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

June 19, 2018
‘The fire next time’ has become a metaphor for a haunted sensibility toward society’s enslavement of those it deems inferior, and likewise the subjugation of the Earth itself. This fire is inevitable unless we propitiate the harms, heat created and handled with vaunting ambition, born of aggression. And the whole world bears the consequences.
But first the news.

Action Alert! Cayuga Power Plant.
And Fueled by CNG Trucks?

Tuesday, June 19th
Tompkins County Legislature
121 East Court St., Ithaca
5:00 Rally
5:30 Regular meeting of the County Legislature

The Cayuga Power Plant in Lansing is again proposing to re-power with fracked gas. They will be announcing this on Tuesday.

Worse still, the plan is to deliver the gas via LNG trucks! We call these compressed natural gas trucks “bomb trucks.” LNG has about 12 times the explosive force of TNT

Come join to protest outside the County Legislature meeting this Tuesday at 5:00

We will pack the Legislature meeting with people opposed to this terrible idea with as many residents speaking at the podium as possible.

Sierra Club is drafting a press statement and we’ll submit a quote. I have a friend in Lansing I can ask, but she might say no. Any other ideas for a Lansing mom or grandmother if she says no? A Lansing mom is ideal because Lansing will be most affected by the truck traffic.

Here’s the Facebook event

For more info: email Lisa Marshall, Mothers Out Front

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TransCanada’s New ‘Best-In-Class’ Gas Pipeline Explodes in West Virginia, Causing Fiery Blast

TransCanada’s New ‘Best-In-Class’ Gas Pipeline Explodes in West Virginia, Causing Fiery Blast

This morning [Thursday, June 7] residents of Marshall County, West Virginia, awoke at 4:15 a.m. to a major natural gas rupture and explosion on TransCanada’s Leach XPress pipeline on Nixon Ridge — a quickly built pipeline only half a year old.

The fire was visible for miles, local TV news reported. Police warned anyone who could see the flames to evacuate — and the Emergency Management Agency director of neighboring Ohio County said officials had received dozens of 911 calls from locals able to see the fire, which was extinguished roughly four hours later. The blast was so powerful that one resident told a local CBS affiliate it felt like a tornado was passing through.

No one was injured, and no property damage was reported, TransCananda said in a statement released today, adding that the cause of the explosion was not yet determined.

The Leach XPress pipeline is just six months old, having been put into service on January 1, 2018.

At the time, TransCanada emphasized that it was built quickly — but safely. “Leach XPress was done in less than a year,” Scott Castleman, manager of U.S. Gas Communications for TransCanada, said in a January statement.

We’re looking forward to generations of safe operations,” he added. “This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable, and efficient operation on behalf of our customers.”

Leach XPress is the first in a series of major TransCanada pipeline construction projects — and part of a larger sprint to build out oil and gas pipelines nationwide, spurred by an urgent push to get shale gas and oil to market.…—Sharon Kelly, “TransCanada’s New ‘Best-In-Class’ Gas Pipeline Explodes in West Virginia, Causing Fiery Blast,” DeSmogBlog, 6/7/18

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Plastics, Pipelines, Fracking and Our Planet: A Webinar

Fracking doesn’t just fuel power plants, it also provides raw materials to the petrochemical industry While the public health threat posed by drilling grows more severe every day, the refining of petrochemicals is also an incredibly toxic process. We also know that much of this plastic ends up in our oceans threatening ecosystems and the environment.

Food & Water Action, Progressive Democrats of America and People Demanding Action invite you to join us for the fifth webinar in our Climate & Energy Series. Food & Water Action will be joined by Biologist and Author Sandra Steingraber along with our allies Uwchlan Safety Coalition and Texas Environmental Justice Advocate Services to examine how the petrochemical industry drives fracking, the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and the transatlantic trade of toxic chemicals.

