The Banner, Vol. 6, No. 10 – A Climate Change Fire Drill

March 31, 2020
The covid-19 pandemic is a dire lesson in how we, each and collectively, respond to the increasing emergency of climate destabilization.The best is brought out in so many people, officials, institutions, and businesses. Deep insights occur among us. This week we review a few stories about the best. And a few about those who are looking for more power, more riches, more….
But first the news

Table of Contents

NY & Northeast Activist News

Regional Activist News

A Climate Change Fire Drill

Indigenous Leaders News

Youth Leaders News

Regulatory & Court News

Government & Economics

International News

In Case You Missed It

The Lighter Side of Things


We Stopped the NBK Pipeline (For Now)

Photo Credit: Erik R. McGregor

North Brooklyn residents claim temporary victory as National Grid halts construction of North Brooklyn Pipeline during COVID-19 global pandemic}

The decision comes after New York residents and elected officials berated National Grid for sending workers to build their “MRI” pipeline during state recommended “shelter-in-place” during multiple telephone hearings this week.

Thursday afternoon, National Grid finally answered the demand of Brooklyn elected officials and residents to halt construction on their North Brooklyn fracked gas pipeline. Residents who have opposed the pipeline stated that since this infrastructure is non-essential infrastructure, they are endangering workers and the community during this global pandemic.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol said, “The stoppage of work on the pipeline is a relief on many levels. First and foremost, for the health safety of everyone, and then because it gives time to fight on to stop the project.”

“This win is thanks to the community that fought back tirelessly against construction of a new pipeline in their neighborhood. It is a testament to the power of what we can accomplish when we come together and I am proud to stand alongside so many North Brooklyn community leaders in this fight. This fracked gas pipeline is not needed in North Brooklyn, and to call it’s construction ‘essential’ was disingenuous,” said Elizabeth Adams, Legislative Director for Councilmember Stephen Levin. “I am glad to see National Grid halting construction: this is about the safety and well-being of workers, who have been put at risk for too long. And I look forward to National Grid engaging with the community before any further construction takes place.”

“Last year, our state passed the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act to set clear climate justice goals and a plan to transition New York to 100% renewable energy use. We cannot support the expansion of fracked gas pipelines in the face of a global environmental crisis — not in Brooklyn, not anywhere.”, said State Senator Julia Salazar. “This stop work order is a victory for the workers and their families who need to be protected from COVID-19, and it’s also a small victory for our communities who have been demanding a stop to the NBK pipeline construction. Now is the time for National Grid to put their resources toward a just transition, not toward expanding gas infrastructure.”

Earlier in the week National Grid President John Bruckner claimed the construction was “emergency” work during a series of virtual public meetings the company is required to have as part of a settlement agreement with the State to end their widely condemned moratorium. Opponents of the pipeline have always questioned the need for the pipeline since multiple reports show National Grid is inflating gas demand figures and the company is set to profit off the pipeline whether there is need for it or not.

“The people of North Brooklyn are taking this pandemic seriously. We’re sheltering in our homes to protect our neighbors and the people that we love. And while we were doing that, buying food and medicine and checking in on the elderly people on our block National Grid was working around the clock to keep up construction on this pipeline. It took a tremendous amount of pressure to get them to this point. It’s unconscionable and this community is not going to forget it,” said Greenpoint resident Kevin LaCherra.

As of Thursday afternoon, National Grid contractors were seen working within close proximity of each other on the pipeline. The company is currently seeking another rate hike to finish the project. Rates have gone up the past three years to pay for phases 1-3 of the pipeline through Brownsville, New York. Despite the $185 million National Grid is requesting for phase 4 and 5 not being approved yet, the company had been continuing construction through Bushwick and East Williamsburg before the decision to halt work was issued.

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Concerned Citizens Implore West Virginia Governor
to halt imminent influx of transient workers

Last week, in light of the national COVID-19 pandemic, a local non-profit organization, Preserve Monroe, a coalition of landowners, residents, businesses and organizations in Monroe County, West Virginia, sent a letter last Friday to Governor Justice asking him to address an extremely important issue facing Monroe County and many other areas of rural WV: the imminent arrival of out-of-state pipeline construction crews.

The Preserve Monroe letter implores the Governor to please enact a ‘stay’ on the arrival of these transient pipeline construction crews to prevent them from entering WV during this health emergency.

It is the ‘fiduciary responsibility’ of elected officials to take all possible measures to protect the health and welfare of their constituents, and asks the Governor to take appropriate action.

