December 11, 2018
These last months have seen alarming publications of stress on insect species that threaten to undermine the existence of larger animals. Like us. This week we explore a few of those stories.
But first the news.


In these times we are faced with many challenges which must be overcome to ensure a livable planet for future generations. This film sets the example of what we must do – how we need to do it – in order to succeed.

follows introspective biologist and mother Sandra Steingraber (from Trumansburg, NY) as she reinvents herself as an outspoken activist and throws herself into a an environmental war that many believe is unwinnable.

Also, the film documents the successful We Are Seneca Lake civil disobedience campaign. Sandra will speak and answer questions

Date: Wednesday, December 12

Time: 6:00 PM Dish to pass dinner (optional)
           7:00 PM Screening of Unfractured

Location: The Park Church
208 West Gray Street
Elmira, NY 14901
Free and open to the public

Screening Hosts: Park Church Meaningful Movies, People for a Healthy Environment, Mothers Out Front, Poor People’s Campaign


4th US Circuit again halts major natural gas pipeline project

4th US Circuit again halts major natural gas pipeline project permit | S&P Global Platts

Court stays FWS’ second attempt at species statement, biological opinion for ACP ACP calls stay overly broad, plans emergency motion for clarity Project would ship Appalachian gas to downstream market

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals again put the brakes on a major interstate natural gas pipeline project, this time staying new permits related to vulnerable species for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.

The 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d pipeline would move Appalachian gas to downstream markets in the mid-Atlantic region. Like the neighboring Mountain Valley Project, it has faced multiple legal challenges from environmental groups, who have scored several victories in the 4th Circuit.

Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for lead developer Dominion Energy, said the stay is “unwarranted” and “overly broad.” ACP will file a motion for emergency clarification on the scope of the court’s decision, he said.

“We do not believe there is any basis for the court to stay the entire biological opinion, which authorizes all 600 miles of the project,” he said. “The issues in this case involve a much narrower scope of the project covered under the incidental take statement – only four species and roughly 100 miles in West Virginia and Virginia.”

On December 7, the court put on hold — pending litigation brought by environmental groups — the Fish and Wildlife Service’s revised biological opinion and incidental take statement, addressing impacts to threatened and endangered species, for the project.

Second Attempt

The same court earlier this year struck the previous incidental take statement for the project for failing to set clear, enforceable limits to harm on vulnerable species. The court also struck a National Park Service Permit allowing the pipeline to cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The agencies worked quickly to issue new documents. FWS put forward a new opinion and statement September 11, maintaining its view that the project is unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of a handful of vulnerable species. It also issued a fresh incidental take statement setting revised numerical limits, among other things.

Environmentalists then went back to court to challenge recently reissued federal permits they contended were rushed through the door. They argued that additional surveying was needed, and route alternatives should be considered in light of new information on the presence of the rusty patched bumble bee and a species of mussel known as the clubshell.

…Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney Patrick Hunter welcomed the decision. “The Fish and Wildlife Service scrambled to reissue this permit and its haste is evident in its analysis,” he said in a statement. VIRGINIA ORDER

Separately, the environmental group welcomed a Virginia State Corporation Commission decision rejecting an integrated resource plan for Dominion’s Virginia Electric and Power Company.

“In rejecting the company’s inflated forecast of electricity demand, … the order reaffirms what SELC has argued for years about Dominion’s flawed planning process and calls into question the need for proposed projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said SELC attorney Will Cleveland in a statement.…—Maya Weber, “4th US Circuit again halts major natural gas pipeline project permit,” S&P Global Platts, 12/7/18


In first, Virginia regulators reject
Dominion Integrated Resource Plan

In first, Virginia regulators reject Dominion Integrated Resource Plan

Regulators said Dominion’s power demand forecasts are unrealistically high, which could raise questions about a number of infrastructure investments, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 

Virginia utility regulators on Friday rejected Dominion Energy’s long-term Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a first for the state and utility.

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) said Dominion’s long-term forecasts for energy demand are unrealistically high and the utility failed to model a number of electricity resources that could contribute to lower costs for customers or are mandated by law.

The ruling could raise questions about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, since Dominion’s load forecasts were a central justification for the proposed 600-mile gas line. Regulators gave the utility 90 days to file a revised IRP.

