December 4, 2018
This past year has seen the sociopolitical awakening of children. Though there have always been politically aware young people of course, this year’s terrorist attack on Parkland High School brought them to national attention, and to a new self-awareness that they had comrades across the country. And the 21 children who brought suit against the U.S. government in 2015 sent out a pealing bell that woke the nation up to children speaking up to how official intransigence and incompetence was squandering their just inheritance of a place to live, a sustainable environment, and any hope of a fulfilling life. We look at their answer to that prospect, and their demand.
But first the news.

Community Rallies for Cayuga Lake’s Day in Court

Community Rallies for Cayuga Lake’s Day in Court – clean

On Monday, November 26, 2018, nearly 30 residents from throughout the Finger Lakes braved the cold rain to rally for Cayuga Lake. They joined a pre-hearing rally at the Tompkins County Courthouse led by Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Now (CLEAN) to support its Article 78 litigation against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)  for not requiring an Environmental Impact Statement for Cargill’s proposed mine shaft.

Sachem (Chief), Sam George, from Bear Clan of the Cayuga Nation gave a welcome to the crowd. His welcome was “words before all else”, in the language of the Cayuga Nation, a reminder to give thanks for all things, from the mother earth to the skies and everything in between.

John Dennis, President of CLEAN, described risks to groundwater resources posed by the proposed drilling of Shaft No. 4 and the risks associated with ongoing mining beneath thinning bedrock under the lake and south of the Cayuga Power Plant. He said that subsidence risks could extend to downtown Ithaca if the mine were to flood catastrophically, as did the Retsof Salt Mine in Livingston County in 1994.

Enfield resident and CLEAN legal team member, Serenna McCloud, discussed that CLEAN is challenging the DEC’s conclusion that no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was necessary.  CLEAN argues there certainly is the potential (which is all the regulation requires) for significant environmental impacts from the installation of the shaft that will allow continued mining under thinning bedrock between the bottom of the Lake and the mine itself. Therefore, the DEC should have issued a declaration of positive significance and required the preparation of an EIS.

Tompkins County Environmental Management Council Chair, Brian Eden, began by comparing the long history of the Cayuga Salt Mine with the other major salt mine in NYS, Hampton Corners. The Retsof mine catastrophically failed, flooding that mine in 1994. A new mine at Hampton Corners began operations in 2000 and has been required to do two EIS’s in 18 years, whereas Cargill has been operating Cayuga Salt Mine for 48 years without ever having completed an EIS. An EIS would allow, for the first time, transparency, meaningful community participation and the input of third-party experts in a comprehensive environmental review of Cargill’s operations beneath Cayuga Lake.…—John Dennis, “Community Rallies for Cayuga Lake’s Day in Court,” Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Now, 11/27/18

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Legislature Opposes Power Plant Repowering

Legislature Opposes Power Plant Repowering

After listening to two hours of public comment and engaging in close to another hour-and-a-half of thoughtful discussion, the Tompkins County Legislature went on record against the Cayuga Operating Company’s current proposal to re-power the Lansing coal-fired plant. The measure, approved by a 12-2 vote, with Legislators Mike Sigler and Glenn Morey voting no, opposes the Cayuga Operating Company’s proposal to convert the Cayuga Power Plant to natural gas.

Through amendments incorporated to what had been passed in committee, the resolution also urges the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to require a full Environmental Impact Statement with a full public scoping process that solicits input from all impacted communities; urges Governor Cuomo to support Cayuga’s transition to renewable energy and energy storage; and to work with the State Legislature and State agencies to provide transition support to plant workers and support to the Lansing Town and School District to mitigate tax impacts of plant closure, under the State’s program through the State’s Urban Development Corporation.

