November 20, 2018
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”― Ursula K. Le Guin
First, the news.

Action Alert! Please join us to stop re-powering
the
Cayuga Power Plant with fracked gas
from  CNG trucks

The Tompkins County Legislature will vote on Tuesday on Resolution 8189 opposing the Cayuga Power Plant’s proposal to convert from burning coal to burning fracked gas. Built in 1955, this inefficient and obsolete coal-fired plant – one of only two still operating in New York State – has been deemed unnecessary by the utility NYSEG and was due to be mothballed in 2020.

Heorot Power Holdings LLC, a Blackstone Group subsidiary who purchased the facility in 2016, seeks to convert one of the two coal-fired units to burn methane gas, delivered in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG), by truck from Pennsylvania. The company indicates that as many as 60 trucks a day (120 truck trips) would deliver fuel to the newly installed gas unit driving through residential neighborhoods, near schools, homes, and day-care facilities. Heorot indicates that they plan to apply for a pipeline permit at a future date depending on market conditions.

“Cayuga’s proposal to convert to burning fracked gas is in clear conflict with Tompkins County’s and the State’s energy policies and the urgent global imperative to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years to avoid catastrophic, irreversible global warming,” said Irene Weiser, Town of Caroline Councilmember and coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins at a recent legislative committee hearing on the resolution where 70 concerned citizens gathered on a weekday morning to demonstrate their concerns about the proposal.

Biologist and Trumansburg resident Sandra Steingraber, said, “The Tompkins County Legislature played a heroic, transformational role when it issued a resolution in opposition to fracking and again when it resolved to oppose gas storage at Seneca Lake. In both these cases, it became clear that our governor listens to the voice of municipal governments . . . We want no fracked gas burned here.”

Please join us this Tuesday (today), in the Tompkins County Legislative Chambers as the full Legislature votes on this resolution in opposition to the Cayuga Power Plant’s proposal to re-power with fracked gas delivered by CNG trucks!

Help tell our legislators why they should vote to send a resolution to Albany opposing the re-powering of the Cayuga Power Plant with fracked gas.

Tuesday, Nov. 20, 5:30PM
Tompkins County Legislative Chambers
121 E Court St.
Ithaca, NY
14850 (Map link here)

The Cayuga Power Plant proposes to re-power with fracked gas delivered by truck. We propose to stop them.

Last Friday, 70 concerned citizens sat through a 2 hour special meeting of the Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature on a weekday morning. After hearing 30 people speak, the committee voted 4:1 in favor of a strongly worded resolution asking the NY Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the Cayuga Power Plant’s application to convert to burning fracked gas. A finalized version of the resolution will be considered by the full legislature on Tuesday, November 20th at 5:30.

The Meeting Will Begin With Comments from the Public.
Those who are willing, please plan to speak (see suggested talking points, below).
Even if you do not choose to speak, please come to show our legislators the level of community interest. We will have signs you can hold, or bring your own.

We need to turn out as many people as we can. Here’s how you can help make this a success:

1) Commit to coming yourself and bring your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, etc with you.

2) RSVP to the event on Facebook and share widely and also watch and share the video above, made from some of our statements made to the PDEQ committee.

3) E-mail the Tompkins County Legislature: legislature@tompkins-co.org thanking them for their work on this and asking them to pass the resolution on Tuesday. Tell them what district you live in. Here’s the district map.

4) Prepare your remarks in advance and consider submitting them to the newspapers as an opinion. See speaking tips below.

5) Forward this e-mail to your friends and neighbors.

TALKING POINTS:

✓State who you are, where you live and why this issue is important to YOU. Include a few well-chosen personal details about yourself, your background, your family, etc.

✓You will have 3 minutes to speak. There will be a lot of speakers, so consider using less time. Your remarks should be 250 words maximum

✓Take a moment to thank the legislature for all its leadership on climate and energy issues.

✓Make a clear request that they pass this resolution that protects the health and safety of the community and preserves a livable climate.

✓The Governor’s office needs to hear a strong, clear message from the County about where it stands on this issue and what energy future the County wants.

✓ Cayuga’s application to burn fracked gas is in clear conflict with State and County renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals and should be denied.

