May 24, 2014 In a week filled with fire, smoke, fumes, gas and distractions, where does one turn? Sometimes the facts are horrific, sometimes a comfort, sometimes themselves just another distraction. But then there is always purpose, what we love, what we protect and what we serve in stewardship.

PSC Holds Public Hearings on New York’s Clean Energy Standard

We enClean Energy Std Hearings-scourage Seneca Lake Defenders to attend and speak about the dangers that gas storage poses for us even before its put into the pipelines.

Locations and suggested talking points

Why attend? NY’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is developing a program that will dictate the state’s energy sources for DECADES to come. Building more gas-fired power plants—or relying more on existing ones—will increase our greenhouse emissions, not lower them. If we don’t speak up, NY could end up burning MORE FRACKED GAS in the future—and that would push us closer to climate catastrophe.

On Wednesday May 25th, Governor Cuomo’s Public Service Commission will be conducting a public hearing in Syracuse on their proposed Clean Energy Standards  – standards that will set the first enforceable renewable energy targets for the State.  This is a BIG DEAL – but sadly those standards have a long way to go.  WE NEED YOUR HELP to push things in the right direction.  The good news is that as we’ve seen with the Governor’s recent decision opposing the Constitution pipeline, and earlier this year opposing converting the Cayuga Power Plant from coal to gas – the administration is listening to public pressure  So your involvement in this hearing could make a real difference.

Sign-up for the Ithaca/Dryden BUS to SYRACUSE Wed May 25th to attend the Public Hearing Hearings will be held at Liverpool Public Library, 310 Tulip St, Liverpool. 4:00 Bus leaves Stewart Park, Ithaca 4:15  Bus leaves TC3 Lot 5, Dryden 6pm – Public Info Session begins 7pm – Public Hearing begins Return by 10pm

RSVP: Reserve your bus seat today! Suggested ticket price is $10 but no one turned away
Tell the Public Service Commission you want the following:
  • More ambitious renewable energy targets:  The State is targeting only 50% renewable by 2030.  We need to be at 100% renewable by then to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius as was agreed to at the Paris Climate Talks.  Fifty percent by 2030 is too little too late.
  • Penalties if the targets aren’t reached:  What’s the point of a target if they are not enforced? Utilities should be required to pay penalties if they don’t procure power that meets the clean energy targets.  Penalties should be meaningful, paid by shareholders and not ratepayers, and revenues should be used to support renewable energy and energy efficiency for low and moderate income households.
  • At least 80% of new renewable generation must come from within NY State: as currently written, the utilities can buy renewable energy credits from within NY or bordering states to meet the renewable energy goals that are set.  Buying energy from out of state sends our money out of state.  We  should be building local jobs and keeping our money in the state by supporting development of LOCAL renewable energy resources.
  • No More Gas, Invest in Renewables,  phase out nuclear:  We are at a critical juncture with regard to nuclear energy.  Right now, because the price of gas is so low, nuclear plants are having a hard time competing and they threaten to shut down because they are uneconomic to operate.  But if they shut down before we’ve built the renewable capacity needed to replace them, the energy they produce will be replaced by gas powered plants.  As we know, this is unacceptable because of methane’s large impact on global warming.  The Governor and PSC recognizes this, and the CES proposes that there should be subsidies to the nuke plants to keep them operating to avoid more gas powered generation.  But the proposal provides no specific plan for phasing out nuke plants, and no full life-cycle accounting of the carbon impacts from nuclear power. (while nuclear generation does not produce carbon emissions, mining, enriching and transporting uranium is not carbon free.)  The Clean Energy Standard claims to be market based, but it is not a true market based system until lifecycle impacts of all fuels are accounted for.   
  • Include Energy Efficiency Targets: As we increase the amount of renewable energy we produce, we also need to decrease the overall quantity of energy we consume. Energy efficiency is often the cheapest means of cutting climate pollution, and strong energy efficiency targets will help save ratepayers money while protecting our environment.
  • Energy Efficiency Targets must include targets for reduced demand for thermal energy (water and space heating) as well as for power consumption. 
  • Prioritize Off-Shore Wind:  The state has been negligent with respect to the development of offshore wind (OSW). Climate scientists agree that we cannot avoid catastrophic climate change without a major OSW program on the east coast.  New York should commit to support the construction of 5,000 MW of offshore wind by 2025, and 10,000 MW by 2030.

