A weekly newsletter focusing on climate and environmental justice, regulatory and judicial actions, science and fellow activist allies. From the U.S. Northeast, around the nation and across the world!

July 17, 2018
Our society is built largely on models of linear change. Yet the most important changes are not linear at all. This week we explore several interesting twists of sudden change.
But first the news.

DEC Kills Crestwood’s Plan to Store LPG Next to Seneca Lake — Ending 8-Year Fight

DEC Kills Crestwood’s Plan to Store LPG Next to Seneca Lake — Ending 8-Year Fight

ALBANY, July 12, 2018 — The state’s top environmental regulator on Thursday halted a controversial gas storage project proposed for caverns next to Seneca Lake, ending a fierce eight-year battle between midwestern fossil fuel interests and local residents and businesses.

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, announced that he has denied a subsidiary of Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners LP a permit to store liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, in abandoned caverns on the U.S. Salt property two miles north of Watkins Glen.

Further reading: Schuyler County reverses position on propane storage project

“The record is compelling that the permitting this proposed gas storage facility on the western side of Seneca Lake is inconsistent with the character of the local and regional Finger Lakes community,” Seggos said in his 29-page decision.…—Peter Mantius, “DEC Kills Crestwood’s Plan to Store LPG Next to Seneca Lake — Ending 8-Year Fight,” Water Front, 7/12/18

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Cynthia Nixon in Peekskill:
‘We must shut down the pipeline’

Cynthia Nixon in Peekskill: ‘We must shut down the pipeline’

PEEKSKILL – In her first major appearance in the Lower Hudson Valley, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon took aim at the controversial Algonquin pipeline during a Friday afternoon press conference on a pier overlooking the Hudson River.

“Turn off the gas, turn off the gas,” said Nixon about how she would first try to address the pipeline if she were elected. “This should never have been built, these permits should never have been granted … the fact of the matter is people have been screaming about this for five plus years.”

But turning off the gas is not that simple.

Further reading Feds: No plans to reconsider approval of controversial AIM pipeline near Indian Point
STUDY: Algonquin pipeline opponents press Cuomo to deliver safety study

FUEL: Riverkeeper blasts Indian Point re-use plan, pushes tax on spent nuclear fuel

The decision to allow the natural gas pipeline next to Indian point largely rests with federal — not state — regulators.

Nixon accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of reacting to concerns about the pipeline too late, a point negated by representatives of his campaign.…—Thomas C. Zambito, Colleen Wilson. “Cynthia Nixon addresses AIM pipeline controversy at Peekskill,” LoHud, 7/13/18

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Geothermal Energy Open House August 11

Something well established, but smartly re-engineered, has quietly entered into the Hudson Valley home energy market.

Find out what this exciting development is by attending a Geothermal Energy Open House featuring a pioneering geothermal cooling and heating system. The Open House tour showcases a modernized energy system revealing improved pump features and benefits. There will be a short video, a tour and technical staff present to answer questions too.

This free public event will be hosted by the environmentally minded homeowner Susan Marsa
Saturday, August 11 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
at her home: 145 Primrose Hill Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572.

Discover what an innovative firm called Dandelion Energy is modeling. There are significant savings in switching from oil or propane energy. Homeowners can finance the system and save immediately or purchase the system and the savings will pay for the investment over time.

Dandelion will also explain its incredible 2018 affordable geothermal financial package, including an option for NO down payment and attendees can learn if their home qualifies for it.

The Hudson Valley was the US test market site for Dandelion during recent months. The host’s home was one of the very first such installations in the United States that featured Dandelion Energy’s new geothermal energy program.

Dandelion Energy is a Google Alphabet X spin-off that has received millions of dollars in investor capital and Dandelion has created technological and installation breakthroughs that tap into a homeowner’s desire for environmental stewardship while realizing substantial cost reductions. Dandelion currently serves homes with (hot air) vents.

Some of the geothermal cooling and heating benefits are:

Significant savings that pay for the investment over time by switching from oil or propane energy.

  • Freedom from: price fluctuations, deliveries, leakage smells.
  • Reduction of carbon dioxide and elimination of carbon monoxide.
  • Steady airflow, quietude and peace of mind.
  • A huge step towards powering one’s home with 100% clean energy!

Please RSVP by August 4, to help the host plan for free food and drinks under a tent. This is a “rain or shine” event.