✓ The County should ask for transition support for the workers and the Lansing community and should emphasize that we want renewable energy and energy storage not fossil fuels.

✓ Converting the Cayuga Power Plant to burn fracked gas will fill our rural roads with up to 120 truck trips per day hauling compressed natural gas from Pennsylvania, causing safety risks and impaired quality of life for rural residents throughout the Southern Tier and Tompkins County. https://nofrackedgascayuga.com

✓ Increased demand for fracking in Pennsylvania to service this plant will harm our neighbors and our planet. The Tompkins County legislature has staunchly opposed fracking in New York State. It should not now enable fracking in Pennsylvania.

✓ The latest science shows that natural gas is just as bad as coal for the climate and that we have only a dozen years remaining to rapidly decarbonize our energy systems in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Tompkins County needs to do its part. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf

✓ Just this week, the International Energy Agency said the world lacks the capacity to absorb any more fossil fuel power plants.

For more background and talking points see our website NoFrackedGasCayuga

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Breaking: New Democratic AGs could change the face of the climate fight

New Democratic AGs could change the face of the climate fight

Nearly lost in the sometimes breathless coverage of the massive Democratic gains in the House of Representatives and state legislatures was a political sea change in the recent midterm election: for the first time in years, Democrats gained control over the levers of environmental law in four critical states.

In four formerly reliably Republican states—Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin and Nevada—GOP attorneys general were ousted by Democratic challengers. It is a development, observers say, that represents a stunning defeat for the oil and gas industry, which poured millions of dollars into those campaigns. And it could alter the landscape for several high-profile cases that seek to hold the industry accountable for the ravages of climate change.

“Democratic AGs now hold 27 offices,” said Lizzie Ulmer, communications director for the Democratic Attorneys General Association. “That puts us in the majority.”

The Democrats’ gains on Nov. 6 give them precisely the slim majority the Republicans used to hold. Among the ousted were some staunch supporters of the fossil fuel industry.

The question is whether this new coalition of Democratic attorneys general will act en masse, launching investigations and filing suits as a coordinated bloc, as their Republican predecessors did.

Even when they were in the minority, however, Democratic attorneys general have been active, especially since the beginning of the Trump administration. They have, either separately or as a team, sued the administration 38 times, with some, like California’s recently re-elected Xavier Becerra, proving particularly litigious. Becerra was involved in 24 of those cases and has won 14 of them.

Those lawsuits are likely to continue, and the new crop of Democratic attorney generals could bolster their ranks and file a few more of their own.

That’s particularly likely in a place like Michigan, where Democrat Dana Nessel easily defeated Tom Leonard, the heir apparent to Republican Bill Schuette, who unsuccessfully ran for governor. Under Schuette, Michigan was among the most ferocious states in its support of the oil and gas industry, filing an amicus brief, for example, backing Exxon against a landmark lawsuit filed by New York State alleging that the company defrauded investors by hiding the risks of climate change. In the brief, Schuette declared climate change to be “unsettled science.”…—Seamus McGraw, “New Democratic AGs could change the face of the climate fight,” Climate Liability News, 11/19/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Call to Block New Fossil Development Grows
as Two Week Climate Fast NJ Continues

Fasters Meet With Governor’s Staff to discuss statewide moratorium on new fossil fuel development

TRENTON, NJ- Environmental advocates with Climate Fast NJ are well into the second week of a water-only fast calling for a moratorium on new polluting energy infrastructure in the state. Two of the Fasters, Ted Glick, an advocate for Roseland Against the Compressor Station, and Owl, a member of the Ramapough Lenape Nation , are on the 10th day of a water-only fast.“

The air and water pollution from our Fossil Fuel Industrial Complex is killing us,”  says Owl, “I’ve seen men dying of black lung from coal mining begging for a breath of clean air and babies suffering in the hospital from bronchitis because the air, itself, is killing them. New Jersey has a critical role to play in solving this global problem. Governor Murphy can and must lead on climate by declaring a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure.” 