Download more detailed talking points Stay tuned for developments at the People, Not Pipelines Facebook Page

‪#‎Fracking‬ ‪#‎NYSPSC‬ ‪#‎RenewablesNow‬ ‪#‎REV4NY‬


March with us in the Ithaca Festival Parade!

We Are Seneca Lake in 2015 Festival Parade, along with Fossil Free Tompkins

 Would you like to march for We Are Seneca Lake in the Ithaca Festival Parade on Friday, June 3 at 6 pm?
It’s family-friendly, so all ages are welcome! Last year we were applauded by thousands as we donned our WASL t-shirts, proudly carrying banners and the large Indigo Bunting puppet.
This year, we’ll bring the Indigo Bunting again, along with a large fish puppet and a papier mache model of Planet Earth (5-feet in diameter) — all created by our artistic supporters. We’ll gather that evening at 5:45 pm a few blocks north of Cayuga and E. Yates St (in Ithaca), walk southward on Cayuga St, and then end at Buffalo & Aurora Streets, near Dewitt Park. The whole march takes about a half hour. 
If you’d like to march alongside us in solidarity at this popular and entertaining annual event, please contact Jan Quarles <>.


Blockaders arrested during protest against Algonquin pipeline project in Peekskill

AlgonquinActionHundreds gathered in Peekskill to protest the Algonquin pipeline project on Saturday and the demonstration resulted in 21 arrests.

More than 200 protestors marched from Blue Mountain Reservation to a metering and regulating station where Spectra Energy was attempting to work on a pipeline. Protestors refused to move away from the area were taken into police custody for five hours.

Demonstrators say the community is in grave danger due to the Spectra AIM Project; which when it is completed will have a 42-inch natural gas pipeline.

New York’s two U.S. senators on Friday [May 20, 2016] called on federal regulators to halt construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline that runs beside the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

The state’s two Democratic senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer, want the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to suspend construction on the Algonquin Incremental Pipeline (AIM) Project until independent health and safety reviews are finished.

“I have serious concerns with the Algonquin gas pipeline project because it poses a threat to the quality of life, environmental, health and safety of residents across the Hudson Valley and New York State without any long-term benefit to the communities it would impact,” Schumer said Friday. “It presents even more safety concerns given its proximity to Indian Point.”

The senators joined with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local communities, who’ve called on the federal government to halt a pipeline project that would shuttle natural gas north from Pennsylvania, through Stony Point, under the Hudson River and into Buchanan, home to Indian Point…—Thomas Zambito, “NY Senators want Algonquin pipeline shut down,” The Journal News|Lohud, 5/20/16

The protestors say [the AIM pipeline] will pollute the community and threaten public health.

“It’s going through people’s neighborhoods, people’s backyards, ball fields and people are all overwhelmingly against it,” Rob May says.

May says that an additional danger is that the pipeline will run in close proximity to the Indian Point Power Plant.

The protestors aren’t alone; some lawmakers have also tried to stop the project several times….—Kayla Mamelak, “Demonstrators arrested during protest against Algonquin pipeline project in Peekskill,” Verizon FiOS1 News, 5/21/16


Trash Trains Defeated by Local Opposition

View of Seneca Meadows Landfill from corner of Pre-Emption Rd. & Hamilton St., Geneva, NY: Spencer Tulis/Finger Lakes Times

SENECA FALLS — Seneca Meadows Landfill dropped a bombshell Thursday that just about no one expected. Citing local opposition, the company announced it has withdrawn its contract proposal to accept New York City trash by railroad instead of truck.

The surprise revelation was made in a two-paragraph statement issued Thursday afternoon. Toronto-based Progressive Waste Solutions, Seneca Meadows’ parent company, issued a similar statement.

