The Banner, Vol. 6, No. 26 – The Uses & Kinds of Force

August 4, 2020
This week, in the wake of the withdrawal from Portland, Oregon of federal forces untrained in crowd control, we examine the larger context of the kinds of forces industrial societies exert against people, and the reasons for those forces. Of course, The Banner, is ill-equipped to do justice to such a sprawling matter. Nonetheless, it may be useful to gain a sense of scope and focus on the global challenges our civilization present to humanity itself, as well as all living beings and the environment which holds our lives. Above all, we focus on the suffering colonialists deal to original inhabitants, wherever they venture. They always come to conquer, change and dominate, not to join. And we are still living that paradigm, with a few blessed reliefs and insights here and there about the horror of industrial society’s alienation from the environment we live in.
But first the news.

The Banner’s Fund Annual Fund Drive

We continue to receive a donation or two each week, which will eventually add up, one trusts, to a budget for the next twelve months of publishing The Banner. As we have become more ambitious it has been necessary to pay for security services, decent backup/restore services, along with the basic costs of hosting the online edition, sending out the email edition, and the basic editing/publishing platform service. So our bills have inflated a bit over the past two years. But we have also been able to cut costs in other places. A little from appreciative readers is all it has ever taken to cover these expenses. We’ll let you know when we’ve reached the goal! And now the news…

Table of Contents

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NY & Northeast Activist News

National Activist News

The Kinds & Uses of Force

Indigenous Peoples News


New Energy News

Science & Climate

Industry News

Regulatory & Court News

Politics & Economics

And Now for Something Completely Different

Action Alert! Stop Northern Access Pipeline. Again.

JoeSchuecklerMEMEOn June 25th, New York Court of Appeals decided in favor of National Fuel in Theresa Schueckler’s eminent domain case. This was sad news for Theresa who along with her deceased husband Joe, fought a long hard battle to protect the water and land that they spent over 50 years caring for and lovingly planting 1000’s of trees. These fights are SO stacked against landowners. The U.S. Supreme Court would be the next step. If anyone knows of the resources and/or a lawyer to take that route, let us know. We owe much gratitude to Theresa and Joe for standing up to National Fuel through years of threat to their home.

Additional bad news came for the Town of Pendleton that has been battling for years to keep National Fuel’s 22,214 HP compressor station out of their community. On July 14, U.S. District Court of WNY decided against the Town’s ability to block the compressor through zoning laws that were never intended to allow a toxic spewing compressor station.

All this means that National Fuel is continuing to clear the way should they choose to begin construction despite low gas prices and no need for the gas. This could happen despite the fact that NYSDEC’s defense of denial of the 401 Water Quality Certification is continuing its way through the court system.

Further reading: NY DEC Petition to Review FERC’s denial of Section 401 Water Quality Certificate in Northern Access Pipeline (PDF)| United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit


So we need your help. Still standing in National Fuel’s way is a NY Army Corps 404 Permit. We need this permit to NOT be issued. Will you please TAKE ACTION by sending a message to each of the three Army Corps offices that have jurisdiction over this permit?

Copy this message then please add your own comments to personalize your message – see suggestions below

I request that USACE NOT issue a 404 Permit for the Northern Access Pipeline without a clear NYSDEC 401 Water Quality Certification in place. FERC’s arbitrary claim that NY did not rule on time is wrong and is being contested in court. NY did NOT waive its Clean Water Act rights. NYSDEC denied the 401 due to the significant impacts this 97 mile pipeline would have as it trenches through 192 Western NY waterways and wetland areas. I am relying on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect NY’s rights and waterways.

Despite requirements and calls to do so, FERC has not prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Especially in light of NYSDEC’s findings of significant environmental impacts, an EIS is necessary.

Suggested points for additional comment (there seems to be a word limit when submitting comment online so you will need to shorten additional comment to one or two sentences) See links to send below.

  • Congress determined under the Natural Gas Act that no entity may transport natural gas interstate without the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) first determining the activity is in the public interest. This project is not in the public interest. There is no need for this project. Simply determining that National Fuel has a market to sell the gas does NOT make it in the public interest but rather shows that it is for National Fuel’s profit. The environmental harm to streams and waterways, the seizing of private land for right of way and the harm from the project’s contribution to climate change far outweigh the nonexistent public benefits of this project.
  • A natural gas pipeline that supplies only 28% of the flow of a 96 mile 24″ pipeline to the public market and the rest to export at its private profit (see NYDEC v. FERC, Petition to Review Northern Access Pipeline, pg 6; pg 9 of PDF) has little claim to the necessity of eminent domain. “Necessity determinations implicate not only narrow considerations, such as the selection of the specific land to be condemned for the public use, but also the much broader and often contentious question of whether the exercise of the eminent domain power is actually needed to further the public purpose at stake.” —NECESSITY AS A CHECK ON STATE EMINENT DOMAIN POWER, Robert C. Bird, Lynda J. Oswald, JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW Vol 12.1, October 2009. At best, it might be conceded that National Fuel deserves FERC certification of public necessity and convenience in regard to the narrowly defined facilities that connect it to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline system. But there has been no case made that the public served in Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s northeastern market area will suffer for lack of 140,000 decatherms per day.
  • NYSDEC denied the required 401 Water Quality Certification for this project. Under Army Corps procedures, a 404 permit must not be issued without a 401 Water Quality Certification in place. Despite FERC and National Fuel’s contention, NYS did not waive its right to deny the 401. An agreement was in place and signed by National Fuel to extend the decision deadline by a mere 36 days as NYSDEC awaited a requested report from National Fuel regarding their proposed method of crossing Dodge Creek. This matter is currently making its way through the courts and if justice prevails, it will be decided in NYSDEC’s favor making FERC’s claims that NYSDEC waived their right to rule on the 401 invalid.
  • NYSDEC determined that this project would have a significant detrimental impact on streams and wetlands throughout Western NY. National Fuel’s proposed steam crossings were determined to be unacceptable with a high potential to degrade high quality streams that support trout and other threatened and endangered species including hellbender salamanders.
  • Trout spawning areas require clear cold waters. Clear cutting, bank disturbance, resulting erosion and runoff, turbidity caused by proposed trenched crossings will all result in degradation and loss of valuable trout habitat.
  • The Cattaraugus Creek Basin Aquifer that would be crossed by this pipeline is the sole source of drinking water for about 20,000 residents and must be protected. Proposed shallow placement of pipeline at stream crossings would be exposed to potential rupture and leakage over time. Natural gas contains not only methane but chemicals like benzene, traces of the toxic mix used in the fracking process as well as radon from the Marcellus shale, threatening water quality and downstream drinking water supplies.
  • FERC’s Environmental Assessment (EA) did not assess or take into account the rising frequency and impact of extreme weather events and flooding due to climate change. NYS has experience several 100-year floods in the past 15 years. These events are expected to increase in the coming years. Cleared areas along stream shorelines will be subject to further erosion. Pipeline crossing stream beds at shallow depths could be exposed and vulnerable to leaking and rupture if struck by rocks and other objects in fast moving water. High pressure pipeline could be shifted, weakened and cracked leading to possibility of explosion.
  • In light of the climate emergency we now face, FERC’s determination that there is a need and necessity for this project is false and needs to be reassessed. As FERC Commissioner, Richard Glick states in his dissenting opinion, “I do not believe that the Project is in the public interest without determining the significance of the Project’s contribution to climate change.”
  • NY State has passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which mandates a 40% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030 and 85% reduction by 2050. NY State does not want or need National Fuel’s increased fracked gas capacity. This project runs directly contrary to the GHG reductions that are now NY State law.
  • Much – perhaps most – of the gas in this pipe is headed to Canada. In light of this, there is manifestly no public convenience or necessity for the Northern Access Pipeline


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What’s That Truck in Front of Me Hauling?

If you’re traveling between Wyalusing, PA and Gibbstown, NJ, the truck in front of you could be hauling Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in the near future if the players involved in an export plan get their way.

I’m working with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Protect Northern PA, and other organizations to see that they don’t.

This petition drive is part of a larger campaign calling on the Delaware River Basin Commission to reject a key permit that would allow the project to move forward. If granted, gas fracked in Pennsylvania’s norther tier would be liquefied at a plant in Wyalusing and sent to Gibbstown for export. The gas would make its way to Gibbstown via trucks and trains that would pass through communities, including many environmental justice communities that are too often on the receiving end of anything industrial polluters want to throw at them. If the project moves forward, the gas could soon be in the truck in front of you on the crowded highway or on the train car speeding past you at the crossing in your town.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network worked with Fractracker to create an interactive map that lets you see how close you may be to the processing plant, export facility, and the likely truck and train routes.

Further reading: Gibbstown Logistics Center – LNG & NGL exports proposed | Delaware Riverkeeper Network

This project would be a disaster for Delaware River communities. Every day, up to 1,650 truck trips and/or 100 rail cars would come into Gibbstown, worsening air pollution in a region that doesn’t meet EPA standards for ozone. LNG will be loaded onto ships continuously, 24/7, 365 days per year, putting communities at risk from explosion. And water quality, endangered species, such as Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, and rare, vulnerable habitats for many animals and plants are threatened by the terminal and dredging.

Your signatures will be added to those the other organizations have gathered to deliver to the Delaware River Basin Commission at its August meeting.

Please sign the petition and share the link with your friends and family.

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Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation
Regulating Oil and Gas Related Waste

Within hours of receiving the legislation, Governor Cuomo signed into law the regulation of waste from oil or natural gas in New York as hazardous waste.

“New York has taken an aggressive approach to protecting our natural resources by banning hydrofracking and advancing a nation-leading environmental agenda that is accelerating our transition to a carbon-neutral green economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “As we do everything possible to reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels, we have to make every effort to diminish the impact of the hazardous waste they produce and by signing this legislation we are enacting smart, necessary regulations that will protect both our environment and New Yorker’s health.”

Further reading: New Jersey Senate passes ban on fracking waste | The Press of Atlantic City

Senator Rachel May said, “Central and Upstate New York are home to precious freshwater resources that our advocates have spent years fighting to protect against dangerous fracking waste. Today, New York takes another step forward as an environmental leader. I am incredibly proud that my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly have closed this dangerous loophole that has put our waterways and our health in jeopardy, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law.” Assemblymember Steve Englebright said, “New York State has often had to step up when the federal government falls short, especially when it comes to environmental protection. New York is a leader in this regard, and I’m proud to sponsor legislation to close a huge loophole in how hazardous waste produced by the oil and gas industry is regulated. I wish to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law.”

All such waste will be subject to current State law regulating the transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. The legislation goes into effect immediately.

New York Ban on Fracking in FY 2021 Enacted Budget

In April, Governor Cuomo signed the FY 2021 Enacted Budget which codified the Governor’s 2014 ban on the Department of Environmental Conservation approving permits that would authorize an applicant to use high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well. The budget also included a moratorium on future gelled propane hydrofracking applications until the DEC can conduct an analysis of the impacts of this completion method. This will protect the health of New Yorkers and permanently ensure that our environment is not harmed by this practice.—”Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Regulating Oil and Gas Related Waste,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York Executive Chamber, 8/3/20

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New Yorkers who climbed 275 ft tall smokestacks
to shut down construction of fracked gas power plant
receive one year probation.

Meanwhile the widely opposed Cricket Valley power plant is now up and running, violating New York State climate law.

Dover Plains, NY – Four New Yorkers who scaled a 275 foot smokestack as part of a dramatic shut down of construction at the Cricket Valley fracked gas power plant last year have accepted a settlement avoiding jail time and instead received one year of probation. The four climbers had been charged with criminal trespass and were facing 30 days in jail.