Rejection of Dominion’s 2018 IRP, filed in May, represents enhanced scrutiny on the utility’s operations and long-term planning.

Since it began reviewing them in 2009, the SCC had never outright rejected an IRP from Dominion, Virginia’s only investor-owned utility and a powerful player in state politics. But in recent months, regulators have lent a more skeptical eye to some of the utility’s plans, including an expensive offshore wind project mandated by state legislation.

The SCC’s Friday order builds on those cost concerns, with regulators writing that the utility failed to model multiple power resources that could contribute to a least-cost planning scenario, like new natural gas-fired plants.…—Gavin Bade, “In first, Virginia regulators reject Dominion Integrated Resource Plan,” Utility Dive, 12/10/18


The Black Swan at Merrimack Valley: Analysis of NTSB Preliminary Report
& Introducing the “Pressure Booster Theory”

The Black Swan at Merrimack Valley: Analysis of NTSB Preliminary Report, & Introducing the “Pressure Booster Theory”

Executive Summary

By any measure, the Merrimack Valley Municipal Gas Over-pressure Incident of September 13, 2018 was an unprecedented, high-consequence event.

A careful root-cause analysis must be done to prevent future occurrences. There are several issues with the NTSB Preliminary Report, and the NTSB theory, first revealed 9/15/20182. Their map of affected locations is a subset of previously identified sites. Other sites are silently dropped. The NTSB does not mention thepresence of a critical SCADA alarm necessary to confirm their theory.

The absence of this alarm would refute their theory. This biggest question is, “Can the NTSB Theory explain the observed event?” I do not believe it can, for several reasons which are explained. However, new, untested, experimental equipment3 has begun to be deployed to natural gas Local Distribution Systems (LDS) which, I believe, could have caused the event observed, if a certain malfunction or human error occurs.

One operator who provides truck-based “pressure boosters” to natural gas Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) has vigorously denied any involvement (on Twitter), but then deleted an article which possibly implicates them. Another operator has its home office near the center of the Merrimack Valley Affected Area5. An examination of the recent history of this company shows very poor regulatory compliance, and also apparent technical errors made which endanger public safety. Executives from both operators have made false statements to government officials, the public and the press about the safety of these “tube trailers”, by saying “These tanks/trailers cannot explode”.

All of this suggests they should be considered “Persons of Interest” in the Merrimack Valley investigation, and the“Tube Trailer” theory must be officially explored.

This investigation has by stymied by elected officials withholding key documents from public view.

Acknowledgments: I am grateful to Craig L. Stevens, for his many significant contributions to this research. Gratitude also to Nicole Dillingham, esq. (Otsego 2000), Marty Kearns (Halt the Harm, Network), Barbara Arrindell (Damascus Citizens for Sustainability), and Bob Ackley (Gas Safety USA) for reviewing various drafts of this document. I am also grateful to Vera Scroggins, Keith Schue, Raymond Kemble, Dennis Higgins, PhD, and several confidential sources who all made major contributions to this work. Thanks to Dr. Anthony Ingraffea for verifying a key fact.

The Merrimack Valley Over-pressurization Event

On September 13. 2018, while contractors for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, a Local Distribution Company (LDC) were performing maintenance activity in S. Lawrence, Massachusetts, excessive pressure in their Local Distribution System (LDS) caused a series of explosions and fires in at least 131 structures7, including more than 100 homes8. One young man was killed when a home exploded, and the chimney collapsed and landed on the car he was in.

Over 30,000 people were forced to initially evacuate10. Within the affected area, 8,570 gas meters, each associated with a gas customer, had to be manually turned off11. An additional 10,000 customers also lost gas service. As of Nov. 22, ~7,500 people are still displaced and in temporary housing. By any measure, this was a “High Consequence Event”, and unprecedented in terms of scale in over 80 years of natural gas local distribution systems under city streets for service into homes. This event was orders of magnitude larger than any such prior event.…

Analysis of the NTSB Preliminary Report

I have several concerns about the NTSB’s Preliminary Report.

1. First, the map of the affected area NTSB supplies with the Nov. 10, 2018 Preliminary Report, omits several sites of fires or explosions previously identified by the Massachusetts State Police, the Boston Globe, or the Eagle Tribune. No explanation is provided. (I have a guess, but NTSB should explain it.)