The landfill submitted a proposal last fall to the New York City Department of Sanitation. A proposed contract stipulated that up to 2,495 tons of trash would arrive in Seneca County each day by way of sealed containers brought on rail cars. The agreement would have covered 20 years, with an option for 10 additional years, and Seneca Meadows, the state’s largest landfill, would have been paid $3.3 billion over the life of the contract.

The city and landfill reached a tentative agreement in November, but the contract was being reviewed by New York City’s legal department and had not yet been awarded.

The “trash train” proposal generated considerable opposition in Seneca Falls and the surrounding area. Opponents claimed the length of the contract would ensure the landfill’s continued operation beyond 2023, which has been floated as the landfill’s closure date.

“We highly value our long-standing relationship with the community of Seneca Falls,” Seneca Meadows District Manager Kyle Black said in the press release. “The community has communicated clearly that they do not want containerized waste by rail coming to Seneca Meadows. We have listened to the community and, as a result, decided to withdraw our proposal to the city of New York….—David Shaw, “Seneca Meadows cites local opposition in dropping proposed trash-by-rail contract,” Finger Lakes Times, 5/19/16


Smoke and Fumes

‘Break Free’ fossil fuel protests deemed ‘largest ever’ global disobedience

Activists oppose oil wells in immigrant neighborhoods during a protest in Los Angeles on Saturday. Photograph: David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of people have taken part in what organizers have called the largest ever global civil disobedience against fossil fuels, with dozens of activists arrested during protests that shut down coalmines, rail infrastructure and a port.

The protests, held over the past two weeks in countries including the US, UK, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia, saw activists call for oil, coal and gas to be kept in the ground. A coalition of environment groups, which called the actions “Break Free”, are pushing for a complete shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“This is the hottest year we’ve ever measured, and so it is remarkably comforting to see people rising up at every point of the compass to insist on change,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group

More than 50 protesters were arrested in Washington state for trespassing after large groups camped out on railroad tracks that transport oil to the Shell and Tesoro refineries. The action managed to shut down the rail line over the weekend.

A further 1,300 marched in Washington DC to call on Barack Obama to end offshore drilling for oil and gas, while dozens were arrested near Chicago after 1,000 people protested against the planned expansion of a BP refinery there. A further five people were arrested in Albany, New York, after another action to stop trains from transporting fossil fuels.

The actions follow a wave of protests around the world, including the efforts of a group of kayakers to shut down the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia. Hundreds of activists invaded the UK’s largest opencast coalmine, located in south Wales, while Europe’s largest opencast mine, in Germany, was also swamped by protesters and forced to shut down.

Further anti-fossil fuel activity has taken place in Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa and Canada. Some of the largest protests took place in the Philippines and Indonesia, with an estimated 10,000 people marching to oppose a new coal-fired power plant in the Philippine city of Batangas.

leading economist has warned oil firms such as Shell that they must change or face a ‘brutal end’ within 10 years. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP

Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, has established a separate division, New Energies, to invest in renewable and low-carbon power.

The move emerged days after experts at Chatham House warned international oil companies they must transform their business or face a “short, brutal” end within 10 years.

Shell’s new division brings together its existing hydrogen, biofuels and electrical activities but will also be used as a base for a new drive into wind power, according to an internal announcement to company staff.

With $1.7bn of capital investment currently attached to it and annual capital expenditure of $200m, New Energies will be run alongside the Integrated Gas division under executive board member Maarten Wetselaar.

Insiders said the group chief executive, Ben van Beurden, wants to ensure Shell is at the forefront of oil company innovation.

“He does not want to get out so far in front where he dilutes investor returns but he does want to make sure Shell is at the leading edge of transition [to lower-carbon economies].”

The Anglo-Dutch group may already be trailing Total of France, which already has its own New Energies division and boasts of being the world’s second-ranked solar energy operator through its affiliate SunPower, bought for £800m in 2011….—Terry Macalister, “Shell creates green energy division to invest in wind power,” The Guardian, 5/15/16

Many of the protests expressed alarm that last year’s Paris climate deal, which committed nations to keeping global temperatures below a 2C increase on pre-industrial times, contained no explicit commitment to phase out fossil fuels. Instead, nations are left to devise their own ways to cut emissions and meet their pledge to avoid dangerous climate change.