What : Webinar: Plastics, Pipelines, Fracking and Our Planet
Date : Wednesday, June 20
Time : 8 p.m. EST
Where : Online (preferred) or on your phone
RSVP: https://fwaction.us/PlasticsWebinar

We encourage you to share this invitation with your allies and networks. You can also find a shareable Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/492042551212057/

This is a global issue that can only be solved by a massive political mobilization. We hope you will join us.

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Webinar on Trash Incineration: A Climate and Health Disaster Near You!

New York, California, Massachusetts and Virginia are home to 21 of the 76 trash incinerators remaining in the U.S. Trash incineration is the most expensive and polluting way to manage waste or to make energy — dirtier than coal power plants, and dirtier than landfills. In many communities, trash incinerators are the largest air polluters in the city or county, contributing to asthma attacks, cancer, and many other health impacts. Learn about the trash incinerators in your state, and find out what you can do to close them down and transition to Zero Waste systems.

Mothers Out Front/New York is hosting Mike Ewall from Energy Justice Network to talk about trash incinerators. You probably already know (I didn’t until recently) that they are more polluting than coal power plants!

When: June 20, 7:30PM – 9:00PM
Where: zoom webinar (connection details to be furnished)

For More Info : Lisa Marshall · lisa.marshall@mothersoutfront.org ·850 291 5259
Here’s the event on our website: Trash Incineration: A Climate and Health Disaster Near You!
Here’s the Facebook Event: Facebook: Trash Incineration: A Climate and Health Disaster Near You!

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FERC rejects Mountain Valley challenges,
dividing again over climate, pipeline need

FERC rejects Mountain Valley challenges, dividing again over climate, pipeline need

FERC’s Friday decision upholding construction certificates for Mountain Valley is the latest in a series of split rulings on pipelines.

Since FERC regained its quorum last year, the two Democratic regulators have regularly dissented on major pipeline approvals over the commission’s assessment of climate impacts and its reliance precedent agreements — pipeline capacity contracts signed with offtakers — to determine if a pipeline is needed. The most recent dissents came this week on a rehearing order for a Tennessee project.

Friday’s order followed the same narrative. Both regulators argued FERC should also use other tools to determine if there is market demand for new pipeline capacity, particularly when precedent agreements are signed between affiliates of the same parent company.

“I am concerned that, where entities are part of the same corporate structure, precedent agreements among those entities will not necessarily be negotiated through an arms-length process and considerations other than market demand will bear on the negotiations underlying the agreement,” Glick wrote.

“That is particularly so,” he added, “where, as here, all of the precedent agreements are among affiliates of the Projects’ developer.”

Glick was not yet on the commission when FERC approved Mountain Valley, but LaFleur issued the sole dissent in the 2-1 vote, arguing the agency should have considered whether the pipeline could have been combined with another controversial project — the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — to diminish ecological impacts.…—Gavin Bade, “FERC rejects Mountain Valley challenges, dividing again over climate, pipeline need,” Utility Dive, 6/18/18

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Fifty Years After a Blowout, This Natural-Gas Reservoir
Is Still Contaminating the Local Groundwater

Fifty Years After a Blowout, This Natural-Gas Reservoir Is Still Contaminating the Local Groundwater

Fifty years after a catastrophic blowout, an underground natural-gas reservoir in the Netherlands is still leaking methane into the local drinking-water aquifer, a new study finds. There’s no evidence of the methane leak aboveground, but water drawn from some wells adjacent to the blowout site has enough methane in it to merit immediate action to prevent explosions, a team of Dutch geologists found.

The study adds to an ongoing debate about how often oil and gas drilling activity contaminates nearby aquifers. If you’ve seen that video of a homeowner turning on his kitchen tap and then lighting the stream on fire, that’s the effect of methane in the water. Oil and gas reserves are found much deeper in the Earth than reservoirs of well water, but scientists think that gas could migrate from the reserve to the aquifer if hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—wells are poorly made or develop cracks. A survey conducted this year found that about 2,700 active natural-gas storage wells across the United States may be at risk for leaks because they were built before certain safety techniques became widespread in the industry. (Methane may also appear in water from natural phenomena that aren’t related to oil and gas drilling.)