More than 100 people packed Legislature Chambers and 50 spoke. As had happened earlier before the Legislature’s Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee, virtually all expressed serious concern about continued dependence on fossil fuels, the dangers of an increase in greenhouse gas emissions including from methane, use of imported “fracked” gas (inconsistent with the County’s past opposition to and the State’s prohibition of fracking), and the increased truck traffic and potential dangers associated with trucks transporting compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel the plant. A number of speakers voiced impassioned concerns about the need to protect the planet for their children and grandchildren.…—Marcia E. Lynch, “Legislature Opposes Power Plant Re-powering,” The Lansing Star, 11/30/18

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NY youth leaders hand letter to Chuck Schumer:
Oppose  MacNominees McNamee to FERC and Joe Manchin to Energy And Natural Resources Committee ranking member

NY youth and environmental organizations hand-deliver letter to minority senate leader Chuck Schumer to oppose Bernard McNamee for FERC Commissioner and Joe Manchin as Energy And Natural Resources Committee ranking member – Erik McGregor Photography

[“MacNominee” is a coined term for nominations to high public office who are known to be opposed to the office’s mandated purpose, and thus devoid of all advertised value.—Editor]

New York, NY – NY youth, leaders representing hundreds of community, social justice, environmental and climate organizations wrote and delivered an open letter to Democratic Party US Senate leader Chuck Schumer on December 3, 2018 urging him to take two immediate actions:

  1. Take steps to ensure that President Trump’s latest nominee to become a FERC commissioner, Bernard McNamee, is not approved by the Senate without a full debate on the floor of the Senate
    Do not appoint Joe Manchin to be the ranking member for the Democrats on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
  2. Bernard McNamee was nominated by President Trump in October to fill a vacancy on the five-person board of commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. At a November 27th meeting of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, all 11 Democrats voted against him, with the exception of Joe Manchin, who voted with all of the 12 Republicans to confirm McNamee.

Momentum is building for a Green New Deal, the only serious proposal in Congress to address the climate crisis. We’ve seen support growing in the House for a new Select Committee on GND and Senate Democrats should join this incredible energy rather than be an obstacle.

Senate Minority Leader Schumer is in charge of committee assignments for the new Senate — and is he on track to allow Sen Manchin to serve as lead Democrat on the Energy & Natural Resources. This would be a huge blow to future climate action.…—Erik McGregor, “Schumer protest MONDAY 11:30 AM re: his climate inaction including Mcnamee,” Sane Energy Project, 12/3/18

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Senate committee to push ahead with FERC Nominee vote
despite Democrat objections

Senate committee to push ahead with McNamee vote despite Democrat objections

Senate committee to push ahead with McNamee vote despite Democrat objections

Democrats want the FERC MacNominee to answer for comments criticizing renewable energy and environmental groups, but Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee declined to delay a Tuesday confirmation vote. 

Scheduling a committee vote on McNamee shows that Murkowski’s committee is preparing to move forward with his confirmation despite a video that shows him criticizing entities that regularly do business before FERC.

In a February speech before Texas lawmakers, McNamee called for a “unified campaign” to build public support for fossil fuels and criticized renewable energy in a thinly veiled reference to the political controversy surrounding climate science.

“Renewables, when they come on and off, it screws up the whole the physics of the grid,” McNamee said. “So when people want to talk about science, they ought to talk about the physics of the grid and know what real science is, and that is how do you keep the lights on? And it is with fossil fuels and nuclear.”

McNamee also singled out environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and EarthJustice for particularly pointed criticism, saying they want to “return us to the administrative tyranny they’ve pushed for so long.”

“The green movement is always talking about more government control because it’s the constant battle between liberty and tyranny,” he said. “It’s about people who want to say I know what’s better for you.”

Senate Democrats made those comments the subject of a new round of written questions that was to be sent to the nominee by Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., Monday afternoon, True told Utility Dive Monday morning.

“Democrats will follow up in writing with additional questions for the record thanks to the additional reporting that has come to light,” True said. “We look forward to those answers in writing before his nomination can move forward.”

Republicans, however, declined to delay the vote.…—Gavin Bade, “Senate committee to push ahead with McNamee vote despite Democrat objections,” Utility Dive, 11/27

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The Children’s Revolt
Greta Thunberg’s speech to UN leader in Katowice

Greta Thunberg’s speech to UN leader in Katowice – DN.SE

People will rise to the climate challenge – whether the world leaders like it or not. —Greta Thunberg’s speech to UN leader António Guterres at the climate change conference in Katowice.

For 25 years countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nations leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

So I will not ask them anything.

Instead I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis.

Instead I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us.

Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.

Rich countries like Sweden need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2 degree warming target. You would think the media and everyone of our leaders would be talking about nothing else – but no one ever even mentions it.

Nor does hardly anyone ever talk about that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with up to 200 species going extinct every single day.