“Every new tonne of coal that is dug up is one too many,” said Hannah Eichberger, of German group Ende Gelände (Here And No Further). “We are hitting the emergency brakes now. We won’t leave climate action to governments and corporations any longer. We are taking matters into our own hands now.”…—Oliver Milman, “‘Break Free’ fossil fuel protests deemed ‘largest ever’ global disobedience,” The Guardian, 5/16/16


Big Oil Could Have Cut CO2 Emissions In 1970s — But Did Nothing

Getty Images /“Burn off” oil fume flames are seen on an offshore oil platform.

In 1963, Esso (now Exxon Mobil) patented a design for a “novel and highly efficient electrode“ for use in fuel cells — a possible means of decreasing carbon emissions and producing cleaner-burning vehicles.

Research into this innovative technology, the company said at the time, “has been greatly accelerated.” 

But, as Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, likes to say, “Did you start driving a Prius in 1968?”

Muffett’s point, which he supports with dozens more documents his group released Thursday, is that American oil companies were well aware of the risks their industry posed to the environment by the 1960s. And they could have taken actions to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Smoke and fumesThe new documents, Muffett said, show that oil companies “clearly preferred to invest in research to explain away the climate risks,” instead of on technologies to reduce emissions.

The Center for International Environmental Law last month published documents showing the oil industry was aware of the potential role of fossil fuels in carbon dioxide emissions and the associated climate risks as early as 1957 — decades earlier than had previously been documented — and covered them up.

This second trove of documents, Muffett said, doesn’t contain a “smoking gun” like the first set, but does highlight how the U.S. oil industry studied, understood and chose not to act on climate change.

“Here’s still more evidence that this industry both understood climate issues [and] had the capacity to cut pollution,” Muffett said. “What really emerges from our research is which side of the coin the oil companies decided to pursue.”

For example, a 1980 Exxon corporate document released last month by the DeSmog Blog Project refers to existing technology that could remove carbon dioxide from power plant emissions.  

“It is assumed that the major contributors of CO2 are the burning of fossil fuels,” the document reads. “There is no doubt that increases in fossil fuel usage and decreases of forest cover are aggravating the potential problem of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Technology exists to remove CO2 from stack gases but removal of only 50% of the CO2 would double the cost of power generation.”…Chris D’Angelo, “Big Oil Could Have Cut CO2 Emissions In 1970s — But Did Nothing,” Huffington Post, 5/19/16


Fort McMurray Fire — Zero Percent Contained, 1.2 Million Acres, Spreading into Saskatchewan

(Massive pall of smoke visible over Fort McMurray Fire in Saskatchewan and Alberta. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 250 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

The Fort McMurray Fire just keeps growing. A global warming fueled beast whose explosive expansion even the best efforts of more than 2,000 firefighters have been helpless to check.

By mid-afternoon Thursday [May 19, 2016], reports were coming in that the Fort McMurray Fire had again grown larger. Jumping to 1.2 million acres in size, or about 2,000 square miles, the blaze leapt the border into Saskachewan even as it ran through forested lands surrounding crippled tar sand facilities. It’s a fire now approaching twice the size of Rhode Island. A single inferno that, by itself, has now consumed more land than every fire that burned throughout the whole of Alberta during 2015.

The fire has now encroached upon five towns and cities including Fort McMurray, Anzac, Lenarthur, Kinosis, and Cheeham. Tar Sands facilities encompassed by the blaze include Nexen’s Kinosis facility, CNOOC’s Long Lake, and Suncor’s Base Plant. Numerous other tar sands facilities now lie near the fire’s potential lines of further expansion. You can see the insane rate of growth for this fire in the animation above provided by the Natural Resources board of Canada.