Starting with a small circle of advocates seeking to protect clean air and water (see list of 22 endorsing organizations below), now individuals from close to 40 New Jersey towns, New York City, and Philadelphia (see list below), a sister fast in Asheville, NC, and as far away as England and Ireland have joined the Fast. “For the governor to call for a shift to 100% renewable energy and then allow his Department of Environmental Protection to approve key permits for new gas pipelines, new and expanded compressor stations, and new gas-fired power plants is totally inconsistent,”  Ted Glick . ”The first rule when you want to get out of a deep hole is to stop digging. The seriousness of the climate crisis demands that we do just that right now.”

Climate Fasters have been outside the Governor’s office in Trenton, NJ every work day since November 7th and plan on being there every work day until the end of the Fast at noon on November 21st. Noontime gatherings at the State House Annex near the Governor’s Office on State Street with singers and theatrical art are planned for Monday 11/19 and Tuesday 11/20. “We are happy to enter into dialogue with the Governor’s office but I have not starved myself for a meeting.  I have fasted for the children that cannot breathe and are getting sick and missing school because of the toxic air from fossil fuel pollution, and for the millions of displaced families and children from climate changed fueled droughts and extreme storms,”  says Jean-Marie Donohue, Assistant Director of WATERSPIRIT, “Enough is enough, every sane person agrees, including the Director of Princeton University Andlinger Center that hosted Governor Murphy for a keynote address on energy and the environment last week saying that we should not be building new fossil fuel infrastructure in the State of NJ.”  

The Climate Fast will end at noon on November 21st with the breaking of bread at the State House Annex. Speakers at the event include Chief Duane Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, Robin Tanner of the Unitarian Summit Baptist Church and Rev. Ronald Tuff of GreenFaith.

Climate Fasters have met representatives of the Governor’s Office and are thankful for expressions of concern over the health of the Fasters. Climate Fasters and supporters will continue a dialogue with government and industry to stop our addiction to fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure harming our children, elderly and ourselves. —Matt Smith, “Update: Climate Fast NJ for No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure,Food & Water Watch, 11/16/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Resist Spectra Climate Trial Update

In what we believe is the longest running climate necessity defense trial to date (a bench trial, which means a judge hears and decides the case, as these defendants do not qualify for a jury trial under New York law), our friends at Resist Spectra were back in court on October 23rd in Cortlandt, New York. Click here for background on the context, the action, and the local resistance. In five full days of trial proceedings in July, the case had only progressed from opening statements through the prosecution’s case. At the end of that week, the judge ruled that the prosecution had not produced sufficient evidence to support the charges against the three supporters who had been arrested, and their charges were dropped.

The defense case, complete with three expert witnesses was scheduled to continue for another four days in October. Climate Disobedience Center Co-Founder Marla Marcum was with the Resist Spectra crew for the first two days of trial in July and for all four days of the defense case last month. She reports, “Almost two years after the Spectra AIM pipeline went into service, these defendants and the whole community of resistance there are still pushing for the gas to be turned off. In court, they were allowed to take two full days to present extensive testimony from three expert witnesses. And after nine days at trial spread over three months, there will be at least one more day in court for this case.

In her first full trial as a judge, the Honorable Kimberly Ragazzo will spend the next two months reviewing transcripts of the trial and researching case law, and then she will hear the closing argument from the prosecutor and rule on the case on January 8th.” Marla plans to be there with them in January.—Tim DeChristopher, “Resist Spectra3 Trial News,” Climate Disobedience News, 11/18/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Cuomo Administration Rushed Greenidge’s Restart
But Was It Legal?

Cuomo Administration Rushed Greenidge’s Restart — But Was It Legal?

DRESDEN, Nov. 13, 2018 — A pair of court rulings expected by year end are likely to determine whether the Cuomo Administration broke the law when it fast-tracked permits to restart the Greenidge Generation power station.

The decades-old plant began producing electricity again in March 2017 after a six-year pause and a conversion that allows it to burn natural gas rather than coal.

Two years earlier, at a closed-door meeting in Albany, representatives of the plant’s owner, Atlas Holdings LLC, lobbied senior Cuomo Administration advisors over permitting issues.

That private session on Mar. 3, 2015 was part of a multi-year campaign by the Connecticut private equity firm that included $120,000 contributions to Gov. Andrew Como’s bids for reelection and more than $500,000 in payments to lobbyists.

Payback came later in 2015 when Greenidge landed a $2 million state grant and a crucial state waiver of an environmental impact statement, or EIS.