“Local businesses have around this criminal plant suffer or have closed because of the pandemic that affects our health and economy,” says Ben Schwartz, owner of White Pine Community Farm in Dover. “While investors on this project are unethically raking in millions, if not billions at the cost to, not only New York rate-payers and to our local farming community including our farm which supplies the region with fresh, healthy food to our supermarket and restaurants, and contributes to a local agro-tourism economy. Farms, businesses and home-owners in Cricket Valley Plant’s vicinity face a loss in revenue and property-value, not to mention our air quality which will especially impact Dover High School, Middle and Elementary Schools less than a mile from the plant.”

“As a farmer, I am entrusted with the health and the soil, the land, and therefore the people, says Creek Iversen, owner and director of Seed Song Farm. However, when the representatives we elect to take care of these things fail us, we have to stand up in their place, as we did at the Cricket Valley fracked gas power plant, and we will keep standing up until it’s shut down for good!”

To be punished with a year probation for peacefully defending our communities is absurd. We are not the criminals. Cricket Valley Energy, LLC is.—Monica Hunken, activist climber of the smokestacks

Local residents living near Cricket Valley are particularly concerned that the plant’s location in the Harlem Valley, a narrow north-south corridor, will engulf the region with pollution. The 1,100 megawatt fracked gas power plant is one of the largest in the Northeast, and when running at full capacity covers the local community in 279 tons of nitrogen oxides, 570 tons of carbon monoxide, and more than 60 tons of sulfuric acid pollution per year.It will also emit 6 million tons of greenhouse gasses.

25 other people were arrested during the shut down on November 16, 2019 which included a tractor blockade of the main entrance.

Bill Kish, a defendant who blockaded the driveway with a tractor with 24 other New Yorkers, emblematic of the local agriculture community, while the four climbed the smokestacks remarks on the results of his case today. “I just finished with court and I now have an ACD which says I have to perform 16 hours of community service and I have an order of protection against an individual named Scott Curry that says I need to stay a thousand feet away from him and Cricket Valley Power Plant. And I just wanted to let everyone know that David Dorfman, our attorney, and myself are going to appeal the order of protection on Constitutional grounds. A thousand feet stay away order is just insane and doesn’t provide us with the opportunity to continue to protest Cricket Valley Energy. Route 22 is right there and we want to be there on Route 22 with signs protesting Cricket Valley so we’ll keep you posted about what happens with our appeal.

Bill continues to name the things he will continue to ensure New Yorkers can do to shut down Cricket Valley right now:

  • First thing to do would be to contact Governor Cuomo. Tell him that we want DEC to shut down Cricket Valley and you want a new supplemental environmental Impact statement.
  • The second thing you can do: Write letters to the members of the Climate Advisory Council and let them know that you want Cricket Valley shut down as part of the CLCPA.
  • The third thing you can do is go to website and look for ways to let one of the major financiers of the plant, TIAA, know that you want them to sell their stake in Cricket Valley. That’s something we’re focusing on right now because they have no business taking teachers’ money and investing it fracked gas power.

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Northern Access Pipeline won’t bring energy security

National Fuel’s Northern Access Pipeline cannot remotely be considered an essential infrastructure project for New York’s energy security. Rather, it is a destructive corporation’s desperate attempt to prepare and secure new markets for its polluting and socially harmful commodity.

This is evidenced by National Fuel’s own statements that the primary purpose of the pipeline is to export fracked gas to Canada and by the fact that the company has felt the need to enlist a front group run by a Washington public relations firm to convince New Yorkers that it will be a benefit to more than just National Fuel’s high-paid executives and shareholders.


More than 71 percent of the gas that would be shipped through Northern Access would go under the Niagara River to what the company calls “premium markets,” that is, where the methane from National Fuel’s fracking fields in Pennsylvania can fetch a higher price than if it were sold in the United States.

These exports will boost National Fuel’s profits, which fuel exorbitant executive pay – CEO Ronald Tanski was paid more than $8 million in 2018, 98 times what the median National Fuel worker makes according to a filing with the SEC – and massive dividends to shareholders like downstate investor Mario Gabelli, who owns more than $384 million of National Fuel stock.

The pipeline offers no benefit to regular Western New Yorkers, but it will cost us in terms of risk to our air and waterways, the seizure of private property through eminent domain, and locking in increased carbon pollution at a pivotal moment when we need to be investing in renewable alternatives to avoid climate devastation.

To sell this bad deal, National Fuel has apparently enlisted the help of Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, which consists of oil and gas lobbying groups in places where the Texas firm Energy Transfer Partners is building its controversial Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge and Mariner pipelines. Grow America’s Infrastructure Now is led by a partner at DCI Group, a public relations firm that specializes in creating organizations that represent the interests of its corporate clients.

If New Yorkers are serious about energy security and mitigating the most damaging impacts of climate change, we need to tune out the scaremongering of fracking industry consultants paid to keep us dependent on fossil energy. A just transition away from fossil fuels through public investment in conservation and renewable energy can deliver jobs and justice to all, including the communities most impacted by climate change.—”Another Voice: Northern Access Pipeline won’t bring energy security,” Robert Galbraith, Buffalo News, 3/4/19

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Liberty Utilities nixes Granite Bridge Route 101 pipeline project

CONCORD, NH – The utility proposing to construct the controversial Granite Bridge pipeline along Route 101 between Manchester and Exeter is abandoning the project after seeking an alternative plan.

Liberty Utilities filed notice with state Public Utilities Commission Friday afternoon it now intends to enter agreement with the owner of the Concord Lateral pipeline to carry natural gas to its customers in central New Hampshire, ending its pursuit of constructing the Granite Bridge pipeline.

“We’ve been fighting this pipeline for three years,” said Epping resident Joe Perry, who was a driving force behind a 2019 citizens petition opposing Granite Bridge. “It’s a tremendous weight off our shoulders.”…

As part of the project, Liberty Utilities planned to build a 150- to 170-foot high, 200-foot diameter LNG storage tank, capable of storing 2 billion cubic feet of LNG in an abandoned quarry in West Epping. The entire project’s cost is $414 million, with the storage tank costing $260 million alone, according to company estimates.

The project was opposed by several environmental groups, and residents of towns including Epping and Exeter who passed non-binding ballot questions expressing their disapproval of the project, citing the climate change crisis being exacerbated by the continued reliance on fossil fuels. Exeter had entered an easement agreement with Liberty Utilities and received $30,000 for the possible construction of a metering station on Department of Public Works Property and was slated to receive an additional $70,000 if the easement was activated by Liberty.…—”Liberty Utilities nixes Granite Bridge Route 101 pipeline project,” Alex LaCasse, Portsmouth Seacoast Online, 7/31/20

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Portland Sees Peaceful Night of Protests
Following Withdrawal of Federal Troops

Thursday night’s protest passed off without major incident or intervention by the police in the absence of federal officers

The withdrawal of federal agents from frontline policing of demonstrations in downtown Portland significantly reduced tensions in the city overnight.

Protesters in support of Black Lives Matter once again rallied near the federal courthouse that became a flashpoint, and the scene of nightly battles amid the swirl of teargas, after Donald Trump dispatched agents to end what he called anarchy in the city after weeks of demonstrations.

But in the absence of the federal officers, Thursday night’s protest passed off without major incident or intervention by the police.

On Wednesday, Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, agreed with the White House that the state police would take over responsibility for guarding the courthouse after weeks of escalating protests. She said that “Trump’s troops” were behaving like an occupying army in Portland and provoking unrest with heavy-handed tactics.

In contrast, the state troopers did not intervene even when the scale of the protest on Thursday night passed the point, as demonstrators shook the fence around the courthouse, at which in early demonstrations the federal agents generally fired teargas, stun grenades and baton rounds.

In the absence of confrontation, and with the state police remaining largely unseen inside the courthouse, tensions quickly eased. Without the federal forces to draw attention, protest organisers kept the focus on Black Lives Matters and reform of the Portland police.

Some in the crowd worked to avoid trouble by stopping demonstrators from lighting fires and shooting fireworks at the courthouse as they had done on previous nights.

Dan Thomas, an African American man, stood in the street shouting at people not to cause a confrontation with the state police.…—”Portland Sees Peaceful Night of Protests Following Withdrawal of Federal Troops,” Chris McGreal, Reader Supported News|Guardian UK, 7/31/20


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Green groups warn of ‘toxic’ dumping with New Mexico’s fracking wastewater law

Louis Meeks, a farmer near Pavillion, Wyoming, fills a trough with contaminated water from his well on September 17, 2009. REUTERS/Jon Hurdle/File Photo

Environmental groups lambasted oil and gas industry regulators and officials in New Mexico on Friday during virtual public hearings on wastewater from petroleum extraction, with green activists saying the refuse should be safely disposed of and not repurposed for other uses like irrigating crops.

The state last year passed a law called the Produced Water Act, giving energy regulators the authority to develop rules on how the wastewater can be used outside the oil and gas industry, and state university researchers are examining whether the water – when treated – can be safe to use in agriculture.

The effort is seen as crucial to both the energy and agriculture industries in arid New Mexico, where drillers accessing rich petroleum deposits in the Permian Basin produce millions of gallons of wastewater as farmers and municipalities struggle with perennial water shortages.

“The Oil Conservation Division’s rules appear to set the stage for a more insidious plan to allow companies to dump their toxic waste into our environment,” a coalition of Western conservation and indigenous groups wrote in a letter to the agency ahead of the hearing, which began on Thursday.…—”Green groups warn of ‘toxic’ dumping with New Mexico’s fracking wastewater law,” Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, 7/31/20

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City Should Stop Ill-Conceived Water Project

Santa Fe has a major budget crisis. But having surveyed public opinion and learned that capital projects were the lowest priority for the city’s residents, the city administration is nonetheless moving forward on its infamous “pump to dump” project.

The plan is to build a new 18-mile pipeline from the wastewater plant to deliver partially treated effluent into the Rio Grande. Discharge standards are lower for the Rio Grande than they are for the Santa Fe River, and the city’s consulting engineers have advised that big bucks could be saved by sending our poor-quality water to the Rio Grande rather than investing in expensive upgrades to our wastewater plant.

Further reading: City Council Pursues Vote on Contested Pipeline | WildEarth Guardians, December, 2019

The problematic effluent will be swapped for Rio Grande water, which will be pumped uphill and treated to serve putative future growth. This will take thousands of acre-feet of water per year out of the lower 18 miles of the Santa Fe River, impacting farming communities downstream from Cieneguilla to Cochiti Pueblo. Further, the engineers assume there will be enough San Juan-Chama water in the Rio Grande to accomplish that trade of river water for effluent.

On the contrary, literally all the federal and state water agencies predict reductions and shortages in the San Juan and Rio Grande systems due to climate change.

The pump-to-dump project has been a dream of the Water Division for years, which has lobbied tirelessly for it, doing one-sided performances for elected officials and anyone else who would listen. In these presentations, cost savings are always touted and technical and environmental concerns dismissed. Citizens were not permitted to speak when the project was added as an amendment to a resolution before a committee of the council and rammed through without public notice.

An outpouring of letters resulted, but the City Council (with two lame ducks voting and one member absent) approved the pipeline in December. Again, the concerned citizens in attendance were required to remain silent.…—”City should stop ill-conceived water project,” Neil Williams, Paige Grant, Santa Fe New Mexican, 6/21/20


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Gov. Polis Isn’t Speaking for All Colorado When He Says There Won’t Be a 2022 Fracking Initiative

We are in a national moment of reckoning about the distribution of privilege and power in our culture. All of us are being called to reflect and account, particularly those in leadership positions. Such scrutiny reveals Gov. Jared Polis’ recent op-ed in Colorado Politics announcing that “groups have committed to withdraw current [oil and gas] ballot measures filed … through 2022” to be particularly problematic.

