water is innocently bouncing off the sea wall about six feet below us. “During Sandy,” he says, darkly, “the storm surge was about nine feet above high tide. You and I would be standing in about four feet of water right now.”

As Zarrilli knows better than anyone, Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in October 2012, flooding more than 88,000 buildings in the city and killing 44 people, was a transformative event. It did not just reveal how vulnerable New York is to a powerful storm, but it also gave a preview of what the city faces over the next century, when sea levels are projected to rise five, six, seven feet or more, causing Sandy-like flooding (or much worse) to occur with increasing frequency. “The problem for New York is, climate science is getting better and better, and storm intensity and sea-level-rise projections are getting more and more alarming,” says Chris Ward, the former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency in charge of airports, tunnels and other transportation infrastructure. “It fundamentally calls into question New York’s existence. The water is coming, and the long-term implications are gigantic.”

Zarrilli turns away from the river, and we walk toward the park that separates it from the Lower East Side. “One of our goals is not just to protect the city, but to improve it,” Zarrilli explains. Next year, if all goes well, the city will break ground on what’s called the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, an undulating 10-foot-high steel-and-concrete-reinforced berm that will run about two miles along the riverfront. It’s the first part of a bigger barrier system, known informally as “the Big U,” that someday may loop around the entire bottom of Manhattan, from 42nd Street on the East Side to 57th Street on the West Side. Zarrilli likes to underscore that the barrier will be covered with grass and trees in many places, as well as benches and bike paths – it’s the East Side equivalent of the High Line, the hugely popular elevated train track on the West Side that has been transformed into an urban park. There are plans in the works to build other walls and barriers in the Rockaways and on Staten Island, as well as in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River. But this project in Lower Manhattan is the headliner, not just because the city may spend $3 billion or more to construct it, but also because Lower Manhattan is some of the most valuable real estate on the planet – if it can’t be protected, then New York is in deep trouble….—Jeff Goodell, “Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming?,” Rolling Stone, 7/5/16


Letter from Virginia: Pipeline News from Shenandoah Valley

Anti-pipeline sentiment around here is alive and well; yesterday I rode shotgun in our anti-pipeline contingent in the July 4 parade.  Nancy Sorrells, our fearless leader of the anti-pipeline faction, says our chances of stopping the pipeline are much improved; we’ve already delayed it many months behind schedule.   FERC has been coming in for some close scrutiny by our people, and have been making sure to dot their “I’s” and cross their “t’s.

    As for me, I’m trying to bring the NIMBY faction around to seeing this as a climate issue, and many of them are beginning to do so–and not necessarily because of my rhetoric.   In adjacent Nelson county there is a large number of progressive-minded residents who have settled there for it’s scenic beauty, who appreciate what they have, and have spearheaded the anti-pipeline movement. 
      And Nelson County is the ancestral home of my father’s family; my grandfather was an English physician who emigrated to Nelson County in the late 19th century, married a local schoolteacher, and set up a practice in a house overlooking the Rockfish River–a tributary of the James.  The property is still  owned by Micklems, although the house was washed away in a flood.
    At any rate, it’s encouraging to see a new generation of enlightened young people who genuinely appreciate the gifts of Creation and are willing to sacrifice to protect it.
    A Final Note: Democracy Now, Thurs., June 30 features an anti-pipeline action in Boston in which Kareena Gore, Al Gore’s daughter, was arrested, along with Timothy De Christopher, who went to jail for posing as a bidder at an auction for leases to drill for oil and other bad stuff on federal lands.
   But inasmuch as you folks are light years ahead of me in keeping up with the action, you probably already know about it…
    You folks are my inspiration. Carry on….
    My Love to You All…..
Roland Micklem
And That’s A Wrap! Thanks for your notes and article suggestions! Email them to

The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 27 – Let Go The World and Love

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 27 – Let Go The World and Love
Jul 082016

July 5, 2016
There comes a moment, sooner or later, when an activist sees the anger, the indignation, even the grieving of climate change, the very likely passing of a world we grew up in that will never be idyllic in that way again – sees it all in a larger context, sees our battle with corporate giants and byzantine government regulators, the police – sees all of it whole. Sees the vast humanity of it, the frailty and fragility and the stubborn tenacity that alone will carry us through. It is a moment of laying down the sword and simply saying “Yes,” a huge cosmic “Yes!” to the whole of it, the good, the bad, the terrible, the sublime. One has somehow found the grace let go of what one loves – and finds nothing is lost or found; nothing changes except our grasping. Suddenly we are home in a whole different sense, and we pick the sword back up and it has become a weapon of fierce compassion wielded in “a peace that passeth understanding.”

Victory for We Are Seneca Lake Campaign
Mistrial Declared Amid Charges of Bias

MistrialThe trial of a Seneca Lake gas storage protester ended in dramatic fashion in the Town of Reading Court on Tuesday when Justice Raymond Berry declared a mistrial at the urging of the prosecuting attorneys and accepted a motion from defense attorneys to recuse himself from this and future Seneca Lake protest trials. Berry’s rulings came after a strange series of declarations that appeared to indicate both prejudice against the defendant and ignorance of the law.

Defendant Tom Angie, 63, of Aurora in Cayuga County, was charged with violation-level trespass stemming from a Dec. 16, 2014 protest near the main gates of the Crestwood Midstream compressor station near Seneca Lake in the Town of Reading.

Angie’s trial today—which was to represent the first trial of gas storage protesters in the Town of Reading Court—began at 10 a.m. By 2 p.m., the prosecutor, Schuyler County assistant district attorney John Tunney, who had put on the stand three witnesses, had just rested his case and chief defense attorney Joseph Heath had just entered a motion for dismissal. At this point, Judge Berry abruptly issued a guilty verdict for Angie.

Clearly flummoxed, prosecutor Tunney explained to the judge that his verdict was premature in light of the fact that defendant Angie had not yet presented his defense or called his own witnesses to the stand.

Heath, noting Tunney’s attempt to explain criminal procedure protocols to Judge Berry, respectfully moved that the case be transferred to a law-trained judge. Heath noted that the judge’s premature ruling of guilt at this stage showed a fundamental lack of knowledge of basic criminal law, most notably, the right to present a defense.

Heath further said that the fact that the prosecution needed to stop the trial in order to lecture the judge on “the simplest trial procedures” was clear proof that his clients were unable to obtain a fair trial in this court.

In spite of the fact that the prosecutor had just warned the judge that his ruling was premature, Justice Berry then reiterated his verdict, saying, “I still find him guilty.”

Heath insisted that the trial could only go forward before a law-trained judge, which Berry is not. Heath noted, “The prosecutor is running this trial.”

Sujata Gibson, a second defense attorney, stated that if the judge were going to insist on finding guilt before allowing a defense, then the defendants would simply appeal. She then entered a motion that Berry recuse himself from hearing Angie’s case. She asked that the recusal be extended to all future cases of gas storage protesters.

In making her motion, Gibson described for the record a pattern of prejudice, unfair treatment and blatant bias and provided examples. Among them: courtroom observer Daniel Pautz, who was neither a party to the trial nor an officer of the court, was allowed use of his cell phone in the courtroom while she herself, an attorney for the defense, along with all other courtroom observers, had been forbidden cell phones.

According to witnesses, the Bailiff’s response, when asked why Pautz alone was allowed to have access to his cell phone inside the courtroom was “because he is with Crestwood.”

Pautz, whose legal work focuses on defending property owners against lead paint claims, is an attorney for Crestwood. He was merely an observer in court today.

Justice Berry granted Gibson’s motion and agreed to recuse himself in this and all future trials involving Seneca Lake gas storage protesters.

He then asked, “Okay, where are we at?”

The prosecution then moved for an official declaration of mistrial. The defense attorneys offered no objection.

Granting the prosecution’s motion for a mistrial, Judge Berry adjourned the court….—Sandra Steingraber, “Victory for We Are Seneca Lake Campaign as Mistrial Declared Amid Charges of Bias,” EcoWatch, 6/29/16


Lac-Mégantic Bomb Train Explosion Memorial

Fireball: A cloud of fire is blasted into the sky above Lac Megantic after a freight train exploded

Mothers Out Front supporters will gather to name and mourn the 48 victims of the 2013 Bakken train oil derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Wear black if possible.

Where: Federal BuildingMOFMemorial
100 State St. Downtown Rochester
When: Wednesday, July 5, 4:00PM

More Info: Facebook Event Page
Background: “Breaking News: One dead and sixty missing as runaway train carrying hundreds of tons of oil derails and explodes in fireball in Canadian town center,” Jessica Jerreat, Daily Mail, 7/1/13

The Toronto Star recently stated that apart from war, the destruction from this derailment and explosion was unprecedented in Canadian history. 30 buildings, about half the downtown, were destroyed, and most of the remainder are too contaminated to allow to stand.

The memorial rally calls attention to the tragic consequences of Bakken oil trains, which run daily through the Rochester area. There have been 11 explosive derailments in North America since 2013, including the most recent one on June 3, 2016 in Mosier, Oregon. The Fire Chief there has called shipping Bakken Crude oil by rail “insane.”


Lausell Declines Negotiations on Bomb Trains above Watkins Glen State Park

Michael Lausell

SCHUYLER COUNTY –A state official made an unsolicited phone call to Schuyler County Legislator Michael L. Lausell earlier this month to tell him Crestwood Equity Partners was inviting him to privately negotiate key elements of its plan to store liquid petroleum gas, or LPG, in abandoned caverns at its U.S. Salt property in Reading.

Lausell said he was told the Houston-based company might be willing to drop its plans to deliver LPG to the caverns by rail.
Such a concession would address many of Lausell’s vocal concerns about the dangers of running trains packed with explosive liquids across the 80-year-old train trestle 175 feet above the gorge at the Watkins Glen State Park.

The unexpected call came from a lawyer with the Department of Environmental Conservation, Lausell said. He would not identify him or her. Lausell said he has declined the invitation to negotiate with the company.

Crestwood did not respond to a call seeking comment, and its chief media spokesperson did not acknowledge emailed questions.
The DEC press office did not respond to efforts to confirm that an agency attorney had acted as an intermediary by making the call Lausell described.

The DEC is in the sixth year of evaluating a Crestwood application to store 2.1 million barrels of highly-pressurized propane and butane in two salt caverns next to Seneca Lake. The plan calls for the construction of a six-track rail siding in Reading with the capacity to load 24 LPG tank cars every 12 hours.

In addition to cutting out the rail component, Lausell said he was told, Crestwood might be willing to entirely eliminate butane storage. The application calls for 600,000 barrels of butane to be stored in one cavern and 1.5 million barrels of propane in another.
Even if all rail deliveries were cancelled, propane could still be delivered to and from the cavern site by pipeline or truck.
Lausell said he asked the DEC lawyer about Crestwood’s plans for a truck loading station, but he said no concessions were offered on that point.

“I’m gratified that they want to mediate, that they’re willing to give up so much,” Lausell said. “I think we’ve identified a real issue, which makes all the (effort) worthwhile.”

The potential dangers of LPG-laden trains passing over the gorge trestle motivated Lausell and fellow Schuyler Legislator Van A. Harp last year to seek formal party status in a legal proceeding concerning the Crestwood application.

An administrative law judge at the DEC, who held a hearing on the case in February 2015, continues to weigh evidence for and against the project.

Lausell and Harp filed a petition with the judge, James T. McClymonds, that focused on transportation issues. Lausell noted he also has concerns about the stability of the caverns and the project’s potential impact on Seneca Lake water quality, but he confined the petition to transportation matters — especially train traffic.

“Were an accident to occur due to derailment, bridge failure or terrorism, the gorge would create a deadly situation for visitors to the park, county employees and for residents of Schuyler County,” Lausell and Harp wrote McClymonds.

The two represent a minority of the Schuyler County Legislature, which narrowly passed a resolution in June 2014 urging the DEC to issue all necessary permits. The dissenters argued the majority jumped the gun by endorsing the project before completing emergency planning.
Joseph Campbell, co-founder of Gas Free Seneca, a coalition of citizens, businesses and elected officials that seeks to block the LPG project, applauded Lausell for choosing not to accept the offer to negotiate privately with Crestwood.

“We won’t accept anything less than a total rejection of this project,” Campbell said. “The coalition will not be divided by private negotiations between the DEC and parties that the agency hand-picks….—Peter Mantius, “Lausell declines negotiations,” Observer-Review, 6/28/16


Action Alert: TELEBRIEFING July 13: EPA proposes massive radioactive contamination levels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has quietly proposed to raise the allowable levels of radioactivity in drinking water a nuclear incident to hundreds of times their current limits. If this guidance goes through, EPA’s action will allow people to drink water with concentrations of radioactivity at vastly higher levels.
Look no further than the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan to understand concern that the EPA will not act to protect public health in an emergency. In this case, the EPA is attempting to ensure that it would not have to act decisively to protect public health!
But there is still time to act.
You are invited to join us on WEDNESDAY JULY 13 for a national telebriefing: Dangerous Drinking Water, with presentations by leading experts and activists:
  • Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  • Daniel Hirsch, Director, Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy, University of California Santa Cruz
  • Emily Wurth, Water Program Director, Food and Water Watch
  • Moderated by NIRS Executive Director, Tim Judson
The open and free event will be on the phone, starting at 8 pm eastern, 7 pm central, 6 pm mountain and 5 pm pacific. We will reserve the second half of the program for questions and discussion.
The program will focus on EPA Guidance that massively increases the permitted levels of radioactivity in drinking water for years after any nuclear incident that requires consideration of “protective action,” ranging from a spill, leak or transport accident to a dirty bomb or nuclear meltdown—a nuclear  accident of any kind, big or small. Allowable concentrations of radioactive elements allowed to come out of your tap would rise hundreds or even thousands of times above the current Maximum Concentration Levels allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. Click here to review EPA’s proposal.
Nuclear Energy is Dirty in many dimensions, but first, and foremost because of its dangerous ionizing radiation. The EPA guidance, allowing us to drink highly radioactive water is a clever effort to bypass existing limits, which the law prevents from being weakened. It is yet another way to shift liability and cleanup costs to the public from industry and government in case of a “nuclear event.” For instance, for most radionuclides the Safe Drinking Water levels are based on no more than 4 millirems a year exposure from drinking water; the proposed water PAGs would allow 500 millirems a year with no notice, and no action to limit exposure to adults. This difference protects the government and industry from any liability from massively increased health consequences.
Although EPA for the first time ever admits that those under 15 years of age are at greater risk than adults the draft PAG only pays lip-service to considering a lower level which is still enormously higher than current water limits. This is in addition to rest of EPA PAGs, which allow even more exposure from air and food.—Mary Olson, “TELEBRIEFING July 13: EPA proposes massive radioactive contamination levels“, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 7/1/16


Action Alert: Ban Fracking Waste in NY!

