The Banner, Vol. 5, No. 33 – Water Bankruptcy While Drowning

August 13, 2019
The world’s water is becoming a strange phenomenon as the air and oceans heat up. This week we dedicate the edition to Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” So often mistaken as a poem about the dire quandary of being surrounded by water and having nothing to drink, the poem is at heart a cautionary tale about the consequences of disrespecting the life of the world, and the messengers and guides it sends us. Two of the of the last lines are:
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
Next the news.

But first, about our annual summer fund-raiser

We are a couple of Franklins shy of our goal of $850 for the next 12 month’s operating expenses. That is a pretty slim budget, and we like it a lot! Folks have been generous. Thanks to all you who have been generous in supporting the work of The Banner. If a few more twenties show up in the next week or so, we will be all set! You can contribute either by sending donations through Paypal to editor@thebanner.news, or email editor@thebanner.news for a mailing address if you prefer check or money order. (Please do not send gold bullion or other precious metals directly through the mail.) And now for the news!

Action Alert! NYSEG
Rate Case Public Hearings This Week:
Keene Valley
Binghamton
Ithaca

RG&E Rate Case Public Hearing

On August 14th and 15th the NY State Public Service Commission (PSC) and NYSEG will hold informational sessions and opportunities for public comment on NYSEG’s proposal to raise utility rates, as well as their spending plans for our energy infrastructure. This is our chance to push the PSC to force NYSEG to transition to a clean, renewable, and affordable energy infrastructure to abate further climate change and comply with NY State law. Utility rate cases, such as this, only occur every three years, and so we must ACT NOW to show public support for a green and affordable energy future.

NYSEG proposed to raise utility rates on the delivery portions of our monthly electricity and gas bills. Moreover, NYSEG continuse to expand gas infrastructure and incentivize fossil fuel based technologies, moving us away, not toward, meeting NY State’s newest goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Green energy and clean technologies are available and as effective, so we should insist on this transition now.

Speak Out and hold NYSEG and the PSC accountable for their part in creating a clean, sustainable, and affordable fossil-free future. See this attachment for potential talking points prepared by the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition:
RG&E_NYSEG Utility Rate Case Public Statement Preparation Sheet

TALKING POINTS:

  • End Investment in Gas Infrastructure. Expanding gas infrastructure is both an environmentally and economically unsound investment and should be abandoned.
  • Instead, subsidize beneficial electrification, which includes MORE funding for electric transit buses and school bus fleets, electric vehicle charging stations, and clean heating and cooling technologies [heat pumps].
  • Improve the grid to support adequate charging stations for every bus depot that serves public transit or the schools. (“If they want to charge us more, they need to charge us more!”)
  • Develop income-based programming and incentives for energy efficiency and heat pump technologies, so that everyone in our community can afford these technologies, and to meet the 5TBtu reduction in energy usage from heat pumps the State requires.
  • Improve our energy infrastructure to better accommodate renewable energy sources, including distributed energy resources (e.g. small-scale solar, wind, battery storage).
  • Reduce the fixed charge for electricity service to $6/month. Fixed charges are regressive (the poor and renters, who use less electricity, pay as much as the rich, who use more). Unlike charges per kilowatt hour, fixed charges do nothing to incentivize energy conservation.
  • Improve storm preparedness and the resiliency of our electric grid to reduce power outages
  • Make NYSEG Go Green to earn green $$. Shift to a performance-based incentive structure built on achieving affordable green energy goals to reform RG&E’s revenue model.

THIS WEEK’S NYSEG RATE CASE PUBLIC HEARINGS:

Keene Valley Keene Valley Public Library
1796 NYS Route 73
Keene Valley, New York 12943
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Information Session: 1:00 P.M.
Public Statement Hearing: 2:00 P.M.
Ithaca Thompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Room
101 E. Green Street
Ithaca, New York 14850
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Information Session: 1:00 P.M.
Public Statement Hearing: 2:00 P.M.
Binghamton Binghamton City Hall
Council Chambers
38 Hawley Street
Binghamton, New York 13901
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Information Session: 5:00 P.M.

Public Statement Hearing: 6:00 P.M.

Can’t make it to a public hearing? We got alternatives:

Send in your Public Comment:

  • Comments should refer to one or more of the following cases (see New York Public Service Commission “NOTICE SOLICITING COMMENTS AND ANNOUNCING INFORMATION SESSIONS AND PUBLIC STATEMENT HEARINGS” PDF Download)
    • Case 19-E-0378 (NYSEG electric rates)
    • Case 19-G-0379 (NYSEG gas rates).
    • Case 19-E-0378 (NYSEG electric rates)
    • Case 19-G-CASES 19-E-0378 et al.-3-0379 (NYSEG gas rates)
  • Internet or Email: Go to www.dps.ny.gov, click on “Search,” enter the applicable case number (19-E-0378 or 19-G0379) and then click the “Post Comments” button at the top of the page.
  • Email comments to the Secretary for the Commission at secretary@dps.ny.gov
  • By Mail or Hand Delivery: Comments may be mailed or delivered to the Honorable Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350.
  • Toll-Free Opinion Line: 1-800-335-2120 is set up to take comments about pending cases from in-state callers, 24 hours a day. Comments provided through this line are not transcribed, but a summary is provided to the ALJs and to the Commission for their consideration.