Let us first acknowledge that Polis has been a progressive leader for Colorado and has taken many worthwhile strides for the state. He has led a proactive response to the pandemic, signed the qualified immunity bill, and has been reasonable on a host of other issues, from immigration to the death penalty.

However, when it comes to addressing oil and gas extraction in Colorado, Polis continues to play politics instead of taking a strong protective stance for communities and the environment.

How is it possible for one man and a few of his hand-picked environmental groups, who have no history of spearheading oil and gas ballot initiatives, to announce that “the environmental community” will not pursue community protections via a citizen’s ballot initiative?…—”Guest Commentary: Polis isn’t speaking for us when he says there won’t be a 2022 fracking initiative,” Suzanne Speigel, Anne Lee Foster, Denver Post, 7/31/20

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The Kinds and Uses of Force

Oil Money Is Probably Keeping
Your Local Police Department Going

Big Oil is not only disproportionately harming communities of color—it’s also funding powerful police groups in major U.S. cities.

Big corporations accused of driving environmental and health inequalities in Black and brown communities through toxic and climate-changing pollution are also funding powerful police groups in major U.S. cities, according to a new investigation.

Some of America’s largest oil and gas companies, private utilities, and financial institutions that bankroll fossil fuels also back police foundations—opaque private entities that raise money to pay for training, weapons, equipment, and surveillance technology for departments across the U.S.

Further reading: Police Foundations and their Networks | LittleSis

The investigation by the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit corporate and government accountability research institute, and its research database project LittleSis, details how police foundations in cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Washington, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City are partially funded by household names such as Chevron, Shell, and Wells Fargo.…—”Oil money is probably keeping your local police department going.” Nina Lakhani, Slate, 7/31/20

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Colonialism Made the Modern World. Let’s Remake It.

This is what real “decolonization” should look like.

“Decolonize this place!” “Decolonize the university!” “Decolonize the museum!”

In the past few years, decolonization has gained new political currency — inside the borders of the old colonial powers. Indigenous movements have reclaimed the mantle of “decolonization” in protests like those at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline. Students from South Africa to Britain have marched under its banner to challenge Eurocentric curriculums. Museums such as the Natural History Museum in New York and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels have been compelled to confront their representation of colonized African and Indigenous peoples.

But what is “decolonization?” What the word means and what it requires have been contested for a century.

Now, partly riding the global surge of Black Lives Matter mobilizations, calls for decolonization have swept Europe’s former imperial metropoles. In Bristol, England, last month, protesters tore down the statue of Edward Colston, the director of the Royal African Company, which dominated the African slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Across Belgium, protesters have focused on statues of King Leopold II, who ruled the Congo Free State (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) as his personal property from 1885 to 1908. King Phillipe II of Belgium recently expressed “regret” for his ancestor’s brutal regime, which caused the death of 10 million people.

Colonialism, the protesters insist, did not just shape the global south. It made Europe and the modern world. Profits from the slave trade fueled the rise of port cities like Bristol, Liverpool and London while the Atlantic economy that slavery created helped to fuel the Industrial Revolution. King Leopold amassed a fortune of well over $1.1 billion in today’s dollars from Congo. His vision of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, which opened in 1910 soon after his death, reproduced a narrative of African backwardness while obscuring the violent exploitation of the Congolese.

By tearing down or defacing these statues, protesters burst open the national narrative and force a confrontation with the history of empire. This is a decolonization of the sensory world, the illusion that empire was somewhere else.…—”Colonialism Made the Modern World. Let’s Remake It.” Adom Getachew, The New York Times, 7/27/20

Dr. Getachew is the author of “Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination.”

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‘We Will Coup Whoever We Want’:
Elon Musk and the Overthrow of Democracy in Bolivia

On July 24, 2020, Tesla’s Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that a second U.S. “government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people.” Someone responded to Musk soon after, “You know what wasn’t in the best interest of people? The U.S. government organizing a coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia so you could obtain the lithium there.” Musk then wrote: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

Musk refers here to the coup against President Evo Morales Ayma, who was removed illegally from his office in November 2019. Morales had just won an election for a term that was to have begun in January 2020. Even if there was a challenge against that election, Morales’ term should rightfully have continued through November and December of 2019. Instead, the Bolivian military, at the behest of Bolivia’s far right and the United States government, threatened Morales; Morales went into exile in Mexico and is now in Argentina.

At that time, the “evidence” of fraud was offered by the far right and by a “preliminary report” by the Organization of American States; only after Morales was removed from office was there grudging acknowledgment by the liberal media that there was in fact no evidence of fraud. It was too late for Bolivia, which has been condemned to a dangerous government that has suspended democracy in the country.

Lithium Coup

Over his 14 years in office, Morales fought to use the wealth of Bolivia for the Bolivian people, who saw—after centuries of oppression—remarkable advances in their basic needs. Literacy rates rose and hunger rates dropped. The use of Bolivia’s wealth to advance the interests of the people rather than North American multinational corporations was an abomination to the U.S. embassy in La Paz, which had egged on the worst elements of the military and the far right to overthrow the government. This is just what happened in November 2019.…—”‘We Will Coup Whoever We Want’: Elon Musk and the Overthrow of Democracy in Bolivia,” Vijay Prashad, Alejandro Bejarano, CounterPunch, 7/29/20

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Defending Tomorrow

For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against climate breakdown. Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work.

The climate crisis is arguably the greatest global and existential threat we face. As it escalates, it serves to exacerbate many of the other serious problems in our world today – from economic inequality to racial injustice and the spread of zoonotic diseases.

For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against the causes and impacts of climate breakdown. Time after time, they have challenged those companies operating recklessly, rampaging unhampered through forests, skies, wetlands, oceans and biodiversity hotspots.

Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play and the dangers they increasingly face, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work.

DefendingTheDefendersOur annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders in 2019 shows the highest number yet have been murdered in a single year. 212 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2019 – an average of more than four people a week.

Key findings

Shockingly, over half of all reported killings last year occurred in two countries: Colombia and the Philippines.


Click for full size chart

Both have seen a rise in attacks against land and environmental defenders since 2018, with killings in Colombia in 2019 peaking at 64 activists – the highest Global Witness has ever recorded in the country. Reports show that the murder of community and social leaders has risen dramatically in Colombia in recent years.

The United Nations Human Rights Office points to several reasons for this growing tide of violence, such as the challenges of implementing the 2016 Peace Agreement including land reform and programmes meant to encourage farmers to swap illegal crops for legal harvests. The resulting shifts in local power dynamics is driving increased violence.

The Philippines has become even deadlier for activists since 2018, having been consistently named as one of the worst places in Asia for attacks against defenders.

But things got even worse in 2019 with the number of murders rising to 43. The relentless vilification of defenders by the government and widespread impunity for their attackers may well be driving the increase.

Over two-thirds of killings took place in Latin America, which has consistently ranked the worst-affected region since Global Witness began to publish data in 2012. In 2019, the Amazon region alone saw 33 deaths. Almost 90% of the killings in Brazil were in the Amazon. In Honduras, killings rose from four in 2018 to 14 last year, making it the most dangerous country per capita in 2019.…—”Defending Tomorrow,” Rachel Cox, Global Witness, 7/29/20

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Violence Mars Portland Protests, Frustrates Black Community

PORTLAND, Ore. — Protesters in this liberal, predominantly white city have taken to the streets peacefully every day for more than five weeks to decry police brutality. But violence by smaller groups is dividing the movement and drawing complaints that some white demonstrators are co-opting the moment.

As the Portland protests enter a second month, they have shifted on several nights from the city’s downtown core to a historically Black neighborhood in North Portland that’s already buckling under the effects of white gentrification and has the most to gain — or lose — from the outrage in the streets.

Late last week, some protesters barricaded the doors to a police precinct a half-block from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and set fire to the building, which also houses Black-owned businesses, including an Ethiopian restaurant and a barber’s school. Two nights later, a potluck at a park in the heart of the Black community morphed into another violent clash with police, who unleashed tear gas to quell the crowd of several hundred people.

On Friday, a Portland man was arrested for his role in an overnight attack on the Hatfield Federal Courthouse, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams said. Rowan M. Olsen, 19, aka Kiefer Alan Moore, was arrested by Federal Protective Service officers early Friday morning, he said in a news release. Olsen is scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday, Williams said.

The change has angered and frustrated some in the Black community, who say a “white fringe element” is distracting from their message with senseless destruction in a city where nearly three-quarters of residents are white and less than 6% are Black.

“This is NOT the Black Lives Matter movement. This is chaos,” Kali Ladd, executive director of KairosPDX, wrote in a Facebook post. “These white actors are enacting dominance in a different form under the guise of equity … White supremacy has many forms.”

Demonstrations elsewhere in the city have also grown increasingly violent. Early Friday, someone broke the windows of a federal courthouse and threw fireworks that started a fire inside the building.

One prominent Black leader wrote to Mayor Ted Wheeler and said some clashes had unfolded three blocks from his house. He said the problem was with “elements” that were “99% white” and did not represent the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It has nothing to do with helping Black people. These hoodlums are needlessly scaring neighbors and their children,” said Ron Herndon, who has fought for racial justice in Portland for four decades and led a school boycott in 1979 after the city closed predominantly Black schools. “At some point, enough is enough.”…—”Violence mars Portland protests, frustrates Black community,” Gillian Flaccus, ABC News, 7/3/20

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Portland Fire medic hit by protester with slingshot, police say

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland Fire and Rescue medic was struck by a ball bearing from a slingshot while in the area of demonstrations in downtown Portland early Monday morning, said Portland police.

Police said the ball bearing came from a demonstrator who had a “wrist rocket” near SW 3rd and Main Street. The metal ball hit the medic in the side of their chest.

“Fortunately, the medic suffered only bruising,” said police.

The suspect, identified as 37-year-old Jesse Bates, was later arrested that same morning. Police said at the time of the arrest he was armed with a crowbar and officers used less-lethal force to take him into custody.

Further reading: Portland Fire & Rescue Medic Hit with Ball Bearing Launched from Slingshot-Arrest Made |

Police said a number of other items were seized from the man, including a switchblade, two slingshots and slingshot ammunition, flares, spray paint, and “items believed to be pyrotechnics.”

Bates faces charges of third-degree assault, assaulting a public safety officer, interfering with a police officer, carrying a concealed weapon, and disorderly conduct.

Later Monday morning, police reported that officers detained a 12-year-old boy after witnesses said he was “adding accelerates to a fire at the site where the Elk statue used to stand.” Police said the child was later released to his mother and the reckless burning charge was referred to juvenile services.—”Portland Fire medic hit by protester with slingshot, police say,” KOIN|Portland, 7/13/20

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Some Concerns About Some Portland Tactics

The reports about late night street battles in Portland between some demonstrators and local police, and now Federal Protective Services and other federal militarized units, have reminded me of experiences at demonstrations I’ve had over the years.

One that came to mind was being in Quebec City, Quebec in the late summer of 2001 as part of a major global justice action. There was a meeting taking place of government leaders from throughout the Americas to try to create a “Free Trade Area of the Americas.” Following a march of thousands of people, many of us went right up to a line of police and a fence they had constructed to keep us from getting to the building where the government leaders meeting was happening.

While many of us tried to occupy the area right next to that fence and police line, others took direct action, first by pulling down the fence and then, for a very small number of the thousands of us there, throwing concrete blocks pulled up from a plaza area at the police. I remember thinking, damn, if someone got a direct hit, if the shields they were using didn’t stop the concrete blocks, they could be badly hurt or even killed.

That was when the tear gas began to be used in earnest to try to clear all of us away from the big plaza area close to the FTAA meeting building. For the rest of the afternoon, there was a back and forth as we were driven back, but then we would regroup and advance again.