A map of landfills that accept Pennsylvania fracking waste. 1: Seneca Meadows Landfill, Waterloo, NY, 2: Allied Waste Systems, Niagara Falls, NY 3: Hyland Facility Association, Angelica, NY, 4: Casella Waste Systems, Painted Post, NY, 5: Hakes Landfill, Painted Post, 6: Hakes C&D Landfill, Painted Post, NY, 7: Chemung County Landfill, Lowman, CREDIT:

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is currently revising the state’s regulations for solid waste management, including the rules for what is acceptable for disposal at residential garbage landfills. The proposed regulations do not ban fracking wastes; they merely propose installing radiation detection alarms.

Public Comment Deadline: Sept. 13

Please contact the DEC to make public commentson these revisions. Make the following points:

  • Fracking and other drilling wastes are hazardous and should be banned from municipal landfills.
  • New York must prohibit landfills from sending the liquid collected in their drainage systems (leachate) for treatment at local sewage plants.
  • Frack wastes should be banned from use for purposes like road salt and dust control.

Email to


Let Go the World and Love

Let Go the World and Love-s

Let Go the World and Love. Laura Seligman, Copyright 2016

On a Heating Planet, ‘Gasland’ Filmmaker Josh Fox Lets Go and Loves

Josh Fox’s first and second films, “Gasland” and “Gasland Part 2,” were high-octane polemics aimed at ending fracking, shorthand for the revolutionary method of fracturing deep layers of shale to liberate natural gas and oil previously deemed unreachable. From “The Cove” (on Japan’s dolphin hunts) to “Pandora’s Promise” (on the benefits of nuclear energy) this strategy, meshing a film and a campaign, has become commonplace.

The fracking campaign succeeded in blocking fracking in the Delaware River watershed, Fox’s focal point, and ultimately led to a ban in New York State in 2014. But this method of extracting gas and oil has become so widespread that the United States Department of Energy recently stopped describing it as “unconventional.”

Now he’s tackling global warming, but in a fresh and engaging way.

In an interview at The Times last week, Fox said his focus on human-driven climate change emerged as he grappled, after that small fracking success, with the unrelenting demand for fossil fuels and emerging impacts of warming temperatures, made emblematic by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The film’s sprawling title — “How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change” — reflects the sweep of the documentary itself, which takes viewers on Fox’s world-spanning learning journey examining how local campaigns and individual innovators can tweak troubling environmental trajectories toward progress.

The documentary has its HBO debut tonight at 9 p.m. and in “house party” viewings around the country.

Sometimes in person, sometimes online, Fox and I sharply differed on natural gas and fracking. But count me a fan of “Let Go of the World” (My proposed shorthand). The film has heaps of dark notes and a solid dose of finger pointing, but it doesn’t focus on the stale heroes-and-villains framing that has long been a bad fit for global warming. (Who’s the villain, the companies extracting fossil fuels or the societies living better lives because of all that cheap energy?)

Let Go and Love VidHis personal journey almost founders as he runs into a wall of despair conveyed by analysts warning of mass extinction, forced migration and more. He illustrates his emotional nadir by using a drone-lofted camera to show himself as a shrinking dot sprawled in a snowy field, paralyzed.

The film also valuably focuses on examining one’s own values, choices and actions, with Fox doing so by positioning himself as the central character. In his trademark deadpan narration, Fox describes what he was seeking: “What are the things climate change can’t destroy? What parts of us are so deep that no storm can take them away?”… —Andrew Revkin, “On a Heating Planet, ‘Gasland’ Filmmaker Josh Fox Lets Go and Loves,” The New York Times, 6/27/16


UK sets ambitious new 2030s carbon target

The legally binding ‘fifth carbon budget’ is tougher than the target the UK signed up to as part of the EU. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Amber Rudd allays fears that target would be casualty of EU referendum and adopts fifth carbon budget to reduce emissions 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels

The UK has announced an ambitious new carbon target for the early 2030s, allaying fears that the climate goal would be a casualty of the EU referendum.

Amber Rudd accepted the advice of the government’s statutory climate advisers, setting a target on Thursday of reducing carbon emissions 57% by 2030 on 1990 levels.

The legally binding “fifth carbon budget” laid in parliament today is tougher than the carbon emissions target the UK is signed up to as part of the European Union, which requires a 40% cut by 2030 on 1990 levels.

The commitment should ease anxieties in the green energy sector that last week’s leave vote would water down the UK’s leadership on climate change, or that the decision to approve the budget would be left to the next prime minister.

John Sauven, Greenpeace UK director, said: “The government has kept its word to adopt this important target to limit the UK’s carbon emissions.”

Emma Pinchbeck, WWF-UK’s head of energy and climate change, said:“The UK’s Climate Change Act gives us, even outside the EU, a global leadership role on climate change. So it’s great that the government has ignored siren voices from the fringes, listened to the scientists, and set a new target which will help boost the green economy.”…—Adam Vaughan, “UK sets ambitious new 2030s carbon target,” The Guardian, 6/30/16


Canadian Court Reverses Approval of Enbridge’s Major Western Pipeline

Protesters gathered in Vancouver in 2013 to oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline. Credit: Travis Blanston via Flickr

Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal revoked the permits for an Enbridge pipeline to carry tar sands crude to the British Columbia coast, ruling that government officials had failed to sufficiently consult the First Nations people who would be impacted by the project before approving it.

The decision, released Thursday, is a devastating blow to the Northern Gateway pipeline, a $7.9 billion (Canadian) project that has been repeatedly delayed since it was first proposed 12 years ago. The rejection also has broad implications for other fossil fuel infrastructure projects designed to move oil from Alberta’s landlocked oil sands to markets overseas.

“At every turn you’re going, you are seeing nails in the coffin of the Enbridge project,” Haida Nation’s Peter Lantin told CBC News. “I don’t think there’s enough room for another nail in the coffin.”

Haida Nation members were among the First Nations and environmental groups that appealed the Canadian government’s approval of the controversial project in 2014.

Canada’s Governor in Council approved the pipeline following a multi-year review, and even then, regulators attached conditions. The project involves twin pipelines that combined would cross about 730 miles of Alberta and British Columbia, including large portions of First Nation-owned land. Regulators said it could only be built if the company met 209 specified conditions. Enbridge Inc. has not yet started construction on the project.

This case was reviewed by a three-judge panel. Two judges found the pipeline’s approval flawed and one judge determined it was satisfactory. According to the majority opinion, some impacts of the proposed pipeline “were left undisclosed, undiscussed and unconsidered” in the government’s final review. Canadian officials were required to address these issues with the First Nations before deciding the fate of the Northern Gateway pipeline—and they did not.

“It would have taken Canada little time and little organizational effort to engage in meaningful dialogue on these and other subjects of prime importance to Aboriginal peoples. But this did not happen,” judges Eleanor R. Dawson and David Stratas wrote in their majority opinion.

“This decision confirms what we have known all along—the federal government’s consultation on this project fell well short of the mark,” Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation said in a statement.—Zahra Hirji, “Canadian Court Reverses Approval of Enbridge’s Major Western Pipeline,” InsideClimate News, 7/1/16


Obama Administration Approved Gulf Fracking During Deepwater Horizon Disaster

A controlled burn of oil spilled during the Deepwater Horizon disaster sends pillars of smoke into the air in the Gulf of Mexico on June 9, 2010. (Photo: Deepwater Horizon Response)

Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) technology has been widely used to maximize oil-and-gas production in the Gulf of Mexico in recent years, and the government allows offshore drillers to dump fracking chemicals mixed with wastewater directly into the Gulf, according to documents released to Truthout and the Center for Biological Diversity under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

From 2010 to October 2014, the Obama administration approved more than 1,500 permit applications for offshore drilling plans that included fracking at hundreds of wells across the Gulf of Mexico, according to the documents. An unknown number of permit applications have yet to be released, so the scope of offshore fracking in the Gulf is likely larger.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

During this time regulators issued more than 300 “categorical exclusions” to exempt drilling plans that included fracking from complex environmental reviews. The use of categorical exclusions has been under heavy scrutiny since 2010, when the media learned that BP’s drilling plan for the Deepwater Horizon rig was categorically excluded from review in the months before a deadly explosion on the platform caused the worst oil spill in United States history.

Federal records show that regulators approved several drilling plans involving fracking in the Gulf of Mexico even as the Deepwater Horizon disaster unfolded and oil from a broken well spewed into the Gulf for weeks on end.

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster should have been a wake up call that we need to move away from offshore drilling,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in an interview with Truthout. “But now the federal government is rubber-stamping practices like fracking without doing any environmental review or notifying the public, and it’s just another disaster waiting to happen.”—Mike Ludwig, “Obama Administration Approved Gulf Fracking During Deepwater Horizon Disaster,” Trouthout, 6/24/16


EPA Leaps into the Present!
Produces Souvenir Rule Protecting Public Water Supplies from Fracking

Waste Treatment Corporation in Warren, Pa. The EPA has banned oil and gas producers from using publicly owned treatment facilities to dispose of fracking waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned the disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste water at public sewage plants, formalizing a voluntary practice that removed most fracking waste from Pennsylvania plants starting in 2011.

The EPA on Monday finalized a rule that prevents operators from disposing of waste from unconventional oil & gas operations at publicly owned treatment works [POTW’s].

The rule is designed to prevent the entry into public water systems of contaminants such as heavy metals, chemical additives and high concentrations of salt that are associated with fracking, and which public water systems are typically not equipped to treat.

Most energy companies stopped sending fracking waste water to public treatment plants starting in 2011 when the administration of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett called on the industry to end the practice.

Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania Director for the environmental group Clean Water Action, said compliance with the Corbett administration’s request was “not 100 percent” but that most energy companies have since then found other ways of disposing of or treating the water, including industrial treatment plants, underground injection wells, and recycling.

“It’s not going to affect tons of sources right this second,” Arnowitt said.

But the existence of the new rule will deter any renewed effort to dispose of waste at public treatment plants if and when gas production recovers from its current slump, putting more pressure on disposal facilities in the region of the Marcellus and Utica Shales, Arnowitt said.

“It’s important that EPA put this protection in place prior to what are extremely likely future gas rushes in Pennsylvania,” Arnowitt said. “We still have only drilled about 10-15 percent of what is expected for the Marcellus and that is not even considering the Utica.”

In 2008 and 2009, towns and cities along the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania were advised to use bottled drinking water after minimally treated fracking waste was pumped into the river by municipal sewage plants during the early days of Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom….—Jon Hurdle, “EPA bans disposal of fracking waste water at public treatment plants,” StateImpact, 6/14/16


Fossil fuel industry ramps up anti-divestment strategy

A fossil fuel divestment protest outside the University of Washington in Seattle. Photo courtesy of

During a breakfast he recently hosted in a K Street bar, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers President Chet Thompson leaned forward in his seat and said his industry isn’t sweating the fossil fuel divestment movement.

“Worried’s not the right word,” said Thompson, whose member companies includes firms like Valero Energy Corp., Dow Chemical Co. and Husky Energy Inc. “We’re not worried, but we do think this is a part of a broader campaign.”

That unruffled demeanor isn’t unusual among industry officials, who since the divestment effort urging investors to sell coal, oil and gas holdings began apace in 2014 have dismissed the boycott as politically motivated, symbolic and ultimately feeble.

Yet while fossil fuel companies deny the campaign is affecting them and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has until now largely stayed out of the debate, the breakfast is one of several recent signals that business leaders are now hitting back hard against a growing threat to their sectors.

In recent weeks, fossil fuel trade groups in Washington, D.C., have ramped up efforts to control the conversation around divestment, issuing statements, producing research and publishing surveys.

“I’ve definitely seen the industry push back a lot more, more recently,” said Chloe Maxmin, co-founder of Divest Harvard. She cited as an example, a website the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) runs.

“Sometimes I think about their reaction as part of the five stages of grief — grieving the end of the era of fossil fuels,” Maxmin said. “The first stage is denial, and then the second stage is anger, and the third stage is bargaining, which is I think what this falls in.”

Indeed, the fossil fuel divestment movement has had some wins of late, such as the vote by Berlin’s Parliament last week to divest pension investments.

Industry has responded forcefully….—Benjamin Hulac, “Fossil fuel industry ramps up anti-divestment strategy,” EE News, 6/27/16


U.S., Mexico, Canada Pledge 50 Percent Clean Power by 2025

 TresAmigosThe U.S. and Mexico will commit to joining Canada in boosting their use of wind, solar and other carbon-free sources of electricity, helping North America meet an ambitious goal of generating at least 50 percent of its energy from “clean” sources by 2025.