2. The NTSB mentions that the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) control system in Columbus OH received two high-pressure alarms, starting at 4:04 PM. Yet, there should have been a corresponding high-flow-rate alarm coming from the source, the Methuen City Gate. NTSB does not mention this crucial detail, which is necessary to confirm their theory.

If there was no such corresponding alarm, then this should be reported, as it could indicate that the source of the pressure-surge was somewhere other than Methuen City Gate. (This would be unexpected according to the NTSB theory.)
3. Next, I do not believe that the NTSB theory, first advanced at their “Third Briefing” (9/16/2018), and reiterated in their Preliminary Report (10/11/2018), can possibly explain what was observed, for the following reasons:
(a) The NTSB theory affects a single regulator, at the boundary between a 75 psi distribution main, and a 0.5 psi low pressure segment.

This theory would be plausible if a single low pressure segment was impacted. However, upon information and belief, at least 14 low pressure segments were affected15, covering an impact radius of up to 3.2 miles. The area of the smallest bounding circle of a super-set of all reported sites is ~30 square miles. (see: Illustration #3) According to Bob Ackley of Gas Safety USA, it is common for low-pressure segments to be “dual feed” (sourced by multiple, independent regulators from the distribution main), by design, for redundancy.

Even still, the NTSB is implicitly suggesting two seemingly unlikely things…—William Huston, “The Black Swan1 @ Merrimack Valley: Analysis of NTSB Preliminary Report, and introducing the “Tube-Trailer Pressure-Booster” Theory,BillHustonBlog, 12/5/18

Please support William Huston’s investigative journalism by sending donations to


Empower NJ – Stop Fossil Fuel Campaign Launch

Over 50 environmental, citizen, faith, and progressive groups in New Jersey are calling on Governor Murphy to enact a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects in New Jersey until there are rules in place to achieve our 100% clean energy goals. There are currently 5 new proposed gas-fired power plants like the Meadowlands power plant and 7 new major natural gas pipelines in New Jersey. We are entering a climate crisis and feeling it first hand in New Jersey. That is why we need to call on Governor Murphy to act quickly on climate change by stopping fossil fuel projects and their greenhouse emissions.

“Reports show that we are in a climate crisis in this country and internationally. New Jersey is seeing these impacts first hand from major flooding to a rise in health impacts like lymes disease and asthma attacks. Our campaign urges Governor Murphy to put a moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure until our state has the rules and standards in place to achieve our 100% clean energy goals. Other governors like Governor Byrnes, Kean, and Florio have all implemented a moratorium to protect public health. We are in a climate emergency and Governor Murphy has to take drastic action now,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in NJ and it’s getting worse. Fish are already living in storm drains in Long Beach Island. Some roads go underwater every time there’s a full moon and we’re losing coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. Many homeowners face rising insurance rates and high costs to elevate their structures. Our low reservoir levels have led to an increased threat of salt water intrusion, further threatening our water supply. Many inland cities such as Hoboken also see frequent flooding.

“Limiting carbon emissions is an economic and moral imperative. So is Governor Murphy’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. The Governor should immediately use every tool in his toolbox to stop new fossil fuel plants and pipelines.  Otherwise his lofty clean energy promises will amount to nothing but diversionary talk,” said John Reichman, Blue Wave NJ.

Since 2005, the NJDEP has had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases and carbon under the New Jersey Air Pollution Control Act and through Title V permits. The Department’s determination is based on compelling scientific evidence of existing and projected adverse impacts due to climate change on the environment, ecosystems, wildlife, human health, and enjoyment of property in the State.

“Like most people I never gave much, if any, thought to fossil fuel infrastructure and its impact. When you get a letter describing a compressor station being built within ½ mile of your home, you start thinking about it a lot and none of those thoughts are comforting. I started this fight in 2016, with the singular thought of stopping a compressor station from being built near my community. After 2 1/2 years of involvement, I have come to the conclusion that the people of New Jersey will suffer permanent and irreparable harm from any pipeline project in our state,” said Barry Kutch, President of Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition, Inc.