State law requires an EIS for any project that “may have a significant adverse environmental impact.” In granting its EIS waiver in June 2015, the state Department of Environmental Conservation held that restarting Greenidge “will nothave such an impact.

Further reading State Granted Greenidge Fast-Track Startup and ‘The OK’ to Mangle Fish for Five More Years
DEC Acted Properly in Issuing Greenidge Power Plant Water Permits, Judge Rules

That stance, which triggered a pair of lawsuits, cleared the way for the plant’s restart without a public airing of at least three high-stakes environmental issues that applied to Greenidge then and still apply today:

…The plant’s water intake system violates the federal Clean Water Act because it neither filters nor recycles cooling water. The DEC isn’t requiring Atlas to fix the problem until at least October 2022. The DEC did not immediately respond to a request for any analysis the agency has performed concerning the consequences to aquatic life in Seneca Lake in the interim.…—Peter Mantius, “Cuomo Administration Rushed Greenidge’s Restart — But Was It Legal?Water Front, 11/13/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Northam removes 2 members from air board
before Buckingham project vote

Northam removes 2 members from air board before Buckingham project vote

Gov. Ralph Northam is removing two members from the State Air Pollution Control Board, a move that comes less than a week after they raised concerns about a natural gas compressor station planned for a historic black community in Buckingham County and ahead of the board’s vote on the project.

Seven environmental groups, including the Southern Environmental Law Center and Sierra Club Virginia chapter, slammed Northam’s decision. On Nov. 9, the board opted to wait a month to decide on whether to approve a permit for a natural gas compressor station to serve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Some board members and members of the Union Hill community in Buckingham County are concerned about the environmental impact on the community.

Further reading: Northam Hearts Corporate Money

Northam on Thursday informed Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher that they would be removed from the seven-member board. A news release from the environmental groups noted that both Rubin and Bleicher had raised concerns at last week’s meeting about environmental justice and pollution from the compressor station.…—Patrick Wilson, “Northam removes 2 members from air board before Buckingham project vote,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/15/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Life v. Petroleum
Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”

Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’

“Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable.” Thus spoke President Kennedy in a 1961 address to the United Nations. The threat he warned of was not climate chaos — barely a blip on anybody’s radar at the time — but the hydrogen bomb. The nuclear threat had a volatile urgency and visual clarity that the sprawling, hydra-headed menace of today’s climate calamity cannot match. How can we rouse citizens and governments to act for concerted change? Will it take, as Naomi Klein insists, nothing less than a Marshall Plan for Earth?

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable. Klein’s fans will recognize her method from her prior books, “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies” (1999) and “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” (2007), which, with her latest, form an anti-globalization trilogy. Her strategy is to take a scourge — brand-­driven hyper-consumption, corporate exploitation of disaster-struck communities, or “the fiction of perpetual growth on a finite planet” — trace its origins, then chart a course of liberation. In each book she arrives at some semi-hopeful place, where activists are reaffirming embattled civic values.

To call “This Changes Everything” environmental is to limit Klein’s considerable agenda. “There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming,” she contends, “but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which is surely the best argument there has ever been for changing those rules.” On the green left, many share Klein’s sentiments. George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, recently lamented that even though “the claims of market fundamentalism have been disproven as dramatically as those of state communism, somehow this zombie ideology staggers on.” Klein, Monbiot and Bill McKibben all insist that we cannot avert the ecological disaster that confronts us without loosening the grip of that superannuated zombie ideology.

That philosophy — ­neoliberalism — promotes a high-consumption, ­carbon-hungry system. Neoliberalism has encouraged mega-mergers, trade agreements hostile to environmental and labor regulations, and global hyper-mobility, enabling a corporation like Exxon to make, as McKibben has noted, “more money last year than any company in the history of money.” Their outsize power mangles the democratic process. Yet the carbon giants continue to reap $600 billion in annual subsidies from public coffers, not to speak of a greater subsidy: the right, in Klein’s words, to treat the atmosphere as a “waste dump.”…—Rob Nixon, “Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’,” The New York Times. 11/9/14

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Can fossil fuel companies be held responsible
for human rights?

Can fossil fuel companies be held responsible for human rights?