Further reading I’m striking from school to protest inaction on climate change – you should too
Climate change | the effects on children
World leaders ‘have moral obligation to act’ after UN climate report
G20 Nations Reportedly Set To Kowtow To Trump On Climate Change,
Why bother to bear children in a world wracked by climate change?

Furthermore no one ever speaks about the aspect of equity clearly stated everywhere in the Paris Agreement, which is absolutely necessary to make it work on a global scale. That means that rich countries like mine need to get down to zero emissions, within 6–12 years with today’s emission speed, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructure that we have already built. Such as hospitals, electricity and clean drinking water.

“Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ”solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.”

Because how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris agreement?

So when school started in August this year I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish parliament. I striked school for the climate.

Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ”solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.

And why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly means nothing to our society?

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.

So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.

We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.…—Greta Thunberg, “Greta Thunberg’s speech to UN leader in Katowice,” Dagens Nyheter, 12/3/18

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In the Blink of an Eye,
a Hunt for Oil Threatens Pristine Alaska

In the Blink of an Eye, a Hunt for Oil Threatens Pristine Alaska

For decades, opposition to drilling has left the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off limits. Now the Trump administration is hurriedly clearing the way for oil exploration.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — It is the last great stretch of nothingness in the United States, a vast landscape of mosses, sedges and shrubs that is home to migrating caribou and the winter dens of polar bears.

Aside from a Native village at its northern tip, civilization has not dented its 19 million acres, an area the size of South Carolina. There are no roads and no visitors beyond the occasional hunter and backpacker.

But the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a federally protected place of austere beauty that during a recent flyover was painted white by heavy snowfall — is on the cusp of major change.

The biggest untapped onshore trove of oil in North America is believed to lie beneath the refuge’s coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea. For more than a generation, opposition to drilling has left the refuge largely unscathed, but now the Trump administration, working with Republicans in Congress and an influential and wealthy Alaska Native corporation, is clearing the way for oil exploration along the coast.

Decades of protections are unwinding with extraordinary speed as Republicans move to lock in drilling opportunities before the 2020 presidential election, according to interviews with over three dozen people and a review of internal government deliberations and federal documents.

To that end, the Trump administration is on pace to finish an environmental impact assessment in half the usual time. An even shorter evaluation of the consequences of seismic testing is nearing completion. Within months, trucks weighing up to 90,000 pounds could be conducting the tests across the tundra as they try to pinpoint oil reserves.

While actual oil production would be a decade or more away, the turnaround represents a prized breakthrough in the Trump administration’s campaign to exploit fossil fuels and erase restrictive policies protecting the environment and addressing global warming.

Further reading In the Face of Extinction, We Have a Moral Obligation
Here are six key takeaways from The Times’s examination of the race for Alaskan oil

The Interior Department, which has jurisdiction over the Arctic refuge, has been central to the administration’s regulatory rollback in Alaska and beyond, accommodating the wishes of big businesses to strip down rules on how federal lands can be used. The oil and gas industry has been among the biggest beneficiaries as the administration has relaxed or abandoned regulations meant to safeguard air quality, groundwater supplies and wildlife.…—Henry Fountain and Steve Eder, “In the Blink of an Eye, a Hunt for Oil Threatens Pristine Alaska,” The New York Times, 12/3/18

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Extinction Rebellion: From the UK to Ghana and the US
Climate Activists Take Civil Disobedience World-Wide

Extinction Rebellion: From the UK to Ghana and the US, Climate Activists Take Civil Disobedience World-Wide

More than 100 people were arrested during a week of action across the UK as protesters demanded the government treat the threats posed by climate change as a crisis and take drastic steps to cut emissions to net zero by 2025.

Thousands of people joined a mass protest that blocked roads and bridges in central London, with some gluing themselves to government buildings to draw attention to what they see as climate breakdown.

Further reading; Climate activists glue hands to UK government building in new protest

This was the birth of Extinction Rebellion, a movement that calls for mass economic disruption using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to halt the destruction of the planet and its wildlife and prevent catastrophic climate change.

Around the world, environmental campaign groups and activists watched the action unfold. In London, there is a growing hope that this could be the start to a new form of international mobilisation for climate action.

‘A game changer’

From the US to Ghana and New Zealand to Western Europe, campaigners have shown enthusiastic support for Extinction Rebellion’s declaration of climate emergency.