Fort McMurray Continues to Prepare For Residents Return Despite Terrible Conditions

As the fire again expanded this week, reports coming out of Fort McMurray showed periods of horrendous air quality. Measures hit as high as 51 on Wednesday — which is five times a level that is considered ‘unsafe.’ Fires also ignited in a condo complex Thursday after a mysterious explosion claimed another Fort McMurray home on Tuesday. Embers falling from nearby large fires may have been the cause, but officials have so far provided no conclusive ignition source. For safety, emergency responders again shut off gas utilities in the city. Officials put on a brave face despite all the continued adversity, claiming that efforts to ready for a return of people to their homes were progressing.

Fire at Zero Percent Containment

Despite what is a massive firefighting effort, the enormous blaze remains zero percent contained. Firefighters have seen some success, however, in keeping fires from burning buildings in and around Fort McMurray through the constant application of water and through the building of enormous defensive fire breaks. With many trees near Fort McMurray and tar sands facilities already consumed by fire and with winds expected to shift toward the North and West, the blazes are expected to mostly move away from structures by Thursday evening. A welcome relief after fires on Tuesday and Wednesday burned down worker barracks in the tar sands production zone….—Robert Scribbler, “Fort McMurray Fire — Zero Percent Contained, 1.2 Million Acres in Size, and Crossing Border into Saskatchewan,” robertscribbler blog, 5/19/16


Historic Victory: 4 Teenagers Win in Massachusetts Climate Change Lawsuit

Kain v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection hearing on Jan. 8, 2016

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found in favor of four youth plaintiffs, the Conservation Law Foundation and Mass Energy Consumers Alliance Tuesday in the critical climate change case, Kain et al. v. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address multiple sources or categories of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released … and set limits that decline on an annual basis.”

“This is an historic victory for young generations advocating for changes to be made by government. The global climate change crisis is a threat to the well being of humanity, and to my generation, that has been ignored for too long,” youth plaintiff Shamus Miller, age 17, said.

The Columbia Environmental Law Clinic wins a critically important case involving the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.

…The case involved a provision of the Global Warming Solutions Act requiring DEP to “promulgate regulations establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions.” DEP claimed that it had complied with this provision through several regulatory initiatives, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap and trade program. The court disagreed, finding that these initiatives did not satisfy the requirements of the Act because they did not entail the imposition of legally binding mass-based emission caps that declined on an annual basis. The court noted that two of the programs involved rate-based emission limitations, which were not sufficient for compliance because they did not ensure actual reductions in aggregate emissions.  Thus, the court held that DEP must promulgate new regulations to implement this provision of the Act….—Jessica Wentz, “Massachusetts Supreme Court Orders State to Go Much Further in Reducing GHGs,” Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, 5/18/16

“Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has recognized the scope and urgency of that threat and acknowledges the need for immediate action to help slow the progression of climate change. There is much more to be done both nationally and internationally but this victory is a step in the right direction and I hope that future efforts have similar success.”

In 2012, hundreds of youth petitioned the DEP asking the agency to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and adopt rules reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, but that petition was denied. As a result of DEP’s reluctance to comply with the GWSA, youth filed this case arguing that the DEP failed to promulgate the regulations required by Section 3(d) of the GWSA establishing declining annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Massachusetts is not on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25 percent below 1990 levels—a fact that is directly related to DEP’s failure to issue the required regulations. The plaintiffs are working to ensure that Massachusetts is complying with the law and doing everything necessary to protect their constitutional and public trust rights to clean air, a healthy atmosphere and a stable climate system.

“In agreeing with the youth plaintiffs in this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court joins growing global judicial recognition of youth’s rights to demand that their governments act in accordance with the urgency of the climate change crisis,” Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children’s Trust, said….—”Historic Victory: 4 Teenagers Win in Massachusetts Climate Change Lawsuit,” EcoWatch, 5/17/16


The Smoke and Fumes Committee

Smoke & Fumes VidStill

From the very beginning of the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1919, the oil industry recognized pollution issues, and the regulatory and liability risks they created, as an area of common concern and common interest. By the 1930s, API had focused particular attention to issues of air pollution. These issues came into sharp focus in the 1940s, as a rapidly growing Los Angeles grappled with the debilitating impacts of smog.

