August 7, 2018
This week we focus on the consequences of pursuing political and business interests when the outcome is obviously going to be terrible. Why would any human being do such a thing? It’s complicated, but a dangerous foible.
First, the news.

Dear Reader, our annual fund raising is sort of stuck at about the $300 mark (donated by a handful of very generous readers)! If a few dozen of our 2,100 subscribers can spare $10 apiece it will be a simple thing to raise the remaining $450 needed for a year’s worth of entirely too much news.

State denies CPV permit, delays opening

State denies CPV permit, delays opening

WAWAYANDA — State officials have dealt a setback to Competitive Power Ventures as it prepared to begin operating its Orange County power plant, denying a renewal of the plant’s air permit and notifying its operators they must first get a federal permit.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced its decision in a letter to CPV officials on Wednesday, one day after the air permit DEC granted in 2013 expired. A department official explained that a change in federal regulations required CPV to get a so-called [sic] Title V permit from the Environmental Protection Agency before starting up the plant, something the company had not done.

Further reading DEC Conditionally Denies Permit to Valley Lateral Project
Valley Lateral Decision Letter with Exhibit A (PDF)
The CVP Power Project: money for nothing

…Opponents and some elected officials urged the DEC to revoke or suspend CPV’s air permit after a former top Cuomo aide was convicted in March of soliciting bribes from the company — a corruption case that opponents said had cast a pall over the permitting process. The action taken this week was different than what they had asked, and made no reference to the conviction of former aide Joe Percoco.

Pramilla Malick, chairwoman of Protect Orange County and leading opponent of the plant, sent the DEC a list of reasons on Tuesday to deny the permit renewal, including the recent convictions of Percoco and former CPV executive Braith Kelly, concerns about air pollution and recent noise violations.…—Chris McKenna, “State denies CPV permit, delays opening,” Times Herald-Record, 8/3/18

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Court Alert: Support Nick and Lee
On Trial for Protesting Spectra Atlantic Bridge and Bayou Bridge Pipelines

blocking the entrance to the annual shareholders’ meeting for Morgan Stanley (who are helping finance both Atlantic Bridge and Bayou Bridge pipelines)

As some of you know, Nick Katkevich (from the FANG anti-fossil fuel group in Rhode Island) and Lee Stewart (BXE, etc.) were arrested on May 24th here in Westchester, NY for protesting against the Spectra Atlantic Bridge and the Bayou Bridge (Louisiana) pipelines.

Both Nick and Lee have been active on the AIM pipeline here as well as in Nick’s neighborhood in Rhode Island. Supporting and encouraging each other is even more important these days! They’ll be going to court on those charges Tuesday

When : Tuesday, August 7th, 9:00AM
Where: 1 Heineman Place
Harrison, NY 10528

Updates of court action coming soon!

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Sunoco’s 12-inch ‘bypass’ NGL pipeline
is their most dangerous idea yet

In the vicinity of Lisa Drive, both the 12-inch pipeline and ME1 cross under the Amtrak right-of-way together. But then (as shown in this map from PHMSA) they split. The 12-inch pipeline, as it approaches the sinkhole area, turns sharply east.

We’ve already seen one old pipeline (now known as Mariner East 1) leak three times in its brief existence as an NGL carrier. (NGLs are so-called “natural gas liquids,” a byproduct of fracking for natural gas. There is a more detailed description here .) Now Sunoco, stymied by opposition to the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2), has a plan to convert another old pipeline to NGL service, bypassing incomplete parts of the Dragonpipe. The direction of flow would be reversed and it would begin carrying high-pressure, highly-explosives NGLs.  But how safe is that pipeline? The answer is: not safe at all. We have to stop it, and there will be some suggestions for how to do that at the end of this blog post.

The proposed bypass pipeline is a 12-inch line built in 1937, officially known as the “12-inch Point Breeze – Montello Line”.   It was designed to carry refined products, such as gasoline and fuel oil, from Philadelphia’s Point Breeze refinery to the Reading area. If anything, it is actually more likely than ME1 to leak (as explained below); and because it is bigger, a leak would represent a worse threat to safety.