The pledge is set to be made as part of a trilateral summit of North American leaders Wednesday in Ottawa, where the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union is likely to consume much of the agenda. The meeting will also focus on trade and regional security issues.

“We believe this is an aggressive goal but one that is achievable by all three countries,” Brian Deese, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on environmental and energy matters, said Monday on a conference call with reporters.

The goal applies across the continent, meaning it’s an average for Canada, Mexico and the U.S. together. The goal, which would need to be adhered to by the president who succeeds Obama in January, is “achievable if all three countries respectively make ambitious progress toward executing and in effect exceeding the targets” established in the climate accord reached in Paris last year, Deese said.

Carbon Free

The commitment will apply to any electricity generated without producing carbon dioxide emissions, including nuclear as well as renewable wind, solar and hydro power. Deese said it also could apply to power from plants using carbon-capture technology to siphon off emissions. The goal does not otherwise include natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal but still produces carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

The nations will also seek to boost energy efficiency, Deese said.

Environmentalists applauded the announcement, with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune saying it demonstrates “North American unity behind a consensus for strong global climate action.”

“This agreement means the United States will dramatically increase the amount of clean, renewable energy we get from sources like wind and solar within the next decade,” Brune said.

Nuclear Power

Over the past year, the U.S. derived about a third of its power from carbon-free sources, including nuclear that provided 19.9 percent, according to April data from the Energy Information Administration. Continent-wide, about 37 percent of North America’s electricity came from carbon-free sources in 2015, largely because Canada already obtains more than half its energy from clean sources.

Deese declined to speculate on how much of the 50 percent goal would need to be from the U.S.

It’s a “doable” goal, said U.S. Energy Information Administration head Adam Sieminski. The agency forecasts growing use of wind and solar electricity even with Obama administration regulations slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Policy agreements, such as the goal being announced in Ottawa, can “intensify some of the trends that are already under way,” Sieminski said during an event previewing the EIA’s annual energy outlook….—Jennifer Dlouhy, Angela Greiling Keane , “U.S., Mexico, Canada Pledge 50 Percent Clean Power by 2025,” Bloomberg, 6/27/16


Oakland Votes to Block Large Shipments of Coal

Demonstrators facing off in front of City Hall in Oakland, Calif., before a council meeting on Monday on the transport and storage of coal shipments. Credit Aric Crabb/Oakland Tribune, via Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The city of Oakland, Calif., on Monday banned the transport and storage of large coal shipments, a blow to a developer’s plans to use a former Army base as an export terminal to ship coal to China and other overseas markets.

The terminal would have been the largest coal shipment facility on the West Coast, with a planned capacity to increase coal exports in the United States by 19 percent, according to the Sierra Club, the environmental group.

Weeks of feisty debate over the ban, which the Oakland City Council unanimously passed late Monday night and which will become law after a second reading next month, covered familiar ground: the trade-offs between jobs and environmental concerns.

But the debate also raised the larger and more unusual question of how much a city should weigh the global environmental impacts of the commodities that flow through its ports. A report prepared by the city argued for a coal ban partly because the coal, once it was burned overseas, would contribute to climate change and rising sea levels.

“Oakland cannot afford to ignore the scientific evidence that clearly show the harmful effects and risk associated with coal,” said Dan Kalb, a City Council member who proposed the ban along with the mayor, Libby Schaaf. “With this new law, we’re taking the steps needed to protect our community, our workers and our planet.”

The city’s report calculated that exporting millions of tons of coal annually through the port of Oakland would release significantly more greenhouse gases than produced each year by all five oil refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area. And the report noted that Oakland was especially vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The ban is the second blow for the coal industry on the West Coast in recent weeks. In May, the United States Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for a coal terminal planned 90 miles north of Seattle on the grounds that it would endanger wildlife.

The Oakland report, which was prepared by Claudia Cappio, an assistant city administrator, warned of the risks of cancer, heart and lung ailments and childhood developmental problems resulting from exposure to what it called “fugitive dust emissions” — the airborne particles generated from handling, transporting and loading coal onto ships.

The coal would have been shipped from Utah and other western states to the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, which is on an abandoned Army base across the bay from San Francisco.

The lead investor in the project, Phil Tagami, the chief executive and president of the California Capital and Investment Group, warned in an email of “legal consequences” from the decision…. —Thomas Fuller, “Oakland Votes to Block Large Shipments of Coal,” The New York Times, 6/28/16


Get Your Pipeline Out of My Yard

Photo illustration: 731; Photographer: Alamy

Thanks to the shale drilling revolution, the U.S. has gone in less than a decade from being woefully short of natural gas to having almost a century’s worth of supplies. But the pipelines that were going to transform American energy use are getting harder to build. To take full advantage of the windfall, the country must fundamentally change the way natural gas flows through the U.S. Yet what used to be seen as a rubber-stamp approval process has turned into a slow-motion headache for pipeline companies, brought on by ecological concerns and the changing economics of natural gas.

Take the case of the Hollerans. The first time they heard about the Constitution pipeline was in 2012, when men started showing up on their land to do survey work. Their 23-acre homestead in northeastern Pennsylvania was in the path of the $875 million pipeline, which would stretch 124 miles from the Marcellus Shale fields of Pennsylvania into New York state, where it would connect with existing pipelines to deliver cheap natural gas to cities in the Northeast.

As other landowners around them made deals with the pipeline’s owner, Tulsa-based Williams Cos., the Hollerans held out. For two years they tried to get Williams to make alterations to the route, which initially ran through the middle of their house. Williams diverted the pipeline away from the house, but not from the grove of mature maple trees that supply the family’s burgeoning syrup business. Williams offered compensation, but nothing that approached what the Hollerans considered to be the value of their land. So they refused to sign.

In December 2014, Williams secured federal approval for Constitution, which gave it the right to enforce eminent domain on the Hollerans and seize their property in the name of the public good. Over three days in early March 2016, chain saw crews cleared 3.5 acres of the Hollerans’ land, including hundreds of trees and 90 percent of their maples. State police blocked off nearby roads. U.S. marshals with bulletproof vests and assault rifles stood guard.

Then, seven weeks later, on Earth Day, New York state denied Constitution water quality permits, claiming that Williams hadn’t provided adequate details on its plans to bury the pipe beneath some 250 streams. Williams disputes this and is suing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Technically, the pipeline isn’t dead, but it’s effectively on life support. To Megan Holleran, the victory is bittersweet. “Those trees will never grow back in my lifetime,” she says. “We’ll never be able to produce syrup on that land again.”

That same week in April, Texas energy giant Kinder Morgan canceled its $3 billion Northeast Energy Direct project, a 420-mile natural gas pipeline planned to run roughly parallel with Constitution. Together, the two pipelines were going to form a sort of energy superhighway, delivering a combined 2.8 billion cubic feet of gas a day from Pennsylvania, enough to serve 14 million homes. But unlike Constitution, Kinder’s pipeline wasn’t killed by politics or local opposition or even a denied permit; it was doomed by basic economics. The company couldn’t persuade power plants and factories in the Northeast to sign long-term contracts to buy the gas it would deliver.

As the industry presses for even more capacity, it’s time to consider whether there is both a need for more pipelines and enough political and popular will to go on building them.

Gas pipelines have also become a focal point in the bigger public debate over climate change and fracking, which recently has turned against the industry. A March Gallup poll showed 51 percent of Americans oppose fracking—the technique for releasing oil and gas from rock that’s made the U.S. what even President Obama describes as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” That’s up from 40 percent opposition in 2015. The biggest loss of support came among Republicans, 55 percent of whom say they favor fracking, down from 66 percent in 2015.

More worrying for the pipeline industry, and the natural gas producers they serve, is that the economics of pipelines are becoming less favorable. Building a pipeline requires customers to sign long-term contracts that lock them into buying gas sometimes for as long as 20 years. With wind and solar getting cheaper by the day, those commitments no longer make as much sense as they once did. Natural gas pipeline companies, in testimony to federal electricity regulators, have acknowledged as much and that the trend toward renewable energy limits the economic viability of their pipelines. “Renewables are certainly competition,” says Donald Santa, president of INGAA.

This year, for the first time, natural gas is expected to pass coal as the top source of electricity generation in the U.S. That’s mainly because natural gas is so cheap—but low prices are a double-edged sword for pipeline companies. As drillers struggle to make money, some are looking to break long-term contracts they’ve signed with pipeline companies….—Matthew Phillips, “Get Your Pipeline Out of My Yard,” Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/23/16


And That’s A Wrap! Please send seedless watermelon and local cantaloupe wrapped in stories, events relating to fossil fuel resistance and clean energy, and your ideas to

The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 26 – It’s Not the Economy Stupid!

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Jun 302016

June 28, 2016
In 1992, Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign fielded the now iconic phrase “It’s the economy stupid” to convey the public sense of urgency about lost jobs and savings due to a recession. But almost a quarter century later, we are facing a much graver prospect: an economy that digs not only its own grave and our children’s but threatens our future as a species. And may take down much of the rest of the Earth’s biome with it, in a mindless pursuit of money. —But first the news…

Action Alert: Trials in Reading

Mariana Morse (L); Tom Angie (R)\Credit: Michael Dineen

Tom AngieThis week, trials begin for two of our Seneca Lake Defenders, Come out and defend our defenders! Let Reading Town Court and the Town of Reading know that they are on a world stage…

Where: Reading Town Hall, 3914 County Rte 28, Reading, NY
When: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 10 am
Mariana Morse and Tom Angie, two brave Seneca Lake Defenders, will go on TRIAL for Trespass charges before Judge Berry.
More Info: Facebook Event Page

But wait, there’s more!

ARRAIGNMENT: Bob Eklund, Katie Eklund, Jim Gregoire, Nathan Lewis, Sandra Marshall, Lisa Marshall, Elan Shapiro & Gabriel Shapiro.

Where: Reading Town Court (where else?…)
When: Weds, June 29 at 5pm
More Info: Facebook Event Page

We know who the real Trespasser is: Crestwood. A good turnout will demonstrate to the Court and the press that these Defenders represent broad community sentiment. Wear blue for solidarity, bear witness and offer your silent support inside the Courtroom.

And please donate to We Are Seneca Lake’s legal defense fund at our web site (below), or mail checks to We Are Seneca Lake, PO Box 914, Trumansburg, NY 14886. For more info on our 20-month-long non-violent civil disobedience campaign to stop gas storage expansion on Seneca Lake, visit and find the Donate Button at the top of the right hand side panel.


March for a Clean Energy Revolution, July 24, 2016, Philly, Democrat National Convention

Clean Energy March

Sandra Steingraber, noted biologist, author, activist and science advisor to the Americans Against Fracking coalition, explains why she’ll be at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution at the Democratic National Convention.

July 24, Philadelphia City Hall, 12 pm. Join Sandra in Philly and be a part of the  #CleanEnergyRevolution! Learn more at Clean Energy Revolution

Find bus connections here: (currently, Rochester, Waterloo, Ithaca and Binghamton buses available in upstate NY) – plug in your ZIP code

Upstate NY Bus info:
Rochester, NY:
Where: St. John Fisher Park & Ride 3690 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618
Start: July 24, 2016 4:45 AM,
End: July 24, 2016 10:15 PM
Contact: Nancy Kasper,, 315.587.9349

Waterloo, NY:
Where: Petro Waterloo, 1255 NY-414, Waterloo, NY 13165

Start: July 24, 2016 5:45 AM
End: July 24, 2016 9:30 PM
Contact: Nancy Kasper,, 315.587.9349
Ithaca, NY:
Where: By the pavilion in Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY 14850
Start: July 24, 2016 7:30 AM
End: July 24, 2016 9:00 PM

Contact Info: Alex Beauchamp,
Binghamton, NY:
Where: Citizen Action office, 477 State St., Binghamton, NY 13901
Start: July 24, 2016 8:45 AM
End: July 24, 2016 9:00 PM
Contact Info: Alex Beauchamp,
Watch this space for more info…


Why the People Have to Go to Philadelphia

The committee drafting a platform for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party unanimously called on Friday for the Justice Department to investigate fossil fuel companies, such as ExxonMobil Corp., accused of misleading shareholders and the public about the risks of climate change.

At the same time, in a session Friday night, the group brushed off calls by environmental activists [emphasis added —Ed] for the platform to support several stronger actions to move away from fossil fuels….—John Cushman, “DNC Platform Calls for Justice Dept. to Investigate Fossil Fuel Companies,” InsideClimate News, 6/26/16


Tickets going fast: Food & Wine Pairing Benefit
Any tickets that remain unsold will be available at the door, but don’t take a chance. Order yours now!

Special Hotel Offer: Stay right across the street at Hotel Ithaca for just $99! Mention “Save The Bounty” 607-272-1000

June 30, 2016 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Coltivare 235 S Cayuga St, Ithaca, NY 14850

Join Gas Free Seneca for a spectacular evening of Finger Lakes Cuisine, Wine, and Music- all to benefit Gas Free Seneca, the founding organization and lead petitioner in the legal battle against Crestwood Midstream and its subsidiaries who plan to turn the Finger Lakes Region into the gas storage and transport hub for the North Eastern United States.


We will not be divided by the DEC.

READING, NY – The large coalition of residents, businesses, health professionals, and elected officials that has organized in opposition to a controversial liquid petroleum gas (LPG) storage project in the Finger Lakes is reaffirming its unity.

Last week, Schuyler County Legislator Michael Lausell was approached privately by a state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) official and invited to consider a possible settlement involving a modified version of the proposal. Lausell is one of the potential parties seeking to be involved in legal hearings concerning Texas-based Crestwood LLC’s plan to store dangerous, combustible LPG in unlined salt caverns along the shores of Seneca Lake.