Jamie Henn, co-founder of the campaign group 350, said watching the launch of Extinction Rebellion in London from the US had been “incredibly exciting” and embodied “a growing sense of anger and desire for radical solutions”.

Henn said he was confident Extinction Rebellion would inspire similar non-violent direct climate actions in the US over the coming months, but whether the movement was one that could endure the test of time was yet to be seen.

Margaret Klein Salamon, founder of the US grassroots group Climate Mobilization, said she believed Extinction Rebellion is “a game changer” for the climate movement.…—Chloe Farand, “Extinction Rebellion: From the UK to Ghana and the US, Climate Activists Take Civil Disobedience World-Wide,” DeSmog UK, 11/20/18

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Last Water Protector Case Dismissed
Judge Says State’s Case ‘Fails to Meet the Smell Test’

Court Update: Last Child Camp Case Dismissed; Judge Says State’s Case ‘Fails to Meet the Smell Test’ – Water Protector Legal Collective

All Charges Dismissed for Water Protector Waste’Win Young, former Historic Preservation Officer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

North Dakota District Judge David Reich today dismissed misdemeanor charges of Criminal Trespass and Engaging in a Riot against Waste’Win Young because the State did not follow the law that requires them to turn over discovery material to defendants. The dismissal came in an Order that responded to a Motion to Dismiss that’d been filed by Young’s defense team on October 4, 2018. In it the judge specified the State’s “failing to disclose the existence of depositions of its law enforcement officers.” In a hearing on the  Motion  held on November 5, 2018, the prosecutor asked that the judge grant a continuance so that the materials could be provided, rather than dismiss the State’s case outright.

Stating that he had “no inclination to spend more judicial time and resources on a case which: (1) is nearly two years old; (2) has been twice continued; (3) which has already consumed numerous hours of court time and which has required the defendant and her attorneys to make numerous appearances before the court; and (4) which involves misdemeanor charges against a defendant with no criminal record and who would at most in all likelihood receive a deferred sentence if convicted,” Judge Reich dismissed the charges that had been hanging over Young’s head since February 1, 2017.

Further reading: North Dakota Human Rights Coalition Confers Award for Ongoing Legal Defense of Water Protectors

“The judge wrote that the Prosecution’s discovery violations here ‘fail to pass the smell test for due process and fundamental fairness.’ To us, the whole case did,” said WPLC Cooperating Attorney, Andrea Carter.

“Ms. Young as well as many Standing Rock members have traversed and accessed that land for their entire lives. There are treaties and laws which recognize their right to do so. It is known as an area containing many sacred and burial sites as well as areas people prayed and collected medicine,” Carter added.…—”Court Update: Last Child Camp Case Dismissed; Judge Says State’s Case ‘Fails to Meet the Smell Test’,” Water Protector Legal Collective, 11/30/18

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Five myths about climate change

Perspective | Five myths about climate change

The Fourth National Climate Assessment — the work of 13 federal agencies and more than 350 scientists, including me — is clear: The Earth is warming faster than at any time in human history, and we’re the ones causing it. Climate change is already affecting people, and the more carbon we produce, the more dangerous the effects over the coming century. Nevertheless, many people continue to believe and propagate some misleading myths. Here are the five I hear most frequently.

Myth No. 1 Climate scientists are in it for the money.

When the second volume of the National Climate Assessment was released on Nov. 23, Rick Santorum, a Republican former senator from Pennsylvania, took to CNN to proclaim that climate scientists “are driven by the money that they receive.” Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) appeared on the network the next day declaring the report to be “made by scientists that get paid to further the politics of global warming.”

I was one of the report’s authors. How much did I earn for the hundreds of hours I spent on it? Nothing. Nearly every day, climate scientists are accused of venality. Our other purported sins include fabricating data, selling out to “big green” — which supposedly tethers our grant money to doom-and-gloom findings — and fanning the flames of hysteria to further our nefarious agenda.

The reality is that nearly every climate scientist could make at least the same amount of money — and often much more — in a different field, including the oil industry. And the money we do receive in grants doesn’t go into our pockets. A $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation provided me with a mere $37,000 a year, all of which went to paying for the proposed work, including a graduate researcher, a computer and publication fees. (In summer, I do some climate-focused consulting with cities and water districts to cover my salary when I’m not teaching.) Santorum, meanwhile, receives a substantial income from serving as a consultant to Consol Energy, a coal company; and according to OpenSecrets.org, DeLay has received nearly $740,000 from the oil and gas industry.