Contact: beckyjmeier@gmail.com or call: 518-929-4664 or go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/1865172803777403/

If you forget to RSVP, feel free to stop by anyway.

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Investigation: Facebook Surveillance of Fracking Protesters — Background and Key Documents

Investigation: Facebook Surveillance of Fracking Protesters — Background and Key Documents

The war on fracking’s frontlines has gone full Cyber.

Fracking companies INEOS, UK Oil and Gas (UKOG), and Europa Oil and Gas are all in the process of trying to obtain injunctions to restrict protest. An investigation published on Vice Motherboard, in cooperation with DeSmog UK, shows that to support their case, the companies have deployed a specialist security team to conduct, among other things, mass social media surveillance.

A trawl through hundreds of pages of surveillance by DeSmog UK shows many of the posts they submit to the court are of either totally legal, or totally unrelated, activity. This surveillance is being used in court cases to argue for further restrictions on the protestors. DeSmog UK has identified a number of cases where a private group appears to have been infiltrated by the security firm, with posts from that group submitted as evidence to the court.

On top of this, the company charged with carrying out the surveillance, Eclipse Strategic Security, appears to have once been indirectly owned by INEOS – one of the fracking companies taking out an injunction, and for which it is conducting surveillance. Eclipse’s net assets have increased17-fold over the last two years as fracking protests blossomed around the UK, Companies House documents show.

Further investigation by DeSmog UK found Eclipse employees publicly support far-right groups, have privileged access to the UK’s police, and have links to Big Oil companies and security firms embroiled in human rights scandals in the Middle East.

This DeSmog UK and Vice Motherboard investigation raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the evidence being submitted to the court, and the role of Facebook in facilitating crack-downs on legitimate forms of democratic protest. Here is the key information and documents behind the investigation:

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Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, TransCanada reports

Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, TransCanada reports

Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month.

The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration incident report, provided to the Post-Gazette by environmental activist organization Climate Investigations Center, indicates that officials inside Columbia’s control room got an alert about low pressure on the line at 4:16 a.m. on June 7 and sent someone to investigate. Marshall County 911 reported getting calls just a few minutes later reporting an explosion. At 4:37 a.m., the emergency agency called Columbia to report the news.

The carbon steel pipe, manufactured by Durabond in 2015, was not operating above its maximum pressure at the time of the incident. When it burst, it spewed $437,250 worth of natural gas. No one was injured.

TransCanada, which owns the Columbia Gas Transmission system, has been working on repairing the pipeline, pushing back the expected in-service date from early July to the middle of the month.

“The weather in the region has continued to create challenging conditions during the remediation process,” the company said on a website it uses to communicate with customers.…—Anya Litvak, “Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, Columbia Gas reports,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/11/18

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The Surprising Twists of Change
Ireland becomes world’s first country to divest from fossil fuels

Ireland becomes world’s first country to divest from fossil fuels

The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament.

The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which is expected to mean within five years. Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars of investment funds have been divested, including large pension funds and insurers, cities such as New York, churches and universities.

Further reading: Irish Parliament Makes History With Vote to Divest Country Fully From Fossil Fuels

Supporters of divestment say existing fossil fuel resources are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that exploring and producing more fossil fuels is therefore morally wrong and economically risky. However, some critics argue say that remaining as shareholders and persuading fossil fuel companies to change can be more effective.…—Damian Carrington , “Ireland becomes world’s first country to divest from fossil fuels,” The Guardian, 7/12/18

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Nobel-Winning Economist to Testify
in Children’s Climate Lawsuit

Nobel-Winning Economist to Testify in Children’s Climate Lawsuit

Joseph Stiglitz writes in a court brief that fossil fuel-based economies impose ‘incalculable’ costs on society and shifting to clean energy will pay off.

One of the world’s top economists has written an expert court report that forcefully supports a group of children and young adults who have sued the federal government for failing to act on climate change.

Joseph Stiglitz, who was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics in 2001 and has written extensively about environmental economics and climate change, makes an economic case that the costs of maintaining a fossil fuel-based economy are “incalculable,” while transitioning to a lower-carbon system will cost far less.

The government, he writes, should move “with all deliberate speed” toward alternative energy sources.

Stiglitz has submitted briefs for Supreme Court cases—and normally charges $2,000 an hour for legal advice, the report says—but he wrote this 50-page report pro bono at the request of the attorneys representing the children. It was filed in federal district court in Oregon on June 28.

He is one of 18 expert witnesses planning to testify in the case, scheduled for trial later this year, the children’s lawyers said.