Lausell is also one of hundreds of regional elected officials from 31 municipalities – including the cities of Syracuse, Rochester, and Ithaca and seven surrounding counties – to have voted for resolutions or written letters opposing Crestwood’s plans to store 88.2 million gallons of LPG in abandoned underground salt caverns. The municipal opposition represents 1.2 million New York residents.

In response to the DEC’s action, the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC) and Gas Free Seneca – together representing over 400 businesses responsible for over $4 billion of economic activity in the area – join Schuyler County Legislator Michael Lausell, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (SLPWA), and Seneca Lake Communities in the following statement:

“For years, we have been standing together in opposition to this controversial LPG storage facility, which represents an existential threat to the lake, our region, our homes, and our businesses. We won’t accept anything less than a total rejection of this project, which endangers the health of 100,000 New Yorkers dependent on Seneca Lake for drinking water and threatens our region’s reputation as a clean, safe, and beautiful destination. The coalition will not be divided by private negotiations between the DEC and parties that the agency hand-picks.”

“Our advice to Crestwood and investors at Con Edison: Back out now. Opposition to this plan is growing by the day and, with it, the strength of our coalition.”—Yvonne Taylor, Gas Free Seneca, 6/22/16


It’s Not the Economy Stupid

Fracking Studies Overwhelmingly Indicate Threats to Public Health

Protests like this one in Pittsburgh voice opposition to the pollution caused by fracking. Credit: Marcellus Protest via Flickr

The vast majority of studies conclude that fracking worsens air quality, contaminates water sources and harms public health, according to a new review of scientific literature.

More than 15 million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site that has been drilled in the past 15 years. Numerous studies in the past decade have indicated that natural gas drilling and fracking are inherently dangerous, posing threats to the air and water and to residents living close by, according to the report’s authors.

A compendium of fracking research published this week by Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, two public health nonprofits, includes reviews of more than 500 fracking-related studies and concludes that there is “no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.”

“For years we heard stories. … Now that anecdotal evidence is being confirmed by scientific evidence,” Kathleen Nolan, a pediatrician and bioethicist in New York and one of the authors of the report, said in a conference call. “There’s just no justification to exposing people to these risks.”

The studies in the compendium cover a wide range of impacts including the fracking process’ contribution to accelerating climate change, worsening air pollution, causing earthquakes, contaminating water sources and endangering public health. Also reviewed were studies related to the social effects of increased gas drilling on communities, the impact of inflated reserve estimates on the economy and the risks to investors. The authors used research covering all oil and gas activity, from production to distribution, transport and waste disposal.

Scientific studies establishing a connection between oil and gas drilling and poorer health were scant until the last few years, and it is difficult to prove that fracking or gas drilling releases contaminants that harm people’s health. But over time, in disparate studies, researchers were able to identify the chemical compounds in fracking fluids and emissions, show that residents were exposed to those chemicals and then establish that this led to higher rates of premature births, low birth weights and other negative health effects.

The report published this week is the third edition of the compendium and includes peer-reviewed articles, government reports and original research by investigative journalists, including some by InsideClimate News. In 2014, nearly 200 studies on fracking were published, and in the first six months of 2015, more than 100.

“The information is being developed so rapidly, and [the compendium] allows, in one place, to look at the information,” said David Brown, an environmental public health scientist at Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a nonprofit assisting Pennsylvanians whose health has been affected by gas drilling. “It allows you to look between studies and see where it overlaps.”

The natural gas industry has often questioned the science that ties fracking to negative health effects and has emphasized the uncertainty in scientific research.

Brown said it was “disingenuous” to require that researchers conclusively prove that a specific pollutant from a well site was causing a particular illness. That level of detail is unimportant in making policy decisions, he said. He cited decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce lead emissions before the levels of lead that caused health effects were fully known….—Naveena Sadasivam, “Fracking Studies Overwhelmingly Indicate Threats to Public Health,” InsideClimate News, 10/6/15


Why We Fight the Investment in Fossil Fuels Infrastructure

The soles of Jesse Eakin’s shoes disintegrate after a few months of walking on his lawn. He’s been told the culprit may be toluene, a volatile organic compound released into the air during natural gas production. The chemical settles onto his grass. Maryam Jameel/Center for Public Integrity

AVELLA, Pa. — Sixty years after his service in the Army, Jesse Eakin still completes his outfits with a pin that bears a lesson from the Korean War: Never Impossible.

That maxim has been tested by a low-grade but persistent threat far different than the kind Eakin encountered in Korea: well water that’s too dangerous to drink. It gives off a strange odor and bears a yellow tint. It carries sand that clogs faucets in the home Eakin shares with his wife, Shirley, here in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Eakins told the state environmental agency about their bad water nearly seven years ago and hoped for a quick resolution. Like thousands of others who live in the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale, however, they learned their hopes were misplaced.


Click for audio

Today, the state is still testing their water. The results of those tests will dictate whether a gas exploration and production company is held responsible for providing them with a clean supply. Meanwhile, the Eakins drink donated bottled water and in late 2014 began paying for deliveries of city water to avoid showering in contaminants such as lead and manganese.

Since 2007, at least 2,800 water-related complaints have been investigated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Program. Officials found ties to the drilling industry in 279. Another 500 or so cases, including the Eakins’, are open. While regulators try to catch up to natural gas exploration, some residents of the state have gone months, even years, without access to clean water at their homes.

Responding to a public-records request by the Center for Public Integrity, the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, provided data on 1,840 complaints lodged since 2010. More than half took longer than the agency’s target of 45 days to resolve. Almost one in 10 took more than a year.

The state’s often-plodding response has left hundreds of rural Pennsylvanians scrambling to pay for water deliveries, seek remedies in court, take out second mortgages or even abandon their homes.

Complaints filed with the DEP reveal people’s fear and frustration. In 2011, a Butler County resident reported that her previously crystal-clear water had turned “brown and rusty looking” with a “terrible odor.”…—Maryam Jameel, “It just ruined everything — the whole life,” Center for Public Integrity, 6/23/16


People Near Wyoming Fracking Town Show Elevated Levels of Toxic Chemicals

Deb Thomas, a researcher with the nonprofit Shale Test, monitored air pollution in Pavillion, Wyo. Photo courtesy of Coming Clean

A new study brings researchers and environmental advocates closer than ever to tracing whether toxic chemicals spewing out of natural gas production sites are making their way into the bodies of people who live and work nearby.

The research, published last week, brought together for the first time air monitoring at oil and gas sites with what’s called bio-monitoring—the tracking of what’s in human tissues or fluids. The results indicate harmful compounds were emitted from certain gas sites near the fracking town of Pavillion, Wyoming. Some of those chemicals, such as benzene and toluene, were then found in the air at surrounding farms and the analysis found traces in the urine of participants in the study.

The study was small (11 participants) and not peer-reviewed, but the findings suggest gas emissions were probably making their way into people’s bodies, said study author Sharyle Patton, director of the California-based Commonweal Bio monitoring Resource Center.

But Patton said her team couldn’t conclusively prove the chemicals observed in the air are the same ones showing up in Pavillion residents. “The chemicals don’t have a return address, unfortunately,” she said.

Patton said the results show a larger investigation is warranted and could provide a more robust link.

For oil and gas facilities near communities, “we need to have a systematic way to evaluate people’s safety and to advise people on what they need to do to protect themselves,” said David Brown, an environmental public health scientist at the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. “Or if they can’t protect themselves, to get away.”

This study is a good first step toward that goal, said Brown, who provided guidance to the researchers on assessing the impacts of weather patterns on their air data.

A big reason this novel study was even attempted is because the citizens of Pavillion “were very concerned about their health and the results of being exposed to what the production sites were releasing,” said Wilma Subra, an environmental health expert who helped with the study.

Officials at Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health told InsideClimate News they are reviewing the study and would not comment until they do….—Zahra Hirji, “People Near Wyoming Fracking Town Show Elevated Levels of Toxic ChemicalsInsideClimate News, 6/22/16


Peabody Is Paying Top Environmental Lawyer to Fight Climate Plan

A dragline excavator mines coal in this aerial photograph taken above the Peabody Energy Somerville Central strip mine in Oakland City, Ind. The company is paying Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe at least $435,000 to lead its opposition to the Obama administration’s signature climate-change initiative. Photo: Bloomberg News

Peabody Energy Corp., the nation’s largest coal company, is paying at least $435,000 to Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe to lead its opposition to the Obama administration’s signature climate change initiative.

Peabody, which filed for bankruptcy in April, hired Mr. Tribe in 2014 to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to cut U.S. power-plant carbon emissions, as unconstitutional.

“I’m not for sale—to the highest bidder or to anyone else,” Mr. Tribe wrote Friday in an email to The Wall Street Journal. “Both before and after I began working for Peabody, I’ve turned down plenty of much more lucrative offers because the causes I was asked to represent weren’t ones I believed in.”

Mr. Tribe, arguably the nation’s most prominent constitutional law professor, is a liberal advocate who once taught President Barack Obama at Harvard. His legal objections to the administration’s plan to limit power plant emissions are complicated, but in essence, they boil down to executive overreach. In March, Mr. Tribe testified before Congress and likened the administration’s environmental plan to a power grab.

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the states, Congress and the federal courts all at once,” he said at the time. “Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.”

Mr. Tribe’s work for Peabody has sparked media criticism that he’s a “traitor” and “sellout” as well as sparking criticism from two of his Harvard Law colleagues, Jody Freeman and Richard Lazarus. The two professors, both experts in environmental law, have called Mr. Tribe’s assertions that the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional and “baseless” [sic] and said that if his name weren’t attached to these arguments, no one would take them seriously….—Patrick Fitzgerald, “Peabody Is Paying Laurence Tribe to Fight Climate Plan,” Bankruptcy Beat | Wall Street Journal, 6/20/16


Antarctic CO2 Hit 400 PPM for First Time in 4 Million Years

Credit: ImageSource (MARS)

We’re officially living in a new world.

Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, setting a new high year after year. There’s a notable new entry to the record books. The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) reading has reached it.

A little 400 ppm history. Three years ago, the world’s gold standard carbon dioxide observatory passed the symbolic threshold of 400 ppm. Other observing stations have steadily reached that threshold as carbon dioxide spreads across the planet’s atmosphere at various points since then. Collectively, the world passed the threshold for a month last year.

In the remote reaches of Antarctica, the South Pole Observatory carbon dioxide observing station cleared 400 ppm on May 23, according to an announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday. That’s the first time it’s passed that level in 4 million years (no, that’s not a typo)….—Brian Kahn,”Antarctic CO2 Hit 400 PPM for First Time in 4 Million Years,” , 6/16/16


German government agrees to ban fracking after years of dispute

Exxon Mobil was one of the companies that initially agreed to put projects on hold. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

German politicians have approved a law that bans fracking, ending years of dispute over the controversial technology to release oil and gas locked deep underground.

The law does not outlaw conventional drilling for oil and gas, leaving it to state governments to decide on individual cases.

But fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which blasts a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release shale oil and gas, will be banned.

Only a handful of projects for scientific or non-commercial purposes are likely to meet the conditions.

Fracking has been largely unregulated in Germany until now, and the current coalition government under Angela Merkel has been working for months to draw up new rules.

The coalition put forward a draft law on the issue in April 2015, but the text was mothballed due to strong divisions over the subject.

But the government revived the proposal at the last minute as companies, tired of waiting for a legal framework, last week said they would push ahead with fracking projects that had been on hold for five years.

The German population is deeply suspicious of fracking and fears its impact on the environment and, in particular, drinking water resources….—Agence France-Press, “German government agrees to ban fracking after years of dispute,” The Guardian, 6/24/16


Exxon, ConocoPhillips Top List of Methane Polluters

Eleven oil and gas giants in the U.S. leak so much of a potent green house gas into the atmosphere every year that the emissions would be the equivalent of running seven coal-fired power plants for a year.

That’s according to a new study released on Monday from the non-profit group Center for American Progress. The group looked at the amount of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, emitted by over two hundred oil and gas companies in 2014.

The report found that the top methane culprits were ConocoPhillips COP -5.39% , which was the sixth largest natural gas producer that year, and Exxon XOM -2.63% , which is the second largest company by revenue in the U.S., according to the Fortune 500.

ConocoPhillips told Fortune in a statement that “managing natural gas emissions continues to be a key priority,” and the company has taken a variety of steps to reduce 9 billion cubic feet of methane emissions in the U.S. over the past five years.

Other leading methane-emitters included top natural gas companies like Chesapeake Energy CHK -5.82% at no. 3, EOG Resources EOG -4.07% at no. 4, and BP America, a division of global oil and gas giant BP at no. 5….—


And That’s A Wrap! Thank you, kind reader, for your attention, sometimes your suggestions, and often your thanks! This edition marks the first year in this editor’s chair, and it has been a pleasure. Please keep those stories and ideas coming. Mail them to And keep moving together toward a world where our great-great grandchildren are happy in an environment free of toxics and fossil fuels.

The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 25 – The Perfidy Files

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Jun 212016

June 21, 2016
This week we focus on a topic that is both disheartening and replete with high caliber talking points: instances of institutions’ and public figures’ betrayal of their duty and the public’s trust. Perfidy is a quantum leap beyond greed, delusive action and just plain stupidity. It’s poisons range from betrayal to treachery, duplicity, deceit and disloyalty all the way down to treason. Gratefully, we have no tales of the latter for you on these pages (though some might reasonably hold that betrayal of the people of a country is just as treasonous as betrayal of their government). And sometimes the betrayal is even inadvertent, it seems. But once distrusted, even honest mistakes can go awry. But first the news!…

Gas Free Seneca Files Appeal of FERC’s Extension of Crestwood’s Methane Storage Project

Inergy four Brinefield, seneca Crestwood Brine Field and Compressor Station

…An Independent Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) was prepared from an industry-wide perspective to reach high-level, quantitative conclusions about the degree of risk sustained by a typical salt cavern facility. The GFS appeal states that “In doing so it used methods, calculations and conclusions validated by peer-reviewed, published, scientific analysis which use similar historical databases, employ similar calculations, and reach similar conclusions about the frequency of adverse events.[1] Even if the QRA had limited itself to such a generalized risk assessment, its sober conclusions would be enough to call into question the EA finding and justify reconsideration. FERC, by contrast, has provided no quantitative analysis of overall risk whatsoever to justify its findings.”