There are 7 natural gas projects underway in New Jersey. Southern Reliability Link Pipeline, PennEast Pipeline, and the South Jersey Gas Pipeline are pipeline projects that will destroy sensitive ecosystems harming wildlife and public safety. Williams Transco is already threatening New Jersey with other gas pipelines and infrastructure.

“Setting strong clean energy goals while also approving fossil fuel expansion projects would leave New Jersey standing still in the race against climate destruction. Governor Murphy has the authority to stop dirty energy projects, and for the sake of our state and the planet he must show the leadership that the climate crisis demands,” said Matt Smith, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch.

Governor Murphy promised to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and has signed an Executive Order to do this however there are concerns that it will take 2 years to implement. Meanwhile the new proposed natural gas power plants may blow through the RGGI cap.…Doug O’Malley, “Stop Fossil Fuel Campaign Launch,” Empower NJ, 12/5/18


The Silence of the Insects
‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss

‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss

Insects are vanishing even in a pristine tropical forest, and an ecologist calls this “one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.

Each technique revealed the biomass (the dry weight of all the captured invertebrates) had significantly decreased from 1976 to the present day. The sweep sample biomass decreased to a fourth or an eighth of what it had been. Between January 1977 and January 2013, the catch rate in the sticky ground traps fell 60-fold.

“This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call — a clarion call — that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” said David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved with this research. He added: “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”…—Ben Guarino, “‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss,” The Washington Post, 10/15/18


Energy Transfer and Big Banks Lost Billions
From Dakota Access Pipeline

Energy Transfer and Big Banks Lost Billions From Dakota Access Pipeline

A new report highlights the high price that companies will pay if they continue to ignore Indigenous rights.

Roughly four years ago, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a federal application to build a 1,172 mile oil pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken shale across the US to Illinois at a projected cost of $3.8 billion.

Before that application was filed, on September 30, 2014, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met with ETP to express concerns about the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) and fears of water contamination. Though the company, now known as Energy Transfer, had re-routed a river crossing to protect the state capital of Bismarck against oil spills, it apparently ignored the Tribe’s objections.

Following that approach proved to be a very costly decision, a new analysis concludes, with ETP, banks, and investors taking billions in losses as a result.

This case study estimates that the costs incurred by ETP and other firms with ownership stake in DAPL for the entire project are not less than $7.5 billion, but could be higher depending on the terms of confidential contracts,” a new report, “Social Cost and Material Loss: The Dakota Access Pipeline,” concludes, noting that represented nearly double the initial project cost. “The banks that financed DAPL incurred an additional $4.4 billion in costs in the form of account closures, not including costs related to reputational damage.”

In addition, the company’s “poor social risk management” caused taxpayers and “other local stakeholders” to incur at least $38 million in costs, the report concludes.

As opposition to DAPL grew from a handful of locals to a movement attracting thousands of supporters to Standing Rock and backers worldwide, construction fell behind schedule and over-budget, with costs rising from a predicted $3.8 billion to at least $7.5 billion, the new report finds. Over that time, Energy Transfer’s stock price fell 20 percent — at the same time as the tech investment index S&P 500 grew roughly 35 percent, the report noted. Energy Transfer’s stock also underperformed other companies in the same industry.

Across the board, this project was out of line with the existing principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards for resource development near indigenous peoples’ lands,” Carla F. Fredericks, author of the study and director of Colorado Law’s American Indian Law Clinic, said. “The losses in this study underline that companies need to take those principles into account.”…—Sharon Kelly, “Energy Transfer and Big Banks Lost Billions From Dakota Access Pipeline,” Truthout, 12/8/18


Greta Thunberg’s Speech to the UN General Secretary at COP24

Today Greta Thunberg is joined by her father, Svante to talk about her path from an unknown Swedish school girl to an international role model for her generation. If governments don’t give a damn about her future, why should she obey their laws and go to school. Svante discusses how Greta’s passion for the truth about climate changed the family’s lives.