The possibility of holding companies legally responsible for human rights violations was the latest aspect discussed in the Philippines Commission for Human Rights’ investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s role in climate change.

At the latest evidence session at the London School of Economics this week, the commission heard more personal testimony from survivors of extreme weather disasters and experts in climate science, attribution, litigation and risk. But it also delved into whether corporations have responsibilities for upholding human rights, with several legal experts explaining how international and domestic laws may determine that they do.

The hearing in London followed previous ones in New York and Manila and, as with the earlier hearings, none of the 47 companies being investigated testified or participated. The companies that responded to the inquiry when it was launched in 2015 challenged the commission’s ability to investigate them because they don’t operate directly in the Philippines and argued that climate change isn’t a human rights issue under the law.

Environmental lawyer and academic Linda Siegele explained how the link between human rights and climate change had evolved internationally, from no mention at all in the original UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, to an explicit acknowledgment in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement that parties should “respect, promote and consider their human rights obligations when taking action to address climate change.”

She said climate change is still largely regulated as a environmental issue but the human rights aspect is an “emerging” area. Verheyen said many of her cases involve human rights claims, including Lliuya v. RWE, in which Verheyen represents a Peruvian farmer suing a large German utility for climate impacts in his mountain village in Peru.…—Isabella Kaminski, “Can fossil fuel companies be held responsible for human rights?Climate Liability News, 11/8/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Climate protesters block London bridges

Climate protesters block London bridges

Protesters blocked off five major bridges in central London as part of “rebellion day”.

Organisers said thousands have gathered in central London to demand the government takes greater action on climate change.

Demonstrators occupied Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges, after a week of action by campaign group Extinction Rebellion.

Every bridge apart from Westminster has reopened, Transport for London said.

‘6,000-strong’

Tiana Jacout, of Extinction Rebellion, said the blockages were “not a step we take lightly” but “if things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs”.

“We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed,” she said.

According to the group, 6,000 people have joined the protests and 45 have been arrested so far.…

Is the protest fair?

…We haven’t seen a British green group quite like this before. It thinks marching with placards has failed, so it’s aiming to make mayhem instead.

But have the protestors picked the right target?

The UK is in the leading pack of nations in cutting the CO2 emissions that are over-heating the planet.

The Climate Change Act locks Britain into reducing greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, based on 1990 levels.

…The protesters say the targets will be breached if the government spends £30bn on new roads, encourages fracking and looks to expand aviation even further.

Climate change demands a seismic shift in society, they say. And they’re not seeing that yet.—Roger Harrabin, “Extinction Rebellion protests block London bridges,” BBC News, 11/17/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Indigenous leaders to share knowledge
on climate change at gathering of world’s religions

Indigenous leaders to share knowledge on climate change at gathering of world’s religions | CBC News

Indigenous spiritual leaders from Canada are sitting down with spiritual and religious leaders from across the world over the next few days to share ideas about how to approach issues of climate change.

The seventh annual Parliament of the World’s Religions gathering is taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. Inside the convention centre, Indigenous leaders have created a Lodge of Nations where teaching sessions will take place.

“I wanted to see our traditional societies and our nations be alongside some of the mainstream religions and denominations,” said Bob Goulais, co-chair of the Indigenous working group.

Goulais is Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation in northern Ontario.

“We all know that the environment and Mother Earth is hurting,” he said.

Further reading Here’s what climate change could look like in Canada
Canadian teen tells UN ‘warrior up’ to protect water

“It’s the same sun that makes whatever grows in Europe grow. Something happened in the history that caused superficial ways to deter people from seeing and relating to universal truths.… —Rhiannon Johnson, “Indigenous leaders to share knowledge on climate change at gathering of world’s religions,” CBC News, 11/3/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Why No Lawmakers Have Stopped
This Power Company’s Threat To Humanity

Why No Lawmakers Have Stopped This Power Company’s Threat To Humanity

The story of Virginia’s Dominion Energy goes way back in time and leads to a scary picture of how it’s worsening climate change with its operations across the country. How did this power company cultivate such a stranglehold on those who govern it?