Myth No. 2 The climate has changed before. It’s just a natural cycle.

Last fall, when the first volume of the National Climate Assessment was released, White House spokesman Raj Shah responded that “the climate has changed and is always changing.” President Trump himself has embraced this position, claiming that the climate “will change back again.” This line is a popular one with people who dismiss climate change by maintaining that we’ve had ice ages before, as well as warm periods, and so the warming we’re seeing now is just what the Earth has always done.…—Katharine Hayhoe, “Five myths about climate change,” The Washington Post, 11/30/18

Katharine Hayhoe is a professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She is a lead author on volumes one and two of the fourth national climate assessment.

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Scientist Bites Dog
Author of U.S. Climate Assessment
drops epic Twitter thread: ‘I’m here to set the record straight’

Author of U.S. Climate Assessment drops epic Twitter thread: ‘I’m here to set the record straight’

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe worked on the U.S. National Climate Assessment released last week. In fact, the atmospheric scientist is one of the authors of this most recent iteration of the report. The news it contains seems to have surprised only complete idiots, and, as a result, more idiots have come forward to try to promote their fake-science ideas about climate change. Hayhoe, who is a professor in the department of political science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, is sick and tired of watching Trump say stupid things such as that he has an “instinct for” science, and other Republicans, with their bought-and-paid-for misinformation teams, rush around speaking into microphones.

Today she went on Twitter, having decided it was time to break down some facts, in the hope of debunking the truly deplorable fake news coming out of conservative circles.

She focuses in on Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her demonic spewing of falsehoods.

That’s a “No, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you are wrong.” She hits Rick Santorum and his sorry ass, and others who push the conspiracy theory that climate scientists are making big bucks peddling alarmist climate-change theories.

Then, Santorum claimed us authors were “driven by money”. … I picked myself up off the floor laughing, since we received $0 for writing the report …

She also smashes Trump.

Finally, the president then said that he “didn’t believe” the report. But climate science isn’t a religion: it’s real, whether we believe in it or not. If our decisions are not based in reality, we are the ones who will suffer the consequences.

Hayhoe also offers up real solutions from the micro to the macro level, as well as real hope for a future that doesn’t include us all asphyxiating in a fireball.…—Walter Einenkel , “Author of U.S. Climate Assessment drops epic Twitter thread: ‘I’m here to set the record straight‘,” Daily Kos, 11/27/18

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Climate Change Goes to Court

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his opus Democracy in America, “Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, in a judicial question.” De Tocqueville made the observation in 1835 but it remains equally true in modern times, as federal and state courts have taken the lead to resolve many vexing political problems, such as dismantling segregation-era laws and ensuring a rough equality of funding for public schools. Courts are particularly prone to step in when legislative and executive branches fail to act and that void creates a crisis.

In the United States today, the federal government has abdicated leadership on the central challenge of our time—global climate change. Congress has failed to enact a national climate change policy, and seems more divided on the issue than ever. The Trump administration refuses to even acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is warming due to fossil fuel combustion. It has pledged to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, is now actively promoting the expansion of domestic fossil fuel production, and is working to roll back the modest steps the Obama Administration took to address the problem. Meanwhile, the costs of inaction mount and are increasingly obvious—witness Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Given this dereliction of duty, will courts now step in to fill this void?  Five recently filed suits—and some new work by climate scientists—suggest the answer could be yes.

Seeking redress for climate damages

The cities of San Francisco and Oakland recently filed suits against five major fossil fuel producers: ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, and Conoco Phillips. These two suits add upon suits filed in July by two California counties—San Mateo and Marin—and the City of Imperial Beach, which targeted 37 oil, gas and coal companies. These public plaintiffs, relying on cutting-edge work by the Union of Concerned ScientistsInside Climate News, and the Columbia School of Journalism/Los Angeles Times, tell a compelling story that fossil fuel companies have known for roughly 50 years that fossil fuel products are endangering the climate, yet many engaged in a concerted effort to conceal the dangers, sow doubt about the validity of emerging climate science and fight sensible policies to address the problem, all to increase the sales of their products. These plaintiffs also ruefully note that fossil fuel combustion has doubled since 1988, when James Hansen testified to congress about the danger of global warming, and the UN established the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), making it all but impossible to now stave off serious climate change impacts.