New Government Attempt to Stop the Case

The children’s climate lawsuit, filed in 2015, accuses the federal government of perpetuating policies that favor a fossil-fuel based energy system and of failing to adequately regulate greenhouse gas emissions. By doing so, the suit alleges, the government exposed the children to the dangers of climate change and has failed to manage natural resources, in the public trust, for future generations.

A federal district judge is scheduled to hear the case on Oct. 29. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have tried to have the case dismissed, but their efforts have been rejected by the courts.

Last week, attorneys for the Trump administration filed a motion for an emergency stay in a federal appeals court, which the children’s attorneys responded to on Tuesday.

“Just to be clear, there is no emergency,” said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust, which is representing the children. “They’re pulling out every frivolous motion they can to dodge the case.”…—Georgina Gustin, “Nobel-Winning Economist to Testify in Children’s Climate Lawsuit,” InsideClimate News, 7/11/18

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The Limits of Green Energy Under Capitalism

The Limits of Green Energy Under Capitalism

Renewable energy is expanding rapidly all around the world. The energy capacity of newly installed solar projects in 2017, for instance, exceeded the combined increases from coal, gas and nuclear plants. During the past eight years alone, global investment in renewables was $2.2 trillion, and optimism has soared along with investments. “Rapidly spreading solar technology could change everything,” announced a piece in the Financial Times, which also explained that, “there is growing evidence that some fundamental changes are coming that will over time put a question mark over investments in old energy systems.”

But can renewable energy grow fast enough in the market economy to pinch off the use of fossil fuels and help fend off climate catastrophe? Unfortunately, it’s not likely. Even as the percentage of global energy generation from renewables increases, so too does global energy consumption, which means that fossil fuel emissions are also increasing.

The world’s energy-related carbon emissions rose by 1.7 percent in 2017 and energy consumption grew by 2.2 percent, the fastest rate since 2013. For the past decade, primary energy consumption increased worldwide at an average rate of 1.7 percent per year. Power generation rose last year by 2.8 percent with renewable energy providing 49 percent of that increase and most of the rest (44 percent) coming from coal. Globally, oil consumption grew by 1.8 percent, natural gas by 3 percent and coal consumption increased by 1 percent. The key point is that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are increasing even as renewable energy use is growing.

To visualize the relationship between the growing percentage of green energy and increasing total global energy production, imagine a “dynamic energy consumption pie chart.” A growing portion of the pie represents green energy sources, so that piece of the pie is getting wider, but the radius of the pie chart also increases with time to account for the increase of global energy consumption. The pie is getting bigger and bigger while the fossil fuel slice is growing longer (which is bad) but thinner (which is good). Which process wins out? As long as fossil fuel use is not decreasing, it doesn’t matter for the climate.…—David Klein, “The Limits of Green Energy Under Capitalism,” Truthout, 7/16/18

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Spirit of the Buffalo camp aims to stop pipeline
at Canada-U.S. border

Spirit of the Buffalo camp aims to stop pipeline at Canada-U.S. border | CBC News

An Indigenous prayer camp has been set up near the Canada-U.S. border along the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline in an effort to stop construction of its replacement.

There were five people at the Spirit of Buffalo camp near Gretna, Man., 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, shortly after noon Wednesday.

Geraldine McManus, a Dakota two-spirit person at the camp, says they can see the crews working on the pipeline on the U.S. side of the border, where the pipeline replacement received approval on June 28.

Further reading Minnesota regulators approve Enbridge Line 3 project
Emails cast doubt about Michigan’s ties to Enbridge in Line 5 debate
Tar Sands execs see brighter future with approval of Line 3 pipeline project
Police begin arresting last pipeline protesters at Standing Rock

“We’re standing about 10, 15 feet away from them, so we’re putting ourselves right on the line,” McManus said. “We’re not letting them cross into Canada.”

The Enbridge Line 3 replacement has received approvals in Canada and construction has begun in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Construction in Manitoba is anticipated to start in August and facilities construction in the right-of-way has already started, an Enbridge spokesperson said.…—Lara Schroeder, “Indigenous protest camp aims to stop Enbridge pipeline at Canada-U.S. border,” CBC News, 7/11/18

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Turning Trump’s Trade War
Into a Tool to Fight Climate Change

Turning Trump’s Trade War Into a Tool to Fight Climate Change

As the Trump administration’s trade war heats up, a group of experts is proposing a new way to counter protectionism—and prod the United States back into climate action at the same time.