Unless local, state and /or federal officials act promptly, as early as April 1st, residents of Monroe County and other counties in WV face an influx of hundreds* of out-of-state workers who, as potential carriers of the corona virus, will place vulnerable populations** at even greater risk of COVID-19 infection. This influx would also put pipeline workers themselves at risk as they usually stay grouped on campgrounds or in overcrowded hotels, rental apartments and houses.

Citing statistics which show that their transient ‘way of life’ brings with it an increase in STD’s and other communicable diseases which require on site medical attention from local health providers, Preserve Monroe also pointed out that the living and working conditions transient workers experience makes strict adherence to intricate COVID-19 protection protocols, nearly impossible. These conditions as “a recipe for disaster in rural communities whose health services are already stretched way too thin.”

As one of the authors of the letter stated, “In the absence of a vaccine, we now know that the only truly effective measure is isolation. The presence of transient workers, therefore, not only puts workers themselves and local populations at greater risk of infection from COVID-19 but would also expose the entire state to the now well-documented ‘exponential spread’ of the virus.”

Preserve Monroe especially recommends these matters and conditions to the attention of the Governor.

  • ISOLATION: At this time, the only known effective response to COVID-19 is isolation.
  • INFLUX OF TRANSIENTS: Residents of rural areas need to get gas, stop at convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, health centers, etc where they would be exposed to higher levels of air-borne viral and surface contamination from an influx of transient workers.
  • LEARNING CURVE: Many people, not only the elderly are confused by new ways of doing things and have difficulty learning by rote all the new steps required for maximum outdoor protection.
  • OUT OF STOCK: Precautionary measures require masks and the use of efficient hand and surface cleaners which are often out of stock or in very short supply.
  • HEALTH CENTERS LIMITED CAPACITY: In the face of severe pandemic, the capacity of existing medical facilities in WV is particularly limited. Statistics indicate that states with greater capacity have lower percentages of death rates. Our limited number of local health care centers are hardly equipped to handle a local epidemic of COVID-19 not to mention additional cases presented by an influx of hundreds of transient workers.
  • LIMITED SUPPLIES: There is currently a shortage of COVID-19 testing kits as well as life-saving ventilators and important PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) in WV..
  • TRULY NEEDED CRITICAL INFRA-STRUCTURE: The truly critical infra-structure most needed in WV right now is medical infra-structure. We have enough coal, oil, gas and renewables to supply existing domestic and industrial energy needs. Pipeline construction crews can be profitably repurposed toward building, rehabilitating and repairing medical and sanitary infrastructure in their home areas.
  • IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED: All initiatives must be taken now to ‘flatten the curve’ and prevent spikes that would saturate existing medical capacity and cause more deaths. At this stage, it is absolutely imperative to eradicate all known conditions that contribute to ‘exponential spread’ of COVID 19. We cannot allow an influx of transient workers to ruin our chances to ‘flatten the curve’ and to expose the entire state to having to decide who lives and who dies.
Further reading Final Environmental Impact Statement submitted by MVP to FERC
USA coronavirus: Covid-19 may hit rural America later — and harder | Vox

Preserve Monroe’s letter closes with a salutation to the Governor and a cautionary citation of the old proverb ‘Better safe than sorry’ which, it states, “has never been more critically apropos than it is now,”—”Concerned citizens implore Governor to halt imminent influx of transient workers into West Virginia,” Maury Johnson, Preserve Monroe. 3/30/20

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DEP Revokes Permit for Rural Injection Well,
citing local home rule charter

Advocates for increased local control over Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry welcomed a decision by environmental regulators to revoke their own permit for an injection well to be built in a rural township, on the grounds that the well would violate the town’s home rule charter.

The Department of Environmental Protection rescinded a 2017 permit granted to Pennsylvania General Energy to build the Yanity well that would allow wastewater to be taken from hydraulically fracked natural gas wells and injected into a disused gas shaft beneath Grant Township in Indiana County. The township is about 80 miles west of State College.…

“This decision … could have far-reaching and unpredictable impacts as more communities are encouraged to stand up to pass laws that protect their community,” said Chad Nicholson, Pennsylvania community organizer for the group. “These laws need to put the community’s rights first, and force our governmental agencies to protect people and the environment, and deny permits for harmful corporate activities.”

There are 36 Pennsylvania townships that have home rule charters, according to the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Despite DEP’s reversal, it continues to challenge the legality of the township’s home rule charter in Commonwealth Court. On March 2, the court denied a motion by the DEP to dismiss a counter suit by the township, saying Grant could continue to argue its case.