Dominion Energy, the fifth largest energy utility in the United States and the largest in Virginia, has flexed its political muscle to craft and pass legislation that pads its corporate profits while raising electricity prices for consumers. It has set up shop in 19 states across the country. Over the past two decades, Dominion has spent at least $59 million to influence federal and state lawmakers and regulators to double down on its fossil fuel infrastructure investments right when science is telling us that the time to move to clean energy is now. Unless the truth is uncovered about how they operate, Dominion will lock us in to a future of dirty energy and the certainty of the worst effects of climate change.

Further reading: Download the full report (PDF)

Dominion’s Power Grab Goes Way, Way Back

Its origins stretch back to a firm chartered to improve water transportation on the Appomattox River in 1787. The company expanded into other businesses via mergers, and by the end of the 1800s it was operating generators to power its electric streetcars, creating the seed of the utility company that we know today. The son of the famed robber baron tycoon Jay Gould became majority owner of what became the Virginia Railway and Power Company. In 1925, a pool of investors merged it with the Spotsylvania Power Company to become Virginia Electric Power Company.

From these colonial roots Virginia Power rapidly became the biggest utility in the state. It used the earnings from selling electricity and natural gas to Virginia residents to begin spreading its tentacles across the country. In the 1980s, Virginia Power created a new holding company, what became Dominion Energy, to own the Virginia utility as well as its other spreading businesses.

By the end of the 1990s, Dominion had been expanding and endangering communities first with coal-powered energy production and more recently pivoting to promote fracked natural gas with major infrastructure projects like pipelines, export terminals and more, while doing frighteningly little in clean energy even as the urgency of climate change is becoming increasingly clear.…—”Why No Lawmakers Have Stopped This Power Company’s Threat To Humanity,” Food & Water Watch, 11/15/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

The Earth is in a death spiral.
It will take radical action to save us

The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us | George Monbiot

Climate breakdown could be rapid and unpredictable. We can no longer tinker around the edges and hope minor changes will avert collapse

It was a moment of the kind that changes lives. At a press conference held by climate activists Extinction Rebellion last week, two of us journalists pressed the organisers on whether their aims were realistic. They have called, for example, for UK carbon emissions to be reduced to net zero by 2025. Wouldn’t it be better, we asked, to pursue some intermediate aims?

A young woman called Lizia Woolf stepped forward. She hadn’t spoken before, but the passion, grief and fury of her response was utterly compelling. “What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … This is an emergency. We are facing extinction. When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?” We had no answer.

Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.…—George Monbiot, “The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us,” The Guardian, 11/14/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Stunning Documentary Examines Kiribati’s Unrelenting Sea Level Rise

Stunning Documentary Examines Kiribati’s Unrelenting Sea Level Rise

[Video by Rytz, “Sinking Islands, Floating Nation,” New York Times]

To some, climate change might feel like a distant problem that does not affect our everyday lives. Some even treat the global phenomenon with downright indifference or label it a “hoax.”

Of course, climate change is not a faraway threat. The destructive effects of a warming world are very real and are felt today, especially in the low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati.

The island republic could become one of the first countries to disappear from sea level rise, as Director Matthieu Rytz shows in his feature documentary, Anote’s Ark, a stunning film EcoWatch is honored to sponsor at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Festival.

Kiribati is made of 33 coral atolls with most of the land only a few feet above sea level. Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that global average sea level rise could reach up to 8.2 feet by 2100.

Scientists predict that Kiribati could be completely swallowed by rising seas and storm surges within decades. Its 100,000 residents have already felt the impacts of climate change, including high tides that inundate their homes, flood their crops and contaminate their drinking water supply.

Rytz’s documentary follows former President Anote Tong’s mission to keep his country and 4,000 years of rich cultural history above water.

What if your country was swallowed by the sea?

The Pacific Island nation of Kiribati (population: 100,000) is one of the most remote places on the planet, seemingly far-removed from the pressures of modern life. Yet it is one of the first countries that must confront the main existential dilemma of our time: imminent annihilation from sea-level rise.

While Kiribati’s President Anote Tong races to find a way to protect his nation’s people and maintain their dignity, many Kiribati are already seeking safe harbour overseas.