In late 1946, as public concern and media scrutiny mounted, executives from the Western Oil and Gas Association met in Los Angeles to consider a response. They emerged with a plan—and a Committee. Comprised of executives from leading oil companies (including Union Oil, Standard Oil of California (both now part of Chevron), Esso (now ExxonMobil), and Shell), the newly-created Smoke and Fumes Committee would fund scientific research into smog and other air pollution issues and, significantly, use that research to inform and shape public opinion about environmental issues. The express goal of their collaboration was to use science and public skepticism to prevent environmental regulations they deemed hasty, costly, and unnecessary.

Recognizing that the air pollution issues in Los Angeles could foreshadow the emergence of similar risks across the country, the Smoke and Fumes Committee was reorganized with a national mandate in 1952 within the American Petroleum Institute. It continued to operate, under a succession of names—but many of the same people—for the ensuing two decades. The Jones report documents that by 1958 at the latest, the Committee was funding research into the role of fossil fuels in rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.—Center for International Environmental Law, “Smoke & Fumes: The Smoke and Fumes Committee,”, 519/16


The Environmental Scandal That’s Happening Right Beneath Your Feet

BY THE TIME BOB ACKLEY crossed the Harlem River into Manhattan he’d been up for nearly four hours. It was still dark, not yet seven on a Sunday morning: the best time of the week to go sniffing for gas.

The back seat of his hatchback was littered with hi-tech equipment. Plastic hoses and cables connected a web of instruments: a laser spectrometer, a computer, GPS equipment, a pump, and a fan. The jumble of gadgets purred reassuringly as he drove.

Few people understand the streets of America’s cities the way Ackley does. He’s spent almost three decades documenting leaky gas pipelines and alerting utility companies to potential danger. Now he can read the street like a hunter reads animal tracks; some academics call him the “urban naturalist”.

As he drove through New York, Ackley looked for the signs that could point to possible gas leaks. Wearing a tattered winter jacket and peering out from beneath a baseball cap that proclaimed “Life is Simple, Eat, Sleep, Fish”, he searched for spray-painted signs that mark underground pipes and wires.

He watched the weather, knowing storms bring low-pressure systems that draw gas up from underground. Small holes drilled into the pavement; long narrow patches of asphalt; dead grass on the side of a street: these are all good indicators of past — and perhaps ongoing — leaks.

Even so, the Manhattan streetscape was hard to read that December morning. Concrete and asphalt ran from building to building without a blade of grass in between.

The only escape routes for gas were manhole covers.

“I’ve never had such a hard time pinpointing leaks,” Ackley said. “It’s as tight as a bull’s ass.”Ackley, who is 53, has lived in working-class neighbourhoods around Boston all his life. He has a hard-bitten manner and speaks with the local nasal drawl. His politics are libertarian and his preference for president last year was Ron Paul, a Republican who pledged to disband the Environmental Protection Agency. His first car, bought at age 16, was a gas-guzzling Chevy Impala, and he has ridden the subway just twice in his life.

None of this makes Ackley the model of an environmental champion. But it’s not what he believes that makes him so important to the green movement: it’s what he knows.

Over the past few years, Ackley, a community-college dropout with no formal scientific training, has been amassing data that could answer a key question in energy policy. Since the early 1980s, western governments have been moving away from coal and embracing natural gas, a supposedly more environmentally friendly fuel. It’s a big bet, with huge consequences for global warming.

But as Ackley crisscrosses urban America, he is discovering that the country’s cities are peppered with gas leaks. So many, in fact, that some scientists now believe that natural gas may be accelerating climate change in a way that few had suspected.

Ackley still remembers the first time he found a gas leak. The son of a golf-course greenskeeper, he grew up in Northborough, a small suburban town close to Boston. It was 1979, and he had taken a summer job with a local company that mapped gas leaks for utilities. The country was reeling from the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, Jimmy Carter was president, and My Sharona was playing on the radio as Ackley — then just 20 — sat in the passenger seat of a sky-blue Dodge Aspen.