The court said it had already ruled that the township could pursue its claims that the disposal of fracking waste would violate residents’ rights under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment, and so DEP’s effort to have Grant’s suit dismissed was “nothing more than a collateral attack on that decision.” …—”DEP revokes permit for rural injection well, citing local home rule charter,” Jon Hurdle, StateImpact Pennsylvania, 3/27/20

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States Quietly Pass Laws
Criminalizing Fossil Fuel Protest
Amid Coronavirus Chaos

At least three states passed laws putting new criminal penalties on protests against fossil fuel infrastructure in just the past two weeks amid the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic.

First came Kentucky. On March 16, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed legislation that ― while removing some of the original bill’s more extreme proposals ― designated “natural gas or petroleum pipelines” as “key infrastructure assets” and made “tampering with, impeding, or inhibiting operations of a key infrastructure asset” a “criminal mischief in the first degree.”

Further reading Ohio Hearing on Proposed Anti-Protest Law Draws… Loud Protest | Common Dreams News
Increase of anti-protest laws worldwide target climate change protesters | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Two days later, it was South Dakota. On March 18, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed a bill that expanded the definition of “critical infrastructure” to include virtually any oil, gas or utility equipment, and raised the charges for causing “substantial interruption or impairment” of such facilities to felonies. Five days later, on March 23, the governor approved a second measure defining a felony “riot” as “intentional use of force or violence by three or more persons” that causes “any damage to property.”

On Wednesday, West Virginia followed suit. Gov. Jim Justice (R) greenlighted legislation assigning the same critical infrastructure status to a wide range of oil, gas and pipeline facilities, slapping fines as high as $20,000 on anyone found guilty of causing “damage, destruction, vandalization, defacing or tampering” that totals $2,500 or more.…—”States Quietly Pass Laws Criminalizing Fossil Fuel Protests Amid Coronavirus Chaos,” Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPost, 3/27/20

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Pandemic: A Fire Drill for Climate Change

Astrophysicist Adam Frank On How the Pandemic
is a fire drill for climate change

Astrophysicist Adam Frank says this pandemic is a fire drill for climate change. Writing for NBC News, Frank says we’re re-learning just how fragile life is. We have not conquered risk and uncertainty, much to our horror. But we are also learning how quickly we can mobilize to confront an emergency.

We discuss the painful lessons that can shape how our civilization deals with threats going forward. Our guest:Adam Frank, astrophysicist at the University of Rochester.—”Connections: Astrophysicist Adam Frank on how the pandemic is a fire drill for climate change,” Evan Dawson. Megan Mack, WXXI News, 3/31/20

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COVID-19 and the Oil & Gas Industry

COVID-19 and the oil and gas industry – air pollution makes people more vulnerable to viruses, while oil and gas companies struggle in the COVID-19 economy.

COVID-19 and the oil and gas industry are at odds. Air pollution created by oil and gas activities make people more vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19. Simultaneously, the economic impact of the pandemic is posing major challenges to oil and gas companies that were already struggling to meet their bottom line. In responding to these challenges, will our elected leaders agree on a stimulus package that prioritizes people over profits?

Health Impacts of COVID-19 and Oil & Gas

People living in areas with poor air quality may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, a disease that affects the lungs. Poor air quality is linked to higher rates of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), even without a pandemic.

Air pollution from oil and gas development can come from compressor stations, condensate tanks, construction activity, dehydrators, engines, fugitive emissions, pits, vehicles, and venting and flaring. The impact is so severe that for every three job years created by fracking in the Marcellus Shale, one year of life is lost due to increased exposure to pollution.

Yes, air quality has improved in certain areas of China and elsewhere due to decreased traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. But despite our eagerness for good news, sightings of dolphins in Italian waterways does not mean that mother earth has forgiven us or “hit the reset button.”…

On March 8th, Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke looked at the impacts of air quality improvements under COVID-19, and offered this important caveat:

“It seems clearly incorrect and foolhardy to conclude that pandemics are good for health. Again I emphasize that the effects calculated above are just the health benefits of the air pollution changes, and do not account for the many other short- or long-term negative consequences of social and economic disruption on health or other outcomes; these harms could exceed any health benefits from reduced air pollution. But the calculation is perhaps a useful reminder of the often-hidden health consequences of the status quo, i.e. the substantial costs that our current way of doing things exacts on our health and livelihoods.”