“Tort” lawsuits like this one have been tried before without success. In one case, a group of state attorneys general sued power plants to enjoin their emissions of carbon dioxide, and in another a group of native communities in Alaska sued fossil fuel companies for damages arising from sea level rise. Two federal courts (the US Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) dismissed these suits on the grounds that Congress placed authority for addressing climate change upon the EPA when it enacted the Clean Air Act, and there was no room for the federal courts to act upon the issue.

There are two key differences between this suit and those prior cases. First, the plaintiffs in this case are suing in state court, and alleging that the fossil fuel companies have violated state law. Thus, the question of whether federal authority to regulate climate change rests with EPA or the judiciary is not strictly relevant.

Second, the federal courts dismissed these two prior cases in 2011 and 2012, at a time when the president and federal agencies were exercising their legal authority to address climate change.  Now, the president and the EPA are abdicating their authority and rolling back the policies that were put in place, in order to promote fossil fuels. Thus, it seems unlikely that the California courts would rely upon these two federal decisions to dismiss the cases.…—Ken Kimmell, “Climate Change Goes to Court,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 10/17/18

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Manitoba’s hydro mess
points to Canada’s larger problem with megadams

Manitoba’s hydro mess points to Canada’s larger problem with megadams | The Narwhal

As most of the Western world moves away from large-scale hydro projects, decommissioning dams across the planet, Canada is digging in with a trio of projects, the costs of which are spiraling out of control

For eight years, Graham Lane headed a watchdog commission that raised red flag after red flag about the Keeyask dam hydro project on Manitoba’s Nelson River.

Politicians ignored the warnings and in 2012 Lane resigned as chair of Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board, concerned that Manitoba Hydro had strayed far from its main purpose — to provide low cost energy to Manitobans.

Now the retired chartered accountant is speaking out in the hopes of stemming the losses from the Keeyask dam project and a related transmission line, which he calls “an albatross around the necks of Manitobans.”

“In Manitoba basically everything has gone wrong,” Lane told The Narwhal. “It’s quite a disaster.”

Even though the utilities board kept flagging “runaway expenses and changing markets” as reasons to reassess the projects, Lane said the provincial government “just kept going” while the price tag for the dam and transmission line soared from $9.8 billion to almost $14 billion, with the dam’s final cost potentially $2 billion more.

“I’d had enough. I hung up my skates. I waited my year away. And then I started writing columns about it.”

‘Vast majority of Canadians don’t even know what Keeyask is’

The lesser known Keeyask dam joins B.C.’s Site C dam and Labrador’s Muskrat Falls dam on the list of hugely over budget big hydro projects currently under construction in Canada.

“Keeyask seems to fly beneath the radar,” said Garland Laliberte, a dean of engineering emeritus at the University of Manitoba. “Muskrat Falls gets a lot of exposure and even Site C gets more coverage. I think the vast majority of Canadians don’t even know what Keeyask is let alone what problems it’s causing in this province.”

Four years into construction 730 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, the Keeyask dam will inundate 93 square kilometres of the Nelson River and boreal taiga lands or “snow forests” of pine, spruce and larch. It will destroy spawning areas and other habitat for fish such as sturgeon and result in habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation for caribou, moose and beaver.

Like the Muskrat Falls and Site C dams, the Keeyask project will also have a significant impact on Indigenous peoples, eliminating trapping, fishing and hunting sites in the traditional territory of Treaty 5 nations. The dam, which will be built at Gull Rapids, is named after the Cree word for gull.…—Sarah Cox, “Manitoba’s hydro mess points to Canada’s larger problem with megadams,” The Narwhal, 11/22/18

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Children demand climate change action
through protests and lawsuits

Children demand climate change action through protests and lawsuits

Skipping school, marching on the streets, and suing governments, children who are too young to vote are demanding more action on climate change, as world leaders gather at a major UN summit in Poland this week.

“We will be the main victims of climate change. It will be our generation who suffer the consequences,” said Sydney student Aisheeya Huq, 16, who skipped school on Nov. 30 to protest, along with tens of thousands of children across Australia.