At one point, there were hundreds of people who had nonviolently advanced pretty close to an area being held by a small number of cops. People were talking to them about why we were there. I remember seeing a young man dressed in black with a slingshot trying to creep up close enough without being seen by the police to use the sling shot. Again I thought, damn, someone could get really hurt if they got hit by something shot from that sling.

This isn’t the only time I’ve experienced these kinds of tactics, but it’s one of the most dramatic.

From what I’ve read and researched, it is clear that the vast majority of the people demonstrating in Portland are not throwing concrete bricks or angling for a good shot via slingshot at a policeman or FPS guy. The vast majority are not there with the intention of hurting anyone but, just the opposite, to stop racist police from hurting and killing Black people and other people.

I have always opposed the kind of violence that I saw in Quebec, and elsewhere, and that seems to be taking place in Portland, mainly late at night. I oppose it because it can be used — as it now is — by people like Trump to try to paint our broadly-based movement as violent and criminal, which, if successful, will hurt our movement and strengthen Trump. I oppose it because it is possible that some of those responsible for this violence are agent provocateurs, or racist militia trying to undercut our movement’s support or stimulate a race war.…—”Some Concerns About Some Portland Tactics,” by Ted Glick, Medium, 7/28/20

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The Environmental Movement Needs to Reckon
with Its Racist History

Because racism in environmentalism hasn’t gone away, and it’s holding the movement back.

When I was a student at Columbia in New York City there were two major divestment campaigns on campus: one for private prisons and another for fossil fuel corporations. Though they shared similar tactics and aims, their constituents looked very different from each other. The former was led by Black students. The latter was predominantly white.

One of the organizers of Columbia’s prison divestment campaign is now a leader in Black Youth Project 100, an organization at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the leaders of fossil fuel divestment was an early supporter of the Sunrise Movement, an organization leading the charge for a Green New Deal. Racial divisions on campus, even among activists, mirror divisions in society.

These divisions are especially apparent among environmentalists, who inherit a troubling history of colonialism, racism, and exclusion. The institutions of environmental power—elected officials, government bureaucracies, nonprofits, laws, and the like—were, almost as a rule, created by white men and often remain dominated by white people. Since the Civil Rights era, activists of color have secured hard-fought victories for racial and environmental justice. But the legacy of racism continues to haunt the movement and undermine progress.

The founding fathers of environmentalism ranged from garden variety racists to eugenicists. Henry David Thoreau, the naturalist and abolitionist whose writings inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, held troubling but typical views about the inevitable demise of Native Americans. In his influential 1862 Atlantic essay “Walking,” he wrote: “I think that the farmer displaces the Indian even because he redeems the meadow, and so makes himself stronger and in some respects more natural.”

The origins of environmentalism are closer in spirit to the safari or trophy hunt than the march or sit-in

John Muir, a co-founder of the Sierra Club and disciple of Thoreau, wrote about the indolence of Black “Sambos.” He described the Miwok, the Indigenous people of Yosemite, as “dirty” and “altogether hideous.” “They seem to have no right place in the landscape,” he wrote.

Madison Grant, a prominent conservationist and Muir’s contemporary, wrote the 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race. The text influenced the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited emigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and Africa, and banned migrants from Asia. Adolf Hitler called the book his “bible” in an admiring letter to the author. Today, echoes of Grant can be heard in the hate speech of white nationalists like Richard Spencer.

In light of this history, it is perhaps unsurprising that when Muir and Theodore Roosevelt went on perhaps the most consequential camping trip in American history in 1903, the president conserved 230 million acres of public land—an area larger than Texas—through the expulsion of Indigenous peoples and the rural poor.…

Further reading: Pulling Down Our Monuments | Sierra Club

The Civil Rights movement—and trash—had a big hand in making environmentalism more diverse. In 1978, Linda McKeeven Bullard recruited her husband, Dr. Robert Bullard, then a junior sociologist at Texas Southern University, to serve as expert witness in the first case to claim environmental discrimination under civil rights law. The lawsuit, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, sought an injunction against the siting of a garbage dump in Northwood Manor, a middle-class Black suburb of Houston.—”The Environmental Movement Needs to Reckon with Its Racist History,” Julian Brave NoiseCat, Vice, 9/13/19

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How Portland’s Racist History Informs Today’s Protests

Members of the “Wall of Moms” march during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse last week in Portland, OR. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

The arrival of federal agents in Portland three weeks ago to crack down on racial justice protests fueled tensions there, and helped push the city to the forefront of coverage of the nation’s racial justice movement.

As one of the whitest big cities in the America, Portland’s outsize role in the nationwide protests may strike some as surprising.

Oregon has a long history of entrenched racism, dating back to its statehood in 1859, when the state constitution barred Black people from entering or living there. Yet the recent protests in Portland are part of another long history of black and white Oregonians combating that lingering racism, says Lisa Bates, an associate professor of urban studies at Portland State University.

PortlandsRacistHistory“As much as there is far-right activity in Oregon and Portland, there’s also left activity,” Bates says. “There’s also always been a left movement here, and a history of pretty significant protests.”

She points to the white anti-racist movements and the “Abolish ICE” protests in 2018.

“Portland is known as ‘Little Beirut’ because of its tendency toward uprising,” she says.

Here are excerpts from Bates’ interview on All Things Considered.

While many people think of the Ku Klux Klan as a Southern phenomenon, it had a huge presence in Oregon in the early 20th century. Tell us about that.

In the Portland area, many of the elected leaders, sheriffs, etc., were active members of the KKK, and that history of white nationalist organizing has persisted. In the ’80s and ’90s, Oregon was seen as a white homeland for people who believed in the idea of a racial holy war, and there are settlements throughout the state of people who are pursuing that kind of white homeland idea.…—”How Portland’s Racist History Informs Today’s Protests : Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice,” Ari Shapiro, NPR, 7/30/20

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In Wake of Recent Court Victories,
Frontline Activists From Standing Rock
Carry On With Renewed Hope

“The hardest part about locking down, is deciding to do it,” Mark K. Tilsen told Truthout.

It’s been almost four years since Mark’s brother Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota) and Daniel T’seleie (K’asho Got’ine Dene) attached themselves to excavators with handcuffs inside PVC piping in a device called a “Sleeping Dragon” to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock. Mark emulated them on his 35th birthday, July 6, 2018, at the Bayou Bridge struggle in the swamps of southern Louisiana. Bayou Bridge is the end of the DAPL pipeline. When cut loose and arrested, Tilsen was cuffed behind his back with zip ties and then lifted up by the cuffs by five cops who wrenched his shoulder so severely out of its socket, he still feels the injury on cold days. A “fair trade” he calls it. He had seen a lot worse at Standing Rock.

Tilsen has published a poetry collection, now in its third printing, It Ain’t Over Until We’re Smoking Cigars on the Drill Pad. Its title pithily sums up his response to a recent spate of favorable rulings awarded by courts on the Keystone XL Pipeline, DAPL, Atlantic Coast and Bayou Bridge pipelines. “I’m somewhat cynical,” he admitted with a laugh. T’seleie, too, is circumspect about attributing too much energy to the seeming wins, knowing how they often turn out to be partial, tentative or fragile, or are meant to diffuse resistance just when it’s crucial to ramp it up.

Truthout reached out to Mark Tilsen, T’seleie and three other Standing Rock front-liners — Karla Colon (Taíno), Olive Bias (Appalachian Water Protector) and Floris White Bull (HunkPapa Lakota and Cochití Pueblo) — for their thoughts and reflections on how effective organizing done well then contributed to a strengthened movement now.

The Struggle Built a Foundation for Common Leadership

Tilsen counts the establishment of the encampment itself as a foundational success. “It’s definitely not a coincidence that it happened at Standing Rock,” he said. “The Lakota people are like every tribe in [the U.S.], but more so — an intense people living in extreme conditions.”

Living at camp and being rooted in Lakota ceremony were key to the transformation at the core of the Water Protector movement, from individual self-interest to community survival. Where the courts are the arena in which movement lawyers operate, the prayer camp was the site from which those willing to risk themselves in direct action were propelled.

Indigenous Sovereignty Is Essential to Combat Climate Change

Standing Rock was like “a university of what leadership is and isn’t.” Having grown up on the tail end of the Red Power movement, he’d thought that a leader is “usually the loudest Native man on a bullhorn.” But at camp, their goal was “to empower all people to do what was in their hearts to protect the water.”

In his poem “Camp Life,” Tilsen writes:

It’s not that we were free
not really
But on a clear day
we could see what
freedom looked like

This glimpse was motivating “to throw down powerfully,” and not just for young people.—”In Wake of Recent Victories, Standing Rock Activists Carry On With Renewed Hope,” Frances Madeson, Truthout, 7/30/20

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Loving Butterflies Is Now Punishable by Death

since they killed Homero Gómez González and Raúl Hernández, the Butterfly Protectors of Mexico

Loving trees is now punishable by death,
since they killed Paulo Paulino Guajajara, Zezico Guajajara,
and three others defenders in the Brazilian Amazon

Loving birds is now punishable by death, ever since they killed Florida game warden Guy Morrell Bradley

Loving the earth is punishable by death, which is why US-trained Honduran special forces
gunned down Berta Isabel Cáceres

Loving the rainforest has definitely been punishable by death, all the way back to 1988
when they killed Chico Mendez
and 1980 when they killed his comrade Wilson Pinheiro

Loving the poor and the environment is doubly punishable by death,
for which they killed Sister Dorothy Mae Stang in Brazil in 2015

Loving the planet has been punishable by death, at least since 1985, when French Intelligence
bombed Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior
and killed Fernando Pereira

And it’s getting worse. —John Roche

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Trump’s Dangerous Attempt to Create a Federal Police

When the Department of Homeland Security was created, Carrie Cordero says, “They didn’t intend to create a national police force.” Source photograph by Noah Berger / AP}

Carrie Cordero, a specialist in homeland-security law, on the shaky legal basis of the President’s deployment of the Department of Homeland Security against protesters.

Last week, President Trump deployed camouflaged border-patrol agents to Portland, Oregon, which has seen almost two months of protests following the murder of George Floyd. The agents have reportedly escalated the violence at protests outside a federal courthouse, and have detained and arrested protesters without explanation on the streets. Trump has since deployed federal law-enforcement agents to Kansas City, Seattle, and Chicago, and has promised to send a “surge” of agents to cities across the country, including New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia. In response to these actions, fifteen mayors signed a letter to Attorney General William Barr and the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, demanding “immediate action to withdraw your forces.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, in a statement, that “the House is committed to moving swiftly to curb these egregious abuses of power immediately,” raising questions about how much power Congress has to curb the sprawling Department of Homeland Security.

To discuss some of these questions, I spoke by phone with Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a CNN contributor, who specializes in homeland-security law. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the history of sending federal forces to states and cities, the shaky legal basis for Trump’s actions, and how the creation of D.H.S. gave the President vast new powers.

What limits are there on a President, without the consent of state or local officials, sending federal forces into a city or state, for what he defines as the protection of people or places?

I think we’re about to find out because this isn’t an area, at least in modern times, that has been tested. We’ll see whether there are some potential Tenth Amendment challenges based on whether his activity is federal policing activity, which is arguably impermissible. But I think the Department of Homeland Security does, under current law, have broad authority to be able to deputize their officers to assist other law-enforcement organizations. And I think it’s that ability—to be able to deputize them to perform other functions—combined with his new executive order on protecting monuments, that is giving them their purported legal basis to operate.…—”Trump’s Dangerous Attempt to Create a Federal Police,” Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 7/26/20

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National Guard Officer Says Police
Suddenly Moved On Lafayette Square Protesters,
Used Excessive Force’ Before Trump Visit

Guard major to testify before Congress that warnings couldn’t be heard, tear gas was used

An Army National Guard officer who witnessed protesters forcibly removed from Lafayette Square last month is contradicting claims by the attorney general and the Trump administration that they did not speed up the clearing to make way for the president’s photo opportunity minutes later.