The Independent QRA goes further to identify a higher risk level for the caverns on the shores of Seneca compared to other salt caverns, because the caverns are not solid salt but instead are exposed to rock which could lead to gas migration, and because the caverns were never engineered to store anything and are therefore irregularly shaped.[1] The GFS appeal states, “The QRA thereby reasonably concludes, in a manner consistent with such published studies,[2] that the risk associated with Arlington’s project may be somewhat higher than the calculated level.[3]”

The QRA also highlights the fact that FERC failed to address the site-specific situation that the caverns are located in very close proximity to a large lake that serves as the source of drinking water for 100,000 persons.[4] The appeal concludes, “Because there appears to be no pertinent historical experience with which to compare, the risk associated with such proximity cannot easily be dismissed. FERC fails to address this last concern in any substantive way.”

The appeal also mentions the significance of local faulting and seismicity, stating that FERC has not addressed this issue adequately.

Over the last two years the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has begun to revise the Pipeline Safety Regulations for gas pipelines[5] where it is proposing to require that operators validate their risk models in light of incident, leak, and failure history and other historical information.[6] GFS states that this is missing from FERC’s incomplete safety assessment.

After the PHSMA proposal had been concluded, Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCal Gas) Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility Well SS25 failed, causing a sustained and uncontrolled natural gas leak near Los Angeles, California. The failure resulted in the relocation of more than 4,400 families according to the Aliso Canyon Incident Command briefing report issued on February 01, 2016. On January 6, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation declaring the Aliso Canyon incident a state of emergency.  The Obama administration has also announced the creation of the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety to develop findings in support of federal regulation. “Storing gas in abandoned salt caverns is actually more risky than storing it in depleted oil wells like the one in Aliso Canyon, due to the corrosive nature of salt,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Gas Free Seneca.

The GFS appeal states that, “On February 5, 2016, PHMSA issued an advisory bulletin in the Federal Register (81 FR 6334) to remind all owners and operators of underground storage facilities used for the storage of natural gas to consider the overall integrity of the facilities to ensure the safety of the public and operating personnel and to protect the environment. The advisory bulletin specifically reminded these operators to review their operations and identify the potential of facility leaks and failures, review the operation of their shut-off and isolation systems, and maintain updated emergency plans.[7] Even if there had been no new information provided by commenters on the safety risks of this project, these dramatic changes in condition of fact, heightened recognition of risk, and subsequent instruction for new regulation of underground gas storage call for reconsideration of FERC’s prior findings including, at a minimum, the provision for and analysis of a risk model such as that provided by the cited independent QRA, which has been validated in the light of incident, leak, and failure history and other historical information pertaining to underground gas storage.”…—EarthJustice, “Gas Free Seneca Files Appeal of FERC’s Extension of Crestwood’s Methane Storage Project,” Gas Free Seneca, 6/15/16


Gas Free Seneca Hosts
Food & Wine Pairing Benefit

Our friends at Gas Free Seneca are holding a fund-raiser. We thought you’d like to know!

Join Gas Free Seneca for a spectacular evening of Finger Lakes Cuisine, Wine, and Music- all to benefit Gas Free Seneca! Regional wineries, farmers, and musicians are collaborating to share the rich, colorful bounty that makes the Finger Lakes great, and to demonstrate what could be lost if industrialized gas storage and transport hits the heart of the region. We all have so much at stake, and this is a wonderful way to celebrate while defending and preserving what so many have worked so hard to achieve. All proceeds will go to Gas Free Seneca, the founding organization and lead petitioner in the legal battle against Crestwood Midstream and its subsidiaries who plan to turn the Finger Lakes Region into the gas storage and transport hub for the North Eastern United States.

The amazing chef at Coltivare will be creating mouth watering wine and food pairings from the best of the region for you to enjoy while you are entertained by the 5 piece country band Laila Belle during the reception, lounge piano with Travis Knapp during the dinner hour, and old time dance music after dinner with Mac Benford, Judy Hyman and Jeff Clause (of the famous Horseflies)!

When: Thursday, June 30th, 6:00PM-9:00PM
Where: Coltivare

235 S Cayuga St Ithaca, NY

But wait, there’s more!
Wow! If you want to attend the fundraiser, but don’t want to drive, Hotel Ithaca just offered a discounted price of $99 for a room! That’s a $150 savings from their typical room rate! Hotel Ithaca is located directly across the street from Coltivare. Just call and mention “save the bounty” when you make your reservation: 607-272-1000

For more info: 607-769-4639

Gas Free Seneca is the founding organization and lead petitioner in the legal battle against Crestwood Midstream and its subsidiaries who plan to turn the Finger Lakes Region into the gas storage and transport hub for the North Eastern United States. We are an all-volunteer organization. All proceeds from this event will go toward educating the public about this ill-conceived plan, meeting with decision-makers who can oppose the project, and toward legal expenses. Your support is greatly appreciated. And you will have an elegant, fun, delicious evening.


Check it out!!! Crestwood got a mention in the latest episode of Orange Is the New Black…


Click to view

“They don’t put nice things next to prisons, it’s probably another Crestwood project”…

Wow!!! FYI, I don’t watch this show, I got a tip from a good friend.—Bob Nilsson, “OITNB Slams Crestwood in opening credits S4:E1,” YouTube, 6/17/18



Whose Water Is It?

Abstract Legal protection of the USA’s water resources was reduced during the Bush-Cheney Administration (2000-2008), facilitating coal, oil, and gas development at the expense of clean water. The “Halliburton Loophole” in the 2005 Energy Act exempted all oil and gas development activities, including fracking (hydraulic fracturing), from the Clean Water Act, Clean Drinking Water Act, and other federal statutes. Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings weakened the Clean Water Act’s protections of headwaters, streams, wetlands, and other water bodies. In New York State, communities faced with the imminent prospect of fracking by energy companies organized. From 2008-2014, they prevented fracking in New York. Water protection played a major role in energizing community response, In 2015, a fragile, but resilient, ban was declared statewide. In Kentucky, 150 years of coal mining resulted in pollution of many waterways, with hundreds of stream miles buried beneath mountaintop removal debris. Kentuckians have been pushing back since the 1930s to protect communities, farms, and water quality. They remain hopeful in the face of great odds. Urban populations making daily use of cheap, clean water and fossil-fuel-powered energy sources have little knowledge of these struggles. In rural America, the fight to protect communities, lands, and waters from energy exploitation is lifelong….—Hillary Lambert, “Whose Water Is It?American Journal of Economics and Sociology, April, 2016


Greenidge pipeline: ‘could be 100 days’

DRESDEN–Former Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton will supervise the construction of a controversial 4.6-mile natural gas pipeline in Yates County that is intended to supply the re-powering of a Dresden electric generating plant.

Dale Irwin, the plant’s manager, confirmed the hire by Greenidge Generation Holdings LLC in an interview Sunday, June 12. “Mark starts Monday (June 13),” Irwin said. “He’s going to come on as overall project manager for pipeline construction and retrofits to the boiler.”
The Dresden plant, built in 1937, had burned coal until 2011 when it shut down under financial pressure. Greenidge later acquired the facility and launched efforts to convert it to run primarily on natural gas, and to a lesser extent, biomass fuels.

The re-powering project has drawn opposition from the Committee to Protect the Finger Lakes and others who claim it conflicts with state efforts to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Speakers from CPFL and others voiced their objections at a Dresden public hearing Nov. 4, 2015 sponsored by the state Public Service Commission. Sandra Steingraber of Ithaca, a prominent figure in the push for the 2014 state ban on hydrofracking for natural gas and leader of Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said her group had urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to place a moratorium on all new gas pipelines.
John Dennis of Ithaca, an opponent of recent efforts to restart another aged plant on Cayuga Lake, noted the Dresden plant lacks modern combined cycle natural gas burning technology. “Don’t invest in the past,” Dennis said. “This plant is a dinosaur.”
But the project has strong local political support — from James Smith of Torrey (a Yates County Legislator), to state Sen. Tom O’Mara of Big

Flats to Congressman Tom Reed of Corning. They have touted the re-powered Dresden’s usefulness as a “peaking plant” at times of high demand.

At the Dresden hearing, Sara Lattin, an assistant to O’Mara, stressed that the project would provide 104 megawatts of power, new jobs, tax revenues and spin-off economic benefits.

O’Mara is chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Environmental Conservation. He is a partner in the law firm Barclay Damon, which represents Greenidge in its bid for state permits. O’Mara also sits on the Regional Economic Development Council for the Finger Lakes, which in December announced that it had obtained a $2 million state grant toward the Dresden re-powering….—Peter Mantius, “Greenidge pipeline: ‘could be 100 days’,” The Observer Review & Express, 6/17/16


The Perfidy Files

Bottles of water from a Dimock resident’s well earlier this year. Photo credit: Laura Evangelisto, Copyright 2016

“The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a press release.

The drilling industry crowed. “The data released today once again confirms the EPA’s and DEP’s [Department of Environmental Protection] findings that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment,” Cabot said in a statement.

“It’s obviously very good news for the folks who actually live there and pretty squarely in line with what we’ve known up there for a while now,” Energy in Depth told POLITICOPro. “It’s not very good news for the out-of-state folks who have sought to use Dimock as a talking point in their efforts to prevent development elsewhere, but I’m sure they’ll be working hard over the weekend to spin it differently, notwithstanding the pretty clear statement made by EPA today.”

Now, a newly published report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), puts EPA’s testing results into an entirely new light.

The water was not safe to drink after all, the ATSDR concluded, after a lengthy review of the same water testing results that EPA used back in 2012.

“ATSDR found some of the chemicals in the private water wells at this site at levels high enough to affect health (27 private water wells), pose a physical hazard (17 private water wells) or affect general water quality so that it may be unsuitable for drinking,” the ATSDR’s health consultation—launched in 2011 and published May 24—concludes.

The new report lists 10 contaminants, including arsenic, lithium and 4-chlorophenyl phenyl ether, that are “chemicals of health concern,” at the levels found in Carter Road wells, found that five homes were at “immediate risk of fire or explosion” because of methane in their water and another dozen showed lower, but still worrisome, levels of methane and found that the water was laced with elevated levels of metals, salts and total dissolved solids.

The underlying data isn’t new to the residents of Carter Road. The EPA provided it to them individually back in 2012, which is why the EPA’s announcement that the water was safe was so baffling at the time.

“I’m sitting here looking at the values I have on my sheet—I’m over the thresholds—and yet they are telling me my water is drinkable,” Nolan Scott Ely, one of the Carter Road homeowners, told ProPublica when EPA made its announcement. “I’m confused about the whole thing … I’m flabbergasted.”

Opposite Conclusions?

So how could two different agencies look at the exact same data and come to opposite conclusions?

“Although the same data set was used, the EPA as a regulatory agency specifically looked at whether or not it was required to take action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, more commonly known as Superfund, which governs responses to environmental emergencies,” StateImpact, a National Public Radio project, explained. “The ‘health consultation’ looked at the entire data set from a public health standpoint, assessing whether or not it was safe to drink the water.”

In other words, EPA’s findings, which seemed to show that the water was “safe” and which were promoted by drillers as proof that nothing was wrong in Dimock, instead represented a very carefully parsed legal finding that the water did not reach Superfund levels of contamination for the specific substances EPA focused on….—Sharon Kelly, “New Federal Report Shows Dimock Water Was Unsafe to Drink After All,” EcoWatch, 6/3/16


NYC Dem Congresswoman Caught up in Anti-Solar Power Lobbyist Spam/Scam

CAPT: Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) OEA – OAS

With the home solar panel industry and the electric utility industry at war, you might expect a liberal Democratic congresswoman from New York City to support the solar side. But that’s not what happened recently when Rep. Yvette Clarke decided to wade into this fight. Instead, she signed her name to a letter apparently written by utility lobbyists that warns about the risk of solar companies duping consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is holding a workshop on June 21 to learn about the booming rooftop solar market and how it’s affecting consumers. There are concerns on both pro- and anti-solar sides: The solar industry is hoping that the FTC will look into what they consider to be anti-competitive practices by the electric utility industry, intended to stymie the growth of solar. The utilities hope to prod the FTC to investigate allegedly unscrupulous solar companies, in the name of protecting consumers.

The FTC is inviting comment ahead of its workshop. Clarke sent a letter to the FTC commissioners expressing concern that consumers could be misled and ripped off by solar-panel installation companies. Clarke’s office also circulated the letter to other congressional offices seeking supporting signatures, according to solar industry sources.

But it appears that Clarke and her staff didn’t write the letter; utility industry reps did. Grist has obtained the letter that Clarke’s office distributed to other members of Congress, and the metadata on the Microsoft Word document show it was created by Eric Grey, director of governmental relations at the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association representing investor-owned electric utility companies. The last person to save changes to the document was Vincent Barnes, a lobbyist for Gray Global Advisors, which has EEI as a client. The letter makes no reference to EEI’s role in its creation….—Ben Adler, “Why is this liberal congresswoman spreading anti-solar arguments?Grist, 6/15/16


In the Birthplace of U.S. Oil, Methane Gas Is Leaking Everywhere

A home in Pennsylvania with an old pumpjack and tank in front yard. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

A mail box sits on an abandoned well pipe near blooming peonies, logs snag on metal casings rising out of a creek, children swing next to rusted pump jacks.