This is an environmental justice issue. Higher levels of air pollution tend to be in communities with more poverty, people of color, and immigrants. Other health impacts related to oil and gas activities, from cancer to negative birth outcomes, compromise people’s health, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19. And marginalized communities experience disproportionate barriers to healthcare as well as a heavier economic toll during city-wide lock-downs.…—”COVID-19 and the oil & gas industry,” Shannon Smith, FracTracker Alliance, 3/24/20

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Oil Refineries Face Shutdowns as Demand Collapses

A growing number of refineries around the world are either curtailing operations or shutting down entirely as the oil market collapses.

Oil prices have fallen precipitously to their lowest levels in nearly two decades. Typically, falling oil prices are a good thing for refiners because they buy crude oil on the cheap and process it into gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel, selling those products at higher prices. The end consumer also tends to consume more when fuel is less expensive. As a result, the profit margin for refiners tends to widen when crude oil becomes oversupplied.

But the world is in the midst of dual supply and demand shock — too much drilling has produced a substantial surplus, and the global coronavirus pandemic has led to a historic drop in consumption. Oil demand could fall by as much as 20 percent, according to the International Energy Agency, by far the largest decline in consumption ever recorded.

Consumption of jet fuel around the world has plunged by 75 percent. Average retail gasoline prices in the U.S. are dropping below $2 per gallon nationwide and have already fallen below $1 per gallon in some places. They will fall further still.…—”Oil Refineries Face Shutdowns as Demand Collapses,” Nick Cunningham, Reader Supported News|Desmog, 3/31/20

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As Cities Suspend Shutoffs
Water Access and Hygiene at Front
of Coronavirus Response

Governments at all levels are beginning to review water access policies and inequalities that inhibit public and personal efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Those policies include restoring water service to homes where water had been disconnected, suspending new water shutoffs, and installing public hand-washing stations to serve residents who are experiencing homelessness.

As of Friday morning, some three dozen U.S. cities — including Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Houston — said they would not shut off water service during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a tally from Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group.

“As we all work to curb the spread of COVID 19, it is important that all properties have access to water for hand-washing, personal hygiene, and cleaning,” wrote Lyda Krewson, mayor of St. Louis, in a letter to the director of public utilities. Krewson ordered water shutoffs to be suspended until May 15.

“One of the challenges with this, is that there’s no specific treatment and there’s no vaccine for this virus,” said Jonathan Yoder, who leads water preparedness and response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That’s why the public health efforts at this time are focused on containing the spread of the virus and mitigating the impact of that virus.”

But what is hygiene without water?…—”As Cities Suspend Shutoffs, Water Access and Hygiene at Front of Coronavirus Response,” Brett Walton, Circle of Blue, 3/13/20

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Why TIME Chose Greta Thunberg
as the 2019 Person of the Year

It began with a story line familiar to every parent of every generation in every corner of the globe: an indignant teenager and a sudden burst of rebellion. It became one of the most unlikely and surely one of the swiftest ascents to global influence in history. Over the course of little more than a year, a 16-year-old from Stockholm went from a solitary protest on the cobblestones outside her country’s Parliament to leading a worldwide youth movement; from a schoolkid conjugating verbs in French class to meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and receiving audiences with Presidents and the Pope; from a solo demonstrator with a hand-painted slogan (Skolstrejk för Klimatet) to inspiring millions of people across more than 150 countries to take to the streets on behalf of the planet we share.

Meaningful change rarely happens without the galvanizing force of influential individuals, and in 2019, the earth’s existential crisis found one in Greta Thunberg. Marshaling “Fridays for Future” protests throughout Europe; thundering, “How dare you!” at the world’s most powerful leaders in her viral U.N. speech; leading some 7 million climate strikers across the world in September and tens of thousands more in Madrid in early December, Thunberg has become the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet—and the avatar of a broader generational shift in our culture that is playing out everywhere from the campuses of Hong Kong to the halls of Congress in Washington.

As Isabella Prata, the mother of two climate strikers in São Paulo, puts it, “Greta is an image of all of this generation.”…—”TIME Person of the Year 2019: How We Chose Greta Thunberg,” Edward Felsenthal, Time, 2019

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Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows
Where Florida Springbreakers and New Yorkers
Fleeing Coronavirus Went to Next

A viral video showing cell phone data collected by location accuracy company X-Mode from spring break partiers potentially spreading the coronavirus around the U.S. has brought up questions of digital privacy even as it shows convincingly the importance of staying home to defeat the disease.

“First thing you should note is the importance of social distancing,” tweeted Daily Dot journalist Mikael Thalen of the video. “The second is how much data your phone gives off.”