A new statement by Adam D. DeMarco, an Iraq veteran who now serves as a major in the D.C. National Guard, also casts doubt on the claims by acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan that violence by protesters spurred Park Police to clear the area at that time with unusually aggressive tactics. DeMarco said that “demonstrators were behaving peacefully” and that tear gas was deployed in an “excessive use of force.”

TrumpPhotoOpCrackdown-sDeMarco backs up law enforcement officials who told The Washington Post they believed the clearing operation would happen after the 7 p.m. curfew that night — but it was dramatically accelerated after Attorney General William P. Barr and others appeared in the park around 6 p.m. Monahan has said the operation was conducted so that a fence might be erected around the park. DeMarco said the fencing materials did not arrive until 9 p.m. — hours after Barr told the Park Police to expand the perimeter — and the fence wasn’t built until later that night.

DeMarco’s account of events also reveals for the first time the details of the visit that Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made to Lafayette Square just before the move on protesters — and the warning he gave his troops.

Further reading National Guard Major Calls Assault on D.C. Protesters “Deeply Disturbing” | The Intercept
Officials challenge Trump administration claim of what drove aggressive expulsion of Lafayette Square protesters | The Washington Post

Milley, who had arrived in the park with Barr about 30 minutes before the clearing, warned DeMarco to keep officers from going overboard. “General Milley told me to ensure that National Guard personnel remained calm, adding that we were there to respect the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights,” DeMarco said.…—”National Guard officer says police suddenly moved on Lafayette Square protesters, used ‘excessive force’ before Trump visit,” Tom Jackman, Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post, 7/27/20

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Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers

An intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host.

[Editor’s note: One of the liabilities of operating as antifa members do, anonymously and avoiding arrest, is that there is no public record or community who know them, their aims, what they do, what their commitments are, etc. One of non-violent direct action activists’ primary protections is that they are completely open and clear about what they do and why, where and when they do it. And they stick around in good faith to take the legal consequences of their actions. That makes it very difficult for the intelligence establishment to build a case that bona fide members of the non-violent activist community are acting on anything other than justice and inalienable human rights.]

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers “antifa” and attempting to tie them to a foreign power, according to a DHS intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation.

Further reading: DHS ‘Targeted Americans Like Al-Qaeda’ to Go After ‘Antifa‘ | Law & Crime

The intelligence report, titled “The Syrian Conflict and its Nexus to the U.S.-based Antifascist Movement,” mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host who traveled to Syria to fight ISIS. The report includes a readout of these individuals’ personal information, including their Social Security numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts, much of the data generated by DHS’s Tactical Terrorism Response Teams. As the intelligence report states, “ANTIFA is being analyzed under the 2019 DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism (CT) and Targeted Violence.”

Dated July 14, the document, marked for official use only and law enforcement sensitive, draws on a blend of publicly available information and state and federal law enforcement intelligence. It was provided to The Nation by a source who previously worked on DHS intelligence.

“They targeted Americans like they’re Al Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in the DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the ’60s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”

Last week, the DHS reassigned its intelligence chief after The Washington Post revealed that the agency had been compiling intelligence reports on American journalists and activists in Portland.

While the law generally prohibits intelligence agencies from spying on US residents, many of those protections do not apply if the individual is believed to be acting as an agent of a foreign power.

“Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s a crucial distinction. Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person. The whole apparatus of US intelligence can be brought to bear on someone who is considered an agent of a foreign power.”…—”Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers,” Ken Klippenstein, The Nation, 8/3/20

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Oakland City Council acts to prevent Trump
from sending federal troops to city

OAKLAND, CA — Oakland city officials moved swiftly Tuesday night to take “all lawful means necessary to stop” President Trump from sending federal troops to the city, as he threatened to do last week in response to protests.

With a discussion that lasted less than 10 minutes, the Oakland City Council voted 8-0 to direct City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Administrator Ed Reiskin to use their powers and authority to protect Oakland residents.

Council member Dan Kalb, who wrote the resolution with council member Noel Gallo and Parker, noted “how important it is for us to stand up to the Trump administration when he plays his political games.”…—”Oakland vows to prevent Trump from sending federal troops,” Jon Kawamoto, East Bay Times, 7/29/20

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A Rare Prairie in Pennsylvania is in Full Bloom Right Now

There’s a rare prairie in Pennsylvania. It’s located at Jennings Environmental Education Center, 50 miles north of Pittsburgh near Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. And it’s in full bloom, right now.

Jennings prairie is a completely different ecosystem from anywhere else in the state. There are tall grasses and very few trees. It’s flat and hot and bison once grazed here. The most striking feature is the brightly colored flowers everywhere you look. Peak bloom goes through the first week of August, so there’s still a little time left to catch it.

“It is a short season,” said Miranda Crotsley, the program coordinator at Jennings. “So it makes it really special to come out this time of year and see it in bloom.”

The star of the show is the blazing star. It’s a tall, bright purple, spikey flower with hundreds of small, tiny star-shaped flowers within the flower head. You’ll see it scattered throughout the landscape at Jennings. The plant can store water in dry conditions, a key feature of plants that can survive in a prairie. Blazing stars stick up above many of the other plants, making them very attractive to pollinators.

Hundreds of Other Natives

The prairie is much more diverse than just blazing stars. About 225 native plant species have been identified in the 20-acre habitat. There are four different tall yellow flowers that are often confused for one another: tall sunflower, false sunflower, tall coreopsis and whorled rosinweed. All are spectacular in the prairie right now – they’re easily seven or eight feet tall, some as tall as 12 feet. They rise above the other plants like eager kids in a classroom with arms stretched high screaming “pick me, pick me!” And bees do pick them. If you visit the prairie in the hot afternoon, you’ll see them buzzing around everywhere.…—”A Rare Prairie in Pennsylvania is in Full Bloom Right Now,” Andy Kubis, The Allegheny Front, 7/30/20

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Racism Is Killing the Planet

The ideology of white supremacy leads the way toward disposable people and a disposable natural world

…We’re in this global environmental mess because we have declared parts of our planet to be disposable. The watersheds where we frack the earth to extract gas are considered disposable. The neighborhoods near where I live in Los Angeles, surrounded by urban oilfields, are considered disposable. The very atmosphere is considered disposable. When we pollute the hell out of a place, that’s a way of saying that the place—and the people and all the other life that calls that place home—are of no value.

In order to treat places and resources as disposable, the people who live there have to get treated like rubbish too. Sacrifice zones imply sacrificed people. Just think of Cancer Alley in Louisiana. Most of the towns there are majority Black, and nowadays they call it Death Alley, because so many Black folks have died from the poison that drives our extractive economy. Or think of the situation in the Navajo Nation, where uranium mines poisoned the wells and the groundwater and coal plants for decades poisoned the air. Or consider the South Side of Chicago, where I used to live, which for years was a dumping ground of petroleum coke (a fossil fuel byproduct) and where residents are still struggling against pollution-related diseases. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and just about every place I’ve ever lived has been targeted by big polluters as a dumping ground.

Devaluing Black and Indigenous people’s lives to build wealth for white communities isn’t new. White settlers began that project in the 15th century, when they arrived in North America. Most Native peoples of North America lived in regenerative relationships with the land; they were careful to take no more than the land could sustain. The settlers had another ethic: They sought to dominate and control. They cleared the old-growth forests and plowed the prairies to make room for their wheat and their beef. They nearly drove the bison to extinction in a calculated scorched-earth tactic that was part of a larger ethnic-cleansing agenda. As the Potawatomi author and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer put it in a recent essay, “the Indigenous idea of land as a commonly held gift [was replaced] with the notion of private property, while the battle between land as sacred home and land as capital stained the ground red.”

How could the white settlers bring themselves to do it?

If you don’t see that most of the horrible things that are happening to the land and animals that you love are happening because the land was stolen from us in the first place, you’re missing a big chunk of what to grieve.—Jade Begay, Creative Director, NDN Collective

They did it by telling a certain story about Native peoples, a story that said Native peoples were less “civilized” than white settlers and therefore deserved to be terrorized and pushed from their lands. This Doctrine of Discovery was a religious belief for many European settlers. The doctrine said that any land “discovered” by Christians was theirs because of the inherent inferiority of non-Christian peoples. Eventually, this pernicious idea made its way into US law. In 1823, the US Supreme Court, in the case of Johnson v. M’Intosh, ruled that “the principle of discovery gave European nations an absolute right to New World lands.” …—”Racism Is Killing the Planet,” Hop Hopkins, Sierra Club, 7/8/20

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This Freedom Rider was shot at, attacked,
and put on death row – all by 20 years old

Joan Trumpauer went from being a sheltered white southerner to a bold civil rights activist and Freedom Rider

Joan Trumpauer spent ten days in a Mississippi jail in the summer of 1961 before she was marched out of her cell and loaded into a bus. She’d been arrested for sitting in a whites-only waiting room in Jackson, Mississippi, with her fellow Freedom Riders — some white, like her, some African American. At age 20, she already had two years of experience being arrested and thrown in jail for her role in the civil rights movement. She’d even smiled faintly in her mug shot taken at the Hinds County jail.

As Trumpauer left Jackson behind, she didn’t know if her life was about to get better or worse. The Riders, many of whom were student activists from groups like the Congress of Racial Equality, the Nonviolent Action Group, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, weren’t actually breaking the law when they were arrested — in 1960, the Supreme Court had ruled that segregated interstate buses were unconstitutional. Southern states nevertheless continued to enforce Jim Crow as if nothing had happened.

The legality of the Riders’ actions seemed to feed the fury of southern whites. A month before Trumpauer was arrested, the first bus carrying Riders had been firebombed by a white mob. The same day, another group of Riders were beaten bloody in a Mississippi bus terminal.

Trumpauer understood she could be hurt or killed when she joined the Freedom Riders, but she couldn’t have anticipated this: the bus pulled up at Parchman prison, home of Mississippi’s death row. She knew it well. “We wanted to believe we were coming out of this in one piece,” Trumpauer recounts in the documentary Ordinary People, “but it was a place of legend for brutality.”

Trumpauer, a native southerner, was the great-granddaughter of Georgia slave owners and the daughter of a staunch segregationist. “I lived in an all-white world,” she explains in an oral history archived in the Library of Congress. She credits a northern father and living in the only apartment complex in her hometown of Arlington, Virginia, that rented to Jewish people among her saving graces. She met people with more liberal views. Still, beginning in early childhood, her mother taught her to essentially unsee black people in her daily life, to gaze serenely past them on sidewalks and buses.…—”This Freedom Rider was shot at, attacked, and put on death row—all by 20 years old,” Heather Gilligan, Medium|Timeline, 5/4/18

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How artwork shows the impact of climate crisis
on Indigenous Americans

In 2016, Barack Obama declared the Bears Ears in Utah, – a pair of buttes towering above Cedar Mesa, a national monument.

At the time, it was considered a victory for Native American tribes and land conservationists, as the sacred area is home to archaeological sites, including an ancient cliff.

Donald Trump has since minimized Bears Ears by 85%. Just last month, he finalized the plans to allow mining and drilling. Some say it’s the current administration ignoring Indigenous voices.

It’s a timely issue, and one that ties into a new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Climate in Crisis: Environmental Change in the Indigenous Americas features more than 60 artworks from the past 2,800 years; from ancient sculptures to handmade quilts, jewelry and a teepee. It looks at the history of colonization and the exploitation of natural resources.