For 25 years countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nation’s 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.
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 infrastructures that we have already built. Such as hospitals, electricity and clean drinking water.
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 school striked 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 mean 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 speech to UN secretary general António Guterres,” Medium, 12/3/18

[For more news videos on the crisis developing against political inaction on climate change see and for developing news and a compendium of previous scientists’ warnings.—Editor]


Regulator halts fracking operations in northeastern B.C. while it investigates earthquakes

Regulator halts fracking operations in northeastern B.C. while it investigates earthquakes | CBC News

The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission says seismic events measuring between 3.4 and 4.5 magnitude took place near hydraulic fracturing operations being conducted about 20 kilometres southeast of Fort St. John by Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has shut down oilfield fracking operations for at least 30 days in northeastern British Columbia while it investigates earthquakes that occurred there on Nov. 29.

The regulator says the seismic events, which measured between 3.4 and 4.5 magnitude, took place near hydraulic fracturing operations being conducted about 20 kilometres southeast of Fort St. John by Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. The practice is also known as fracking.

It says the company immediately suspended work on Nov. 29 and it won’t be allowed to resume without the written consent of the commission. Six companies in or close to the area have also suspended fracking operations. 

The area closed off is 11.6 kilometres by 6.4 kilometres in size, says the regulator.

Further reading 4.5-magnitude earthquake strikes near Fort St. John
Earthquake near Fort St. John ‘very likely’ caused by fracking


According to Natural Resources Canada, the 4.5 magnitude earthquake was felt in Fort St. John, Taylor, Chetwynd and Dawson Creek but did no damage. It was followed by two smaller aftershocks.

The technology, along with injecting oilfield liquids into disposal wells, have been linked by the B.C. commission to previous incidents of “induced seismicity,” although it notes on its website none of the events in B.C. have resulted in hazards to safety or the environment or property damage.

Earthquakes usually small, shallow

Honn Kao, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, told CBC’s Daybreak North that most fracking operations don’t produce induced earthquakes, and when they do, they’re relatively small and shallow.

The earthquake last week came close to matching the world’s largest fracking-induced earthquake which occurred a little further north in 2015 and registered magnitude 4.6.

The Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce says the shutdown is an attack on the already suffering oil and gas industry.

The earthquake last week came close to matching the world’s largest fracking-induced earthquake which occurred a little further north in 2015 and registered magnitude 4.6

…”We need to do some more serious investigation to determine the physical mechanism that actually links these two phenomena together,” said Kao, the seismologist.

Injecting oilfield liquids can change the stress field in a location and dissipate in the vicinity, which is what investigators are looking at right now, Kao said. 

And although the earthquakes have so far been small, they suggest a greater risk of larger seismic activity, he said.

“The seismic risk associated with the development of shale gas and oil should not be overlooked.”…—Audrey McKinnon, “Regulator halts fracking operations in northeastern B.C. while investigating earthquakes,” CBC News, 12/8/18


Agency Nixes Fracking Leases on Pawnee Tribal Land

Agency Nixes Fracking Leases on Pawnee Tribal Land – Coalition for Sensible Safeguards

The Need for an American Land Ethic

It was a typical summer day in 2015 when Walter Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, discovered fracking operations near his home on Pawnee lands about 55 miles west of Tulsa.

After stumbling upon a work crew surveying for a proposed pipeline, Echo-Hawk called the oil company responsible to find out more information. The company stonewalled him. He then contacted several government agencies. Eventually, Echo-Hawk learned the truth: Two years prior, regulators had approved 17 oil and gas leases on Pawnee lands. They didn’t bother to notify the tribe.

Echo-Hawk immediately began mobilizing fellow tribal members to fight the leases. But regulators at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management said it was too late. The leases had already been approved. The agencies also claimed the Pawnee couldn’t take them to court because the tribe had failed to ask for reconsideration of those decisions when they were made.

The Pawnee, however, hadn’t been aware of the decisions because the agencies — in violation of their own rules — neglected to notify the tribe in any way.

Echo-Hawk was furious that federal agencies were treating Pawnee lands like “an oil and gas fiefdom.” After all, it was hardly the first time the U.S. government had run roughshod over tribal rights. In addition, the Pawnee were already gravely familiar with the threats posed by oil and gas drilling. Over the years, previous operations had left a legacy of contaminated groundwater and illegal wastewater dumping on tribal land.

“We aren’t against oil and gas production, but we are certainly against methods [that] hurt our land base, minerals and water,” wrote W. Bruce Pratt, president of the Pawnee Nation, in a press release.