The PHMSA warning against re-purposing. The first thing to point out is that the federal pipeline agency PHMSA (the Pipeline Hazardous Material Pipeline Safety Agency, part of the Department of Transportation) has explicitly issued a warning to pipeline companies against the process of reversing and re purposing pipelines, in exactly the way Sunoco says it is planning to do. The warning came too late for ME1, but it should be heeded now. (For a more complete description of that PHMSA warning, and a link to its text, see “Sunoco is doing exactly what federal regulators warned against ”.)

The PHMSA Advisory alerted operators of hazardous liquid and gas transmission pipelines of the potential significant impact flow reversals, product changes and conversion to service may have on the integrity of a pipeline.

Failures on natural gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines have occurred after these operational changes.” The advisory bulletin describes \specific notification requirements and general operating and maintenance (O&M) and integrity management actions regarding flow reversals, product changes and conversion to service (and) also recommends additional actions operators should take when these operational changes are made including the submission of a comprehensive written plan to the appropriate PHMSA regional office regarding these changes.…—Pipeline Safety Coalition

Further reading Letter to Sunoco/ETP  
Sign-on Letter: Pipeline Safety Coalition’s PHMSA Advisory Letter (PDF)

PHMSA issued the warning because of accidents resulting from this type of pipeline re purposing. For this reason alone, Sunoco’s plan should not be permitted. But there are plenty of additional reasons.

Does pressure-testing make it OK ? Sunoco will tell you that the 12-inch line will be safe because it was upgraded and pressure-tested last year, and no leaks showed up. There are several flaws in that argument. Let’s start with the factors that have changed since then.

Running water in the easement. Pipelines are supported by the earth beneath them, and if water is running alongside the pipelines underground, soil can be washed away and the pipelines can be undermined. We know that water has been emerging from the ground at the easement across from the Shoen Road drill site. It began many months ago, after the Shoen Road drill hit an aquifer and drained nearby wells .…—George Alexander, “Sunoco’s 12-inch ‘bypass’ pipeline is their most dangerous idea yet,” Dragonpipe, 7/13/18

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As EPA Backs Off Coal Waste Regulation, Volunteers Step In to Sample Creek Water

As EPA Backs Off Coal Waste Regulation, Volunteers Step In to Sample Creek Water

LANSING, July 23, 2018 — As the federal government takes a giant step backwards in regulating wastes from burning coal, local volunteers are stepping forward to monitor for the first time a small creek that runs near the Finger Lakes’ largest coal waste landfill.

A team trained by Community Science Institute, a state-certified water testing lab in Ithaca, began taking water samples from Milliken Creek, immediately south of Cayuga Operating Co.’s coal-burning power plant and landfill, on July 12.

“We are looking for offsite evidence of contaminants (from the landfill) in the stream and the lake,” said Hilary Lambert, who launched the initiative as executive director of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network.

Groundwater samples from the company’s property on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake about 12 miles north of Ithaca have long shown unsafe levels of various pollutants.

In 2010, The Cayuga landfill was one of 39 case studies highlighted in a landmark nationwide study of coal waste. Three years later, the federal Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that the site was contaminated, and its record of compliance with EPA limits has been spotty.…—Peter Mantius, “As EPA Backs Off Coal Waste Regulation, Volunteers Step In to Sample Creek Water,” Water Front, 7/23/18

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Turbine-Powered Compression For Empire North Project

Turbine-Powered Compression For Empire North Project | Gas Compression Magazine

Empire Pipeline Inc. has filed an application with the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to construct a new 21,068 hp (15,716 kW) compressor station in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, USA, and construct a new 32,000 hp (23,872 kW) compressor station in Ontario County, New York, USA, as part of its Empire North Project.

…Empire proposes to construct and operate two compressor facilities.

Jackson Compressor Station (Jackson CS) will be a 21,068 hp compressor station in Jackson Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, USA. The installation of two Solar Taurus 70 natural gas fired, turbine-driven centrifugal compressors rated at 10,534 hp each (7858 kW) will permit Empire to increase the pressure of its pipeline system to 1440 psig (99 bar) immediately downstream of the nexus of the eastern end of Empire’s existing Tuscarora Lateral Pipeline, the southern end of its existing Tioga County Extension Pipeline, and two existing producer interconnection stations, which will in turn allow Empire to transport an additional 205,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas northward on its pipeline system. The new Jackson CS will be supported by a remotely monitored control system, auxiliary air and emergency power systems, and a fully automated emergency shutdown system. The Jackson CS will also be equipped with a vent gas recovery system.