“It’s a refresh of the arts of the America collection in a way that we could talk about the current climate crisis, and its impact on Indigenous people,” said Nancy Rosoff, the curator. “These are the greatest hits of our collection, in terms of arts from the Americas and we’re looking at them through the lens of climate change and its impact on Indigenous people.”

From melting icecaps to wildfires and droughts, the heart of the exhibition is the difference in world views between native and non-native people.

Guardian-Donate.-1“Native people view their surroundings and world view as inter-related, the world as one organism,” said Rosoff. “Whereas Euro-Americans view humans as paramount importance and privilege over the environment and everything else.…—”How artwork shows the impact of climate crisis on Indigenous Americans,” The Guardian, 3/9/20

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Guardians of Mexico’s community forests
confront climate change

  • Droughts, insect infestations, and fires are increasingly common in Mexico’s forests.
  • Communities whose residents manage these forests can develop strategies to protect their forests and ecosystems, which are critical in the fight against climate change.
  • The community forest management strategy can also provide livelihoods and boost economies, experts say.

In some Indigenous languages, two words are just not enough to convey everything encompassed by the phrase “climate change.”

Alejo López, who speaks one of the varieties of Chinantec that is spoken in Mexico’s Oaxaca state, told Mongabay Latam that he refers to climate change with a longer phrase: “Ni ka li seen ja lee ee lï´ mïï hui´.” In English, these words mean, “We conserve what we have, and we make good use of our forest, our water and our air.”

The Chinantec people living in the Sierra Juárez mountain range in Oaxaca refer to themselves as tsa ju jmí’, which means “people of the old word.” Their tonal language is mostly spoken, but a few years ago, López began to learn its written form.…—”Guardians of Mexico’s community forests confront climate change,” Pablo Hernández Mares, Mongabay, 7/31/20

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End of the road for Rautes?


Today, only a handful of societies around the world still practise full-time hunting-gathering. The Raute are even more special because they hunt with nets and axes rather than guns or bows and arrows. Based on this communal hunting technique, Raute share all of their food and other property equally among each other. Politically, they have created the most democratic sub-culture in Nepal. Those of us living in highly stratified societies could learn much from one of them.

For this reason alone, Raute society should be protected and regarded as a precious national treasure of Nepal. Sadly, without any understanding or appreciation for the basic social rules of the Raute\’s nomadic foraging society, international development agencies and the Nepali government continue to assimilate the Raute in the name of social improvement.

In March the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that it would provide aid for the “upliftment of the nomadic Raute tribe”. Even though the Raute have repeatedly said that they do not “stick to one place”, WHO plans to settle the Raute in Surkhet District.

Since the Raute will then be unable to hunt monkeys, their main protein source they hunt several times a week, or gather food from the jungle they will need unsustainable food rations. And since the Raute will be unable to collect the forest materials necessary to build and maintain their traditional tents, pine needles for flooring, softwood for tent poles, special leaves for wind screens and tent covering, Raute will have to be “provided” tenting material.

There have been news reports that the Raute have refused to let their children take the polio vaccine, saying that it runs counter to their beliefs. One Raute was quoted as stating: “There is no need for us to live like you.”…—”End of the road for Rautes?” Jama Fortier, Nepali Times, August, 2020

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‘Total decarbonization’ would create 25M jobs

“Rapid and total decarbonization” of the U.S. economy, by tripling the size of the electric grid and replacing nearly every fuel-burning machine with an electric one, would create 25 million U.S. jobs, according to a new report.

It was written by San Francisco-based energy researchers Saul Griffith and Sam Calisch, who argue that both climate change and the wave of coronavirus unemployment can be solved with an all-out, multitrillion-dollar effort like the one that helped America win World War II.

The report’s assumptions are bound to make many energy experts shake their heads in disbelief: America would double the size of its nuclear fleet, triple or quadruple the capacity of the electric grid and count on $3 trillion of new government spending. But the plan needs no new technology breakthroughs, doesn’t require any coal or natural gas plants to retire early, and asks for no changes in consumer behavior, according to Griffith, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D. graduate who has launched numerous energy ventures.

He says it’s time to look at the energy transition as something that could create both massive employment and abundant cheap energy, unlike the “scarcity mindset” that has guided U.S. energy policy since the 1970s.

“You can’t just keep upping the mileage on cars and solve climate change,” he said in an interview.

The report, “Mobilizing for a Zero-Carbon America,” goes far beyond the energy prescriptions of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has called for zeroing out the emissions of the electric grid by 2035.…—”‘Total decarbonization’ would create 25M jobs,” David Ferris, E&E News, 8/3/20

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The Efficiency Dilemma

The Jevons paradox states that the economical use of fuel results not in diminished consumption but in an over-all increase. Illustration by JOOST SWARTE

If our machines use less energy, will we just use them more?

In April, 2010, the federal government adopted standards for automobiles requiring manufacturers to improve the average fuel economy of their new-car fleets thirty per cent by 2016. The Times, in an editorial titled “Everybody Wins,” said the change would produce “a trifecta of benefits.” Those benefits were enumerated last year by Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy: a reduction in total oil consumption of 1.8 billion barrels; the elimination of nine hundred and fifty million metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions; and savings, for the average American driver, of three thousand dollars.

Chu, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997, has been an evangelist for energy efficiency, and not just for vehicles. I spoke with him in July, shortly after he had conducted an international conference called the Clean Energy Ministerial, at which efficiency was among the main topics. “I feel very passionate about this,” he told me. “We in the Department of Energy are trying to get the information out that efficiency really does save money and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have to make deep sacrifices.”

Energy efficiency has been called “the fifth fuel” (after coal, petroleum, nuclear power, and renewables); it is seen as a cost-free tool for accelerating the transition to a green-energy economy. In 2007, the United Nations Foundation said that efficiency improvements constituted “the largest, the most evenly geographically distributed, and least expensive energy resource.” Last year, the management-consulting firm McKinsey & Company concluded that a national efficiency program could eliminate “up to 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases annually.” The environmentalist Amory Lovins, whose thinking has influenced Chu’s, has referred to the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents as “not a free lunch, but a lunch you’re paid to eat,” since a fluorescent bulb will usually save enough electricity to more than offset its higher purchase price. Tantalizingly, much of the technology required to increase efficiency is well understood. The World Economic Forum, in a report called “Towards a More Energy Efficient World,” observed that “the average refrigerator sold in the United States today uses three-quarters less energy than the 1975 average, even though it is 20% larger and costs 60% less”—an improvement that Chu cited in his conversation with me.

But the issue may be less straightforward than it seems. The thirty-five-year period during which new refrigerators have plunged in electricity use is also a period during which the global market for refrigeration has burgeoned and the world’s total energy consumption and carbon output, including the parts directly attributable to keeping things cold, have climbed. Similarly, the first fuel-economy regulations for U.S. cars—which were enacted in 1975, in response to the Arab oil embargo—were followed not by a steady decline in total U.S. motor-fuel consumption but by a long-term rise, as well as by increases in horsepower, curb weight, vehicle miles travelled (up a hundred per cent since 1980), and car ownership (America has about fifty million more registered vehicles than licensed drivers). A growing group of economists and others have argued that such correlations aren’t coincidental. Instead, they have said, efforts to improve energy efficiency can more than negate any environmental gains—an idea that was first proposed a hundred and fifty years ago, and which came to be known as the Jevons paradox.…—”The Efficiency Dilemma,” David Owen, The New Yorker, 12/20/10

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PSEG to sell almost 7 GW of fossil fuel generation,
retain nuclear plants

The largest utility in New Jersey will turn its focus to energy efficiency, building electric vehicle infrastructure and microgrids, which observers say can offer a more stable return on investments.

  • Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) on Friday unveiled a plan to sell its fossil fuel power plants, retain nuclear generation and focus investments on building a cleaner, more efficient and modern grid. The company plans to complete the sale of its 6,750 MW fossil fuel portfolio in 2021.
  • PSEG’s announcement came alongside its second quarter earnings report. Due to economic shutdowns related to COVID-19, the utility saw weather-normalized electric sales drop 7% compared with the same period last year.
  • The fossil fuel divestiture marks a “major shift” in how PSEG will operate, according to Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The decision is an economic one, he added: the largest utility in New Jersey can make more money through clean energy investments than it can operating coal and gas plants.…—”PSEG to sell almost 7 GW of fossil fuel generation, retain nuclear plants,” Robert Walton, Utility Dive, 8/3/20

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Accusations fly as California enviros
say SoCalGas trying to undermine
electrification efforts

“The commission has to ask, are you putting the fox in charge of the henhouse here, when [SoCalGas is] actually in charge of implementation of a heat pump water heating incentive program” Matthew Vespa, staff attorney with Earthjustice, who is representing Sierra Club in the proceeding, told Utility Dive.

The utility, however, maintained in its motion that it isn’t challenging the eligibility of HPWHs in the program, and said the groups were trying to “chill or prohibit SoCalGas’s speech that is protected under the First Amendment.”

California’s SGIP incentivizes the deployment of distributed energy resources, and since 2001 has provided more than $1.2 billion to deploy over 750 MW of generation. Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, SoCalGas and the Center for Sustainable Energy are responsible for administering the program.

In recent years, the CPUC has made a series of changes to the program’s structure, including creating a $100 million budget specifically to deploy storage systems in areas that are prone to wildfire-related power shut-offs. In addition, the agency has created a $45 million incentive budget for HPWHs over a five-year period, noting that they could shift load from peak to off-peak periods, and provide the California Independent System Operator with ramping services.

“HPWHs are really going to be the technology that we transition to if we meet any of [California’s climate goals],” Panama Bartholomy, director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, told Utility Dive.

However, the technology currently has very low levels of deployment in California, while gas heaters retain most of the market share, he said.

The $45 million budget allocation “does not buy a lot of heat pump water heaters — but it’s the right kind of direction we need to go in,” Bartholomy said.…—”Accusations fly as California enviros say SoCalGas trying to undermine electrification efforts,” Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive, 7/31/20

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PRC approves renewable energy projects
to replace power from San Juan coal plant

Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a mix of new solar, energy storage, and hybrid solar and battery projects.

An array of renewable energy projects will replace lost energy from the possible closure of a Farmington-area coal plant under a plan approved Wednesday by the Public Regulation Commission.

Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a mix of new solar, energy storage, and hybrid solar and battery projects meant to make up for an expected loss of electricity once the Public Service Company of New Mexico follows through on plans to leave behind the aging San Juan Generating Station in 2022.

A company called Enchant Energy is still pursuing plans to purchase the coal plant, install a carbon capture system and keep it running. Hearing examiners for the PRC kept that in mind when they recommended the plan commissioners approved Wednesday, PRC Chairwoman Theresa Becenti-Aguilar said during the meeting.

“They left that door open, and that’s the part that I like the most, because my constituents, they need to have a paycheck just like anybody else across the country and New Mexico,” Becenti-Aguilar said.

Further reading: PRC hearings: Northern Navajo’s economy hangs in the balance | Navajo Times

Regardless of whether the carbon capture project happens, commissioners have given the green light to a 100 percent renewable energy plan that would create new projects on tribal land within the school district where the power plant contributes taxes.…—”PRC approves renewable energy to replace power from San Juan coal plant,” By Michael Gerstein, Santa Fe New Mexican, 7/29/20

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Can We Avoid Ecological Collapse?

CanWeAvoidCollapse“Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or economist.” —economist Kenneth Boulding

We’re back with Part 2 of our conversation with Dr. William Rees. View Part 1, Overstepping Our Ecological Footprint,” if you want haven’t yet seen it. Bill Rees coined the term #EcologicalFootprint, and has considerable respect in the field of ecology. He is not at all optimistic about humanity’s prospects, and he is no ‘fringe’ scientist.