· Comments submitted via these alternative means are requested by August 26, 2019, although comments will be accepted throughout these proceedings. Written comments received by the Department will become part of the record considered by the Commission. Written comments may be viewed online by going to www.dps.ny.gov, clicking on “Search,” entering the applicable case number (19-E-0378, 19-G-0379), and then clicking on the “Public Comments” tab.

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Representative Morelle calls on the Monroe County Legislature
to act on Climate Change

Rochester Youth Climate Leaders is pushing Monroe County to establish a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our community and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The students have spoken at every legislature meeting since May, have the support of over 1000 Monroe County residents on their petition (Sign and share the petition at change.org), and have met with various county legislators about their proposal. Additionally, they have recently obtained support from Representative Joseph Morelle of the 25th district of New York.

According to Representative Morelle, “There is no greater threat to the future of our planet than climate change – and although we are already experiencing its destructive effects today, it is our young people and future generations who will feel its devastation the most. That is why I applaud the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders for taking action on this critical issue. I am proud to stand alongside them in urging Monroe County to establish a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our community and do their part to create a safer, healthier environment for all.”

Rochester Youth Climate Leaders is grateful that Representative Morelle is speaking up on climate change. His endorsement encourages the county legislature to take action on this issue. Representative Morelle is doing his part to address the climate crisis, and it’s time county legislators do theirs.—Liam Smith, “Representative Morelle calls on the Monroe County Legislature to act on Climate Change,” Rochester Youth Climate Leaders, 8/6/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Expansion of NYSEG pipeline not needed

Guest Commentary: Expansion of NYSEG pipeline not needed

 

Last year, the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency and Sen. Jim Seward met behind closed doors with the president of NYSEG. They cooked up plans for a new pipeline to be paid for by you, NYSEG’s customers. Instead of replacing a 25-mile segment of 8-inch pipe from Norwich with a 10-inch line as previously planned, they want to lay 50 miles of 12-inch pipeline between DeRuyter and Oneonta. This back-room deal could triple the amount of fracked gas to Oneonta and quadruple the cost of simply replacing an old pipeline.

The company’s original proposal was priced at $49 million. According to NYSEG, the new scheme will cost at least $203 million. Industry estimates put the bill at half a billion dollars.

We mustn’t let the “New York” in New York State Electric & Gas fool us: NYSEG is a foreign-owned corporation, a subsidiary of Avangrid with little concern for its customers, our region or the planet. Fines levied against Avangrid for electric outages demonstrate the company’s disregard for public welfare. Moreover, NYSEG’s current misguided push to expand fossil fuels instead of making electrical upgrades — essential to support renewable energy and lower emissions — runs counter to state climate goals recently codified into law.

NYSEG — and the IDA — claim that more gas will solve the “interruptible” problem for customers such as SUNY Oneonta. Recall, SUNY Oneonta may burn oil the equivalent of four days mid-winter during periods of peak gas demand. But instead of fairly compensating SUNY for the occasional inconvenience, the IDA wants NYSEG to charge the rest of us for an oversized pipeline likely to remain underutilized for decades.…—Robert Eklund, “Guest Commentary: Expansion of NYSEG pipeline not needed,” The Daily Star, 8/9/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Millions gear up to take part in September’s
global climate strikes,
and week of escalation

Millions gear up to take part in September’s global climate strikes, week of escalation

Millions will take part in global climate strikes on the 20th and 27th of September, with communities across the country and around the world taking action during the entire “Week for Future and Climate Justice.”Led by youth climate strikers, people will walk out of school and work to join mass marches and rallies, music concerts, sit-ins and nonviolent direct action. Organizers say it is on course to be the largest-ever global mobilization for climate action, with over 6000 people in 150 countries already pledging to organize events.

“This is going to be a huge opportunity to highlight the transformational work of youth climate activists in communities across the country. America needs to hear the voices of young people being impacted by the worst effects of climate change, and be inspired to demand immediate, bold, and decisive change. This is our invitation to everyone, of every walk of life, to get involved and help us fight for our futures.” Katie Eder, Executive Director of the Future Coalition

In the U.S., youth strikes, coordinated by Future Coalition, including national youth-led groups including Friday’s For Future USA, U.S. Youth Climate Strike, Sunrise Movement, Zero Hour, Earth Uprising, and Extinction Rebellion Youth. With adults backing youth, communities are building and strengthening a multi-generational, multiracial movement to make this day as impactful as possible. For the first time since the youth climate strike movement began, adults will strike alongside young people to show support and solidarity.

Further reading Micro Striking – Prepared Actions for the 20-27 Sept (pdf)
Fridays for Future
Future Coalition|What we do

Art, music, and song will be centered everywhere, as communities escalate the fight to stop fossil fuels projects, build just and equitable climate solutions to transition to 100% renewable energy, and hold accountable fossil fuel executives most responsible for the climate crisis.