His boss had the wheel. Roland Boucher was an older, heavy-set man with pale white skin and ruddy cheeks. A mess of electronics sat between the dashboard and front seat, with tubes connecting to a black box the size of a lunchbox. Just a few metres below them, encased in the soil, streets and yards of Massachusetts, natural gas mains and smaller service lines spread out like the bronchioles of a human lung. As his map flapped in the road-wind, Ackley focused on the instruments and tried to spot a leak.

Boucher told him to look up instead: “You look for dead trees, dead grass and dead shrubs.” It seemed too crude, but a moment later Boucher swerved to the curb. A Norway maple stood in a patch of dead grass by the side of the road. The tree was also dying, its top branches barren twigs. The air held the foul odour of rotten eggs —mercaptan, a chemical added to natural gas to make it easier to detect leaks. Boucher poked around the roots with a steel bar and pushed the snout of a gas meter into the earth around the tree. The needle jumped: well over 20 per cent of the air in the soil was natural gas. The figure should have been less than one per cent.

Methane was leaking from an underground pipe and seeping into the ground above….—Phil McKenna, “The Environmental Scandal That’s Happening Right Beneath Your Feet,” Matter | Medium, 11/6/13


Portugal runs for four days straight on renewable energy alone

As recently as 2013, renewables provided only about 23% of Portugal’s electricity. By 2015 that figure had risen to 48%. Photograph: Pete Titmuss/Alamy Stock Photo

Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days last week in a clean energy milestone revealed by data analysis of national energy network figures.

Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power in an extraordinary 107-hour run that lasted from 6.45am on Saturday 7 May until 5.45pm the following Wednesday, the analysis says.

News of the zero emissions landmark comes just days after Germany announced that clean energy had powered almost all its electricity needs on Sunday 15 May, with power prices turning negative at several times in the day – effectively paying consumers to use it.

Oliver Joy, a spokesman for the Wind Europe trade association said: “We are seeing trends like this spread across Europe – last year with Denmark and now in Portugal. The Iberian peninsula is a great resource for renewables and wind energy, not just for the region but for the whole of Europe.”

James Watson, the CEO of SolarPower Europe said: “This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years. The energy transition process is gathering momentum and records such as this will continue to be set and broken across Europe.”

Last year, wind provided 22% of electricity and all renewable sources together provided 48%, according to the Portuguese renewable energy association….—Arthur Neslen, “Portugal runs for four days straight on renewable energy alone,” The Guardian, 5/18/16


Pray for Shade: Heat Wave Sets a Record in India

A 10-year-old boy in New Delhi found brief respite from a punishing heat wave. Thursday was believed to be India’s hottest day on record. Credit Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NEW DELHI — People weren’t frying eggs on the sidewalks in Phalodi during India’s hottest day ever — in fact, it was so hot that many did not venture out at all.

Heat is a familiar part of life in Phalodi, in the deserts of Rajasthan, so residents were following a familiar drill even before temperatures soared to 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday: When the heat comes, stay indoors, chug buttermilk and, if you must go out, cover your head and pray for shade. It is a drill that may prove ever more necessary if temperatures continue to rise.

Dr. Bhani Ram Paliwal, the principal medical officer at a government hospital in Phalodi, could not remember a day like Thursday in 15 years of working there. Roughly 500 patients, almost double the average number, visited his outpatient department, many complaining of diarrhea and fever.

“It was like heat waves were coming out of a clay oven,” he said.

IndiaHeatScientists say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high pace, average global temperatures could rise by more than six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

Climate change is obviously going to be playing a role,” said Andrew Robertson, a senior research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

May is typically the hottest month in much of India, Dr. Robertson said, with lots of sun and stagnating high-pressure air leading to broiling temperatures.—Nija Najar, Hari Kumar, “Pray for Shade: Heat Wave Sets a Record in India,” The New York Times, 5/20/16


And That’s A Wrap! So many good stories coming in from readers! Thank you one and all. Keep them coming, an editor’s delight. Send, along with strawberries and cantaloupe (field fresh, please!) or homemade ice cream to: