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!

May 22, 2018
The price of changing the climate for business reasons is going up. The oil and gas industry is coming back to recognize that, after years of denial. So are their investors. And so has the Securities and Exchange Commission, over the last few years.
But first the news.

In Memoriam: Roland Micklem

Roland Micklem talks about Senior Citizen’s March to end Mountain Top Removal

It’s Sunday morning, and if Roland Micklem were still on this good earth he’d have completed his early routine of stretches, his cup or two (or three) of “black gold” and have worked on another edition of his “Scrap Paper,” a letter to the editor or a new song.

Roland was a prodigious, skilled, creative writer, always inspired by his abiding love of Mother Nature, environmental stewardship and humanity. His way with words could reach into the hearts and minds of anyone fortunate enough to read his work, encounter him by chance on the street or know him over time. His endearing southern drawl and good-natured humor could soften conflicting attitudes, diffuse conflicts, and broaden the perspective of those with opposing views because he spoke from the deepest place of authenticity, love and truth.

A dear friend, teacher and mentor, and character extraordinaire, Roland was always ready with a joke, song or a bit of wisdom to inform and enlighten listeners about the importance of respecting the Earth and all her creations, Roland could befriend anyone anywhere by drawing their attention to the oft unnoticed beauty he found around him. He’d lead nature walks and identify the smallest creatures, from the macro-invertebrates in streambeds, to amphibians in field, woods and ponds, to birds by their song, form or flight patterns. He introduced many to the wonders of the wild, non-human community and created relationships through deeper understanding and appreciation for our role as caretakers of this rich and beautiful living world.

And most of all, Roland was a man of integrity, passion and conviction. He was the real deal. He walked the talk. He was a man of courage, commitment peaceful action and was determined to do everything in his power to protect what he considered sacred, by every means possible, to the very end. Through his writing, his lifestyle and direct action, he demonstrated responsibility and conscious care-taking of the Web of Life.

Roland made a friend of everyone he met. A generous soul with a message and a mission. Creation Care. His inspiration was love. He was a warrior and a saint. He was a beautiful expression of a human being.

May all our hearts be expanded by his spirit.—Nancy Kasper, “In Memoriam: Roland Micklem,” 5/20/18

Nancy Kasper is a long-time friend of Roland, and was arrested for the first time with him, in a non-violent action against West Virginia mountain-top coal mining. Roland died peacefully at age 89 in Staunton, VA, on Sunday, May 6, 2018.

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Time to step up on climate change – Star-Gazette

Time to step up on climate change – Star-Gazette

This Mother’s Day, I don’t need flowers or chocolate or breakfast in bed. What I and tens of thousands of other New York mothers really want is meaningful action in Albany to preserve a livable future for our children.

When my husband retired from the United States Navy eight years ago and we moved with our three kids to the town of Horseheads in Chemung County, we found ourselves on the front lines of the the fracking fight. When we bought our house, we learned that the mineral rights were leased to the Anschutz gas company. Later, we learned that our town is dotted with gas wells, is home to a major fracking truck facility, and sits at the intersection of two major gas pipelines. In our county, radioactive fracking tailings are disposed of in our landfill. Worst of all, we learned that fracking was not only a threat to local air and water quality, but that fracked gas is accelerating the climate crisis.

In 2016, when I found out a large gas compressor was to be built in my town to push yet even more gas through the Dominion pipeline, I started organizing for Mothers Out Front, a climate change advocacy group, to mobilize my local community. Together with other citizen groups, we delayed the gas expansion by about a year, but eventually, we lost. Afterward, we learned that the gas compressor was built to feed the Cricket Valley Energy Center, a huge new gas-fired power plant under construction in Dutchess County. We now know Dominion is proposing a larger gas expansion.

New York is addicted to gas, burning more and more every year. Our “frack your neighbor” policy leaves a wake of environmental degradation in Pennsylvania and, worse, still puts us on the fast track for climate catastrophe.

Governor Cuomo touts his environmental achievements, but looking behind the veneer, we see a different story. New York derives only 4 percent of its electricity from wind and solar, and the governor is currently not on track to meet even his own fairly modest greenhouse gas reduction goals. To confront the climate crisis, we need a massive investment in wind, solar, geothermal and energy efficiency, and we need to implement these technologies democratically in a way that also addresses environmental racism and income inequality.