Because there is no pipeline being put in ground, public comment and concern centers on the MAOP update for the existing pipeline and engineering studies of condition of the pipeline and ability to withstand the suggested 150 psi increase from 1290 to 1440 psi. Records of pigging and maintenance records, specifically compliance with Part 380 handling of filter mediums and removed condensates (scale) which traditionally have become TENORM and require special hanndling and disposal is also an issue worth framing. Increase in discharges and air permitting should be questioned also.—Frederick Sinclair, CCAC

The Farmington Compressor Station (Farmington CS) will be a 32,000 hp compressor station in the Town of Farmington, Ontario County, New York. The installation of two new electric motor-driven compressors at Farmington CS will allow Empire to re-pressurize the Empire Connector Pipeline (ECP) north of the Hopewell Interconnection. This new compression will increase the pressure of the ECP to approximately 1440 psig on the discharge side of the Farmington CS, which will allow Empire to deliver the remaining 174,000 dekatherms per day of incremental Project volumes to the Chippawa Interconnection.…—GCM Staff, “Turbine-Powered Compression For Empire North Project,” Gas Compression Magazine, 3/15/18

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Researchers reveal scope of damage to Appalachia from coal mining

Researchers reveal scope of damage to Appalachia from coal mining

Surface coal mining, including mountaintop removal mining, was responsible for the clearing of more than 7 percent of the land in central Appalachia — or an area about three times the size of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — from the mid-1970s through 2015, according to new research.

A total of almost 2,300 square miles of land in central Appalachia was cleared by surface mining during this period. Mountaintop removal, the most controversial type of surface mining, relies on cutting off the peaks of mountains to access the mineral below.

For decades, environmental activists have been pushing for a ban on mountaintop removal coal mining. The mining practice takes place primarily in eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and eastern Tennessee.

Further reading: Mountaintop Mining Is Destroying More Land for Less Coal, Study Finds

Supporters of mountaintop removal mining contend the process allows mining companies to extract shallow seams of coal they could not access through traditional underground mining. But a growing body of scientific evidence shows the practice destroys forests, fills the air with harmful dust, and contaminates nearby streams.…—Mark Hand, “Researchers reveal scope of damage to Appalachia from coal mining,” ThinkProgress, 7/26/18

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The Truth Has Changed

SEE JOSH FOX’S NEW PLAY FREE
 Emmy award winner, Oscar nominee, environmental hero and director of Gasland, Josh Fox brings his solo LIVE performance, The Truth Has Changed, to Bailey Hall on the Cornell campus on August 24 at 7:30 pm. The piece examines the downward trajectory of our democracy, the dark forces that influence our political process, and the climate crisis while it advocates for citizen action and participation in government. Tickets are available at three locations: Greenstar’s West End Store, Autumn Leaves Bookstore, (the Ithaca Commons) and Southside Community Center (305 S. Plain Street).

We have put aside a small number of tickets for those who live more than 20 miles from Ithaca. If you fall into this category and would like a ticket emai tomblecher@gmail.com.

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Appeals court tosses challenge to
FERC’s eminent domain use

Appeals court tosses challenge to FERC eminent domain use

The 4th Circuit’s ruling on Mountain Valley allows FERC to continue its use of eminent domain to seize property necessary to build interstate natural gas pipelines, but it also could provide a path forward for future landowner challenges against the agency. 

In the case, plaintiffs argued that they did not have an opportunity to go through the full administrative process at FERC to challenge a pipeline before construction started to impact their properties. FERC routinely issues tolling orders in such cases that give it more time to consider challenges and rehearing requests, but construction typically begins well before that process is complete. 

Judges acknowledged that argument in the Mountain Valley case, writing that there is a “possibility that FERC’s use of a tolling order in certain cases may, in effect, deny a plaintiff meaningful judicial review.”