Here he again speaks with us about the mess we continue make of the planet, and the drivers of our self-destruction. His sense is that we are in overshoot of the ecological limits of the Earth, and that the ‘growth economics’ that we have become enslaved to, we are consuming Earth’s resources at an unsustainable rate, and dumping the consumerism’s wastes into Earth’s land, water and air ‘sinks’ with no real regard (lip service only) for its ability to absorb them.

Such is the legacy of a dysfunction economic model of infinite exponential growth on a limited planet, of which the banks and moneyed elites are the beneficiaries.—”Can We Avoid Ecological Collapse?” William Rees, Stuart Scott, FacingFuture|YouTube, 8/1/20

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“I Can’t Breathe”

Even in non-pandemic times, air pollution is deadly.

Each year, it kills more than 100,000 people in the United States and 5 million worldwide. Most deadly are the tiny particles that are byproducts of the fuels we burn to power our cars, generate electricity, and create the panoply of chemicals that make up modern life. Like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, they lodge deep in a person’s lungs, triggering a deadly cascade of health problems.

But mortality from air pollution is not evenly distributed: “Communities of color, and in particular poor communities of color, are more likely to live in places with poor air quality than their white, wealthier counterparts,” said Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. A pair of studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Montana published in 2015 in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the high concentration of polluting industries in Black and Latino communities was the deliberate consequence of racist policies.

These same communities struggling to breathe are disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the research and analysis group APM Research Lab, Black Americans are especially susceptible to the disease, with a mortality rate that as of June 23 was 2.3 times higher than the rate for white Americans. Based on the race and ethnicity data of 93 percent of the 120,000 people who had died of COVID-19 in the United States, the researchers found that “if they had died of COVID-19 at the same rate as white Americans, at least 16,000 Black Americans, 2,200 Latino Americans, and 400 Indigenous Americans would still be alive.”

Some of these deaths can be attributed to broader social inequities. Black and Latino people, for example, are more likely to hold jobs—including many in health care—that have been declared essential services, putting them at greater risk of exposure to the disease. And because of systemic racism within health care, they’re less likely to be given adequate treatment when they become sick. Rana Zoe Mungin, a Black public school teacher in Brooklyn, was twice denied a COVID-19 test at a local hospital despite exhibiting symptoms. At one point, according to her family, she was told that she was merely having a panic attack. Mungin eventually died of COVID-19.

A growing body of research suggests that air pollution itself is an important factor in these deaths.…—“I Can’t Breathe,” Kendra Pierre-Louis, Sierra Club, 7/15/20

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The first modern-day marine fish
has officially gone extinct. More may follow

There is only one photo of the smooth handfish: an image of a withered, yellowing specimen with pectoral fins that extend like arms, and a triangular crest attached to the top of its head. Sometime between 1800 and 1804, French zoologist François Péron plucked this fish out of the ocean while voyaging through Australia, presumably in the shallow coastal waters of southeastern Tasmania.

Since then, no other smooth handfish (Sympterichthys unipennis) has ever been spotted, and the fish that Péron collected became the holotype for the entire species. In March 2020, the IUCN officially declared the species to be extinct.

The loss of this species may seem insignificant, especially since it hasn’t been seen for about 200 years, but it’s a noteworthy event: the smooth handfish is actually the first marine, bony fish to go extinct in modern times. While it could be argued that the New Zealand grayling (Prototroctes oxyrhynchus) was actually the first oceanic fish to die out, the grayling was migratory and spawned in freshwater, so wasn’t an exclusively marine fish.…—”The first modern-day marine fish has officially gone extinct. More may follow,” Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay, 6/26/20

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Migratory freshwater fish in peril
as report shows population plunge

Migratory freshwater fish are in big trouble. According to a new report, monitored populations of migratory freshwater fish have dropped on average by 76% since 1970, which is a higher rate of decline than among marine and terrestrial species.

The report, published this week by the World Fish Migration Foundation, is the first global assessment of migratory freshwater fish species. Using information from the Living Planet Index project, run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF, the report draws on data from 1,406 populations of 247 species from regions across the globe. However, it notes there was deficient data for Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America.

“The 76% average decline in migratory freshwater fish is one of the worst we’ve found in our work but we think migratory freshwater fish might be in even greater peril than that,” Stefanie Deinet, lead author of the study, told Mongabay in an email. “Adding currently missing information from tropical regions where threats of habitat loss and degradation, overexploitation, and climate change have been increasing, will surely bend the curve of loss downwards not upwards.”

A freshwater migratory fish is defined as a fish that travels between critical habitats to spawn or feed, either using freshwater exclusively or partially. This includes catadromous fish, such as European eels (Anguilla anguilla), which migrate downriver to the sea to spawn, and anadromous fish, such as Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus), which travel upriver from the sea to spawn. There are also amphidromous fish, like mountain mullets (Agonostomus monticola), that move between saltwater and freshwater, although not for breeding purposes, and potamodromous fish, such as white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), which migrate exclusively within freshwater systems.…—”Migratory freshwater fish in peril as report shows population plunge,” Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay, 7/30/20

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Dominion shakes up leadership,
focuses on renewables after pipeline cancellation

CEO Tom Farrell is transitioning to a new role in a “long designed succession process” as the company takes a $2.8 billion charge related to the canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

As the energy company grapples with the loss of a major gas pipeline project, Dominion is looking to a rapid shift toward clean energy.

“With our most recent strategic alignment and selling our gas storage and pipeline segment, embracing a clear path [to] net zero by 2050, the Board and I thought it would be an appropriate time to take the next step in our management transition at the end of this quarter,” Farrell said during the Q2 call with analysts.

Dominion anticipates an increase in its renewable energy capacity by 2035, from 2.9 GW in 2019 to 28.3 GW. The increase represents a more than 15% compound annual growth rate on the assets, which include battery storage. While that includes one of the largest build-outs of offshore wind in North America — a 2.6 GW project off the coast of Virginia for $8 billion — most of the additions will be large solar builds in the PJM region, mainly in Virginia.

Dominion anticipates this shift to add more solar and wind power as part of its work to meet Virginia’s 100% clean energy goals. Dominion announced it will become the third largest utility owner of solar in the U.S. by executing its latest 15-year integrated resource plan for Virginia.

In July, Dominion won approval from Virginia regulators to roll out a renewable energy tariff allowing large customers that had sought to exit Dominion’s service to purchase 100% clean energy. Walmart, one of Dominion’s largest customers in the state, fought the plan along with competitive electricity providers, arguing it would negatively impact competition for providing clean power, among other concerns.…—”Dominion shakes up leadership, focuses on renewables after pipeline cancellation,” Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive, 8/3/20

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As Trump Leaves Permian Oilfield,
Industry Insiders Question If 2020 Bust
Marks Texas Oil’s Last Big Boom

Yesterday, President Trump left Midland, Texas, after arriving in the state’s Permian oilfield region for a $2,800 a plate luncheon and a “roundtable” that required each participant to pony up $100,000.

The west Texas Mr. Trump left behind bears little resemblance to the region as it was when he first took office in January 2017, as the shale rush resumed following 2016’s oil price plunge.

Today, the shale boom of the 2010’s is officially bust, battered not only by the US’s out-sized failure to control COVID-19 outbreaks and an oil price war in which foreign producers proved their ability to steer oil prices, but also a wave of multi-billion dollar write-downs by oil giants — write-downs that predated both the price war and the pandemic and resulted from the industry’s perpetual struggles to generate profits from shale drilling and fracking regardless of the price of oil.

Further reading: Is Shale Oil Production from Bakken Headed for a Run with “The Red Queen”? | The Oil Drum, September, 2012

Last Friday, just 103 active drilling rigs dotted Texas, according to data from Baker Hughes. That’s down from 403 drilling rigs as 2020 began and the state’s peak this decade of 930. Just 251 active oil and gas rigs could be found across the entire United States, the lowest number recorded since Baker Hughes began tracking the rig count back in 1940.…—”As Trump Leaves Permian Oilfield, Industry Insiders Question If 2020 Bust Marks Texas Oil’s Last Big Boom,” Sharon Kelly, DeSmog, 7/30/20

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Burning down the house?
Enviva’s giant U.S. wood pellet plants gear up

A UN carbon accounting loophole that replaces coal with the burning of forests to make “carbon neutral” electricity is subsidy-driven and will destroy forests vitally needed now for carbon sequestration: Critics.

When biomass manufacturer Enviva completes its two newest U.S. Gulf Coast plants on opposite sides of the Alabama-Mississippi state line, likely by 2021, they will be the largest “biomass for energy” manufacturing plants on the planet.

Every year, the two factories will grind the equivalent of a hundred square miles of forest into 2.7 million metric tons of combustible wood pellets, to be burned at former coal plants in Europe and Asia — with all the resulting carbon released into the atmosphere.

These U.S. biomass plants, and the wood pellets they churn out, will thrive atop a shaky Jenga tower of political, economic and environmental paradoxes, according to environmentalists. Unable to compete with carbon fuels like coal or natural gas on price, Enviva’s wood pellet plants will stay afloat because of direct and implicit subsidies coming from the European Union, whose members agreed to derive 32% of their energy from renewables by 2030 — a category that they deemed to include biomass.

The EU endorsed this policy even though recent science has shown unequivocally that wood pellets release more CO2 even than coal.…—”Burning down the house? Enviva’s giant U.S. wood pellet plants gear up,” Saul Elbein, Mongabay, 7/29/20

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Business risk and COVID-19
are pushing Asian financiers away from coal

The use of coal as an energy source is steadily declining in the U.S. and Europe, but coal mining and the construction of coal-fired power plants continues across South and Southeast Asia.

The technology and funding comes primarily from three countries — South Korea, Japan, and China — and is destined to nations including Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Each of the latter has more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power plants in various stages of development.

But there are signs this trend might finally be changing.

In the past few months, perhaps spurred by economic concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s three main private coal financing banks — Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Mizuho Financial Group (Mizuho) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMBC) — have announced plans to gradually reduce coal investments. This was followed, in July, by Japan’s government announcing it would tighten public financing criteria for coal plants overseas, impacting state-funded entities such as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

And, in April, after a historic victory in mid-term legislative elections, South Korea’s ruling Democratic party released a policy proposal for a “Green New Deal” that, at the time, included provisions to eliminate most coal financing. This intention was reinforced July 28 when Democratic party lawmakers proposed a package of bills aimed at banning the public financing of overseas coal projects.

“It’s very significant because those Japanese banks have historically been amongst the biggest financing of coal fired power in Southeast Asia,” said Simon Nicholas, an energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a U.S.-based think tank. “South Korea, too, definitely does seem to be moving away from the financing of coal overseas with this Green New Deal.”…—”Business risk and COVID-19 are pushing Asian financiers away from coal,” Nithin Coca, Mongabay, 8/3/20

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FERC faces environmental justice reckoning

Critics are calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rethink its handling of environmental justice issues after its recent approval of a natural gas project in a predominantly Black community in Georgia that’s still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the green light to turn on a natural gas compressor station in the southwest Georgia city of Albany as the area emerged as one of the worst coronavirus hot spots in the country.

Now, the rural and predominantly Black Dougherty County — which houses Albany — has recorded over 2,500 coronavirus cases and 167 deaths, accounting for more than 40% of all COVID-related fatalities in the state, according to Georgia Department of Public Health data.

The approval comes amid a wave of protests following the May killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer. The nationwide reckoning with systemic racism has led to increased scrutiny of how environmental justice issues are handled by powerful agencies like FERC.

“This is such an alarming situation,” said Tosh Sevier, a community liaison for the local nonprofit Albany Cares. “To increase the pollution in this area in the middle of a pandemic is a travesty, to say the least.”