Mothers and grandmothers from Binghamton to Buffalo, Plattsburgh to Poughkeepsie, converged in Albany on the day after Earth Day with more than 1,500 other New Yorkers to tell Governor Cuomo to live up to the reputation of climate leader. We had three demands:

An immediate halt to all fracked gas infrastructure.

A pledge to move New York to 100 percent renewable energy.

Make corporate polluters pay for this transition.

As a mother, my first priority is to protect my children from harm. And that is why I’ve gone from sitting on the sidelines to working to mobilize mothers across New York state to demand action from decision- makers on climate change.—Lisa Marshall, “Time to step up on climate change,” Star-Gazette, 5/13/18

Lisa Marshall is a Horseheads resident.

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Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session
on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking

Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session – on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking

What Is The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal?

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, based in Rome, is an internationally recognized Civil Society public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities. It applies internationally recognized human rights law and policy to cases brought before it. The PPT is a descendant of the 1967 Bertrand Russell-Jean Paul Sartre Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, and hears cases in which prima facie evidence suggests abridgment of basic rights of ordinary people.

READ MORE…


What Is This Session About?

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal has scheduled a Session on the human rights impacts of fracking and climate change with hearings scheduled for the week of May 14-18, 2018. Hearings will be conducted fully online, using Zoom conferencing software, so that anyone anywhere in the world will be able to login and view the proceedings in real time.


Preliminary Human Rights Work On Fracking and Climate Change

Previous work relevant to the human rights dimensions of fracking and climate change includes two previous HRIAs (one for New York state, one for the United Kingdom), a Compendium of scientific and other findings on fracking, and the United Nations Knox Report on human rights and the environment.

READ MORE…—”Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session – on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking

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FERC: Commissioner Richard Glick Statement on Dominion Transmission, Inc.

FERC: Commissioner Richard Glick Statement on Dominion Transmission, Inc.

“Today, the Commission adopts a new policy regarding its consideration of how pipeline permitting decisions under section 7 1 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) contribute to climate change. In particular, the Commission now concludes that the NGA and the National Environmental Policy Act 2 (NEPA) do not require that the Commission consider greenhouse gas emissions from the production or consumption of natural gas that may be the reasonably foreseeable result of the Commission’s certification decisions. 3 Because I disagree with the Commission’s interpretation of our obligations under the NGA and NEPA, I dissent in part from today’s order, which I might otherwise join were it not for this new policy. 4 I find it particularly disappointing that the Commission is adopting this new policy just as it embarks on a broad review of the Commission’s process for certificating new natural gas pipelines, which will include how greenhouse gas emissions are assessed. 5

“Climate change poses an existential threat to our security, economy, environment, and, ultimately, the health of individual citizens. 6 Unlike many of the challenges that our society faces, we know with certainty what causes climate change: It is the result of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and methane—which can be released in large quantities through the production and the consumption of natural gas. Accordingly, it is critical that, as an agency of the federal government, the Commission comply with its statutory responsibility to document and consider how its authorization of a natural gas pipeline facility will lead to the emission of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

“What I am arguing is that, as a result of the Commission’s new policy, we frequently will not know whether the benefits outweigh the costs because the Commission is not asking enough questions or doing enough analysis.”

“In today’s order on rehearing, the Commission argues that it cannot consider the New Market Project’s effect on climate change because the record does not include information regarding the specific nature and extent of the impact that authorizing the new pipeline facilities will have on the production and consumption of natural gas. 7 The Commission contends that whatever effect the New Market Project has on the production and consumption of natural gas will not be reasonably foreseeable and, therefore, not something that the Commission must address in its NEPA analysis. 8 In so doing, the Commission is adopting a remarkably narrow view of its responsibilities under NEPA and the NGA’s public interest standard. Under this view, even if the Commission knows that new pipeline facilities would have an environmental impact—in this case, causing greenhouse gas emissions by facilitating additional production and consumption of natural gas—the Commission is not obligated to consider those impacts unless the Commission knows definitively that the production and consumption would not occur absent the pipeline.

Further reading Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur Statement on Dominion Transmission, Inc.
Federal regulators vote to limit practice of measuring climate impact of pipelines

“That approach violates NEPA’s requirement that federal agencies take “a hard look at [the] environmental consequences” of their decisions. 10 As an initial matter, the principal reason that the Commission does not have this “meaningful information” is that the Commission does not ask for it. But NEPA does not permit agencies to so easily shirk their responsibilities to consider environmental consequences. Rather, NEPA requires that an agency “must use its best efforts to find out all that it reasonably can.” 11 The Commission has several opportunities throughout the pre-filing and formal application processes to issue a data request to the pipeline developer seeking information about the source of the gas to be transported as well as its ultimate end use. 12 A simple data request would seem to fall easily within what constitutes the Commission’s “best efforts.” In the absence of any such efforts, the Commission should not be able to rely on the lack of “meaningful information” to satisfy its obligations under NEPA and the NGA to identify the reasonably foreseeable consequences of its actions. 13 …—Chairman Richard Glick, “Commissioner Richard Glick Statement on Dominion Transmission, Inc“, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 5/18/18

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Crestwood acknowledges possible leaks
in proposed LPG storage in Seneca Lake salt mines

Crestwood acknowledges possible leaks in proposed LPG storage in Seneca Lake salt mines

An attempt to store liquefied propane gas in Seneca County salt mines, already stalled in the face of fierce opposition, has encountered further setbacks as the sponsors acknowledged the cavern may have leaks.

The admission came in a May 17 letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Basil Seggos from a Syracuse-based lawyer representing Finger Lakes LPG Storage, a unit of Crestwood Midstream Partners.

Kevin Bernstein, an attorney with Bond Schoeneck & King, asked the DEC to delay a final decision on the storage unit application until well pressure tests determine its suitability as a gas storage unit.

“All well studies and other data that are not in the official record should be released for independent third-party review, including all sonar studies completed since 2013″—Deborah Goldberg, Earthjustice

…”This new information suggests what we knew all along, that the caverns are not stable and the gas could migrate if stored there,” said Joseph Campbell, president of Gas Free Seneca, a group opposed to the plan. “It is inconceivable to us why Governor (Andrew) Cuomo would not work with his DEC Commissioner, Basil Seggos, to deny the permits in light of this development.”

Dozens of municipalities and hundreds of businesses have gone on record opposing Crestwood’s plans to store 88.2 million gallons of LPG in the abandoned salt caverns. As part of coordinated and sustained opposition, hundreds of residents have gone to court to face trespassing and other charges after protests outside Crestwood’s facility in the Schuyler County Town of Reading.…—Jeff Platsky, “Crestwood Seneca Lake gas storage hits snag because of possible leak,” PressConnects, 5/21/18

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Action Alert! Support Needed: Greenidge Lawsuit Hearing

Join us for oral arguments tomorrow, May 22, in our lawsuit challenging the water withdrawal and SPDES permits issued to Greenidge Generating Station in Dresden on Seneca Lake. Attorney Richard Lippes from Buffalo will represent Petitioners at the hearing before Judge William Kocher at the
Yates County Courthouse
415 Liberty St
Penn Yan, NY 14527

May 22, 2:00 PM

The case was brought by Sierra Club, Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes (“CPFL”), Coalition to Preserve New York and Seneca Lake Guardian, a Waterkeeper Affiliate.

Petitioners argue that the water withdrawal permit and a modified state pollution discharge elimination system (“SPDES”) permit issued to Greenidge on September 11, 2017 are legally deficient because DEC violated the requirements of the water withdrawal permitting law and the SPDES law when it issued the permits without conducting a proper environmental review of the impacts of restarting the Greenidge Generating Station. The suit asks for the permits to be annulled and a new environmental review to be conducted.