In addition to water contamination, geologists have linked fracking to a surge in earthquakes, both in Oklahoma and across the country. In 2014, Oklahoma surpassed California as the most seismically active state in the lower 48. Oklahomans historically had felt an average of one or two sizable rumbles per year, but in the last few years, that number jumped to two or three per day.

Despite this threat, government regulators didn’t bother to address the earthquake risk when approving the leases. Nor did they address the impacts of drilling near the Cimarron River, a 698-mile cinnamon- and paprika-colored ribbon of water that supports a native fishery protected under Pawnee tribal law. The government authorized the oil and gas company to suck millions of gallons of water from the Cimarron for fracking. Regulators also approved drilling operations on the river’s floodplain, where a spill of oil or fracking chemicals could contaminate the Cimarron, which tribal members like Echo-Hawk rely on to recharge their domestic water wells.

…“It became apparent that the agencies were not inclined to be accountable to tribal or U.S. law,” says Echo-Hawk. So the Pawnee decided to contact Earthjustice.…—Jessica Knoblauch, “Coalition for Sensible Safeguards Agency Nixes Fracking Leases on Pawnee Tribal Land,” Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, 12/8/18


The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?

Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing.

It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn’t eating any bugs.

For a moment, Riis was transported to his childhood on the Danish island of Lolland, in the Baltic Sea. Back then, summer bike rides meant closing his mouth to cruise through thick clouds of insects, but inevitably he swallowed some anyway. When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car’s windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn’t see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn’t recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield; he even wondered, vaguely, whether car manufacturers had invented some fancy new coating to keep off insects. But this absence, he now realized with some alarm, seemed to be all around him. Where had all those insects gone? And when? And why hadn’t he noticed?

Finding reassurance in the survival of a few symbolic standard-bearers ignores the value of abundance, of a natural world that thrives on richness and complexity and interaction. Tigers still exist, for example, but that doesn’t change the fact that 93 percent of the land where they used to live is now tigerless. This matters for more than romantic reasons: Large animals, especially top predators like tigers, connect ecosystems to one another and move energy and resources among them simply by walking and eating and defecating and dying. (In the deep ocean, sunken whale carcasses form the basis of entire ecosystems in nutrient-poor places.) One result of their loss is what’s known as trophic cascade, the unraveling of an ecosystem’s fabric as prey populations boom and crash and the various levels of the food web no longer keep each other in check. These places are emptier, impoverished in a thousand subtle ways.

…Riis had not been able to stop thinking about the missing bugs. The more he learned, the more his nostalgia gave way to worry. Insects are the vital pollinators and recyclers of ecosystems and the base of food webs everywhere. Riis was not alone in noticing their decline. In the United States, scientists recently found the population of monarch butterflies fell by 90 percent in the last 20 years, a loss of 900 million individuals; the rusty-patched bumblebee, which once lived in 28 states, dropped by 87 percent over the same period. With other, less-studied insect species, one butterfly researcher told me, “all we can do is wave our arms and say, ‘It’s not here anymore!’ ” Still, the most disquieting thing wasn’t the disappearance of certain species of insects; it was the deeper worry, shared by Riis and many others, that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. “We notice the losses,” says David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.”

A 1995 study, by Peter H. Kahn and Batya Friedman, of the way some children in Houston experienced pollution summed up our blindness this way: “With each generation, the amount of environmental degradation increases, but each generation takes that amount as the norm.” In decades of photos of fishermen holding up their catch in the Florida Keys, the marine biologist Loren McClenachan found a perfect illustration of this phenomenon, which is often called “shifting baseline syndrome.” The fish got smaller and smaller, to the point where the prize catches were dwarfed by fish that in years past were piled up and ignored. But the smiles on the fishermen’s faces stayed the same size. The world never feels fallen, because we grow accustomed to the fall.

…By one measure, bugs are the wildlife we know best, the non-domesticated animals whose lives intersect most intimately with our own: spiders in the shower, ants at the picnic, ticks buried in the skin. We sometimes feel that we know them rather too well. In another sense, though, they are one of our planet’s greatest mysteries, a reminder of how little we know about what’s happening in the world around us.…—Brooke Jarvis, “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here,” The New York Times, 11/27/18


How the Iconic 1968 Earthrise Photo
Changed Our Relationship to the Planet

How the Iconic 1968 Earthrise Photo Changed Our Relationship to the Planet

Nineteen sixty-eight was a crazy year, its events moving at a horrific pace. The Tet Offensive. The My Lai Massacre. Bobby Kennedy announcing the news that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. Riots across urban America and outside the Democratic National Convention. The human drama seemed out of control in a way it hasn’t in the years since ― till now, of course.