…The acknowledgement by a federal court that tolling orders may be problematic could play into similar cases brewing in other states, like New Jersey or Washington, D.C. A New Jersey court heard oral arguments in its pipeline case this week, E&E News notes.…—Gavin Bade, “Appeals court tosses challenge to FERC eminent domain use,” Utility Dive, 7/27/18

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Foreseen Unintended Consequences
Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost
Stopped Climate Change

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

New York Times Editor’s Note

This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it. Jake Silverstein

Prologue

The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?

Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.

Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect” — a metaphor dating to the early 1900s — was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Why didn’t we act? A common boogeyman today is the fossil-fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado. An entire subfield of climate literature has chronicled the machinations of industry lobbyists, the corruption of scientists and the propaganda campaigns that even now continue to debase the political debate, long after the largest oil-and-gas companies have abandoned the dumb show of denialism. But the coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989. During the preceding decade, some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.

Nor can the Republican Party be blamed. Today, only 42 percent of Republicans know that “most scientists believe global warming is occurring,” and that percentage is falling. But during the 1980s, many prominent Republicans joined Democrats in judging the climate problem to be a rare political winner: nonpartisan and of the highest possible stakes. Among those who called for urgent, immediate and far-reaching climate policy were Senators John Chafee, Robert Stafford and David Durenberger; the E.P.A. administrator, William K. Reilly; and, during his campaign for president, George H.W. Bush. As Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, the acting chairman of the president’s Council for Environmental Quality, told industry executives in 1981, “There can be no more important or conservative concern than the protection of the globe itself.” The issue was unimpeachable, like support for veterans or small business. Except the climate had an even broader constituency, composed of every human being on Earth.… —Nathaniel Rich, George Steinmetz, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” The New York Times, 8/1/18

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7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators
to Pay Attention to Climate Change

7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators to Pay Attention to Climate Change

FERC is considering revising how it approves natural gas pipeline projects. These states want it to focus more on costs to the environment and consumers.

New natural gas pipelines may not be needed and may not justify damage to the environment, the attorneys general of seven states and the District of Columbia argue in comments filed Wednesday with federal regulators in charge of pipeline approvals.

The comments came in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s request in April for comments on whether the commission should revise its current policy for pipeline approvals, set in 1999.

Since 1999, FERC has approved approximately 400 natural gas pipeline projects while rejecting only two. Pipelines built over that time have added 180 billion cubic feet per day of pipeline capacity—nearly twice the average daily consumption of natural gas in the U.S. in January 2017 and greater than the peak of 137 billion cubic feet per day during the 2014 “Polar Vortex” cold snap, according to a 2017 report by the economic consulting firm Analysis Group.

The state officials wrote to FERC that greater consideration needs to be given to environmental costs, including climate change, as well as to the increased costs to consumers who typically pay higher rates to cover the capital costs of pipeline projects, which can exceed $1 billion.  

“For too long, FERC has disregarded the perspective of state and local governments, ratepayers, and other stakeholders, and approved new gas pipelines without a full evaluation of regional needs and advances in energy policy,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.…—Phil Mckenna, “7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators to Pay Attention to Climate Change,” InsideClimate News, 7/26/18

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U.S. Military Is World’s Biggest Polluter

U.S. Military Is Worldw.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); if (window.location.hostname.match(‘\.rebelmouse.com$’)) { ga(‘create’, ‘UA-26184524-1’, {‘cookieDomain’: ‘rebelmouse.com’}); } else { ga(‘create’, ‘UA-26184524-1’, ‘auto’); } var utmCampaignData = null; utmCampaignData = { ‘campaignName’:

Last week [May 11, 2017], mainstream media outlets gave minimal attention to the news that the U.S. Naval station in Virginia Beach had spilled an estimated 94,000 gallons of jet fuel into a nearby waterway, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

While the incident was by no means as catastrophic as some other pipeline spills, it underscores an important yet little-known fact—that the U.S. Department of Defense is both the nation’s and the world’s, largest polluter.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others.

In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone.

U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government.

Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.…—Whitney Webb, “U.S. Military Is World’s Biggest Polluter,” EcoWatch, 5/15/17

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Change the Worldview, Change the World by Drew Dellinger

Change the Worldview, Change the World by Drew Dellinger | Kosmos Journal

Forty years after Thomas Berry’s “The New Story,” new generations are seizing on the power of narrative.