The legal papers filed in the proceeding are posted at http://treichlerlawoffice.com/water/greenidge/index.html

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Andrew Cuomo Headlines Green-Washed Gala Funded by Big Oil Companies

Andrew Cuomo Headlines Environmental Gala Funded by Big Oil Companies

The NYLCV was founded in 1989, and it claims to be “the only statewide environmental organization in New York that fights for clean water, clean air, renewable energy and open space through political action.” However, as we discuss below, the NYLCV has close ties to the fossil fuel industry that undermine its credibility as an organization claiming to advance climate justice. Most notably, it is funded by fossil fuel companies and directed by individuals with oil and gas ties.

But the credibility problem is not just with the NYLCV; it is also with Cuomo, especially at a time when he is trying to position himself as a progressive leader on climate and environmental issues. He is calling for state pensions to divest from fossil fuel companies, and yet is participating in an event bankrolled by fossil fuel companies with business in New York State. Given this, Cuomo’s association with the NYLCV – and his decision to headline its gala – looks especially hypocritical and worthy of scrutiny.

In the past we have examined the fossil fuel industry’s use of front groups to whitewash – or “greenwash” – its environmental record. These organizations are, to varying extents, funded by oil and gas companies, and those companies’ executives, lobbyists and attorneys often have leadership roles in the groups. The NYLCV is one such group, and Cuomo appears to be a willing participant in its greenwashing of the fossil fuel industry. Cuomo cannot have it both ways on fossil fuels. Either he is truly opposed to state investment in fossil fuels, or he is not. He cannot credibly call for divestment from fossil fuel companies while participating in a major political event funded by those same corporate interests.

Some highlights of this article include:

  • Gala’s honoree is pro-fossil fuel, pro-Trump billionaire. The NYLCV’s Spring Gala environmental honoree is Andy Sabin, a pro-fracking billionaire whose philanthropic foundation has nearly $1 million invested in fossil fuels. Sabin opposes strong environmental regulation and is a major Trump donor and supporter.
  • Fossil fuel-tied GOP leader is board chair. The NYLCV Education Fund board chair, Ed Cox, is the chairman of the New York State GOP and a longtime director of Noble Energy, a major oil and gas company. As a director, Noble paid Cox $320,152 in 2017.
  • Funded by the fossil fuel industry. At least nine fossil fuel companies, some with controversial business in New York State, sponsor the NYLCV Education Fund.
  • Fracked-gas pipeline pushers on board. The NYLCV’s Capital Region Chapter Chair, Robert M. Rosenthal, is an attorney for Millennium Pipeline and has litigated against New York State to advance the fracked-gas Valley Lateral Project. Millennium spokesperson and former Cuomo official Michelle Hook is also on the NYLCV board, as is longtime Millennium lobbyist Scott Wigger.
  • Numerous other fossil fuel ties on board. A number of other fossil fuel-tied executives, lawyers and lobbyists sit on the NYLCV and NYLCVEF boards, including individuals tied to NRG, ExxonMobil, National Fuel, Global Partners and Entergy.

All this raises serious questions about the NYLCV. Is this organization genuinely advocating for environmental issues – or is it just providing cover for the oil and gas industry? Does it advance a real environmental vision – or does it just give executives, lobbyists, and attorneys a way to hobnob as “environmentalists” in elite cultural and political circles, even as they push a fossil fuel agenda?…—Derek Seidman, “Andrew Cuomo Headlines Environmental Gala Funded by Big Oil Companies,” Little Sis, 5/14/18

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The Cost of Fueling Climate Change

Even Oil Companies Are Now Saying
Climate Change Will Hurt Their Business

Even Oil Companies Are Now Saying Climate Change Will Hurt Their Business

Oil has occupied a central place in the American economy for the past century — powering houses, automobiles, factories and everything in between. As a result, the oil companies that drilled, shipped and sold black gold reaped billion in profit year after year and continue to do so.

But for the first time oil and gas companies are openly grappling with a less-than-certain future where climate change and related advances in other energy sources make them less dominant.

In its annual energy outlook released last week, BP said that it expected oil demand to peak in the next two decades as renewable energy grows and consumers purchase hundreds of millions of electric vehicles. In an outlook released in February, Exxon Mobil projected a peak in demand for gasoline in the coming decades and acknowledged that some of its assets “may not be attractive investments” as a result of the shifting energy market.