The data in the video, which X-Mode fed into mapping platform Tectonix, shows people from one Florida beach over spring break departing the Sunshine State and spreading around the country, mostly to the Northeast.

The company also tracked people fleeing the outbreak from New York City.…—”Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows Where Florida Springbreakers and New Yorkers Fleeing Coronavirus Went to Next,” Eoin Higgins, EcoWatch, 3/28/20

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Deregulating Rail Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas

A new regulation from the Trump Administration may soon make it easier for U.S. companies to ship large quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG), an increasingly valuable product. But the new regulation also carries great risks.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently released a proposed rule that would allow for railroads to transport LNG in bulk and without obtaining special permits. Critics, however, worry that PHMSA is acting too quickly and disregarding certain safety concerns.

LNG is a cryogenic liquid—a substance that must be refrigerated below -90°C (-130°F) to maintain its liquid state. Since liquids are more compact than gases, large volumes of substances like LNG can be transported by freight trains.

The proposed rule also raises and seeks public comment on various operational issues designed to reduce safety risks should a rail accident occur. Since LNG is a hazardous material shipped at high pressure, a derailment or collision involving a tank car can have severe effects.

PHMSA states that LNG is “odorless, colorless, non-corrosive, and non-toxic,” but safety concerns remain. LNG has traditionally been shipped by road or sea, and current regulations only allow the bulk transportation of LNG by rail after a shipper has obtained special approval from PHMSA or the Federal Railroad Administration. Observing that LNG is similar in nature to other substances that may be shipped by rail, the Association of American Railroads petitioned PHMSA to allow LNG to be shipped by rail in standard tank cars.

The issue of LNG transportation reached the highest levels of the U.S. government. In an executive order, President Trump noted that the current LNG regulations were drafted almost 40 years ago when the industry was less developed. As part of an effort to upgrade American energy infrastructure, the President specifically requested that the U.S. Department of Transportation amend the regulations to “treat LNG the same as other cryogenic liquids and permit LNG to be transported in approved rail tank cars.”…—”Deregulating Rail Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas,” Mark Nakahara, The Regulatory Review, 3/24/20

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Trump Admin. Rolls Back EPA Protections
as U.S. Wrestles With Coronavirus

As Americans stockpiled food and medicine and retreated indoors and businesses shuttered in hopes of riding out COVID-19, federal agencies in recent days moved forward on rollbacks that included a widely opposed deregulatory action by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The proposed rule would require disclosure of the raw data behind any scientific study used in the rule-making process. That includes confidential medical records that opponents say could be used to identify people.…

The EPA has dismissed demands from 14 attorneys general, the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities and dozens of other government, public health and environmental groups and officials that it at least tap the brakes on that proposed rule while officials confront “the national emergency that arises from the COVID-19 pandemic.”…—”Trump Admin. Rolls Back EPA Protections as U.S. Wrestles With Coronavirus,” Ellen Knickmeyer, Time, 3/24/20

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Stock Market Turmoil Undermines
Claimed Energy Dominance Benefits of US Shale Drilling

Oil prices collapsed today amid falling energy demand and the global response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide reached over 113,000. On Friday, talks disintegrated inside the so-called OPEC+ alliance, which includes Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as non-OPEC members like Russia.

This breakdown kicked off a global oil price war that left Wall Street reeling on Monday, threatening the already troubled U.S. shale oil and gas industry and challenging the resilience of the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” theory that argues domestic shale oil production benefits national security and insulates the U.S. against the actions of other countries. Instead, relying on a shaky shale industry may have left the U.S. economy more vulnerable during times of crisis.

Shale debts have left lenders far more exposed to a crisis in the oil markets than they would have been if drilling companies had remained within their budgets

The price tag on a barrel of oil plunged over the weekend and continued its steep fall on Monday. Goldman Sachs Group warned that oil prices could fall as low as $20 a barrel. Meanwhile, the minimum price it would take for a new shale well to recoup its costs in Texas’ Permian basin is $48 a barrel, Goldman projects. In contrast, Saudi Arabia’s production costs are said to be $2.80 a barrel.…”Stock Market Turmoil Undermines Claimed Energy Dominance Benefits of US Shale Drilling,” Sharon Kelly, DeSmog, 3/9/20

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Judge Rules Against Trump’s Attempt
to Log America’s Largest National Forest

A federal judge in Alaska ruled late Wednesday against a Trump administration plan to open 1.8 million acres of America’s largest national forest to logging.