Which is why it’s both heartening and sad to think of the event that brought 1968 to a close and opened a new set of possibilities. Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon, its astronauts busy photographing landing zones for future missions. On the fourth orbit, Commander Frank Borman needed a navigational fix and decided to roll the craft away from the moon, tilting its windows toward the horizon. The shift gave him a sudden view of the Earth rising.

“Oh, my God,” he said. “Here’s the Earth coming up.”

Crew member Bill Anders turned the camera away from its lunar chores and pointed it homeward, snapping what may be the most iconic image ever taken. Borman said later that it was “the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life, one that sent a torrent of nostalgia, of sheer homesickness, surging through me. It was the only thing in space that had any color to it. Everything else was simply black or white. But not the Earth.”

Back on Earth, the seeds of the modern environmental movement had already been planted. Rachel Carson had written Silent Spring earlier in the decade, beginning the process of wiping some of the shine off modernity. David Brower had led the Sierra Club through the great fight to save the Grand Canyon, turning it in the process into the first great green group. And soon there would be a major oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, and the Cuyahoga River would burst into flames. People were beginning to realize that there were limits to the abuse nature could take at the hands of growth.

But suddenly those limits were visible. Everything we had was there before us: a blue-and-white shimmering egg hanging in the monochrome void. You could see it aswirl with the motion of clouds, gloriously alive in the midst of the endless vacuum.

When we think of the Apollo missions, we often herald NASA’s accomplishments as technical. We put a man in orbit, and then we landed more on the moon. And yet one of the most important achievements of the decades of space exploration was artistic — this one photograph taken 50 years ago this month that showed us nothing about the rest of the galaxy and everything about our home.

It explained, I think, the tenor of the first Earth Day, which followed about 15 months later. Organized as a “national environmental teach-in” by Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Republican Rep. Pete McCloskey, the day used an image of Earth from space as its unofficial flag. The event drew 20 million Americans into the streets ― a tenth of the population at the time, probably the largest day of political action in American history.

Though it emerged from the fraught and divisive politics of the late 1960s, there was a sweetness to Earth Day. The event had a sense of unity because ― and this was the point made so clear in the Earthrise image ― we were clearly all in it together.…—Bill McKibben, “How the Iconic 1968 Earthrise Photo Changed Our Relationship to the Planet,” The Guardian, 12/8/18


The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change
Isn’t a Technology

The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology

Forests are the most powerful and efficient carbon-capture system on the planet

The latest IPCC report  does not mince words [sic] about the state of our planet: we must act now to achieve global change at a scale that has “no documented historical precedent” in order to avoid the climate catastrophe that would result from a 2 degree C rise in average global temperature. Climate change already disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable people including poor rural communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and coastal communities throughout the tropics. Indeed, we have already seen the stark asymmetry of suffering resulting from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and more.

So far, advocates and politicians have tended to focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption through technology and/or policy, such as a steep carbon tax, as climate solutions. These proposals are, of course, essential to reducing manmade carbon emissions—71 percent of which are generated by just 100 fossil fuel companies. For this reason, fossil-fuel–related emissions reductions rightly figure heavily in the national climate commitments of the 181 nations that signed the global Paris Agreement.

Yet the international focus on fossil fuels has overshadowed the most powerful and cost-efficient carbon-capture technology the world has yet seen: forests. Recent scientific research confirms that forests and other “natural climate solutions” are absolutely essential in mitigating climate change, thanks to their carbon sequestering and storage capabilities. In fact, natural climate solutions can help us achieve 37 percent of our climate target, even though they currently receive only 2.5 percent of public climate financing.