Methane dissolved in water isn’t known to be toxic when drunk, but if enough methane seeps from someone’s well or tap, it can asphyxiate people or—given a spark—explode.

The new study adds another scenario for regulators and citizens to consider: If a well has suffered a blowout, it may damage the reservoir in such a way that it continues to leak gases for decades. That’s exactly what a team of Dutch geologists found when they analyzed water wells around the site of a dramatic natural-gas well failure near the village of Sleen, in 1965. While workers were drilling a new well, it created unexpectedly high pressure underground. Several geysers of gas erupted around the field, which eventually coalesced into a 1,100-foot-wide crater that swallowed the drilling rig. Workers were not able to stop the leaks until more than two months later.…— Francie Diep, “Fifty Years After a Blowout, This Natural-Gas Reservoir Is Still Contaminating the Local Groundwater,” Pacific Standard, 1/2/18

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The Fire Next Time

Trump nominates climate doubter Simmons
to head DOE renewables office

Trump nominates climate doubter Simmons to head DOE renewables office

Simmons, who has headed EERE on a temporary basis since last year, is the latest climate doubter and fossil fuel ally to be given a top energy role under the Trump administration.

From 2008 to 2017, Simmons worked for IER and AEA, which receive funding from oil interests like Koch Industries and coal companies like Peabody Energy. During that time, AEA pushed Congress to completely defund EERE, writing that the office “aims to control multiple sectors of the economy, from energy production and transmission to manufacturing and construction.”

Simmons also authored materials that questioned mainstream climate science during his time leading the Natural Resources Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative policymaking group, from 2005 to 2008.

ALEC convenes state legislators and private companies to craft model legislation behind closed doors. In 2007, Simmons co-authored a guide for lawmakers on energy and environmental issues that questioned climate science, notes the Energy and Policy Institute, a liberal watchdog group.

The ALEC report denies that greenhouse gas emissions are “increasing the rate of sea level rise,” as well as their connection to higher temperatures.…—Gavin Bade, “Trump nominates climate doubter Simmons to head DOE renewables office,” Utility Dive, 6/15/18

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May shaping up as USA’s hottest on record,
breaking mark set during 1934 Dust Bowl

May shaping up as USA’s hottest on record, breaking mark set during 1934 Dust Bowl

The USA is sweltering through what will likely be its hottest May on record, according to a preliminary analysis of weather data.

National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said May 2018 should break the record set in May 1934 during the Dust Bowl.

The heat has been particularly noteworthy in the central U.S., including the upper Midwest and northern Plains, where temperatures have run some 5-8 degrees above average, according to weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue.

On Monday, the temperature in Minneapolis soared to a record 100 degrees, the city’s earliest 100-degree reading on record, buckling roads, straining air conditioners and triggering air quality alerts.

Further reading Severe heat wave roasts parts of Asia, at least 7 countries break monthly records
Hottest April Day Ever Was Probably Monday in Pakistan: A Record 122.4°F
Australia has been breaking records for heat in April

Other cities seeing record-breaking heat over the past few days include Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Des Moines, Radiant Solutions reported.

Overall, in just the past few days more than 1,900 heat records have been broken or tied, weather.com said.… —Doyle Rice, “Heat wave: May 2018 likely hottest, breaking mark from 1934 Dust Bowl,” USA Today, 5/30/18

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In ‘precedent-setting’ move
judge sets aside drilling leases in Santa Fe forest

In ‘precedent-setting’ move, judge sets aside drilling leases in Santa Fe forest

SANTA FE – Environmentalists have won what they say is a precedent-setting court decision that overturns oil and gas leases on more than 19,000 acres in the Santa Fe National Forest that the Bureau of Land Management approved in 2015.