These changes may sound subtle, but they signify a marked shift in direction in an industry that for years fought government climate regulation and in many cases sought to murky the science underpinning the need for action on global warming.

“The recognition of the energy transition has grown over the past year with the oil and gas players,” says Marie-Helene Ben Samoun, a Houston-based partner at the Boston Consulting Group. “They are not only acknowledging global warming, but they are also acknowledging the energy transition and the impact on their own portfolio.”…—Justin Worland, “Oil and Gas Companies Now Say Climate Change Will Hurt,” Time, 3/6/18

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INTERIOR: Researchers say sea-level report was censored. Here it is

INTERIOR: Researchers say sea-level report was censored. Here it is

A high-profile case of alleged scientific censorship ended Friday when the National Park Service published a long-delayed report outlining how rising seas could damage parks across the country.

The report includes references to mankind’s role in climate change — something federal officials had tried scrubbing from the study, according to documents released under a state open records request. The study had languished under administrative review since early 2017.

Although National Park Service officials say the report was handled properly, the study’s lead author says the administrative review process has morphed from a “rubber stamp” into a tool for the government to suppress inconvenient science.

“Censorship is a good word for that,” said Maria Caffrey, the University of Colorado, Boulder, researcher who led the study. She plans to file a scientific integrity complaint.

The alleged interference, first reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, attracted attention from Democratic lawmakers and the inspector general for the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service. The affair also raised pressure on the Interior Department at a time when Secretary Ryan Zinke was defending political staff for reviewing research prior to publication.

Zinke said no political staff was involved in editing the report, and he wanted an investigation into how journalists obtained the draft report before it was given to agency headquarters (Climatewire, April 12).…—Adam Aton, “INTERIOR: Researchers say sea-level report was censored. Here it is,” E&E News 5/21/18

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Want Less Ocean Plastic Pollution? Make Less Plastic.

Want Less Ocean Plastic Pollution? Make Less Plastic.

Dozens of factories being built in U.S. to turn natural gas into plastic

Plastic garbage is steadily accumulating in our oceans. It’s killing marine life and threatening the health of people who eat seafood.

This massive and growing problem demands real solutions. Legislation restricting single-use plastic bags or water bottles is good, but doesn’t go far enough. Ocean cleanup efforts are admirable, yet not up to the enormity of this problem.

What society really needs to do is stop producing so much cheap plastic junk — and stop building factories that convert cheap, fracked natural gas into cheap plastic junk.

Further reading Two Rural Texas Towns Debate Whether Exxon’s Proposed Steam Cracker Plant Would Be Blessing or Curse
Grocery bags and takeout containers aren’t enough. It’s time to phase out all single-use plastic

Unfortunately the United States is moving in the opposite direction, with a building boom of ethane cracker plants, most of them in Texas and Louisiana. Yet even in conservative, pro-oil Texas, people are alarmed by a proposal to build the world’s largest plastics plant near Corpus Christi. —Emily Jeffers, “Want Less Ocean Plastic Pollution? Make Less Plastic.” Medium, 5/16/18

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Requiring Companies to Disclose Climate Risks
Helps Everyone

Requiring Companies to Disclose Climate Risks Helps Everyone

In the movie Forrest Gump, the protagonist becomes a very rich man due to a natural disaster and its unforeseen business consequences. When he first enters the shrimp boating business, Forrest catches no shrimp. His fortunes change when a hurricane strikes and his boat is the only one to survive the disaster. Facing no competition, he becomes a multimillionaire.

It’s a funny scene, and it illustrates an economic truth: Businesses are often unprepared for environmental disaster. Policy makers have recognized as much, and in recent years the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken actions to force companies to disclose climate change–related risks. The Trump administration has threatened to roll back those requirements, which would hurt companies, investors, and consumers.