Studies show that Black, Indigenous, Latino and low-income white communities are significantly more likely to bear the brunt of environmental pollution as compared with their more affluent, predominantly white counterparts. For example, over 60% of African Americans and 40% of Latinos live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and those residents are typically exposed to upward of 60% more pollution than they produce through energy consumption and daily activities, according to the NAACP.

A 1997 guidance document from the White House Council on Environmental Quality lays out best practices for FERC and other agencies to address environmental justice as part of reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. The agency isn’t legally required to act on its findings.…

“If a project is required for the public convenience and necessity, which is the statutory standard, then the fact that it disproportionately impacts environmental justice communities is not going to block the project from getting built,” he said. “The courts of appeals that review FERC decisions don’t second-guess what the agency decides in its expert opinion. They just look to see whether the commission provided a reasoned explanation for what it decided.”

But critics say the way the commission calculates the risks to communities is inadequate.

“The FERC system and process is not fair, it’s not just, and it’s screwing people who are already being screwed by a system that says it’s OK to dump on them despite the research that says this is killing them,” said Tina Johnson, the director of the National Black Environmental Justice Network. “That makes me sick to my stomach.”…

“If the explanation is that the alternative route will have the same impact on environmental justice communities or roughly the same impact, that’s not going to justify switching to another route,” he said.

And if FERC determines a project is required for the public convenience and necessity, then the no-action alternative is thrown out, Benson said.

Jennifer Danis, a senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, called this logic “bizarre.”

“Because the other areas in the county they used as comparisons are also vulnerable communities, they find no ‘disproportionate impact,'” she said. “It’s very ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ There’s no logic to it.”…—”FERC faces environmental justice reckoning,” Arianna Skibell, Niina H. Farah, E&E News, 7/31/20

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The Trump administration is throwing the climate, clean air and water, and public health under the bus to prop up the dying coal industry

WildEarth Guardians and a coalition including states, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and other conservation organizations have launched a new legal challenge against the Trump administration’s decision to open millions of acres of public lands for new coal leasing and mining. That 2017 decision ended an Obama-era leasing moratorium that had protected public lands from new coal strip mines, and the water, air, and climate pollution such mines cause.

The complaint filed in the Great Falls court today, June 20, 2020, challenges the administration’s findings that the federal coal-leasing program does not cause significant environmental harm, and asks the court to reinstate the moratorium on new coal leasing. Earthjustice filed the complaint on behalf of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Citizens for Clean Energy, Montana Environmental Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, and Defenders of Wildlife.

The states of California, Washington, New Mexico, and New York took similar action on Monday.

A U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Montana, ruled in April 2019 that the Trump administration’s decision to end the moratorium broke the law because the administration failed to evaluate the environmental harm from its decision. However, earlier this year, the Trump administration attempted to remedy that violation by releasing a widely-criticized environmental assessment. The assessment looked at only four coal leases that the Bureau of Land Management had already issued, and concluded the leases did not cause any significant harm to the environment. The assessment did not consider Bureau’s other coal-leasing activities over the 570-million acre federal mineral estate, which contains approximately 255 billion tons of mine-able coal.

“The Trump administration is blatantly selling out the American public in a corrupt attempt to appease the dying coal industry,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “This latest legal effort is about enforcing the fact that the public interest comes first, not the demands of climate denying coal executives.”—”New Legal Challenge Launched Against Trump’s Public Lands Coal Giveaway,” Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, 7/20/20

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Trump’s EPA ‘Trying to Strip Away’
Power of States to Prevent Water Pollution

NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joins other attorneys general in lawsuit claiming new regulation violates Clean Water Act and would greatly curb their ability to protect wetlands, waterways

For the second time this week, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has joined with 19 other states suing to block a new Environmental Protection Agency rule — this time over a regulation they say unlawfully restricts the authority of states to protect their waters from pollution.

The latest litigation has key significance for New Jersey as the rule change undercuts the states’ authority to exercise oversight of federally permitted projects such as pipelines, industrial plants and hydroelectric dams, among others.

For decades, states have used a provision in the federal Clean Water Act to determine whether these major infrastructure projects would degrade water quality if approved, and to impose conditions to prevent any harm, or even deny certification for the projects.

In Connecticut and New York, officials have used the provision, known as Section 401, to deny major pipeline projects in their states.

In New Jersey, opponents of the 120-mile PennEast pipeline have cited the provision as probably the most effective tool for stopping that $1 billion project. The pipeline would begin in Pennsylvania and end in Mercer County and cross as many as 38 C-1 streams, the most pristine and supposedly most protected waterways in New Jersey. The EPA rule came out after an executive order last year to limit the scope and time states would have to review new energy projects.

Filed in the U.S. District Court in California, the lawsuit claims the new rule must be vacated because it unlawfully limits the ability of states to protect precious wetlands and waterways within their own borders, violates the Clean Water Act and runs afoul of the federal Administrative Procedures Act.

Grewal: ‘The fight to protect our environment continues’

“The federal government is taking unprecedented steps to stop states from fulfilling our important duties to prevent the pollution of our waters,’’ said Grewal. “This EPA is trying to strip away our ability to do so, which is why we’re taking them to court. The fight to protect our environment continues.’’…—”Trump’s EPA ‘Trying to Strip Away’ Power of States to Prevent Water Pollution, NJ Says,” Tom Johnson, NJ Spotlight, 7/24/20

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Dept of Interior: A ‘bigoted and divisive extremist’
NAACP takes on BLM chief

The opposition keeps growing against William Perry Pendley, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management.

A large coalition of environmental and social justice groups, including the NAACP, urged members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a letter today to reject Pendley. Among other things, the letter cites Pendley’s “track record of dismantling the very agency he is tasked with managing” — a reference to BLM’s controversial headquarters move to Colorado, which has led to dozens of top officials leaving the bureau.

The letter also cites what it describes as Pendley’s “history of mocking and scapegoating marginalized communities,” including “opposing Tribes” and “working against diversity-based recruitment initiatives and standards of regulatory impact.”

The coalition’s letter rejects Pendley’s attempts “to erase his deeply held personal beliefs by claiming his past statements and actions are ‘irrelevant,’ conjuring his training in taking orders as a Marine. This is nonsensical at best and cynical at worst. His record on public lands must inform his nomination, not be conveniently erased.”…

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee has yet to set a confirmation hearing date for Pendley.

The letter adds to the growing list of conservation groups, former BLM career officials and elected leaders who have publicly denounced Trump’s nomination of Pendley in June to lead the bureau that oversees about 245 million acres of federal lands.

Indeed, some of the groups that signed today’s letter have already publicly expressed opposition or concerns about Pendley, including the Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation. Two groups that signed the letter — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Western Watersheds Project — are currently suing the Interior Department and BLM, challenging Pendley’s authority to lead BLM on a temporary basis.

But today’s letter is notable for the inclusion of the NAACP and other social justice groups, such as Latino Outdoors and the Native American Rights Fund, that have been mostly silent on Pendley.…—”INTERIOR: A ‘bigoted and divisive extremist’: NAACP takes on BLM chief,” Scott Streater, E&E News, 8/3/20

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No One Is Owning Up to Releasing
Huge Cloud of Methane in Florida

It was 12 miles wide, invisible to the naked eye and traveled across six counties to Florida’s largest city. And it’s still unclear who — or what — was responsible.

The mysterious plume of methane, estimated to total 300 metric tons, was released north of Gainesville between May 2 and May 3, when it reached Jacksonville, according to Bluefield Technologies Inc., which analyzed data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite.A global-warming agent that’s 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, methane has become a major source of concern for environmentalists and climate-minded investors who are stepping up pressure on energy companies to curb emissions of the gas from oil fields, pipelines, gas storage facilities and power plants. Satellite observations are beginning to make those leaks more transparent. Last year, Montreal-based GHGSat Inc. identified a giant methane cloud apparently from an oil and gas field in Turkmenistan, billing it the first discovery of an unknown industrial methane release from space.

Further reading: Florida Offers Pipeline Clue in Mystery of Giant Methane Leak } Bloomberg

“This capability means we no longer need to fight climate change blindfolded,” Yotam Ariel, the founder of Bluefield said. “We now have a tool to directly see what was once invisible and channel resources to reduce emissions quickly and effectively.”

The source of the Florida emission remains unknown, however. Its volume was equivalent to roughly 1% of total daily emissions from the U.S. natural gas system in 2018, Stanford University professor Adam Brandt said. Its epicenter was in Alachua County, according to Bluefield.

Staff at the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department “are unaware of any incidents that may have contributed to methane emissions” on those dates, Stacie Greco, a coordinator at the agency, said in response to a public records request. The county doesn’t have an air quality program and deferred reports of air emission violations to the state’s environmental agency. Alachua didn’t receive any reports of hazardous material spills on those days, she said.…—:No One Is Owning Up to Releasing Cloud of Methane in Florida,” Aaron Clark, Naureen Malik, Bloomberg News, 7/27/20

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The politicians in FirstEnergy’s pocket

FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, which was one of the 12 most climate-polluting power plants in the U.S. before it shut down due to “a lack of economic viability” in 2019. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

The utility behind a $61 million anti-climate bribery scheme is trying to buy public officials across the country, a HEATED investigation shows.

Want to prevent the climate crisis from spiraling out of control? You might want to start paying more attention to FirstEnergy.

FirstEnergy is one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the country. With more than $43 billion in assets, it’s also one of America’s largest corporations, ranking 294 on the Fortune 500.

Across the country, most private utilities are resisting the clean energy transition, and many are buying off politicians with campaign contributions to do it. —Leah Stokes, UC Santa Barbara, Ohio energy law that bailed out FirstEnergy was fueled by bribery | Vox

But FirstEnergy is also the ninth-largest greenhouse gas polluter in America—which means it contributes more to the ongoing climate crisis than ExxonMobil. It also means the company’s business model currently relies on a practice which climate scientists say is causing catastrophic damage to public health and the economy, and threatening potentially irreversible damage to the planet’s livability.

FirstEnergy could use its vast resources to change that practice, and become a profit leader in the transition to a clean energy economy.

Instead, however, it appears FirstEnergy has been using its treasure chest to bribe public officials into allowing the company to continue its legacy of climate destruction.…—”The politicians in FirstEnergy’s pocket,” Emily Atkin, HEATED, 8/3/20

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How a Historian Stuffed Hagia Sophia’s Sound Into a Studio

Bissera Pentcheva used virtual acoustics to bring Istanbul to California and reconstruct the sonic world of Byzantine cathedral music.

Turquoise carpets covered the marble floor, with its geometric designs. White drapes concealed the mosaic of the Virgin and Christ. Scaffolding obscured crosses and other Christian symbols.

HagiaSophia2Footage broadcast around the world last week captured some of these striking changes to Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul, which served as a mosque under Ottoman rule before becoming a museum in 1934. On the orders of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is now once again used as a mosque.

But for a group of scholars, scientists and musicians, Hagia Sophia’s re-dedication as a Muslim place of worship threatens to cloak a less tangible treasure: its sound. Bissera Pentcheva, an art historian at Stanford University and an expert in the burgeoning field of acoustic archaeology, has spent the past decade studying the building’s extravagantly reverberant acoustics to reconstruct the sonic world of Byzantine cathedral music. Ms. Pentcheva argues that Hagia Sophia’s mystical brilliance reveals itself fully only if it is viewed as a vessel for animated light — and sound.

“The void is a stage,” she said in a recent interview over Zoom.

Conducting research inside this contested monument has required a mixture of diplomacy, ingenuity and technology. Turkish authorities forbade singing inside Hagia Sophia, even when it was operated as a museum. Now that the building falls under the jurisdiction of religious authorities, that ban will harden, and further research may be even more difficult.…—”How a Historian Stuffed Hagia Sophia’s Sound Into a Studio,” The New York Times, 7/30/20

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