In Pennsylvania, birthplace of the U.S. oil industry, century-old abandoned oil wells have long been part of the landscape. Nobody gave much thought to it when many were left unplugged or filled haphazardly with dirt, lumber and cannon balls that slipped or rotted away.

A mail box sits on an abandoned well pipe near blooming peonies, logs snag on metal casings rising out of a creek, children swing next to rusted pump jacks.

In Pennsylvania, birthplace of the U.S. oil industry, century-old abandoned oil wells have long been part of the landscape. Nobody gave much thought to it when many were left unplugged or filled haphazardly with dirt, lumber and cannon balls that slipped or rotted away.

But the holes — hundreds of thousands of them pockmark the state — are the focus of growing alarm, especially those in close proximity to new wells fracked in the Marcellus shale formation, the nation’s largest natural-gas field. They leak methane, which contaminates water, adds to global warming and occasionally explodes; four people have been killed in the past dozen years.

“We had so much methane in our water, the inspector told us not to smoke a cigar or light a candle in the bath,” said Joe Thomas, a machinist who lives with his wife, Cheryl, on a 40-acre farm with at least 60 abandoned wells. Patches of emerald-hued oil leech to the surface, transforming the ground into a soupy mess.

Hundreds like the Thomases live over lost wells.

Reviewing Rules

Now the state’s attorney general is reviewing rules requiring drillers to document wells within 1,000 feet of a new fracking site. This puts Pennsylvania among states such as California, Texas, Ohio, Wyoming and Colorado confronting the environmentally catastrophic legacy of booms as fracking and home development expand over former drilling sites.

As the number of fracked wells increases, so does the chance they might interact with lost wells. Pennsylvania regulators have documented several instances of fracking too close to an abandoned hole, causing methane to leak into homes, the air or water.

At least 3.5 million wells have been drilled in America since operators plumbed the first hole in the small Pennsylvania town of Titusville back in 1859.  It was oil pumped from this rugged landscape, near the state’s western border with Ohio, that John D. Rockefeller started refining a few years later in a venture that would evolve into the Standard Oil Trust.

Barr points out an abandoned oil well in the Allegheny National Forest. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

…Regulators are ramping up detection efforts, including testing the use of drones equipped with magnetometers. For the moment, however, they rely on a low-tech solution of “citizen scientists” who hunt for leaking wells near watersheds and recreation areas in the Allegheny National Forest.

Laurie Barr is one.

On a recent search, Barr overcame her fear of rattlesnakes sunning in dense grass, bears lurking in hemlock groves and bees — she’s allergic — nesting in moss-covered logs. Wearing an orange pocketed vest stuffed with a GPS, mace, a water tester and a methane sniffer, Barr forded a stream and hiked downhill deep into the trees. She urged companions to “remember that rock” to find the way back. The stones, however, all looked the same….—Jennifer Oldham, “In the Birthplace of U.S. Oil, Methane Gas Is Leaking Everywhere,” Bloomberg, 6/20/16


Wait, What?? Ineos to Dump Fracking Waste into the Sea

Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth refinery, has said it wants to become the biggest player in the UK’s nascent shale gas industry. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

A UK shale gas company is considering dumping waste water from fracking in the sea, emails from the company show.

Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth refinery and holds 21 shale licences, many in the north-west, North Yorkshire and the east Midlands, has said it wants to become the biggest player in the UK’s nascent shale gas industry.

In an email sent in March to a resident in Ryedale district, North Yorkshire, where councillors gave the go-ahead to a fracking application by another company in May, a senior executive said that water produced during fracking could be discharged in the sea after being treated. It has not previously said where treated water would be released.

“We will capture and contain it, treat it back to the standards agreed … with the Environment Agency and discharge where allowed under permit, most likely the sea,” wrote Tom Pickering, director for Ineos Shale, responding to concerns over where such “flowback” water would end up.

Green campaigners and people living near prospective sites have highlighted the potential environmental impacts of fracking, such as contamination of water supplies, minor tremors and local air pollution. But the issue of where the huge quantities of resulting waste water is disposed has received less attention.

Shale companies pump water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas within, but each well can use as much as 6m gallons of water. Between 20 and 40% flows back to the surface, containing salts, chemicals and naturally occurring radioactive material which the Environment Agency (EA) says is likely to be classified as radioactive waste.

Under EA regulations, the water must be treated on site or elsewhere at a designated treatment facility, before a permit is issued to discharge it. Ineos and the industry trade body said any fracking wastewater would be treated before being disposed of.

Mark Ellis-Jones, project executive of the onshore oil and gas programme at the EA, told a cross-party parliamentary group in April: “We are satisfied that any wastes that arise from fracking will be managed sufficiently and properly by our environmental permits.”

However, there are concerns from some UK experts over the treatment of fracking wastewater.

A report on the environmental impacts of the technique by the Natural Environmental Research Council last year warned that: “A huge uncertainty, given the immaturity of unconventional oil and gas development [ie shale gas fracking] in the UK, is how much wastewater will be produced and regulatory and technical mechanisms for cleaning it or directly reusing it.”

It added: “One of the most important concerns for the development of unconventional resources is the appropriate management of flowback and produced water.”…—Andy Rowell, “UK fracking firm plans to dump wastewater in the sea,” The Guardian, 6/15/16


Artificial photosynthesis steps up

Photosynthesis fixes CO2 from the air by using sunlight. Industrial mimics of photosynthesis seek to convert CO2 directly into biomass, fuels, or other useful products. Improving on a previous artificial photosynthesis design, Liu et al. combined the hydrogen-oxidizing bacterium Raistonia eutropha with a cobalt-phosphorus water-splitting catalyst. This biocompatible self-healing electrode circumvented the toxicity challenges of previous designs and allowed it to operate aerobically.

At the launch of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition in November 2015, Bill Gates said, “If it works, it would be magical.”

What sort of “magic” was Bill Gates talking about?

He was talking about harnessing the power of the sun. But not in the way you might think, such as with solar panels . Gates was speaking about the potential for artificial photosynthesis….—Tim Maverick, ” Artificial Photosynthesis to Power the Future,” Wall Street Journal, 2/10/16

When combined with solar photovoltaic cells, solar-to-chemical conversion rates should become nearly an order of magnitude more efficient than natural photosynthesis.—Chong Liu, Brendan C. Colón , Marika Ziesack , Pamela A. Silver , Daniel G. Nocera, “Water splitting–biosynthetic system with CO2 reduction efficiencies exceeding photosynthesis ,” , 6/3/16


Tar Sands Doom Canada’s Paris COP 21 Agreement

The cover image from the report from the Parkland Institute depicts a pipeline under construction. Author David Hughes says Canada has enough capacity already to handle a 45% increase in oil sands production and doesn’t need new pipelines. (Parkland Institute)

Even with provincial climate plans in place, anticipated growth in Alberta’s oilsands and British Columbia’s natural gas sector will make it nearly impossible for Canada to reduce emissions to agreed-upon levels under the Paris Agreement, according to a new report.

“Short of an economic collapse, it is difficult to see how Canada can realistically meet its Paris commitments in the 14 years remaining without rethinking its plans for oil and gas development,” author David Hughes, an earth scientist, said in a release.

The report comes from the Parkland Institute, a research centre within the University of Alberta, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think tank.

If oilsands production grows to Alberta’s new annual limit of 100 megatonnes and B.C. builds the five liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals it is proposing, Hughes estimates it would be nearly impossible for the rest of the country to reduce emissions fast enough to compensate.

Meeting the Paris Agreement targets under that scenario would require everyone else to reduce emissions 55 per cent below 2014 levels, Hughes said….—Robson Fletcher, “Oilsands growth makes it nearly impossible for Canada to meet Paris Agreement targets: report,” CBC News, 6/2/16


Unfair Unfree Trade: TTIP Would Export Fracked Gas Restriction-Free From U.S. to EU

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Tanker. Photo credit: FrackCheckWV

This week, negotiators from the U.S. and the EU began their fifth round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Because the negotiations are all happening behind closed doors, the public is left largely in the dark about the content of the discussions. So what, exactly, do we know?

Officially, not much. But this week, an EU negotiation position “on raw materials and energy” was leaked to The Huffington Post. The text is nothing short of a wish list of demands from Big Oil and Gas, which will lock in any of their investments in fossil fuels in general, and shale gas and fracking in particular.

Article C of the document provides that no restrictions should apply to the “exports of energy goods” between the transatlantic trade partners. Any request, for example, for an export license to ship natural gas from the U.S. to the EU would be approved “automatically,” no questions asked—even if this would lead to environmental damage from widespread use of fracking, increased gas prices for U.S. consumers, increased import dependency, and so on. It would lock in our mutual dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels at the expense of our climate. While it would lock in more business and better quarterly profits for Big Oil and Gas, it is hard to see how this serves the public interest.

The EU’s ideas for free trade in energy with the U.S. would also be a frontal assault on the possibility for governments to impose a “public service obligation,” requiring utility companies to deliver natural gas at certain prices to consumers, for example. Any such public service obligation should be “clearly defined and of limited duration” and also not be “more burdensome than necessary.” With such vague wording, lawyers will have a field day to attack any price regulation in the energy sector.

This leak shows that civil society groups on both sides of the Atlantic have been right all along to be suspicious about what is being negotiated behind closed doors. The expression “No news is good news” clearly does not apply to the transatlantic free trade deal. The more we learn about the ongoing negotiations, the less we like it….—Winona Hauter, “Leaked Memo Reveals TTIP Would Export Fracked Gas Restriction-Free From U.S. to EU,” EcoWatch, 5/22/14


Obama’s Proposed Drilling Expansion May Cost Us More Than The Oil Is Worth

Panoramic Images via Getty Images An oil production platform is pictured in icy water, in Cook Inlet, Trading Bay, Alaska.

The Obama administration’s proposed expansion of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico would result in hefty climate-related social costs, a new report found.

In fact, those costs, estimated at $58.6 billion to $179.2 billion, may outweigh the economic benefits of selling the energy, according to Tim Donaghy, lead author of the report.

The proposed oil and gas program for 2017 to 2022 includes 13 potential lease sales — 10 in the Gulf and one each in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea. In March, the White House abandoned plans to include the Atlantic Coast in the upcoming sale.

With emissions from existing oil reserves already capable of pushing the planet beyond the 2 degrees Celsius threshold climatologists say would result in drastic impacts, searching of more oil would be a step backward, Donaghy, a senior research specialist at Greenpeace USA, told The Huffington Post.

“Climate change isn’t just this abstract thing,” Donaghy said. “It’s going to actually affect our daily lives.”

The 16-page report, released Thursday by Greenpeace USA and Oil Change International, finds that consumption of the oil produced under the five-year program would increase global carbon emissions by roughly 850 million metric tons of CO2 — equivalent to that of 3.6 million cars over a 50-year period.

“These carbon emissions will impose high costs to society in coming decades related to human health, flood damages, agricultural productivity and other impacts,” the report says.

In addition to quantifying the environmental and social costs of burning the oil, which Donaghy said are likely “underestimated,” the report calls on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulates offshore oil and gas development, to include climate-related costs in its environmental assessment of the program.

Neglecting to do so, as is current practice, Donaghy said, is “crazy” and a “big oversight.”…—Chris D’Angelo, “Obama’s Proposed Drilling Expansion May Cost Us More Than The Oil Is Worth,” Huffington Post, 6/10/16


Court: Chevron Can Seize Americans’ Email Data

Indigenous Ecuadorean leader Emergildo Criollo travels from the Amazon rainforest to California to deliver 325,000-plus letters urging Chevron to clean up its toxic oil. Rainforest Action Network/Flickr

Thanks to disclosures made by Edward Snowden, Americans have learned that their email records are not necessarily safe from the National Security Agency—but a new ruling shows that they’re not safe from big oil companies, either.

Last month, a federal court granted Chevron access to nine years of email metadata—which includes names, time stamps, and detailed location data and login info, but not content—belonging to activists, lawyers, and journalists who criticized the company for drilling in Ecuador and leaving behind a trail of toxic sludge and leaky pipelines. Since 1993, when the litigation began, Chevron has lost multiple appeals and has been ordered to pay plaintiffs from native communities about $19 billion to cover the cost of environmental damage. Chevron alleges that it is the victim of a mass extortion conspiracy, which is why the company is asking Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, to cough up the email data. When Lewis Kaplan, a federal judge in New York, granted the Microsoft subpoena last month, he ruled it didn’t violate the First Amendment because Americans weren’t among the people targeted.

Now Mother Jones has learned that the targeted accounts do include Americans—a revelation that calls the validity of the subpoena into question. The First Amendment protects the right to speak anonymously, and in cases involving Americans, courts have often quashed subpoenas seeking to discover the identities and locations of anonymous internet users. Earlier this year, a different federal judge quashed Chevron’s attempts to seize documents from Amazon Watch, one of the company’s most vocal critics. That judge said the subpoena was a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights. In this case, though, that same protection has not been extended to activists, journalists, and lawyers’ email metadata.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents 40 of the targeted users—some of whom are members of the legal teams who represented the plaintiffs—and Nate Cardozo, an attorney for EFF, says that of the three targeted Hotmail users, at least one is American. Cardozo says that of the Yahoo and Gmail users, “many” are American.

“It’s appalling to me that the First Amendment has no bearing in this case, and that the judge simply assumed that all of the targets aren’t US citizens—when in fact, I am,” says a human rights activist from New York who has been advocating on behalf of the indigenous community, doing both volunteer and paid work, since 2005. He has never been sued by Chevron, nor been deposed. He wishes to remain anonymous—because his legal fight against the subpoena is still pending. The activist received a notice of the subpoena from Google last year (it has not been granted yet.) Chevron is seeking information including, but not limited to, the name associated with the account and where a user was every time he logged in—for the past nine years.