Further reading Trump’s SEC pick pushed clients to say more about climate-change risks
SEC’s 2010 Release on Climate Change: Shifting from Voluntary to Mandatory Climate Change Disclosure

Over 20 years ago, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter introduced the Porter hypothesis, which posits that environmental regulation can benefit companies by nudging them to explore their current production methods and eliminate costly waste that they have been blissfully unaware of. Nobel laureate Herbert Simon’s model of bounded rationality in decision making explains how this could work. In Simon’s model, decision makers face costs when taking an action, and this makes them stick to “business as usual.” In such a case, a firm’s leadership may respond sluggishly to evolving risks. If that’s true, a strong nudge by government could encourage such a company to change its ways, resulting in better environmental and financial performance.…—Matthew E. Kahn, “Requiring Companies to Disclose Climate Risks Helps Everyone,” Harvard Business Review, 2/16/17

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Urgent Climate Action Required to Protect Tens of Thousands of Species Worldwide, Research Shows

Urgent Climate Action Required to Protect Tens of Thousands of Species Worldwide, Research Shows

Humanity can powerfully improve the survival odds of tens of thousands of species, but only if nations dramatically raise their ambitions in the fight against climate change , according to new research published on Thursday in the journal Science.

One key to salvaging plant and vertebrate habitat and protecting the world’s biodiversity is to limit warming to the most challenging benchmark established under the 2015 Paris treaty—1.5 degrees Celsius of warming—not to the treaty’s less stringent 2 degree guardrail, the study found.

The study assessed, in more detail than ever before, a key measure of extinction risk: the shrinking size of each species’ current geographical range, or natural habitat. It projected that for an alarming number of species, their range size would shrink by at least half as temperatures rise past the Paris goals.

Further reading The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
What’s Causing the Sharp Decline in Insects, and Why It Matters

If nations do no more than they have pledged so far to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—and warming consequently shoots past 3 degrees by the end of this century—6 percent of all vertebrates would be at risk. So would 44 percent of plants and a whopping 49 percent of insects.…—John H. Cushman Jr., Neela Banerjee, “Urgent Climate Action Required to Protect Tens of Thousands of Species Worldwide, New Research Shows,” InsideClimate News, 5/17/18

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Oil companies face increasing investor pressure
on climate change action

Oil companies face increasing investor pressure on climate change action

Some of the world’s biggest fund managers are set to raise the pressure on oil and gas companies at upcoming annual shareholder meetings, worried that a lack of action over fighting climate change could risk their investments.

A group of investors which oversee a combined $10.4T in assets plan to take up the issue at Royal Dutch Shell’s (RDS.A, RDS.B) meeting this week, in which shareholders will vote on a resolution requesting the company set specific targets to tackle climate change.

This week, a majority of investors at Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) approved a non-binding but symbolically important resolution calling on APC to issue a report about how the company’s bottom line would fare in a world aggressively cutting carbon emissions.…—Carl Surran, “Oil companies face increasing investor pressure on climate change action,” Seeking Alpha, 5/18/18

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Oilsands Tailing Ponds Ticking Time Bomb for Canadians

Oilsands Tailing Ponds Ticking Time Bomb for Canadians | The Tyee

Having a mortgage is a hassle. All those pesky requirements like property assessments, down payments and monthly payments.

Imagine if you could just tell the bank how much money you think you owe them and that you’ll settle up 70 years after you move out. Wouldn’t that be easier?

That is essentially the deal Suncor has been granted by the Alberta government regarding the ballooning liability from their oilsands tailing ponds and related reclamation requirements.

Like all other operators in the industry, every year Suncor presents the Alberta taxpayer with an estimate of what the corporation thinks it will cost to reclaim the artificial lakes of toxic sludge it has created, in Suncor’s case since mining began in1967. No supporting documentation required.

But wait, there’s more! Last fall, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) approved a previously rejected plan from Suncor that allows the company 70 years after the mine closes in 2033 to sign off on its reclamation requirements.…—Mitchell Anderson, “Oilsands Tailing Ponds Ticking Time Bomb for Canadians,” The Tyee, 5/15/18

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Environment finally getting its day in court

Environment finally getting its day in court » Yale Climate Connections

April 24, 2018 – When the improper disposal of wastewater from the construction site of a joint shopping center and apartment complex threatened to contaminate hundreds of residents’ water in Sonsonate, El Salvador, activists and community leaders filed a lawsuit through the country’s specialized environmental justice system. In response, Lina Pohl, El Salvador’s minister of environment and natural resources, went to inspect the water. When she found signs of contamination, she ordered the suspension of construction.