The Forest Service plan targeted part of the Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island. It would have been the largest sale of national forest timber in 30 years, Earthjustice pointed out, permitting 164 miles of new roads and clearing an area of forest three times the size of Manhattan, more than half of it old growth. But U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the plan violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the agency did not take all of its potential impacts into account, The Hill reported.

“The magnificent, ancient forests of the Tongass just got a reprieve from the chain saws,” Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in the Earthjustice press release. “We’re thrilled the court agreed that the Trump administration broke the law when it approved cutting thousands of acres of old-growth trees. It’s critical to protect our remaining old-growth forests to have any chance of stopping the extinction crisis and slowing climate change.”…—”Judge Rules Against Trump’s Attempt to Log in America’s Largest National Forest,” Olivia Rosane, EcoWatch, 3/13/20

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Exxon May Crush Bailout Hopes
for Suffering Fracking Companies

The Washington Post reported March 10, 2020, that the Trump administration was considering some type of financial help for the failing U.S. shale oil and gas industry, “as industry officials close to the administration clamor for help.” Those officials — billionaire shale CEO Harold Hamm was likely among them — seemed desperate for government assistance because, as DeSmog has documented, their deeply indebted businesses have lost billions of dollars during the fracking boom. Even before the recent oil price war and COVID-19 pandemic, these companies could hardly stay afloat, making cries for some type of corporate welfare likely unavoidable.

But that’s not the same message across the entire oil and gas industry.

At the same time, the head of the American Petroleum Institute — the oil and gas industry’s most powerful lobbying group — said the industry was not interested in seeking a bailout, which didn’t exactly sound like the desperation reported by The Post. It seemed like an odd mix of messaging from the industry.

The idea of bailing out the shale companies was not well received by many politicians, environmental groups, and conservatives. Efforts to directly bail out the shale industry in the federal stimulus package were apparently abandoned.

The next proposed oil industry bailout came March 19 when the Department of Energy (DOE) formalized its intent to buy 77 million gallons of oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), an emergency stockpile of oil. That idea lasted a bit longer than the first bailout proposal, but the DOE killed the idea late on March 25.

On March 26, World Oil magazine quoted DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes, who seemed to indicate that the agency still wanted to provide assistance to “small to medium size American energy companies and their employees.” Independent shale companies, unlike the oil majors like Exxon and BP, would fall into that smaller size category.…

Strategic Petroleum Reserve Purchase Wouldn’t Help Shale

The U.S. shale industry received its first real bailout in 2015 when the 40-year crude oil export ban was lifted under President Obama. This spurred a huge boom in shale oil production because companies could now sell their light oil directly to the rest of the world, without first passing through U.S. refineries.…—”Exxon May Crush Bailout Hopes for Suffering Fracking Companies,” Justin Mikulka, DeSmog, 3/27/20


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Polluting Industries Cash-In on COVID
Harming Climate in the Process

Airlines, farmers and plastic bag makers look for relief amid the pandemic. But the coal industry, and wind and solar energy concerns,lose out in the relief bill.

With the attention of lawmakers and government agencies focused on the global coronavirus pandemic, polluting industries have seized on the opportunity to advance their own interests.

In the days leading up to President Donald Trump’s signing of a $2.2 trillion relief bill, lobbyists descended on Washington in an attempt to squeeze as much as possible out of the U.S. Treasury. Some industries, including agriculture and aviation, got major boosts; others, notably coal and clean energy, were left disappointed.

Further reading: Coronavirus Stimulus Package Spurs a Lobbying Gold Rush | The New York Times

As the number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise and the economic fallout starts to hit more Americans, industries are scrambling to stay afloat and save jobs. But some, critics say, are exploiting the situation to their advantage, potentially at a cost to the climate.…—”Polluting Industries Cash-In on COVID, Harming Climate in the Process,” Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News, 3/27/20

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The CEO Of Texas Roadhouse Has Given Up His Salary
To Help His Employees Amid The Coronavirus Outbreak

The news around the COVID-19 outbreak is constantly changing, but information about food safety and how to keep yourself healthy is crucial right now. Here is a comprehensive list on the foods you should be stocking up on during this period of social distancing, as well as information about your local grocery stores’ changing hours, an explanation of “no-contact delivery,” and a guide on how to help your community and its businesses throughout closures.

The CEO of Texas Roadhouse is going without a salary in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and the effects it has had on the restaurant industry.

Kent Taylor, CEO and president of the restaurant chain, will “forgo his base salary and incentive bonus from the pay period beginning March 18, 2020 and continuing through January 7, 2021,” according to a recent filing with The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The filing, which was submitted last week, went on to say that money will be used to “assist front-line hourly restaurant employees.” He was compensated about $1.36 million in 2018, according to USA Today.…—”The CEO Of Texas Roadhouse Has Given Up His Salary To Help His Employees Amid The Coronavirus Outbreak,” Kristin Salaky, Yahoo Finance, 3/30/20

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In Kenya, the Indigenous Music of Afro Simba Promotes Environmental Stewardship and Peace

Kombo Chokwe Burns is a musician, producer, and writer of music who has walked the artistic path from the village of Rabai on the country’s coast to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. His band Afro Simba is a 10-year old unit that explores the music of 9 indigenous coastal communities, collectively called as Mijikenda. Their debut album “Pandizo” expresses a love for peace and the environment and was also aimed at redefining & reintroducing Mijikenda music to Kenya and the rest of the world.

Mongabay spoke with him at a recent expo at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi.

Kombo Chokwe Burns: Before I started my band I used to play with local artists. I did the first album with them called “Mwanzo.” I have been to Ongala Festival in Tanzania, DOADOA East African Performing Arts Market in Uganda, and also the Mombasa International Cultural Festival. I have performed with local Kenyan stars like Eric Wainaina and Suzanna Owíyo and toured Europe with a band called Kikwetu (‘our lifestyle’ in English). When I formed Afro Simba I managed to play at the Dubai global cultural village and was part of the Kenyan team that went on to perform at the Smithsonian festival in Washington, D.C.…—”In Kenya, the indigenous music of Afro Simba promotes environmental stewardship and peace,” David Njagi, Mongabay, 3/27/20Back to

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The Pandemic Could Overwhelm the Insurance Industry.
We Must Expand Tricare for Everybody Who Needs It

We know that our hospitals aren’t ready, nor is much of our health care industry, if the spread of Covid-19 continues on its current trajectory.

Deepening the problem, however, is that our private health insurance system is also woefully unprepared and threatens to buckle under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving major corporations pleading for a bailout and people with symptoms resisting treatment for fear of the cost. The status quo simply can’t survive a pandemic.

{BUTTON}An insurance industry bailout would be bad policy, leaving corporations whole, while patients still faced massive bills. But it would also be dreadful politics. A political system that hopes to avoid such a brutal vote needs to act now. Fortunately, there is an option that Congress could make available with a one-page piece of legislation. It’s called Tricare, and it’s the least known of the three major public health care plans, after Medicare and Medicaid. It is designed for the families of service members, as well as retirees, and currently covers nearly 10 million people. President Donald Trump and congressional leaders have spoken of putting America on a “wartime footing” to take on the novel coronavirus. Tricare — and, specifically, Tricare Select — is the match for the moment.…—”Expand Tricare During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Jon Walker, The Intercept, 3/26/20

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Pipeline Cracks That Caused B.C. Explosion Were Missed
after postponed inspection, investigation finds

A fiery pipeline explosion near Prince George, B.C., happened after the line’s operator improperly delayed a scheduled hazard management inspection, an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has found.

The explosion in 2018 was caused by stress cracks in the pipe, according to the TSB’s report. The blast sparked a huge fireball and forced more than 100 people from their homes. As well, damage to the pipeline choked natural gas supply across the province and into the U.S. for months.

The report released Wednesday found the risk of the blast in Shelley, B.C., in 2018 was missed because the operator, a subsidiary of Enbridge, postponed an inspection by several months before the explosion.…—”Pipeline explosion near Prince George might have been prevented by more frequent inspection: TSB,” Rhianna Schmunk, CBC News, 3/4/20

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Coronavirus Doesn’t Slow Trump’s Regulatory Rollbacks

As much of his government battles the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump is pushing ahead with major reversals of environmental regulations, including a restriction on scientific research that some doctors worry would complicate future pandemic controls.

Federal employees across multiple agencies said the administration was racing to complete a half-dozen significant rollbacks over the coming month. They include a measure to weaken automobile fuel efficiency standards, which one person familiar with the plans said would be issued as early as next week.

Further reading Trump Admin. Rolls Back EPA Protections as U.S. Wrestles With Coronavirus | Time
Trump weakens fuel economy standards, rolling back climate change fight | Los Angeles Times
95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump | The New York Times

Other efforts include loosening controls on toxic ash from coal plants, relaxing restrictions on mercury emissions and weakening the consideration of climate change in environmental reviews for most infrastructure projects.…—”Coronavirus Doesn’t Slow Trump’s Regulatory Rollbacks,” Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, 3/25/20

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Tullow Oil Leaves Destitution
and Environmental Concerns
Amid Broken Promises in Kenya

Since he left his job with a local engineering company contracted by Tullow Oil to install drilling rigs, Erastus Ekeno has been running a pub, selling food and drinks to residents and visitors to this sun-baked township on the dilapidated highway to South Sudan. The profits were much more than the salary he used to earn as a welder in his former job, with sales of up to £280 a day – a tidy sum by local standards.

In mid-2019, Tullow started trucking oil to the port of Mombasa, nearly a thousand kilometres away. Prospects for the business looked good.

But that all changed around October, when Tullow abruptly stopped transporting the oil. In a matter of weeks, Ekeno’s small venture started feeling the heat: there were no more drivers, mechanics and tradesmen sleeping in his small lodging behind his pub, or drinking and taking meals there.

I could not afford rent due to low business,” he recalls. Ekeno sent home two of his workers, leaving him to run the pub with his wife and a skeleton staff.

The worst was yet to come, however. In January 2020, Tullow commenced a staff layoff plan, sending home the first batch of workers. More are set to be sent home in March and May as the company prepares to significantly reduce its Kenyan investment, reportedly selling a large stake of its business to the controversial state-backed China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).…—”Tullow Oil Leaves Destitution and Environmental Concerns Amid Broken Promises in Kenya,” Maina Waruru, DeSmog UK, 3/24/20

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WHO, Coronavirus Testing Lab Hit by Hackers
as opportunistic attacks ramp up

The World Health Organization has reportedly seen attempted cyberattacks double since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, and a vaccine testing facility has also been targeted with ransomware.

The World Health Organization is just the most recent agency on the front lines of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to be fighting off cyber criminals as it battles worldwide spread of COVID-19.

According to Reuters, WHO has seen a marked increase in attempted cyberattacks – with one of the most recent reportedly perpetrated by a hacker group called DarkHotel. The unsuccessful attack spoofed a webpage to look like a login portal for agency employees in an attempt to steal passwords.

As healthcare organizations battle the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re also facing heightened cybersecurity threats from malicious actors looking to take advantage of the crisis caused by the outbreak.…—”WHO, coronavirus testing lab hit by hackers as opportunistic attacks ramp up,” Nathan Eddy, Healthcare IT News, 3/27/20

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Coal Industry Group Asks Federal Lawmakers
to Cut Funding for Black Lung Program,
Citing COVID-19

The National Mining Association (NMA) on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump and federal lawmakers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by cutting a tax used to support coal miners affected by black lung disease, to cut funding to clean up high-priority abandoned coal mine sites, and taking other steps that would financially benefit the coal mining industry.

To minimize the impact of this crisis on the coal industry, Congress should ensure all businesses have the financial resources necessary to ride out the pandemic,” the March 18 letter says.

One way to achieve that goal, the NMA suggested, would be to make a $220 million cut to the per-ton tax on coal used to fund the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.…—”Coal Industry Group Asks Federal Lawmakers to Cut Funding for Black Lung Program, Citing COVID-19,” Sharon Kelly, DeSmog, 3/20/20

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50 Ways Companies Are Giving Back
During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Mr. Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mom would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” And that can be no truer than now. I live in the Bay Area where there has been a mandatory shutdown. It is bizarre to see the grocery store ransacked, the schools empty, and the explosion of mass hysteria on social media. Most people’s lives have been completely upended by the Corona Virus or COVID-19 sweeping the world. That said, today I’m highlighting 50 helpers. When the pressure is on, and governments are overloaded, it is up to businesses large and small to do things that will better their employees, customers and the community at large, until this difficult time passes. We’ve even seen famous musicians like John Legend, Keith Urban and Pink play free concerts for people isolated at home. From a business and government perspective, what we have seen in the last few weeks and days, is how fast we can move and make decisions when we want to affect change as a society. But let’s get to the recognition.

Here are 50 Examples of Companies Doing Good For The World During This Corona Virus Pandemic:…

Let these fifty examples of giving back inspire you to see how you can help people in your community, or in your business. Helping and being of service to others is a positive way to counter the anxiety and negativity swirling around in the media constantly. Look around and consider how you can step up and be a leader during this challenging time for the world.…—”50 Ways Companies Are Giving Back During The Coronavirus Pandemic,” Blake Morgan, Forbes, 3/17/20

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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 to editor@thebanner.news.