In a commentary in the journal Nature, the team of trade and climate policy experts called for a global punitive tax on imports based on their carbon footprint.

It’s an idea that was invented to address the problem of “free riders”—nations that refuse to join the global practice of putting a price on carbon, such as a tax or a cap-and-trade market mechanism. To avoid giving the free riders a competitive advantage in world trade, the carbon price would be collected on their products as an import tariff at the border.

The border tax would “level the emissions playing field by imposing the same economic burden on domestic and external manufacturers,” the team writes in the article, published online Monday.

As the Trump administration upends trade relationships with allies while renouncing the Paris climate agreement, the authors contend that this kind of a tax could be more appealing than ever.…—Sabrina Shankman, “Turning Trump’s Trade War Into a Tool to Fight Climate Change,” InsideClimate News, 7/16/18

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‘We Will Be Waiting’: Tribe Says Keystone XL Construction Is Not Welcome

‘We Will Be Waiting’: Tribe Says Keystone XL Construction Is Not Welcome

The controversial oil pipeline would cross the Cheyenne River near a reservation, and the tribe is fighting it. TransCanada plans to bring in equipment this month.

The company building the long-contested Keystone XL oil pipeline notified the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in a letter this week that it will start stockpiling equipment along the pipeline’s route this month in preparation for construction.

Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier sent back a sharp, one-line response: “We will be waiting.”

The Cheyenne River tribe has opposed the Keystone pipeline since it was first proposed in 2008, and it has seen how pipeline protests can play out.

Just to the north of the tribe’s land in central South Dakota, protests against the Dakota Access pipeline drew international attention as thousands of demonstrators established semi-permanent camps starting in the summer of 2016 near where the pipeline would cross under the Missouri river just upstream from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The Cheyenne River tribe helped fight that pipeline, and it is in a similar geographic situation now—its reservation is just downstream from where the Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Cheyenne River.

Like Standing Rock, the tribe fears a tar sands oil spill from the pipeline could contaminate its waters.… —Phil Mckenna, “‘We Will Be Waiting’: Tribe Says Keystone XL Construction Is Not Welcome,” InsideClimate News, 7/13/18

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He Sues to Discredit Climate Scientists.
Now He’s Being Sued by His Allies.

He Sues to Discredit Climate Scientists. Now He’s Being Sued by His Allies.

David Schnare’s conservative legal group seeks to expose science fraud.
But it appears to be imploding amid allegations of financial mismanagement, attempted extortion and faked documents.

FAIRFAX, Va. — The Free Market Environmental Law Clinic has long sought to inject doubt into the public conversation about global warming. Now, the future of the group itself is in doubt.

Its founders are battling in court over control of the group, as well as some $900,000 in its bank account. One of them, David Schnare, has been accused by his former allies of botching the group’s tax-exempt status and of attempting to extort a quarter-million dollars from its coffers.

It all comes at a time when Free Market — which made a name for itself using the legal system to obtain climate scientists’ emails — should be ascendant. The Trump administration shares its views on environmental regulation and its dismissal of climate science. And Mr. Schnare, 70, was part of the Trump “beachhead team” at the Environmental Protection Agency during the transition between presidential administrations, though he did not last long there.…—John Schwartz, “He Sues to Discredit Climate Scientists. Now He’s Being Sued by His Allies.The New York Times,” 7/11/18

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Fracking: when is a ban a ban?
A Look into the Intricacies of Scottish Law

Fracking: when is a ban a ban?

Not yet is the short answer, in Scotland at any rate.

The ruling from the Court of Session this week that saw INEOS lose its judicial review is not only a welcome defeat for the wannabe-frackers, but has also piled the pressure on the Scottish Government to act swiftly and legislate to ban fracking.

INEOS’s judicial review was heard over 3 days in May, and Lord Pentland issued his opinion on 19 June, agreeing with the Scottish Government’s argument that as there was no legally enforceable ban in place, there was no case to answer, therefore INEOS’s petition was thrown out.

The outcome is good news: INEOS was asking the judge to quash the moratorium that had been in place since 2015 and was extended indefinitely in 2017. This would have opened the door to fracking. The judge refused to do so. He also found that even if a decision to ban fracking had been made, INEOS would be unlikely to be successful in any claim for compensation.

But where does this leave the Scottish Government’s so-called ‘effective ban’?