The nationwide strikes were inspired by 15-year-old Stockholm student Greta Thunberg, who misses school every Friday to demonstrate outside Sweden’s parliament. She plans to do so until the country reaches its ambitious goals to curb carbon emissions.

Further reading: Climate change strike: thousands of school students protest across Australia

“It’s amazing that kids are protesting and they are making their voices heard. This is our last chance, we can’t mess this up,” Ms. Thunberg told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Youth-led climate organizations and actions are springing up around the globe. Their desire for change stems from personal experience of and worry about climate change, as well as a desire to hold their governments to account, their members say.

Half the world’s population is now under 30 years old, and are increasingly vocal on political and social issues, with climate change the biggest concern for youths from 180 countries, according to a 2017 World Economic Forum survey.…—Lin Taylor, “Children demand climate change action through protests and lawsuits,” Christian Science Monitor|Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12/3/18

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The Declaration of Independence: Full text

The Declaration of Independence

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

“He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”…—John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, et al, “The Declaration of Independence: Full text,” Congress of Thirteen Colonies, July 4, 1776

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Making Visible the Globe-warming Gases
of the Permian Fracking Boom

Making Visible the Globe-warming Gases of the Permian Fracking Boom

There is an LED sign at a Chase Bank in downtown Midland, Texas, the heart of the Permian Basin, which quantifies the current oil boom. It alternates between current rig count, the price of oil, and the price of gasoline. On October 30, the day I arrived, the sign informed me there were 1,068 drilling rigs across the United States, of which 489 — nearly half — are in the Permian Basin.

Though the flashing sign is meant to celebrate the fracking boom, Sharon Wilson, Texas coordinator of Earthworks, sees it as a warning sign of the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The Permian Basin is one of the most prolific oil and natural gas basins in the U.S. Roughly 250 miles wide and 300 miles long, it spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The approximately 86,000-square-mile area encompasses several sub-basins, including the Delaware Basin, Central Basin, and the Midland Basin, all of which are in the midst of the latest oil boom.

Wilson, an outspoken anti-fracking activist, has advocated for better regulations to rein in the fracking industry, which utilizes horizontal drilling and fluid injections to crack open shale to release oil and gas trapped inside. But she no longer believes regulations are the answer because state and federal governments aren’t prepared to enforce them. “The only way to save the planet from climate change is to stop fracking now,” she told me.

Further reading In Southwest Texas, the Fracking Industry Encroaches on Small Towns, Remote Wilderness, and Clear Skies
  How fracking is radicalising rural voters in the Tory heartlands

The frenzied expansion of the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin over the last two years is like nothing Wilson has ever seen. Infrastructure tied to the fracking industry — from well pads and waste disposal plants to pipelines and energy transfer sites — is being built faster than ever. Wilson has found some sites operating before posting signs identifying who owns and operates them, which is illegal and makes filing potential air pollution complaints difficult.

Stopping climate change is the most important issue of our time,” Wilson said, “but not enough people get methane’s role. We are on a path to planetary suicide, and what is going on in the Permian Basin proves that.” Driven by this belief, Earthworks has been spending time and resources trying to bring light to the region’s methane problem.…—Julie Dermansky, “Making Visible the Globe-warming Gases of the Permian Fracking Boom,” DeSmogBlog, 11/14/18

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‘Climate kids’€™ seek action€“ and await their day in court

‘Climate kids’ seek action – and await their day in court

Why We Wrote This

The 21 young Americans suing the US government have gained national attention, in large part because of their youth and their focus on the contentious issue of climate change. But more deeply, their case raises fundamental questions about government obligation.

Last Friday, the US government took an extraordinary step to hinder a group of young plaintiffs from suing it over climate change, in a case that could prompt Americans to rethink the role that government plays in safeguarding the atmosphere for future generations.

In an order issued on Oct. 19, the US Supreme Court froze the discovery and trial processes for Juliana v. United States, a federal lawsuit by 21 US citizens between the ages of 11 to 22 who allege that the government has violated their constitutional rights by knowingly destabilizing the Earth’s climate. The Justice Department had requested that the high court pause the trial, which had been slated to begin Monday in the Federal District Court in Eugene, Ore., arguing that the litigation costs would represent an undue burden on the government.