“Forty years after Thomas Berry’s “The New Story,” new generations are seizing on the power of narrative. The New Story of our times will be a multiplicity—a kaleidoscope of stories. As the writer and critic John Berger has said, “Never again will a single story be told as if it is the only one.” Long-silenced voices will continue to come to the fore. The stories needed most are emerging from the youth of Ferguson, Baltimore, Standing Rock, and Palestine rather than from the narrators of the status quo. From this diverse chorus, larger themes are taking shape, with recognizable contours bending toward justice and ecology.

“In 2018, we seem, in some ways, farther than ever from the dream of a new story, with a level of political polarization that seems to fracture even our sense of common reality. Yet, if the possibility remains that we might heed Thomas Berry’s advice and “reinvent the human…by means of story and shared dream experience,” then now would be the time for massive, creative action. We owe it to the children of the future and the entire Earth community. As Berry wrote in his essay 40 years ago, ‘no community can exist without a unifying story.’”.…—Drew Dellinger, “Change the Worldview, Change the World,” Kosmos Journal, Summer, 2018

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Scorching Summer in Europe
Signals Long-Term Climate Changes

Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes

PARIS — In Northern Europe, this summer feels like a modern-day version of the biblical plagues. Cows are dying of thirst in Switzerland, fires are gobbling up timber in Sweden, the majestic Dachstein glacier is melting in Austria.

In London, stores are running out of fans and air-conditioners. In Greenland, an iceberg may break off a piece so large that it could trigger a tsunami that destroys settlements on shore. Last week, Sweden’s highest peak, Kebnekaise mountain, no longer was in first place after its glacier tip melted.

Southern Europe is even hotter. Temperatures in Spain and Portugal are expected to reach 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend. On Saturday, several places in Portugal experienced record highs, and over the past week, two people have died in Spain from the high temperatures, and a third in Portugal.

But in the northernmost latitudes, where the climate is warming faster than the global average, temperatures have been the most extreme, according to a study by researchers at Oxford University and the World Weather Attribution network.

By analyzing data from seven weather stations in northern Europe, the researchers found that the closer a community is to the Arctic Circle, the more this summer’s heat stood out in the temperature record. A number of cities and towns in Norway, Sweden and Finland hit all-time highs this summer, with towns as far north as the Arctic Circle recording nearly 90-degree temperatures.…—Alissa J. Rubin, “Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes,” The New York Times, 8/4/18

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Ninth Circuit court rejects
latest administration attempt to stop climate suit

Ninth Circuit court rejects latest administration attempt to stop climate suit

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a second petition filed by the Trump administration to short-circuit Juliana v. United States, the landmark climate suit filed by 21 young people from across the country. The latest appeal, one of several last-ditch efforts by the administration in trying to avoid discovery and a trial, was a repeat of an earlier petition for a writ of mandamus, which the same court rejected in March.

“We denied the government’s first mandamus petition, concluding that it had not met the high bar for relief at that stage of the litigation. No new circumstances justify this second petition, and we again decline to grant mandamus relief,” the Court wrote in Friday’s decision, adding that the government can still challenge any specific discovery request, but absent a discovery order, mandamus relief is premature.

Mandamus petitions, which ask a higher court to overrule a lower court before a case’s conclusion, are rarely used and generally approved only if no other means of relief is available.

The Ninth Circuit said the government did not show it would be meaningfully burdened by engaging in discovery or trial.

Even before the Ninth Circuit ruled, Department of Justice attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court to halt discovery and postpone trial in the case.

A separate appeal seeking to postpone the case was heard earlier this week by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken, who is expected to rule on those motions soon.…—Karen Savage, “Ninth Circuit court rejects latest administration attempt to stop climate suit,” Climate Liability News, 7/20/18

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Trump Administration Unveils Its Plan to Relax Car Pollution Rules

Trump Administration Unveils Its Plan to Relax Car Pollution Rules

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday formally announced its long-awaited proposal to dramatically weaken an Obama-era regulation on planet-warming vehicle tailpipe pollution.

The publication of the proposal sets up a race among opponents of the change — an unusual mix of environmentalists, automakers, consumer groups and states — to temper the plan before it is finalized this year.