“Chevron is trying to crush, silence, and chill activism on behalf of the people they screwed over,” the activist argues. Michelle Harrison, an attorney for EarthRights International, tells Mother Jones that her clients aren’t comfortable going on record about the subpoenas they’ve received, because “Chevron’s dogged pursuit of anyone that dares speak out against them is regrettably having precisely the chilling effect we warned the court it would.”

Advocates for the plaintiffs in the Chevron case say that subpoenaing the email records is the company’s latest nuclear tactic to win a lawsuit it keeps losing. Chevron was ordered to pay $9 billion in damages in 2011 and to issue a public apology. After the company refused, a judge ordered the damages to double. The Supreme Court has declined to hear Chevron’s appeal. The extortion case is set to go to trial on October 15, after Kaplan—whom the Ecuadorean plaintiffs once asked to be removed from the case—refused to delay it….—Dana Liebelson, “Court: Chevron Can Seize Americans’ Email Data,” Mother Jones, 6/22/13


Book Review:  ‘Barkskins,’ by Annie Proulx

George Douglas

Whatever else she’s writing about, the novelist and story writer Annie Proulx is always writing at least partly about our tempestuous relationship with nature. It’s there in the forbidding seas of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Shipping News.” It’s there in the hardscrabble ranches and “bad dirt” of her Wyoming stories (including “Brokeback Mountain,” where desire is the natural force that demands a reckoning). And it’s there in her fifth and latest novel, “Barkskins” — a tale of long-term, shortsighted greed whose subject could not be more important: the destruction of the world’s forests.

Resource extraction on an industrial scale mostly exemplifies the infamous tragedy of the commons: namely, that degradation to the environment is a fractional cost divided among everybody around, while the benefit to each exploiter is a whole integer that need not be shared. For example, if I clear-cut a forest, I am damaging it for all of us, myself included — but since my profit accrues to me alone, I can happily ruin the place and move on. Thus “Barkskins.”

Proulx employs a sophisticated narrative strategy of oscillating focus. Sometimes the techno-commercial practices of a given era are foregrounded, as in this aphorism: “A man — if he’s any good — makes eight axes a day. If he’s no good he can make 10 or 12.”…—William Vollmann, “‘Barkskins,’ by Annie Proulx,” The New York Times, 6/17/16


The Oil & Gas Threat Map

A new activist tool! Explore, find data presented for the first time in one place.


Click to explore interactive map

Threat Maps

  • Find out if your home or school is within a 1/2 mile of an active oil & gas well.
  • Watch interviews with residents impacted by oil & gas pollution.
  • Watch infrared video that makes visible normally invisible oil & gas air pollution

Fossil Fumes

Find out if your county is one of the 238 across the nation for which toxic oil and gas air pollution has raised average health risk for

  • cancer, or
  • respiratory ailments

according to analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.

How to Use the Threat Map

Learn more about how to use the Threat Map to get the information you need

Why the Map was created

The federal government and some states are considering issuing rules to cut oil and gas methane pollution from existing sources, which would have a co-benefit of reducing associated air toxics.

The Map was created to make the public and decision makers aware that this type of air pollution is a ubiquitous health threat that should be addressed with strong government standards.

How the Map was created

The Oil & Gas Threat Map was created with —

Who created the Map

Three organizations worked together —

  • Earthworks, a national environmental group dedicated to protect communities and the environment from the negative impacts of resource extraction;
  • Clean Air Task Force, which works to help safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid global development and deployment of low carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies through research and analysis, public advocacy leadership, and partnership with the private sector; and
  • FracTracker Alliance, which studies, maps, and communicates the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation.

Earthworks, Clean Air Task Force, and FracTracker Alliance did the research and provided data that FracTracker Alliance used to build the Oil & Gas Threat Map.—EarthWorks, Clean Air Task Force, Frack Tracker, “The Oil & Gas Threat Map,” 6/10/16


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The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 24 – The Money Flees Fossil Fuels

 The Banner  Comments Off on The Banner, Vol. 2, No. 24 – The Money Flees Fossil Fuels
Jun 142016

June 14, 2016
A growing public awareness of the  manifold duplicity of the fossil fuel industry has made it obvious that their assets will be largely risky and most probably outlawed long before they are economically stranded. That makes this industry a growing risk for investors with fiduciary duties. The institutional exit from fossil fuels is growing fast.

A Prayer for the Finger Lakes

A ceremony for our sacred waters with donations going to We Are Seneca Lake

Where: W.W. Clute Memorial Lakeside Park & Pavilion
Watkins Glen, NY
When: Sunday, June 19, 2016
(Correction!: the day was previously listed as Saturday)
Ceremony 11am to 2pm~ 108 Sun Salutes, chanting and meditation followed by a water blessing.
Picnic 2pm-5pm~ Vegetarian potluck – bring a dish to pass

WASL and Finger Lakes yoga community family picnic See Facebook Event page More details coming soon. Questions in the meantime? Email:


Pipeline Foes Block Construction Site in Cortlandt with Tripod

Peekskill, NY—Six people were arrested Monday morning when foes of the Spectra pipeline projects in New York staged another protest.

Organizers said

As part of an escalating peaceful resistance campaign, concerned New Yorkers engineered a dramatic and elaborate protest against pipeline construction early this morning. A team erected a 20-foot-tripod in the path of construction equipment, and then a woman who grew up in Croton climbed up and sat at the top, thereby effectively halting construction. Additionally, two people locked to the base of the tripod. A total of six people have been arrested and taken to the Peekskill Police Station.

Jessica Rechtschaffer, the climber, was born and raised in Croton, organizers said.

“I remember how the sirens from Indian Point would go off when I was a kid,” she said in the press release from ResistAIM, “and now Spectra Energy wants to build a major gas pipeline right next to the nuclear power plant even though they are a company with a terrible safety record. We can’t let that happen. If there’s an explosion next to the nuclear plant, there is no plan B.”

This action comes after years of residents and grassroots groups actively engaging in the regulatory process, only to be ignored by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), organizers said.

The City of Boston and more than 20 grassroots groups have filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging FERC’s approval of the project.

FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have said repeatedly that neither the current pipeline nor the new one pose a threat to the Indian Point Nuclear Plant.—Lanning Taliaferro, “Pipeline Foes Block Construction Site in Cortlandt with Tripod,” Peekskill-Cortlandt Patch, 6/13/16


The Money Flees Fossil Fuels

Will This Retired Lawyer Open the Floodgates of Divestment From Fossil Fuels?

Bevis Longstreth, a former SEC commissioner, says his new proposal to state attorneys general for an “interpretive release” and guidance on climate-related risk could open the floodgates of divestment from coal, oil and gas companies. Photo courtesy of Bevis Longstreth

The money managers of university and non-profit endowments owe a debt of gratitude to a lawyer named Bevis Longstreth. He’s hardly a household name, but an obscure book he published 30 years ago provoked a modernization of the legal definition of prudent investing that changed their lives for the better.

His work opened the door for trustees of non-profits to make investments that are now at the heart of modern portfolio management. Previously they were out of bounds because they were considered too risky.

“Imagine all the pension funds in this country, and all the institutions like Yale and others, they are all deeply invested in hedge funds,” Longstreth said. “When I wrote that book it would have been impossible for them to invest in a hedge fund.”

Now Longstreth, 82, is out to rock the world of non-profit money managers again. This time he doesn’t have a book, but merely a six-page argument.

His proposal calls for a legal reinterpretation of what constitutes prudent management of institutional funds now that the investment landscape is filled with new risks for fossil fuel investors.

With the world heading toward zero carbon emissions after the signing of the Paris agreement, Longstreth thinks it’s time for some fresh guidance.

To that end, he’s working channels to convince various attorneys general to spell out those risks in an “interpretive release,” and offer guidance on how to handle them. He thinks the attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts and California will be most receptive to his proposal….—David Sasssoon, “Will This Retired Lawyer Open the Floodgates of Divestment From Fossil Fuels?,” InsideClimate News, 6/8/16


Investors in World’s Top Coal Shipper Pass Climate-Change Motion

Clermont coal mine in Queensland, Australia

Glencore Plc investors agreed that the largest exporter of coal burned for power should provide more information on risks to its business from growing levels of government legislation to tackle climate change.

Shareholders at an annual meeting in Zug, Switzerland, on Thursday voted 98 percent in favor of requiring more information on public-policy positions and actions Glencore takes on greenhouse gas pollution.

Such proposals are championed by the Aiming for A coalition of fund managers, which already secured resolutions at BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has also expressed support.

“The board fully supports this resolution,” Chairman Tony Hayward said. “We want to engage and work with the coalition on what we all recognize will be a multi-year journey.”

A growing number of investors and regulators are considering whether untapped deposits of oil, gas and coal around the world, valued at trillions of dollars and controlled by some of the biggest resource companies, will be stranded as nations seek to curb climate change. Glencore is the largest exporter of thermal coal with interests in about 30 operating coal mines in Australia, South Africa and Colombia.

Renewable Sources

With almost 20 percent of Glencore’s energy needs coming from renewable sources, the company will look for ways to deploy renewable energy at its operations, where it makes commercial sense, Hayward said. Glencore is working to develop clean-coal technologies as it wants to cater for growing coal demand in regions such as Southeast Asia, Hayward said.

While the U.S. and Europe are burning less coal, there’s a “strong probability” of rising demand in Southeast Asia, he said. The fuel is a growing part of energy use across most of the region where low-cost gas isn’t available, he said.

“Our assets, particularly those in Australia, are well placed to satisfy that demand,” Hayward said. “Coal remains the energy of choice for the emerging world and there is a reason for that. It’s cheap and readily available. It’s lifted billions of people out of poverty and will continue to do so.”…—Agnieszka De Sousa, “Investors in World’s Top Coal Shipper Pass Climate-Change Motion,” Bloomberg, 5/19/16


Washington D.C. Pension Fund Fully Divests from Fossil Fuel

Washington D.C. became a leader in the divestment movement with its Monday announcement that its largest public pension fund had fully divested from fossil fuels. Credit: Getty Images

The largest public pension fund in Washington, D.C. has purged its $6.4 billion fund of all direct holdings in fossil fuels, city council members and climate activists announced Monday.

The District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB) spent the last few years quietly selling off $6.5 million in oil, natural gas and coal investments, amounting to a mere one-tenth of 1 percent of the organization’s total holdings, but made the public announcement at a press conference on Monday.

While other American cities including San Francisco have pledged to clear their pension funds of fossil fuels, Washington D.C. may be the largest fund in the nation to complete this step, though the amount divested was small. The DCRB joins more than 500 cities, philanthropies, universities and other organizations worldwide with assets totaling more than $3.4 trillion that have divested from at least some fossil fuels or pledged to do so.

“This is a decision that is morally and ethically the right thing” from a climate perspective, said D.C. council member Charles Allen at a recent press conference. “It is also financially the right thing,” he added.

Some of the companies culled from the D.C. pension fund include Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, which both filed for bankruptcy this year, as well as ExxonMobil Inc., an oil giant being investigated by several attorneys general for possibly misleading the public and shareholders on the business risks associated with climate change.

Allen joined the city council weeks after it passed a resolution in December 2014 urging local pension fund managers to explore ways to minimize their carbon risk, including by divesting. Months before, the DCRB, which manages the retirement funds for the District of Columbia retirement plans for police officers, firefighters and teachers, had updated the investment policies to be more socially responsible. Allen quickly became an advocate on the issue and he co-sponsored a resolution in 2015 mandating DCRB to divest from fossil fuels over five years. That resolution, however, was never voted on.

DC Divest, a grassroots organization, spearheaded the city’s divestment campaign and helped organize the Monday press conference.

Washington is showing “cities across the globe what they can do to lead on climate,” DC Divest spokesman Hayden Higgins told InsideClimate News. He also said he hoped the successful campaign would send a message to Congress that it is time for decisive action on climate….—Zahra Hirji, “Washington D.C. Pension Fund Announces Full Fossil Fuel Divestment,” InsideClimate News, 6/6/16


What Charles Koch really thinks about climate change

Charles Koch stands for a portrait at the Freedom Partners Summit on Aug. 3, 2015, in Dana Point, Calif. (Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post)

[Some of the best journalism published to date on climate change deniers. Here, the authors are not content to simply recite denial as spoken but also annotate it with a larger context of which Charles Koch seems totally unaware – or in denial of.—Editor]

Charles Koch had been talking for more than an hour — about markets, philosophy and why he is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund university research, particularly in economics — when the subject turned to climate change. The question, from The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley (who wrote about the main thrust of the interview here), was whether any evidence could persuade the libertarian billionaire that regulation of carbon emissions is necessary to head off disastrous global warming.

Koch’s answer went on for several minutes. He did not deny global warming, but he did downplay the risks of climate change, based on his read of the scientific evidence. The full exchange sheds new light on Koch’s beliefs about climate and carbon regulation.

Here, then, we provide an annotated transcript of those comments, highlighting areas where Koch does — and, where he doesn’t — align with what scientists have to say about the subject, and more generally exploring his remarks. The questions are Tankersley’s, the answers are Koch’s and the notes are from energy and environment writer Chris Mooney….—Jim Tankersley, Chris Mooney, “What Charles Koch really thinks about climate change,” The Washington Post, 6/6/16


As Coral Bleaching Goes Global, Scientists Fear Worst Is Yet to Come

Bleached coral, like this in New Caledonia, has become a global phenomenon and a stark indicator of the impact of unabated climate change. Corals are crucial ocean nurseries, nurturing up to 25 percent of all marine species. Credit: XL Catlin Seaview Survey/March 2016

The longest and most widespread coral bleaching event on record has reached reefs near at least 38 countries and island groups, according to the latest report from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch and other research. Parts of many coral reefs have died, becoming ghostly underwater graveyards. They are perhaps the starkest reminders—like the melting Arctic—that a thickening blanket of greenhouse gases is irrevocably changing the face of the Earth.