Senior U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo of Albuquerque Thursday ordered the BLM to conduct further analysis on environmental impact of the potential drilling.

Most significantly, the judge found that federal environmental law requires the BLM to consider the “downstream” and cumulative impacts on climate change of the use of the fuel produced from oil and gas leases on public lands.

Armijo wrote that federal law acknowledges that the impact of one action alone “may be individually insignificant, but also that the impact of the action may be significant only in combination with other actions.”

“It is this broader, significant ‘cumulative impact’ which must be considered by an agency, but which was not considered in this case,” Armijo’s ruling states.…— Mark Oswald, “In ‘precedent-setting’ move, judge sets aside drilling leases in Santa Fe forest,” Albuquerque Journal, 6/14/18

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Scott Pruitt, Under Fire,
Plans to Initiate a Big Environmental Rollback

Scott Pruitt, Under Fire, Plans to Initiate a Big Environmental Rollback

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected on Friday to send President Trump a detailed legal proposal to dramatically scale back an Obama-era regulation on water pollution, according to a senior E.P.A. official familiar with the plan. It is widely expected to be one of his agency’s most significant regulatory rollback efforts.

And, as soon as Monday, the same official said, Mr. Pruitt is expected to publish another major change: his agency’s legal proposal to gut President Barack Obama’s rule to reduce climate-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes. That proposal risks triggering a court battle with California and raises the prospect that the American car market could be split in two, with different groups of states enforcing different pollution rules.

Mr. Pruitt’s two moves come as he is dogged by allegations of legal and ethical violations and is seeking to burnish his reputation in the eyes of his boss, the president. While Mr. Pruitt has initiated the rollback of dozens of environmental rules over the past year and a half, the latest one-two push comes as he is battling allegations that he improperly used his government post to secure a job for his wife.

This week, the chorus of critics calling for Mr. Pruitt’s resignation swelled to include the conservative National Review, which once championed his appointment. And on Wednesday, Mr. Pruitt’s onetime political mentor, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, told the conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham that Mr. Pruitt needed to move past his management blunders and that it may be “time for him to go.”…—Coral Davenport, “Scott Pruitt, Under Fire, Plans to Initiate a Big Environmental Rollback,” The New York Times, 6/14/18

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As Glacier-Fed Rivers Disappear,
One-Sixth of Global Population Is at Risk

As Glacier-Fed Rivers Disappear, One-Sixth of Global Population Is at Risk

A recent University of Alberta-led project, the 2018 State of the Mountains Report, has sounded the alarm bell of how the rapid loss of glacial coverage in Canada’s mountains is causing rivers to disappear.

One of the examples cited in the report is how the Slims River (Ä’äy Chù) experienced a “Piracy Event” in southwestern Yukon. During the spring melt of 2016, the Slims River, one of the primary water sources of Kluane Lake (Lhù’ààn Mǟn), dried up after the Kaskawulsh Glacier receded so much that its dwindling meltwaters started to flow in a completely different direction. Near the end of that summer, Kluane Lake was a full meter lower than its previous record low level.

“This is one stark example of a very big drainage system that utterly and permanently reorganized itself in a single season,” University of Alberta mountain historian Zac Robinson told Phys.Org. “Kluane Lake is a massive lake that isn’t being fed any longer and is seeing its levels dropping. What does that do to the ecosystem and the communities on that lake that depend on that water?” —Dahr Jamail, “As Glacier-Fed Rivers Disappear, One-Sixth of Global Population Is at Risk,” Truth-out, 6/4/18

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In possible roadblock for Keystone XL pipeline
opponents gift land to Ponca

In possible roadblock for Keystone XL, pipeline opponents gift land to Ponca

LINCOLN — For five years, opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and members of the Ponca Indian Tribe have sown native tribal corn in the path of the controversial project as a form of resistance.