When Ministers made their announcement on fracking in October last year, it was rightly celebrated as a huge win by activists across the country, after 6 years of powerful grassroots action put the issue at the top of the political agenda.

Further reading Pressure builds for a legal ban on fracking
Ineos loses its legal challenge to Scottish Government fracking “ban”

However, what was clear at the time to those following the issue closely, and is even clearer following Lord Pentland’s ruling, is that the actions of Ministers in October 2017 did not amount to a legally enforceable ban. All Ministers did was continue to use policy levers that had been in place since the 2015 moratorium to ensure that any applications for fracking would be directed to them. Assurances were made to the effect that decisions to determine fracking applications would be made in line with the Scottish Government’s policy of ‘no support’ for fracking – hence an ‘effective ban’.…—Mary Church, “Fracking: When is a Ban a Ban?Friends of the Earth Scotland, 6/21/17 https://foe.scot/when-is-a-ban-a-ban/

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Thousands without power in Los Angeles
after high demand due to heat wave

Thousands without power in Los Angeles after high demand due to heat wave

(CNN) —Thousands of Los Angeles residents were left without power Saturday morning after a heat wave prompted high electricity demand throughout the city.

“Friday’s record-setting heat led to unprecedented peak electricity demand,” according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). High demand caused power outages throughout city and left 34,500 customers in the dark — without fans or air conditioning.

The department said that figure accounts for about 2.5% of their 1.5 million customers.

Scorching heat has descended upon California and parts of the southwest after a heat wave swept across Canada earlier in the week, killing dozens in the province of Quebec , according to Canadian health officials.

Many areas in California on Friday broke their daily high temperature records, according to CNN meteorologists. Downtown Los Angeles reached a high of 108 degrees, breaking its previous daily record of 94 degrees, which was set in 1992.

UCLA also broke its previous daily temperature record, where thermometers read 111 degrees.…—Dakin Andone, “Heat wave in Los Angeles leaves thousands without power after high electricity demand,” CNN, 7/7/18

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It’s Time to Stop Investing in New Oil and Gas Pipelines

It’s Time to Stop Investing in New Oil and Gas Pipelines

Last week the now-former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, resigned amid a series of ethical breaches, including his cozy relationship with fossil fuel lobbyists. Government ethics experts said Pruitt’s connection to lobbyists working for the Canadian energy company Enbridge, at the time when the EPA approved expansion of an Enbridge pipeline, raised red flags. So-called environmental regulators like Scott Pruitt certainly can’t be trusted to uphold environmental laws.

The good news is that for every pipeline that is approved, we’re seeing vehement resistance. Last month Minnesota regulators approved Line 3, another controversial Enbridge pipeline that would cross lakes on Ojibwe treaty lands, affecting indigenous wild rice harvest, hunting and fishing. Following the news, Honor the Earth Executive Director and activist Winona LaDuke said “They have gotten their Standing Rock. We will do everything that is needed to stop this pipeline.”

Resistance to pipelines like Line 3 is growing because pipeline spills are so common—much more common than you would think. Indigenous and environmental groups will continue to resist new pipelines because spills jeopardize land and livelihoods, especially when the pipeline crosses ecologically and culturally important places. These are some of the issues we are tracking as part of the Climate Alliance Mapping Project, an initiative we started to address issues of climate justice through research, maps and digital stories.

The U.S. version of our map shows data pertinent to domestic climate justice demands, including: oil and gas pipelines and spills, power plants, waterways, native lands (as designated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and public lands. We are working with climate justice organizations and indigenous peoples across the Americas to add digital stories with photos and narrations that talk about the social and environmental impacts of oil and gas infrastructure.

But public data already tells a story about pipeline spills. Since 1986 there have been over 8,000 “significant” oil and gas spills reported by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s equivalent to a major spill every two day for the past 32 years. “Significant” spills have a very specific definition—they either caused a fire, left someone injured, involved a large volume of oil or gas release or resulted in over $50,000 in damages. PHMSA classifies over 1,500 of these incidents as “serious,” meaning the spill resulted in a fatality or injury requiring in-patient hospitalization. Our interactive U.S. Climate Justice Map visualizes these spills alongside other data and stories.…—Tracey Osborne, Remington Franklin, “It’s Time to Stop Investing in New Oil and Gas Pipelines,” Scientific American Blog Network, 7/12/18

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send, along with the last of the local strawberries and a pint of fresh cherris, to editor@thebanner.news.