Set against the backdrop of international climate and human rights negotiations, Anote’s struggle to save his nation is intertwined with the extraordinary fate of Tiemeri, a young mother of six, who fights to migrate her family to New Zealand. At stake is the survival of Tiemeri’s family, the Kiribati people, and 4,000 years of Kiribati culture.

Tong, who served as president for three successive terms from 2003 to 2016, races to find options, from advocating in international climate negotiations to investigating the possibility of building underwater cities or even floating islands.…—Lorraine Chow, “Stunning Documentary Examines Kiribati’s Unrelenting Sea Level Rise,” EcoWatch, 3/30/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

And Now for Something Completely Different
Organisms found on hike in the woods
are like no other life on Earth

Organisms found on hike in the woods are like no other life on Earth | CBC News

Hemimastigotes are more different from all other living things than animals are from fungi

Canadian researchers have discovered a new kind of organism that’s so different from other living things that it doesn’t fit into the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, or any other kingdom used to classify known organisms.

Two species of the microscopic organisms, called hemimastigotes, were found in dirt collected on a whim during a hike in Nova Scotia by Dalhousie University graduate student Yana Eglit.

A genetic analysis shows they’re more different from other organisms than animals and fungi (which are in different kingdoms) are from each other, representing a completely new part of the tree of life, Eglit and her colleagues report this week in the journal Nature.

“They represent a major branch… that we didn’t know we were missing,” said Dalhousie biology professor Alastair Simpson, Eglit’s supervisor and co-author of the new study.

“There’s nothing we know that’s closely related to them.”…—Emily Chung, “Rare microbes lead scientists to discover new branch on the tree of life,” CBC News, 11/15/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

National broadcast TV news mentioned climate change
in less than 4 percent of California wildfire coverage

National broadcast TV news mentioned climate change in less than 4 percent of California wildfire coverage

While ABC, CBS, and NBC again dropped the ball, local TV news programs in California brought up climate change numerous times during wildfire reporting

This month’s catastrophic California wildfires garnered significant media coverage, with major national news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC airing more than 100 segments about the unfolding disasters. But Media Matters found that just 3.7 percent of those segments mentioned the link between climate change and worsening wildfires. That’s a minuscule improvement over their coverage of Western wildfires this summer, when the networks incorporated climate change into less than 2 percent of their segments.

On the local level, TV news programs on California stations included discussion of climate change in numerous segments about the ongoing wildfires. News shows on major TV network affiliates in the state’s three largest media markets aired 44 episodes that addressed how climate change exacerbates wildfires.

Climate change is a critical factor contributing to the growing severity of wildfires in the United States, according to researchers. Scientists have documented an increase in both the number of large fires and the total area burned per year in the U.S. Fifteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California’s history have occurred since 2000, as rising temperatures in the West have lengthened wildfire season by several months. Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental school, told The Associated Press that the increasing severity of fires is “much less due to bad management and is instead the result of our baking of our forests, woodlands and grasslands with ever-worsening climate change.”

NBC mentioned climate change in just two segments, while ABC and CBS each made only one mention

The three national broadcast TV networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — aired 107 segments about the California wildfires on their major morning and evening news programs from November 8 to 13. Only four of these, or 3.7 percent, included discussion of climate change. NBC aired two of the segments that mentioned climate change, while ABC and CBS aired one each.…—Ted Macdonald, “National broadcast TV news mentioned climate change in less than 4 percent of California wildfire coverage,” Media Matters, 11/16/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

PG&E could be hurt if liable for Camp Fire

PG&E could be hurt if liable for Camp Fire

New York (CNN Business)—If California electric utility PG&E is responsible for California’s wildfires, it may not be able to afford the payouts it would owe.

PG&E disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it “experienced an outage” on a transmission line in Butte County at 6:15 a.m. on November 8 — just 15 minutes before the Camp Fire that has so far claimed 48 lives broke out.

Further reading Did Cutting Corners on Cutting Trees Trigger Butte Fire Disaster?
Massive Woolsey Fire Began On Contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory, Close to Site of Partial Meltdown
PG&E seeks relief from fire liability
PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses
California Moves to Bailout PG&E Even as the Dead Remain Unaccounted For
California Utility Customers May Be on Hook for Billions in Wildfire Damage
PG&E’s Potential Liability in California Fires Could Exceed Insurance Coverage

PG&E said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. But if its equipment is found to be responsible for it, PG&E “could be subject to significant liability in excess of insurance coverage” and that this could have “a material impact” on its financial results.