It’s nearly unheard of for the Supreme Court to halt a proceeding in a lower court before it has even started. But this is not the first time the White House, under both Presidents Trump and Barack Obama, have attempted unusual legal maneuvers, variously described by the federal judges reviewing them as “drastic and extraordinary“ and “hen’s-teeth rare,” to prevent this case from moving forward since the plaintiffs first filed it in 2015.

“It sounds like they’re afraid,” says University of Oregon legal scholar Mary Wood, about the Justice Department. “Everybody is saying that this is just a litany of desperate measures.”

Professor Wood developed some of the legal theories that guide the lawsuit, which unlike most environmental suits, does not rely on a statute, regulation, or ordinance. Instead, the plaintiffs, represented by an Oregon environmental nonprofit called Our Children’s Trust, are making a constitutional claim. The US government, they argue, knew about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions decades ago. Yet they continued to pursue policies, such as issuing permits for fossil fuel extraction and export, that the lawsuit claims deprive the plaintiffs of their rights to life, liberty, and property that are guaranteed by the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.

More broadly, implicit in the case is an assumption of government obligation that could ripple far beyond the realm of climate change. If citizens have standing to sue the government for failing to safeguard natural resources for future generations, then that opens up a flood of other kinds of potential lawsuits.

A different kind of lawsuit

Unlike most lawsuits, the plaintiffs are not seeking money. Instead, they want the courts to require the federal government to formulate a climate recovery plan that would phase out excess greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

In the eyes of the plaintiffs, constitutional rights extend to the freedom to enjoy a healthy natural environment.

“The constitution guarantees all Americans the right to life, liberty, and property,” plaintiff Kelsey Juliana, now 22, wrote in a post explaining her decision to sue the government. “But how is anyone supposed to live a life of freedom amid a climate crisis?”

Linking the stability of the global climate to fundamental constitutional rights is a relatively new litigation strategy, but so far it has held up in court. In 2016, Judge Ann Aiken, the federal judge who had been scheduled to preside over Monday’s trial, allowed the case to go forward, writing, “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”…— Eoin O’Carroll, “‘Climate kids’ seek action – and await their day in court,” Christian Science Monitor, 10/26/18

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Vanuatu, a tiny Pacific island,
could file first national climate suit

Vanuatu, tiny Pacific island, could file first national climate suit

“My government is now exploring all avenues to utilize the judicial system in various jurisdictions—including under international law—to shift the costs of climate protection back onto the fossil fuel companies, the financial institutions and the governments that actively and knowingly created this existential threat to Vanuatu,” Regenvanu said in a statement.

Vanuatu, comprised of 82 volcanic islands and home to 260,000 people, suffered extensive damage from tropical cyclone Pam in 2015 – a “monstrous” category 5 storm that was the worst natural disaster in Vanuatu’s history. The country is part of the V20, a group formed by the United Nations of the nations most at risk for devastating climate impacts and that do not have the financial resources to adapt.

“Like most of the Pacific, Vanuatu is on the frontlines of climate change,” said Kelvin Anthony of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. “That was tragically demonstrated by Cyclone Pam, which killed 15 people in Vanuatu, left 75,000 homeless and caused more than $590 million in damage.” That amount, he said, is the equivalent of 64 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP.

“The Pacific is not holding back anymore,” Anthony said. “Our small economies are at risk due to climate-fueled disasters and slow-onset impacts and that has put us in a vulnerable position globally.”

Should Vanuatu sue, it would be the first legal action of its kind—a climate lawsuit brought by a vulnerable nation against the world’s wealthiest industry and other countries.

…“Communities impacted by climate change are standing up and demanding that those responsible finally be held to account,” she said. “We stand in solidarity with these communities all around the world.”

A growing number of citizens and communities are turning to the courts seeking to hold fossil fuel corporations and national governments accountable for climate damage and to push for more aggressive mitigation measures.

The Philippines, another Pacific island nation devastated by a severe tropical storm—Haiyan in 2013—is currently investigating the role of fossil fuel companies in human rights violations stemming from climate change. Several hearings have already been held and the Commission on Human Rights is expected to issue its findings in early 2019. Such findings could spur legal action.…—Dana Drugmand, “Vanuatu, tiny Pacific island, could file first national climate suit,” Climate Liability News, 11/26/18

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