Click to view map

Reefs are not only beautiful to behold, they also play a key role in ocean ecosystems. When the surrounding water gets too warm, corals start to expel symbiotic algae that helps keep them alive and gives them their color. Bleaching in popular tourist spots like the Maldives and Great Barrier Reef has grabbed recent headlines, but reefs in all the world’s tropical oceans have been affected.

Coral mortality has reportedly been as high as 50 percent along previously healthy sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. There was even higher mortality around small islands in the central Pacific, in the pool of water overheated by the recent strong El Niño….—Bob Berwyn, Zahra Hirji, “As Coral Bleaching Goes Global, Scientists Fear Worst Is Yet to Come,” InsideClimate News, 6/8/16


For Oil Industry, Clean Air Fight Was Dress Rehearsal
for Climate Denial

Caltech scientist Arie Haagen-Smit (pictured) discovered in the early 1950s that oil was the cause of the dangerous smog shrouding L.A. Industry then conducted its own research to discredit Haagen-Smit’s findings and manufacture doubt around the link between oil and smog. It continues to fight attempts to tighten smog regulation. Photo courtesy of the California Institute of Technology

When the smog plaguing Los Angeles reached distressing levels in the early 1950s, the city hired Arie Haagen-Smit to study the cause. Not only was Haagen-Smit a scientist specializing in airborne microscopic chemicals, he was also angry about the state of the city’s air. His work swiftly determined that the culprit was oil.

Following a hunch, Haagen-Smit built an unorthodox laboratory that accurately demonstrated how nitrogen oxide and uncombusted hydrocarbons from tailpipes and refineries react in sunlight to produce smog. His findings unnerved oil companies, which feared onerous regulation would follow. So when another scientist, Harold Johnston, challenged Haagen-Smit’s findings, the industry’s main consulting group hired him.

“They said terrible things about Haagen-Smit…I was given the job of overthrowing his theory entirely,” Johnston recalled in an oral history years later. “I rapidly concluded that Haagen-Smit was a genius!”

That wasn’t what the oil industry wanted to hear. It shelved Johnston’s work and let his contract lapse. Then it conducted its own research to discredit Haagen-Smit’s conclusions and manufacture doubt around the link between oil and smog.

Smog blankets L.A. on Jan. 5, 1948. Credit: UCLA Library

But that link soon became irrefutable and smog became a pressing concern for regulators—first for California officials in the 1950s and 60s, then for the federal government. As Washington  began to pass modern clean air laws in the 1970s, oil companies lobbied against regulation. They argued that federal standards would be so expensive they would harm the economy.

…”Why have we generally failed in our efforts to control air pollution?” asked Louis McCabe, the first Los Angeles smog regulator at a conference in 1949. “We have failed because industry believed that air pollution control cost too much. Smoke and dusts were the wages of a prosperous industrial community…There were ‘cooperative’ programs with the dual objectives of delay and defeat.”…—Neela Banerjee, David Hasemyer, Lisa Song, “For Oil Industry, Clean Air Fight Was Dress Rehearsal for Climate Denial,” InsideClimate News, 6/6/16


Biggest US Coal Company Funded Dozens of Merchants of Doubt

Peabody Energy has funded dozens of groups that question climate science, analysis shows. Photograph: Jeff Roberson/AP

Peabody Energy, America’s biggest coal mining company, has funded at least two dozen groups that cast doubt on manmade climate change and oppose environment regulations, analysis by the Guardian reveals.

The funding spanned trade associations, corporate lobby groups, and industry front groups as well as conservative think tanks and was exposed in court filings last month.

The coal company also gave to political organisations, funding twice as many Republican groups as Democratic ones.

Peabody, the world’s biggest private sector publicly traded coal company, was long known as an outlier even among fossil fuel companies for its public rejection of climate science and action. But its funding of climate denial groups was only exposed in disclosures after the coal titan was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in April, under competition from cheap natural gas.

Environmental campaigners said they had not known for certain that the company was funding an array of climate denial groups – and that the breadth of that funding took them by surprise.

The company’s filings reveal funding for a range of organisations which have fought Barack Obama’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and denied the very existence of climate change.

Peabody“These groups collectively are the heart and soul of climate denial,” said Kert Davies, PrayerForFingerLakes_2016 founder of the Climate Investigation Center, who has spent 20 years tracking funding for climate denial. “It’s the broadest list I have seen of one company funding so many nodes in the denial machine.”

Among Peabody’s beneficiaries, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has insisted – wrongly – that carbon emissions are not a threat but “the elixir of life” while the American Legislative Exchange Council is trying to overturn Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting emissions from power plants. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity campaigns against carbon pricing. The Oklahoma chapter was on the list.

Contrarian scientists such as Richard Lindzen and Willie Soon also feature on the bankruptcy list.

So does the Washington lobbyist and industry strategist Richard Berman, whose firm has launched a welter of front groups attacking the EPA rules.…—Suzanne Goldenberg, Helena Bengtsson, “Biggest US coal company funded dozens of groups questioning climate change | Environment,” The Guardian, 6/13/16


Open petcoke piles removed from Calumet River bank

A petcoke pile at the KCBX South Terminal in Chicago is shown in this photo from 2015. BP is now shipping the petcoke to Virginia and Kentucky. Jonathan Miano, The Times

Open piles of petcoke have been removed from the banks of the Calumet River in Chicago.

A KCBX Terminals spokesman said the company removed petcoke piles by the June 9 deadline set by the City of Chicago, after petcoke dust blew through the neighborhood in 2013, raising public health concerns.

Calumet Region residents protested for years, and a few even went to jail while blockading the entrance to the petcoke facility in November during an act of civil disobedience. 

The Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, a powdery byproduct of the oil refining process, said it would continue to try to close the KCBX Terminals bulk freight facility, which is the last one remaining on the Calumet River. The group already successfully campaigned to get KCBX and Hammond-based Beemsterboer to close the two other petcoke-handling facilities on the far south side. BP has started shipping petcoke from its nearby Whiting Refinery to Kentucky and Virginia instead.

Southeast Side residents also recently won $1.4 million in a class-action lawsuit against KCBX and Beemsterboer.

“Since the city and the state intervened it was obvious to us that this stuff is bad for our health — why else would they have to remove their dirty petcoke?” Chicago Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke member James Kinney said. “When are we going to get a fair shake — we need jobs here that are not going to make us sick.”

The coalition plans to continue to lobby for a total ban on petcoke on the southeast side, so it can’t be shipped through their neighborhood on trains, barges and trucks. More than 86 percent of voters in Chicago’s 10th Ward, which encompasses the Southeast Side neighborhood, voted for a complete prohibition during a non-binding referendum last year….—Joseph Pete, “Open petcoke piles removed from Calumet River bank,” Northwest Indiana New Times, 6/10/16


Helen Baker Interview — Salem PA Pipeline Explosion


Click for interview audio

James Baker, 26, from Salem Township, Westmoreland County, PA is a newlywed who was home after having ankle surgery the morning of April 29, 2016. At a little after 8am, a natural gas transmission line operated by Spectra Energy exploded about 270’ft behind his house. By some miracle, James survived what may be one of the worst pipeline accidents in US history. This is an interview with Helen Baker, his mother, conducted by 5 June 2016— William Huston, “Helen Baker Interview — Salem PA Pipeline Explosion,” Shaleshock Media/NY, 6/5/16


Crowdfunded Kayak Armada Shuts Down Shell. Again.


Click to view Video

Almost exactly one year after the Shell No protests against Arctic drilling made global headlines, kayaktivists were at it again, in Anacortes, WA, the site of Shell Oil’s oldest American refinery.

Shell wants to build one of the largest oil train tanker terminals on Earth at its Anacortes facility,
bringing mile-long trains full of explosive crude and dirty Tar Sands up along the shores of the Puget Sound. Shell itself admits they expect at least 1 derailment every few years.

Climate activists in the region are pushing to begin shutting down Big Oil’s critical infrastructure to keep fossil fuels safely in the ground and to speed the just transition to a clean energy economy.

So it was only natural that kayaktivists would set their sights on Shell again in the Pacific Northwest. A kayaktion team called the Mosquito Fleet launched an Indiegogo campaign to buy used kayaks, paddle gear, life vests, radios and even a 24 foot sailboat to to engage in civil disobedience on the water. They raised almost twice their original $12,000 goal.

Then the Mosquito Fleet and hundreds of kayaktivists took to the water to enforce a naval blockade of Shell’s tanker terminal from May 13-15, forcing the company to suspend all incoming and outgoing tankers for three days.

Kayaktivism is a game-changer. Oil companies have operated with impunity on the water for decades, but they don’t know how to handle a swarm of teeny boats blocking their path. Last year members of the Mosquito Fleet helped enforce a 3-day blockade of Shell’s Arctic Icebreaker “Fennica” in Portland 2015.—John Sellers, “Crowdfunded Kayak Armada Shuts Down Shell. Again.,” Other98, 6/3/16


Methane emissions are extremely harmful, and the government might not know how much there is.

Mody Torres (left) and Josh Anderson of Select Energy Services connect hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site near Williston, N.D., on Nov. 12, 2014.(Reuters/Andrew Cullen/Files)

Methane is colorless and odorless. But it’s a powerhouse in the way it contributes to global warming. In the atmosphere, it’s more than 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Now, after the growth of a natural gas production operation commonly known as fracking, the United States is producing more methane emissions than any country in the world. And in a complaint submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General on Wednesday, a small North Carolina watchdog group argues persuasively that the government might not know how much is released into the sky as a result of drilling and storage of gas extracted from shale deep under ground.

The 68-page complaint by NC Warn accuses the EPA of allowing untold levels of methane into the atmosphere by allowing oil and gas companies to monitor emissions with a pricey device that’s faulty. The group says in its complaint that the agency knows the $20,000, backpack-sized Bacharach Hi-Flow Sampler doesn’t work well because the man who invented the technology that inspired it blew a whistle years ago.

The inventor, Touché Howard, also took his concerns to a respected researcher who used the device as one way of measuring methane emissions for a major study undertaken on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, which hoped to answer the question of how bad it is. In spite of Howard’s objections to David Allen, a professor at the University of Texas, the study found that methane emissions were lower than EPA estimated at completed wells and higher around valves and equipment used to control routine operations at sites.

For that, NC Warn accused Allen of fraud. “It appears that the goal of the [University of Texas] team was not to critically examine the problems but to convince EDF …that no problems existed,” NC Warn claims in the complaint. “We believe Mr. Howard was specifically prevented from providing input because the … team knew that he would be able to show that their counterarguments were faulty and the resulting studies scientifically invalid….—Darryl Fears, “Methane emissions are extremely harmful, and the government might not know how much there is,” The Washington Post, 6/9/16


Butte County, California Voters Pass Fracking Ban

Photo courtesy of Frack-Free Butte County.

The voters in Butte County, California approved Measure E, a ban on fracking, by an overwhelming 71 percent on June 7.

Butte is the fourth California county to ban the environmentally destructive and dangerous method of oil extraction. San Benito, Santa Cruz and Mendocino counties have also passed fracking bans, as have the cities of Beverly Hills and Carson, according to a statement from Frack-Free Butte County,  the campaign organized by the Citizens Action Network (CAN), in coordination with the Butte Environmental Council, in the largely rural and agricultural county

“We are thrilled that Butte County voters decided to protect our clean water and almond and walnut farms from fracking,” said Dave Garcia, of Frack-Free Butte County. “We’re proud that we can hand down a community that’s green and pristine to our children and grandchildren.”

The latest victory against fracking in a California county shows that grassroots activists can indeed win against the powerful oil industry when they are organized, in spite of all of Big Oil’s money and influence in state and national politics. 

Big Oil is the biggest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento — and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the biggest and most powerful lobbying organization. The oil industry, including WSPA, Chevron, Phillips 66, AERA Energy, Exxon and Shell, have spent more than $25 million so far in the 2015-16 legislative session. Big Oil also has millions and millions of dollars to spend on election campaigns.  

But despite Big Oil’s money and power, proponents of Measure E were able to convince the voters that toxic fracking chemicals would destroy the county’s water supply and farmlands, as well as endanger the health of their citizens. This measure is one of four similar initiatives passed in the state that has been contributing to the growing anti-fracking momentum currently at the forefront of the political discussion….—Dan Bacher, “Butte County Voters Pass Fracking Ban,” DailyKos, 6/10/16


DTE Plans to Shut Down 8 Coal-Fired Units at 3 Plants

File image via Pixabay.

DTE Energy Co. plans to shut down eight coal-fired units at three power plants in Michigan within the next seven years.

The Detroit-based utility announced Wednesday the units being retired between 2020 and 2023 are at the River Rouge facility in the Detroit area, the St. Clair facility in St. Clair County’s East China Township and the Trenton facility in suburban Detroit.

DTE says the plants together generated about 25 percent of electricity produced by the utility in 2015 or enough to power 900,000 homes.

The utility say affected workers will be offered jobs at other DTE facilities.

Earlier this year, DTE retired three coal generating units. The utility says it will replace them with a mix of newer, more modern sources such as wind, natural gas and solar.—Associated Press, “DTE Plans to Shut Down 8 Coal-Fired Units at 3 Plants,” ABC News, 6/8/16


And That’s A Wrap! The news is just brimming with stories regarding climate change, politics, money and fossil fuels! Hope we aren’t letting you get bored (or wearing out your eyes!). Do keep those story ideas coming: Send to