The utility renewed its liability insurance coverage for wildfire events for an amount of approximately $1.4 billion that covers the period from August 1, 2018 through July 31, 2019, the company said in the SEC filing.

But the fire is far from being under control, which means more damage is likely. PG&E said in the filing that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection estimates the fire won’t be fully contained until November 30.…—Paul R. La Monica, “PG&E could be hurt if liable for Camp Fire,” CNN, 11/14/18

The damages alone could cost up to $6.8 billion. according to a report from Moody’s this week.

PG&E may not have enough to cover the cost that, let alone any legal fees or fines it might have to pay. The utility said in its filing that it currently has $3.46 billion in cash after borrowing from an existing revolving credit line.…—Paul R. La Monica, “PG&E could be hurt if liable for Camp Fire,” CNN, 11/14/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

EPA Plans to Allow Unlimited Dumping
Fracking Wastewater in the Gulf of Mexico

EPA Plans to Allow Unlimited Dumping of Fracking Wastewater in the Gulf of Mexico

Environmentalists are warning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its draft plan to continue allowing oil and gas companies to dump unlimited amounts of fracking chemicals and wastewater directly into the Gulf of Mexico is in violation of federal law.

In a letter sent to EPA officials on Monday, attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity warned that the agency’s draft permit for water pollution discharges in the Gulf fails to properly consider how dumping wastewater containing chemicals from fracking and acidizing operations would impact water quality and marine wildlife.

The attorneys claim that regulators do not fully understand how the chemicals used in offshore fracking and other well treatments — some of which are toxic and dangerous to human and marine life — can impact marine environments, and crucial parts of the draft permit are based on severely outdated data. Finalizing the draft permit as it stands would be a violation of the Clean Water Act, they argue.

“The EPA is endangering an entire ecosystem by allowing the oil industry to dump unlimited amounts of fracking chemicals and drilling waste fluid into the Gulf of Mexico,” said Center attorney Kristen Monsell. “This appalling plan from the agency that’s supposed to protect our water violates federal law, and shows a disturbing disregard for offshore fracking’s toxic threats to sea turtles and other Gulf wildlife.”…—Mike Ludwig, “EPA Plans to Allow Unlimited Dumping of Fracking Wastewater in the Gulf of Mexico,” Truthout, 9/22/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

One Cannot See Beauty Without Touching One’s Own

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, Skate Canada, 2018 Figure Skating

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

NYC climate suit draws support
from AGs, governments, law expert

NYC climate suit draws support from AGs, governments, law expert

New York City received support from two sources Thursday in its climate liability suit against the oil industry: two friend-of-the-court briefs filed in support of its its appeal of the case’s recent dismissal by a federal judge. One was filed by coalition of local government associations and the other by a prominent legal scholar.

The briefs were filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. One came from the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the other by Catherine Sharkey, a legal scholar who has written extensively on torts, product liability, administrative law, remedies and class actions.

New York filed suit against Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell in January, seeking billions in damages to cover infrastructure improvements needed to protect New Yorkers from the increasing effects of climate change. The suit includes federal claims of public nuisance, private nuisance and trespass and seeks monetary damages to help pay for the costs of protecting the city.

U.S. District Judge John Keenan dismissed the suit in July, ruling that the city’s claims are covered under federal law, but involve greenhouse gas emissions that cross state lines. That  puts them under the jurisdiction of the Clean Air Act, which authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The city appealed last week, contending that Keenan “misunderstood the city’s allegations and, on the basis of that misunderstanding, erroneously concluded that various federal law doctrines barred the city’s claims.”…—Karen Savage, “NYC climate suit draws support from governments, law expert,” Climate Liability News, 11/16/18

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week.

Beginning this week, composing The Banner will be done in daylight! We are shifting all deadlines from 9:00PM until noon of that day. It has been a wonderful three and a half years of twice-a-week all-nighters to get the newsletter published in some sort of regular order. But it has begun to affect the editor’s covfefe!

As always, send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to editor@thebanner.news.