Now they’ve planted another potential roadblock.

Last weekend, Art and Helen Tanderup, who farm north of Neligh, Nebraska, deeded the 1.6-acre plot of native corn to the native inhabitants of the land, the Ponca.

Selling the land to the Ponca means that TransCanada will have to negotiate with a new landowner, one that has special legal status as a tribe — a tribe that is opposed to the pipeline. The plot becomes the only tribally owned plot of land on the XL pipeline route in the U.S.

“We want to protect this land. We don’t want to see a pipeline go through,” said Larry Wright Jr., the chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. “If this adds another layer (of opposition) to that issue, we’re happy to be part of that.”…— Paul Hammel, “In possible roadblock for Keystone XL, pipeline opponents gift land to Ponca,” Omaha World-Herald, 6/15/18

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Unusually Hot Spring Threw Plants,
Pollinators Out of Sync in Europe

Unusually Hot Spring Threw Plants, Pollinators Out of Sync in Europe

Butterflies hatched early with the heat, but their flowers hadn’t opened yet. Bees are under pressure, too. ‘You can see the climate change.’

VIENNA, AUSTRIA — In a patch of scruffy prairie near Vienna, marbled white butterflies hover near clusters of unopened globe thistles. They uncurl their long proboscises to probe the spiky buds—without success. It’ll be a couple more weeks before the flowers open, but some of the butterflies may not survive that long if they don’t find something else to eat.

Two months of unusually high spring temperatures in Europe have thrown the ecosystem in this urban wilderness meadow out of whack, says butterfly expert Marion Jaros. The warm temperatures accelerated the hatch of many butterflies and other pollinating species, but the flowers they depend on for nectar are not responding in sync.

“Here, too, you can see climate change,” Jaros says, as a hot, dry wind rustles the tall grass, dried to golden straw a month sooner than usual. Important pollinator species are being affected across Europe, she adds.

“In a nearby forested wetland area, scientists documented how one of our most beautiful and rare butterflies, the Osterluzeifalter, is affected by global warming,” Jaros said. “The research showed that the sharp rise in spring temperatures in Austria makes the “Unusually Hot Spring Threw Plants, Pollinators Out of Sync in Europe,” InsideClimate News, 6/15/18

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Groups Sue Utility Company for Leaking Coal Ash
Into National Scenic River

Groups Sue Utility Company for Leaking Coal Ash Into National Scenic River

Illinois environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that a utility company is violating the Clean Water Act by letting coal ash leak into a protected river.

The groups allege that Texas-based Dynegy Inc. is tempting a dangerous spill by not dealing with unlined pits of coal ash at the shuttered Vermilion Power Station, which sits along a tributary of the Vermilion River. “Over the years the utilities have used the floodplain as essentially a dumping ground,” activist Lan Richart told the Chicago Tribune. “Now it’s been shown to be polluting both the groundwater and the river.”

As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

“With the Trump and Rauner administrations rolling back enforcement of national and state environmental laws, advocates are urging a federal court to step in and order Dynegy to take more aggressive action. Environmental groups fear that steady erosion of the riverbank could trigger a catastrophic spill, similar to disasters at coal plants in Tennessee and North Carolina where ash impoundments ruptured and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Further reading: As coal plant pollution seeps into Illinois’ only national scenic river, advocates sue for feds to take action

‘Dynegy left a toxic mess on the banks of one of Illinois’ most beautiful rivers and has done nothing to stop the dangerous, illegal pollution from fouling waters enjoyed by countless families who kayak, tube, canoe and even swim in the river,’ said Jenny Cassel, an attorney with Earthjustice, one of the nonprofit groups behind a lawsuit filed Wednesday that accuses Dynegy of violating the federal Clean Water Act.”… —Climate Nexus, “Groups Sue Utility Company for Leaking Coal Ash Into National Scenic River,” EcoWatch, 5/31/18

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