Using legal tools to report an alleged violation of the law might not seem groundbreaking. But in El Salvador, justice in environmental disputes has long swung in favor of rich developers with political connections rather than activists and citizens. So, in 2014 the Central American nation established three regional environmental tribunals to even the playing field in environmental disputes.

“Historically, institutions in El Salvador have operated with lots of corruption. This is a system that breaks with that tradition of corruption,” says Salvador Recinos, specialist in ecological policy for the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), a nongovernmental organization based in San Salvador. “With this court system, there is clearly a better chance of people in El Salvador having access to justice in these types of environmental cases.”

Justice systems around the world face obstacles to settling environmental cases quickly and fairly, whether from corruption, drawn-out trials or judges who lack understanding of environmental issues. Specialized environmental courts have emerged as an important defense against human-caused destruction of the environment. In 2009 there were only 350 of these specialized court systems in the world. Today there are at least 1,200 in 44 countries.…—Anna-Catherine Brigida, “Environment finally getting its day in court,” Yale Climate Connections, 5/11/18

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Natural gas project that promised economic boom leaves Papua New Guinea in worse state

Natural gas project that promised economic boom leaves PNG in ‘worse state’: report

  • Proponents of PNG LNP, an ExxonMobil-led natural gas project in Papua New Guinea, predicted it would bring massive economic benefits to landowners and to the country as a whole.
  • According to two recent reports by the Jubilee Australia Research Centre, PNG’s economy is worse off than it would have been without the project.
  • Jubilee Australia also links the PNG LNG project to an upswing of violence in the areas around the plant.

In 2008, when a consortium led by ExxonMobil was drumming up support for a $19 billion natural gas extraction and processing project in Papua New Guinea, proponents of the development predicted it would underpin the country’s economy for decades.

Production began in 2014, and now reaches approximately 7.9 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year. However, according to two recent reports by advocacy group Jubilee Australia Research Centre, the PNG LNG project has not only exacerbated conflict and inequality in the Papua New Guinea highlands, it has also failed to produce the promised benefits. According to Jubilee Australia’s analysis, PNG’s economy would be better off if the gas had been left in the ground.…—Isabel Esterman, “Natural gas project that promised economic boom leaves PNG in ‘worse state’,” Mongabay, 5/17/18

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‘Impossible to Ignore’: Why Alaska Is Crafting a Plan
to Fight Climate Change

‘Impossible to Ignore’: Why Alaska Is Crafting a Plan to Fight Climate Change

WASHINGTON — In the Trump era, it has mainly been blue states that have taken the lead on climate change policy, with liberal strongholds like California and New York setting ambitious goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, at least one deep-red state could soon join them: Alaska, a major oil and gas producer, is crafting its own plan to address climate change. Ideas under discussion include cuts in state emissions by 2025 and a tax on companies that emit carbon dioxide.

While many conservative-leaning states have resisted aggressive climate policies, Alaska is already seeing the dramatic effects of global warming firsthand, making the issue difficult for local politicians to avoid. The solid permafrost that sits beneath many roads, buildings and pipelines is starting to thaw, destabilizing the infrastructure above. At least 31 coastal towns and cities may need to relocate, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, as protective sea ice vanishes and fierce waves erode Alaska’s shores.

“The change has been so real and so widespread that it’s become impossible to ignore,” Byron Mallott, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, said Tuesday while visiting Washington to discuss climate policy. “Folks are realizing that it’s something we have to deal with.”…—Brad Plumer, “‘Impossible to Ignore’: Why Alaska Is Crafting a Plan to Fight Climate Change,” The New York Times, 4/21/18

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How the rich fuel climate change

Income inequality is one of the most significant challenges we face in the 21st Century. But one professor argues that it will have an adverse effect in a surprising way we may not yet have considered: the world’s wealthiest could be some of the biggest contributors to climate change.

Danny Dorling, a geography professor at the University of Oxford, believes economic disparity – the gap between rich and poor – is extremely damaging for the environment.…—Danny Dorling, “How the rich fuel climate change,” BBC, 5/17/18

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