The proposal would freeze rules requiring automakers to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars, including hybrids and electric vehicles, and unravel one of President Barack Obama’s signature policies to combat global warming. It would also challenge the right of states to set their own, more stringent tailpipe pollution standards, setting the stage for a legal clash that could ultimately split the nation’s auto market in two.

The Trump administration’s proposal, jointly published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department, would roll back a 2012 rule that required automakers to nearly double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to an average of about 54 miles per gallon by 2025. That rule, which would have significantly cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions while saving billions of barrels of oil, was opposed by automakers who said it was overly burdensome.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting E.P.A. administrator,
has said he would like to find a way to avoid a fight
with California over the proposal.

The new proposal would freeze the increase of average fuel economy standards after 2021 at about 37 miles per gallon. It would also revoke a legal waiver, granted to California under the 1970 Clean Air Act and now followed by 13 other states, that allows those states to set more stringent tailpipe pollution standards than the ones followed by the federal government.…—Coral Davenport, “Trump Unveils His Plan to Weaken Car Pollution Rules,” The New York Times, 8/2/18

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The climate impact of the food
in the back of your fridge

Opinion | The climate impact of the food in the back of your fridge

Chad Frischmann is the vice president and research director at Project Drawdown.

Many of us have had the experience of opening the refrigerator door, reaching to the back and pulling out the remains of a dinner spoiled and gone to waste. No one likes to waste food, and the negative emotions we feel when we do stem from a variety of sources.

What may not come immediately to mind, however, is food waste’s impact on the climate. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 30 percent of food is wasted globally across the supply chain, contributing 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming.

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons (fluorinated gases used in refrigeration) are produced and emitted from food production to our refrigerators. And don’t forget all the metal cans, plastic bags and cardboard boxes our food comes in. By throwing away half a lasagna, half of the emissions that resulted from producing and processing, packaging, shipping, storing, picking up and cooking are also wasted.

It turns out reducing food waste is one of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming. Project Drawdown’s team of researchers ranked solutions to global warming; to our surprise, we discovered that cutting down on food waste could have nearly the same impact on reducing emissions over the next three decades as onshore wind turbines. More than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. It represents one of the greatest possibilities for individuals, companies and communities to contribute to reversing global warming and at the same time feed more people, increase economic benefits and preserve threatened ecosystems.

Most food waste worldwide occurs when food is left in the field. But food is not wasted the same way in every part of the world. In high and medium-income countries, 40 percent of food waste occurs in markets and by consumers. In low-income countries, food is rarely wasted by households; instead, 40 percent is lost during the post-harvest and processing stages, usually because of poor infrastructure and the lack of efficient storage technology.…—Chad Frischmann, “Food waste is a vastly overlooked driver of climate change,” The Washington Post, 7/31/18

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The toxic red tide
that’s decimating Florida’€™s marine life

The toxic red tide that’s decimating Florida’s marine life

In South Florida this summer, one ecological scourge has piled on top of another.

First came the red tide, a flotilla of microorganisms that dyed the sea rust and eventually stretched out along 100 miles of the Gulf Coast. Oxygen-starved fish, eels, dolphins and turtles littered beaches, in numbers too vast to count. In one marina, so many fish went belly up that they appeared to pave a walkway across the water.

The foul siege reached from Sarasota nearly to the tip of Florida by early June, when ecological insult No. 2 arrived. A green film of cyanobacteria appeared, as it regularly does in summer, in vast Lake Okeechobee. But this year the bacteria also spilled over into rivers and canals, which carried the toxic green sludge east to the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Gulf of Mexico. Already distressed Floridians gagged on the noxious odor, and more than a dozen people reportedly went to local emergency rooms after coming into contact with the contaminated water. Some wept as beloved manatees expired, bloated and tinted a ghastly green.

Further reading: Florida’s great green algae disaster – we asked for it … us and Rick Scott

…The red tides seem to have increased in frequency and persistence over the last 20 years, though the historical record is too sketchy to say whether the events are really more prevalent. The current episode arrived in November and has lasted for nine months. That does not yet approach the 17-month red tide that beset southern Florida from the end of 2004 until early 2006, or the red tide just a few years before that, which didn’t dissipate for an epic 21 months.…—James Rainey, “The toxic red tide that’s decimating Florida’s marine life,” NBC News, 8/3/18

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