“Climate breakdown is one of the greatest human rights issue we face. It means food supplies failing, fuel shortages, dwindling access to drinking water, and homes being swallowed by the sea. It means forced migration and worsening resource conflict. It means more frequent and ferocious natural disasters. Protesting against climate breakdown is about much more than emissions and scientific metrics – it’s about building a just and sustainable world that works for all of us. The world needs a global ‘green new deal’ that tackles the root causes of inequality and the climate crisis together. We are rising up for a transformative deal based upon the principles of climate justice and universal rights for all.”—May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director

The UN Climate Summit will be September 23 in New York, with the week-long movement also taking over the entire Climate Week, in New York City, across the country, and around the world.

“September 20 isn’t a goal, it’s a catalyst for future action. It’s a catalyst for the engagement of humanity in the protection of Earth. It’s a catalyst for realizing the intersectionality that the climate crisis has with almost every other issue. It’s a catalyst for the culmination of hundreds of climate activists that won’t stop fighting until the climate emergency is over.” Xiye Bastida, youth strike leader with Fridays for Future – New York City

Global support for the strikes and week of action has been growing with parents, academics, bakers, trade unions, doctors, farmers, caretakers, celebrities, and teachers among those joining toward September 20-27.

This September’s Global Climate Strikes and Week for Future and Climate Justice come in the face of an uptick in anti-protest legislation, as climate lawsuits heat up this fall, and in the lead-up to November’s COP25.…–Thanu Yakupitiyage, Ben Rubin, “Millions gear up to take part in September’s global climate strikes, week of escalation,” 350.org|Climate Nexus

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Exxon Accused of Pressuring Witnesses
in New York Climate Fraud Case

New York’s attorney general asks judge to stop the oil giant from subpoenaing documents from investors, saying it would ‘discourage them from testifying’

Exxon Accused of Pressuring Witnesses in Climate Fraud Case

Prosecutors in New York are accusing ExxonMobil of trying to discourage potential witnesses from testifying about whether the oil giant misled investors over the costs it may face from future climate regulations. They asked a judge to block Exxon from making what they describe as “unreasonable” and extensive requests for documents from the witnesses.

On Thursday, August 8, 2019, Justice Barry Ostrager of the New York Supreme Court sided with the prosecutors, saying that Exxon “can’t go on a gigantic, burdensome fishing expedition to exhume hundreds or thousands of documents that have no relevance to the issues in this case.”

Court filings show that Exxon sent letters to a group of investment advisers and shareholder activists who prosecutors want to put on the stand, informing them they will be subject to subpoenas from the company seeking documents relevant to the case if they choose to testify.

Because of their roles investing in and engaging with Exxon over climate change, these witnesses’ testimony could prove critical to the state’s case.

With opening statements scheduled to begin Oct. 23, a lawyer in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office wrote that the request would “impose disproportionate burdens on these witnesses in a transparent attempt to discourage them from testifying voluntarily, and threatening to upend the trial schedule.”…—Nicholas Kusnetz, David Hasemyer, “Exxon Accused of Pressuring Witnesses in Climate Fraud Case,” InsideClimate News, 8/9/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

US Forest Service Plans to Limit
the National Environmental Policy Act Process

US Forest Service Plans to Limit the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Process

Forest Service Could Roll Back 93% of Public Comment Periods Urgent Appeal from the Outdoor Alliance, July 29, 2019 Almost anytime there’s a chance for you to weigh in with land managers about an important decision—from trying to fight off

Almost anytime there’s a chance for you to weigh in with land managers about an important decision—from trying to fight off mining in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters to the creation of a new management plan for your local National Forest—that opportunity exists because of a law called the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Right now, the Forest Service is proposing big changes to the way it implements the law that could drastically roll back your say in how public lands are managed.

At its core, NEPA does two main things. First, it requires that major federal actions are analyzed for their effects on the environment and on recreation—basically just requiring informed decision making. Second, NEPA ensures that the American people get to have a say in those decisions—public participation. NEPA is arguably the most important law for environmental quality and public lands management in the U.S. since it requires that we measure the impact of big changes to public lands – like building a new mine or enlarging a parking lot – and study the potential impacts on air and water quality, recreation access, potential pollution, and more.

A reader in environmentalist
and conservative
views

Forest Service might limit public comments

Proposed Cuts and Increased Timber Cutting for the Forest Service
American Forests Responds: President’s FY19 Budget Cuts Forest Resources

Reforming the Forest Service |Cato Institute

The Future of the Forest Service: Do we need a new mission for our national forests?|Property and Environment Research Center

Industry groups and extractive companies who know their actions have a big effect on the environment would like to see NEPA rolled back to make it easier and faster for them to develop public lands. The Forest Service also has not been very efficient in how they’ve done environmental analysis in the past, and there are legitimate reasons for them to pursue some modest reforms. It’s essential that they proceed cautiously, though, because changes to NEPA could come at a big cost for the environment and for your ability to participate in decisions around public lands and waters.

The Forest Service is accepting comments from the community until August 12. We’ve made it easy to submit a comment directly to the Forest Service about NEPA and the public process and would encourage everyone who cares about public lands to do so.…—Duane Nichols, “US Forest Service Plans to Limit the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Process,” FrackCheckWV, 8/6/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

New York looks to Europe
for offshore wind coordination, interconnection models
to develop 9 GW

State stakeholders say coordination is key as they juggle a variety of transmission players based on the lessons learned from Europe, where developers have installed more than 17 GW of offshore wind.

New York looks to Europe for offshore wind coordination, interconnection models to develop 9 GW

Dive Brief:

  • The New York Power Authority (NYPA) on Thursday released key takeaways from a commissioned study of European offshore wind transmission models that will guide New York as it pursues its goal of 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035.

  • The report studied Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. Key findings to facilitate large-scale deployment in the U.S. include transparent, long-term planning and coordination and encouraging healthy competition, according to NYPA.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants the state to get 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The study of European interconnection models will provide important information to help the state reach its offshore wind goal, according to experts.

Dive Insight:

Offshore wind in the U.S. is nascent but rapidly growing.

The first offshore project in the U.S. to be completed was the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island in 2016, according to the report. But last month, New York awarded two contracts for a total of 1,700 MW of offshore wind, as it approaches its 9 GW goal.

Other states in the resource-rich Northeast, like New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, also have multi-gigawatt goals. According to the report, the region as a whole has “committed to over 19 GW of installed capacity by 2035.”

In light of the rapidly expanding market, NYPA and a coalition of stakeholders including NYISO, Consolidated Edison, the Long Island Power Authority and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) decided to look to Europe, where offshore wind has been in development for 20 years and about 17 GW have already been built.…—Max Witynski, “New York looks to Europe for offshore wind coordination, interconnection models to develop 9 GW,” Utility Dive, 8.9/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Another Setback in Landmark Fracking Case as Lawyers Pull Out

Another Setback in Landmark Fracking Case as Lawyers Pull Out | The Tyee

Jessica Ernst’s 12-year legal battle over water contamination no nearer resolution.

Jessica Ernst has spent over a decade and $400,000 pursuing a lawsuit against the Alberta fracking industry and its regulator.

Now her Ontario lawyer has let go most of his staff and given up the case.

“I was shocked and felt terribly betrayed,” said Ernst. “The legal system doesn’t want ordinary people in it. They don’t want citizens who will not gag and settle out of court for money so corporations and government can continue their abuse.”

In 2007, Ernst, then an oil patch consultant with her own thriving business, sued the Alberta government, Alberta’s energy regulator and Encana. She alleged her well water had been contaminated by Encana’s fracking and government agencies had failed to investigate the problems.

For more than a decade the case has been bogged down by legal wrangling, legal posturing and constant delays. Three different judges have been involved.

The process included a two-year detour to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled that Ernst could not sue the regulator because it is given immunity by provincial legislation. The lawsuits against the provincial government and Encana remain before the courts.

And still no evidence has been heard on the actual merits of the case.

Ernst was represented by high-profile lawyer Murray Klippenstein. He told The Tyee in an email that “major changes in the political climate of the legal profession in Ontario” made it “no longer feasible for me to continue my law firm. That was heartbreaking to me, for many reasons.”…

“Murray warned me in 2007 that I would need to spend a million dollars and give up 10 to 12 years of my life, to maybe win a few thousand dollars,” said Ernst.

She said Klippenstein told her that lawsuits like hers were usually settled with a payment and a non-disclosure agreement that silences the person who had sued “because our legal system is set up to make that happen.”

Ernst said she had always been clear that she would not accept a non-disclosure agreement. The issue of contaminated water goes beyond one household or community and the public needs to be aware, she said.

Ernst said Klippenstein also warned her that the courts might order her to pay the legal costs of Encana and the other defendants even if she won the lawsuit.

“I would have to also pay the legal costs of the defendants even if I win but win less than what the defendants offer me to gag,” she said. “Who wouldn’t be bitter?”

Ernst’s lawsuit claims fracking contaminated the water supply at her homestead near Rosebud, about 110 kilometres east of Calgary. Research has shown fracking, in which companies blast water, chemicals and sand underground to crack rock formations and allow methane to flow, can result in groundwater contamination.…—Andrew Nikiforuk, “Another Setback in Landmark Fracking Case as Lawyers Pull Out.The Tyee, 8/8/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Water Bankruptcy While Drowning
——
Water bankruptcy looms
for one in four people worldwide

‘We’re currently facing a global water crisis,’ says Betsy Otto, director of the World Resources Institute’s global water program

A quarter of the world’s people are just a few dry spells away from facing dangerous water shortages, a U.S. think tank warned on Tuesday, with India home to the most people at risk of running dry.

An updated Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas from the World Resources Institute (WRI) examines areas facing the worst levels of water risk around the globe, marked red for high risk and dark red for extremely high risk. Among the areas most affected in Canada are those around Medicine Hat, Swift Current and Saskatoon in Saskatchewan; and areas north of Calgary and to the south of Fort McMurray in Alberta.

Further reading Iran’s Looming Water Bankruptcy, 2017
UN, Other Experts Warn of “Water Bankruptcy” For Many Regions After Reviewing 200 Major Global Projects, 2012
Water Authority Considers Filing for Bankruptcy, 2003

In all, 17 countries face “extremely high water stress” because they consume 80 percent of their available water annually, a situation worsened by more frequent dry shocks tied to climate change, the WRI said.

Because we don’t understand (groundwater), and don’t see it, we manage it very poorly

“We’re currently facing a global water crisis,” said Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s global water program.

New data in WRI’s atlas showed the lion’s share of the most thirsty countries are located in the largely arid Middle East and North Africa region.

Qatar is the most water-stressed country, followed by Israel and Lebanon.

India ranked 13th among “extremely high” water-stressed nations. But with a population of more than 1.3 billion, it has over three times more people than the other 16 countries combined whose agriculture, industry and municipalities depend on avoiding water “bankruptcy.”

In recent weeks, India’s sixth-largest city, Chennai, was the latest metropolis worldwide to warn its taps could run dry, as reservoir levels plunged.

That followed similar countdowns to water “Day Zero” in South Africa’s Cape Town last year and Brazil’s São Paulo in 2015, WRI said.

“We’re likely to see more of these kinds of ‘Day Zeros’ in the future,” said Otto.…—Reuters, “Water bankruptcy looms for one in four people worldwide, and parts of Canada are at risk,” Edmonton Journal, 8/6/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

America’€™s Farmers, Reeling From Floods,
Face a New Problem: No Water

America’s Farmers, Reeling From Floods, Face a New Problem: No Water

The breach of an irrigation canal left more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Nebraska and Wyoming without water at a critical point in the growing cycle.

For farmers battered by floods and blizzards and one of the rainiest springs on record, this has been a year tainted by too much water.

But suddenly, across more than 100,000 acres of Nebraska and Wyoming, there is no water to be found. The dirt is cracking. The beans are turning a sickly yellow. And the corn, which looked so promising just two weeks ago, is straining for fluid through long, scorching days.

The countryside is suddenly parched because a century-old tunnel that carries irrigation water across more than 100 miles, from Wyoming to Nebraska, collapsed this month. The cause of the collapse was not yet clear but the effect has been immediate.

A large expanse of farmland is parched. And hundreds of farmers, already reeling from years of low grain prices, are without water at the most critical point of the growing cycle.

“Could you survive working with no salary for a year?” said Kendall Busch, who grows sugar beets, beans and corn near Mitchell, Neb. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Across much of the Great Plains, this growing season seemed cursed even before the irrigation crisis.…—Mitch Smith, “America’s Farmers, Reeling From Floods, Face a New Problem: No Water,” The New York Times, 7/29/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

The Midwest’s “bomb cyclone” was more of a catastrophe
than anyone could have ever imagined

The Midwest’s “bomb cyclone” was more of a catastrophe than anyone could have ever imagined

It’s threatening the region’s most valuable resource.

After “bomb cyclone” storms hit the Midwest in March, 2019, large swaths of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri farmland were stricken with floods. “Baby calves were swept into freezing floodwaters, washing up dead along the banks of swollen rivers,” the New York Times reported from the ground in Nebraska. “Farm fields were now lakes.” Three people have died, and in many places, “rail lines and roads that carry farmers’ crops to market were washed away by the rain-gorged rivers that drowned small towns,” the Times added.

The disaster slammed Midwestern farmers at a vulnerable time. Besieged by rising competition from growers in Brazil, they’re locked in a five-year slump of low prices for their main crops, corn and soybeans, which intensified when President Donald Trump launched a multi-front trade war last year. Farm debt has reached levels last seen in 1980, which marked the dawn of a devastating farm crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported in February. Farm bankruptcies in the region jumped 19 percent in 2018, reaching their highest level in a decade and nearly twice the 2008 rate. The floods will likely exact at least $1 billion in livestock losses and equipment damage to farms.

 

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

‘Gold Over Life, Literally’:
How Trump Forced Reversal on Mining Project
EPA Scientists Warn Could Destroy Alaskan Salmon Ecosystem

‘Gold Over Life, Literally’: How Trump Forced Reversal on Mining Project EPA Scientists Warn Could Destroy Alaskan Salmon Ecosystem

“This is one of the world’s most beautiful places, with a thriving salmon run, and now we’ll get some…gold.”

“Gold over life, literally.”

“If that mine gets put in, it would … completely devastate our region. It would not only kill our resources, but it would kill us culturally.” —Gayla Hoseth, Curyung Tribal Council/Bristol Bay Native Association

That was the succinct and critical reaction of Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein to reporting on Friday that President Donald Trump had personally intervened—after a meeting with Alaska’s Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy on Air Force One in June—to withdraw the Environmental Protection Agency’s opposition to a gold mining project in the state that the federal government’s own scientists have acknowledged would destroy native fisheries and undermine the state’s fragile ecosystems.

CNN reports:

In 2014, the project was halted because an EPA study found that it would cause “complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering, and fragmentation of streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources” in some areas of Bristol Bay. The agency invoked a rarely used provision of the Clean Water Act that works like a veto, effectively banning mining on the site.

When the internal announcement was made by Trump political appointees that the agency was dropping its opposition, which came one day after the Trump-Dunleavy meeting, sources told CNN it came as a “total shock” to some of the top EPA scientists who were planning to oppose the project on environmental grounds. Sources for the story, the news outlet noted, “asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.”

According to CNN:

Four EPA sources with knowledge of the decision told CNN that senior agency officials in Washington summoned scientists and other staffers to an internal video conference on June 27, the day after the Trump-Dunleavy meeting, to inform them of the agency’s reversal. The details of that meeting are not on any official EPA calendar and have not previously been reported.

Those sources said the decision disregards the standard assessment process under the Clean Water Act, cutting scientists out of the process.

The EPA’s new position on the project is the latest development in a decade-long battle that has pitted environmentalists, Alaskan Natives and the fishing industry against pro-mining interests in Alaska.

“This is one of the world’s most beautiful places, with a thriving salmon run, and now we’ll get some…gold,” McKibben tweeted. Trump, he added, is “President Midas.”…—Jon Queally, “‘Gold Over Life, Literally’: How Trump Forced Reversal on Mining Project EPA Scientists Warn Could Destroy Alaskan Salmon Ecosystem,” Common Dreams News, 8/10/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Federal judge bars Rosemont Mine construction

Federal judge bars Rosemont Mine construction

A federal judge stopped the planned Rosemont Mine in a ruling Wednesday evening, July 31, 2019, halting plans to start building the $1.9 billion project in August.

U.S. District Judge James Soto’s ruling in Tucson overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s 2017 decision approving the mine and its 2013 final environmental impact statement clearing the way for that approval.

His ruling, if it survives appeals to higher courts, would drive a stake into longstanding federal policies that say the Forest Service virtually can never say “no” to a mine if it would otherwise meet federal laws. It calls into legal question how the Forest Service has used the 1872 Mining Law to justify its approval of Rosemont — and by extension other mines on its land.

Soto’s decision called the Forest Service approval “arbitrary and capricious.” He sided with environmentalists and tribes that sued to stop the Hudbay Minerals Inc. project. Specifically, he essentially ruled that the mining company can’t put its waste rock and mine tailings on Forest Service land even though it has mining claims on it because it has failed to prove the claims are valid.…—Tony Davis, “Federal judge bars Rosemont Mine construction,” Arizona Daily Star|Tuscon, 8/1/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

US states face water crisis
as global heating increases strain on supplies

US states face water crisis as global heating increases strain on supplies

New Mexico tops the list, followed by California, Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska as problem could intensify with global heating

A handful of US states – including New Mexico and California – are facing significant strains on their water supplies that will only intensify with global heating, according to new rankings.

New Mexico tops the list and is the only state with “extremely high” pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute found.

California ranks second, followed by Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

“We’re stretching our water supply pretty much as far as it can go … and even further,” said Leah Schleifer, a spokeswoman for WRI’s water program.

Further reading

Extreme water stress affects a quarter of the world’s population

Scientists warn fracking could cause water shortages after usage shoots up by 800% in parts of US
The Fracking Industry’s Water Nightmare

Experts with WRI said the data shows a global water crisis.

“The picture is alarming in many places around the globe, but it’s very important to note that water stress is not destiny,” said Betsy Otto, WRI’s global water director. “What we can’t afford to do any longer is pretend that the situation will resolve itself.”…— Emily Holden, “Several US states face significant stress on their water availability, data shows,” The Guardian, 8/6/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Huge swathes of the Arctic on fire, satellite images show

Huge swathes of the Arctic on fire, satellite images show

Earth’s boreal forests now burning at rate unseen in ‘at least 10,000 years’, scientists warn

Vast swathes of the Arctic are suffering from “unprecedented” wildfires, new satellite images have revealed.

North of the Arctic Circle, the high temperatures are facilitating enormous wildfires which are wreaking ecological destruction on a colossal scale.

 

It comes after the world’s hottest June on record which has been followed by a devastating heatwave in the US, with Europe forecast for the same treatment later this week.

Satellite images reveal fires across Greenland, Siberia and Alaska, with warm dry conditions following ice melt on the enormous Greenland ice sheet commencing a month earlier than average.

 

Pierre Markuse, a satellite photography expert, posted images showing smoke billowing across massive areas of uninhabited and wild land.

The pictures show forest fires and burning peat. They also reveal the extent of the damage the fires leave behind. In Alaska wildfires have already burned more than 1.6 million acres of land.

Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, said the amount of CO2 emitted by Arctic wildfires between 1 June and 21 July 2019 is around 100 megatonnes and is approaching the entire 2017 fossil fuel CO2 emissions of Belgium.…—Harry Cockburn, “Huge swathes of the Arctic on fire, ‘unprecedented’ satellite images show,” The Independent, 7/23/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Bison on the loose near Sharon Springs

Bison on the loose near Sharon Springs

ROSEBOOM, NY— A home where the buffalo roam has been celebrated in song as something close to paradise. Over the weekend of July 27, 2019, this rural community in eastern Otsego County discovered otherwise.

A herd of roughly 75 buffalo have been wreaking havoc on local farms since late last week, when they broke through the fencing on a local ranch and started wandering across the countryside — and grazing at will on area crops.

The owner of the animals, Brian Grubb of Bison Island farm near Sharon Springs said he fears people are pursuing them, a strategy that is scattering creatures that would usually hang together as a single herd.

“I’m seeing signs someone is chasing them with a four-wheeler,” Grubb said. “Those animals are being scattered. We need that to stop … otherwise the outcome is going to be extremely negative for the animals.”

Roaming buffalo update: 32 back and 43 still on the loose near Sharon Springs

Grubb said he was working with state troopers to come up with a plan to gather the animals.

The herd that broke out of Grubb’s farm on Thursday includes three bulls and 45 calves, and constitutes roughly a third of the farm’s population of bison.…—Rick Karlin, “Bison on the loose near Sharon Springs,” Times Union, 7/30/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

UN Report Calls for Transforming Land Practices to Battle Hunger
and ‘Suffocating Blanket of Climate Emergency’

UN Report Calls for Transforming Land Practices to Battle Hunger and ‘Suffocating Blanket of Climate Emergency’

“There are a lot of actions that we can take now… But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments.”

A landmark United Nations report released Thursday, August 8, 2019 warns that land worldwide is under mounting pressure from humans—both exacerbated by and contributing to the climate crisis—which underscores the need to urgently enact more sustainable land practices and curb greenhouse gas emissions from all sources to keep the global population fed and ensure a habitable planet in the future.

The world must take immediate action to transform the way we use our land—forestry, agriculture, industrial, and urban development—in order to avoid a climate catastrophe.”—Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC

The Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. body that assesses science related to the climate crisis. The report’s Summary for Policymakers (pdf) was agreed on by world governments at a meeting in Geneva earlier this week and published Thursday.

“Land plays an important role in the climate system,” Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III—which focuses on mitigating climate change—explained in a statement. “Agriculture, forestry, and other types of land use account for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.”

In other words, when it comes to the human-caused climate emergency land use is part of the problem—and part of the solution.

As Susan Casey-Lefkowitz wrote in a blog post for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Thursday, the SRCCL signals that “the world must take immediate action to transform the way we use our land—forestry, agriculture, industrial, and urban development—in order to avoid a climate catastrophe.”…—Jessica Corbett, “UN Report Calls for Transforming Land Practices to Battle Hunger and ‘Suffocating Blanket of Climate Emergency’,” Common Dreams News 8/8/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

A Carbon Wing-print Calculator:
See whether your round-trip flight emits as much CO2
as many people do in a year

How your flight emits as much CO2 as many people do in a year

Even short-haul flights produce huge amounts of CO2, figures show

Taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year, a new Guardian analysis has found.

The figures highlight the disproportionate carbon footprint of those who can afford to fly, with even a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh contributing more CO2 than the mean annual emissions of a person in Uganda or Somalia.

2019 is forecast to be another record-breaking year for air travel, with passengers expected to fly a total of 8.1tn km, up 5% from last year and more than 300% since 1990.

Taking one return flight generates more CO2 than citizens of some countries produce in a year

…There are 56 countries where the average person emits less carbon dioxide in a whole year – from Burundi in Africa to Paraguay in South America.But even a relatively short return trip from London to Rome carries a carbon footprint of 234kg of CO2 per passenger – more than the average produced by citizens of 17 countries annually.

But even a relatively short return trip from London to Rome carries a carbon footprint of 234kg of CO2 per passenger – more than the average produced by citizens of 17 countries annually.

The figures are averages taking into account which aircraft models are typically used on flight routes, and the estimated occupancy of seats on board those planes. The figures include only the CO2 generated by burning jet fuel, not any emissions embedded in the construction of the plane or any other greenhouse gases that might be produced, such as water vapour.…—Niko Kommenda, “Carbon calculator: how taking one flight emits as much as many people do in a year,The Guardian, 7/19/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Greenland’s Melting: Heat Waves Are Changing the Landscape
Before Their Eyes

Greenland’s Melting: Heat Waves Are Changing the Landscape Before Their Eyes

The ice sheet is in the midst of one of its most extreme melts on record, with worrying consequences for Greenland’s people and the planet.

When the ice is gone—when there’s nothing left to melt—that’s when a new kind of worry sets in.

In years past, when it rained near Greenlander Toennes Berthelsen’s family camp, water would flood down as the mountain top ice melted, creating rivers where there usually are none.

Last week, when it rained there, there was no river at all.

“It was heavy raining, but we couldn’t see any flood coming down,” Berthelsen said. The ice cap at the top of the mountain was completely gone.

Click for full-size view

Greenland, home to the world’s second-largest ice sheet, has faced a summer of extreme heat. It saw exceptionally high temperatures in July—and that was before a new heat wave arrived this week and pushed temperatures above freezing even at the research station at the very top of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Now, the same heat dome that cooked Europe is forecast to raise temperatures in Greenland into the 70s Fahrenheit on parts of the coast, and the ice sheet is in the midst of one of its most extreme melts on record, said Xavier Fettweis, a climate researcher at the University of Liège. On July 30 and 31, more than half of the ice sheet had at least some melting at the surface, Denmark’s research institutions reported on Polar Portal.

“The current melt rate is equivalent to what the model projects for 2070, using the most pessimistic model,” Fettweis said. That melting has global implications—if Greenland’s ice sheet were to melt entirely, it would result in about 20 feet of global sea level rise.…—Sabrina Shankman, “Greenland’s Melting: Heat Waves Are Changing the Landscape Before Their Eyes,” InsideClimate News, 8/1/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

The Inevitable Death of Natural Gas as a ‘Bridge Fuel’

The Inevitable Death of Natural Gas as a ‘Bridge Fuel’

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced the city is scrapping plans for a multi-billion-dollar update to three natural gas power plants, instead choosing to invest in renewable energy and storage.

This is the beginning of the end of natural gas in Los Angeles,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The climate crisis demands that we move more quickly to end dependence on fossil fuel, and that’s what today is all about.”

Last year America’s carbon emissions rose over 3 percent, despite coal plants closing and being replaced in part by natural gas, the much-touted “bridge fuel” and “cleaner” fossil fuel alternative.

As a new series from the sustainability think tank the Sightline Institute points out, the idea of natural gas as a bridge fuel is “alarmingly deceptive.”

But signs are emerging that, despite oil and gas industry efforts to shirk blame for the climate crisis and promote gas as part of a “lower-carbon fuel mix,” the illusion of natural gas as a bridge fuel is starting to crumble.

Market Forces

While Mayor Garcetti may be right in predicting the downward slide of natural gas for power generation, climate concerns won’t drive that change — just simple economics.

It wasn’t long ago that President Obama — who was accused of starting “the war on coal” because of air quality regulations — was touting the benefits of “clean coal.” But automation in the coal mining industry and competition with cheaper renewables and natural gas began taking a toll on coal.

The struggling coal industry thought things were looking up when Donald Trump was elected, with his promise to bring back coal.…

India was all-in on coal for the next few decades, and yet in the two and half years since I wrote that, renewables have been hurting India’s coal industry. Why?

Just like in Tennessee and Kentucky, it’s the market. But it isn’t natural gas taking down coal in India, it’s wind and solar, according to a recent Reuters column by Clyde Russell:

… the main reason coal may battle to fuel India’s future energy needs is that it’s simply becoming too expensive relative to renewable energy alternatives such as wind and solar.”…—Justin Mikulka, “The Inevitable Death of Natural Gas as a ‘Bridge Fuel’,” DeSmogBlog, 2/22/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

So Long, Mini Shampoos: Holiday Inn’s Owner
Switching To Bulk Sizes To Cut Waste

So Long, Mini Shampoos: Holiday Inn’s Owner Switching To Bulk Sizes To Cut Waste

InterContinental Hotels Group says its hotels use some 200 million little toiletries every year. It plans to switch from tiny plastic sample sizes to bulk-sized bathroom amenities by the end of 2021.

The miniature toiletries in hotel rooms might be cute and convenient to toss in your bag as you’re packing up, but they’re also the source of a whole lot of plastic waste, and a major hotel group says it is phasing them out.

InterContinental Hotels Group has more than 5,600 hotels around the world, with brands that include Holiday Inn, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Collectively, the company says its hotels use some 200 million little toiletries every year.

The hotels, which encompass 843,000 rooms, will all switch to bulk-sized bathroom amenities by the end of 2021. According to IHG, it is “the first global hotel company to commit all brands to removing bathroom miniatures in favor of bulk-size amenities.”

IHG CEO Keith Barr told the Financial Times that the move is partially in reaction to government inaction. “We collectively as an industry have to lead where governments are not necessarily giving the leadership to make a difference,” he told the newspaper.…—Merrit Kennedy, “So Long, Mini Shampoos: Holiday Inn’s Owner Switching To Bulk Sizes To Cut Waste,” NPR, 7/30/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Just 10% of fossil fuel subsidy cash ‘could pay for green transition’

Just 10% of fossil fuel subsidy cash ‘could pay for green transition’

Redirecting small portion of subsidies would unleash clean energy revolution, says report

Switching just some of the huge subsidies supporting fossil fuels to renewables would unleash a runaway clean energy revolution, according to a new report, significantly cutting the carbon emissions that are driving the climate crisis.

Coal, oil and gas get more than $370bn (£305bn) a year in support, compared with $100bn for renewables, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) report found. Just 10-30% of the fossil fuel subsidies would pay for a global transition to clean energy, the IISD said.

Ending fossil fuel subsidies has long been seen as vital to tackling the climate emergency, with the G20 nations pledging in 2009 to phase them out, but progress has been limited. In May, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, attacked subsidies, saying: “What we are doing is using taxpayers’ money – which means our money – to boost hurricanes, to spread droughts, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals. In one word: to destroy the world.”

The new analysis shows how redirecting some of the fossil fuel subsidies could decisively tip the balance in favour of green energy, making it the cheapest electricity available and instigating a rapid global roll-out.

Further reading: Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF (May, 2015)

“Almost everywhere, renewables are so close to being competitive that [a 10-30% subsidy swap] tips the balance, and turns them from a technology that is slowly growing to one that is instantly the most viable and can replace really large amounts of generation,” said Richard Bridle of the IISD. “It goes from being marginal to an absolute no-brainer.”…— Damian Carrington , “Just 10% of fossil fuel subsidy cash ‘could pay for green transition’,” The Guardian, 8/1/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

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.