Forests’ power to store carbon dioxide through the simple process of tree growth is staggering: one tree can store an average of about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year. Recent research shows intact forests are capable of storing the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions of entire countries such as Peru and Colombia.…—Han De Groot, “The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology,” Scientific American Blog Network, 12/5/18


California prepares policy for coastal ‘retreat’

CLIMATE IMPACTS: Calif. prepares policy for coastal ‘retreat’

Ocean front homes could be demolished in California under a groundbreaking proposal to preserve the state’s made-for-movies beaches before they’re destroyed by rising seas.

Oceanfront homes could be demolished along California’s coastline under a groundbreaking proposal to preserve the state’s made-for-movies beaches before they’re destroyed by rising seawater.

The California Coastal Commission plans to release guidance early next year for dealing with sea-level rise in residential areas. The state commission, which has a say in regulating coastal development, wants city and county governments to use the language as they devise adaptation policies for climate change.

A draft version of the guidance includes sections on “managed retreat,” the government process of buying threatened homes and relocating them or tearing them down. The commission’s objective is to preserve the state’s idyllic beaches for the public. Removing homes can free the coastline to move farther inland, preserving beaches’ sandy characteristics.

Needless to say, the plan is controversial.

The other option is “holding the line” and “protecting shorelines with armoring,” says the draft guidance, which argues against relying on sea walls for fear that they would make sandy beaches disappear under rising ocean water.

Instead, it says threatened properties should be removed, modified or relocated. In the eyes of the commission, the rising ocean inevitably will wipe out many homes.…—Anne C. Mulkern, “CLIMATE IMPACTS: Calif. prepares policy for coastal ‘retreat’,” E&E News, 12/7/18


US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia
to deprecate climate pledge

US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia to water down climate pledge

Move shocks delegates at UN conference as ministers fly in for final week of climate talks

The US and Russia have thrown climate talks into disarray by allying with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to water down approval of a landmark report on the need to keep global warming below 1.5C.

After a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate on Saturday night, the backwards step by the four major oil producers shocked delegates at the UN climate conference in Katowice as ministers flew in for the final week of high-level discussions.

It has also raised fears among scientists that the US president, Donald Trump, is going from passively withdrawing from climate talks to actively undermining them alongside a coalition of climate deniers.

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”—Climate talks pause as battle over key science report looms,”Associated Press News

Two months ago, representatives from the world’s governments hugged after agreeing on the 1.5C report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), commissioned to spell out the dire consequences should that level of warming be exceeded and how it can be avoided.

Reaching a global consensus was a painstaking process involving thousands of scientists sifting through years of research and diplomats working through the night to ensure the wording was acceptable to all nations.

But when it was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on Saturday, the four oil allies – with Saudi Arabia as the most obdurate – rejected a motion to “welcome” the study. Instead, they said it should merely be “noted”, which would make it much easier for governments to ignore. The motion has not yet been able to pass as a result of the lack of consensus.…—Jonathan Watts, Ben Doherty, “US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia to water down climate pledge,” The Guardian, 12/10/18


Silence of the Bees
The Impact of Colony Collapse Disorder
on US Agriculture

Silence of the Bees | Impact of CCD on US Agriculture | Nature | PBS

In the winter of 2006/2007, more than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies — accounting for tens of billions of bees — were lost to CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. This loss is projected have an $8 billion to $12 billion effect on America’s agricultural economy, but the consequences of CCD could be far more disastrous.

The role honeybees play in our diet goes beyond honey production. These seemingly tireless creatures pollinate about one-third of crop species in the U.S. Honeybees pollinate about 100 flowering food crops including apples, nuts, broccoli, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, melons, as well as animal-feed crops, such as the clover that’s fed to dairy cows. Essentially all flowering plants need bees to survive.

A daunting question is: If honeybee colonies were so severely affected by CCD that pollination stopped, could we lose these crops from our markets and our diets forever?

“We’re not there yet,” says Jeff Pettis of the USDA. Pettis says there are steps researchers and beekeepers can take to ensure that the bee population doesn’t plummet to catastrophic levels. “One measure beekeepers have been taking is to keep bees as healthy as possible — improve nutrition and reduce stress,” says Pettis. Consumers have become more demanding and expect to have fruits and vegetables available to us all year round. In order to achieve this, commercial beekeepers haul colonies of honeybees across the country so their pollination services can serve all growing seasons. The season may start with almonds in California, then move on to apples in the Northwest, cranberries in New Jersey and Maine blueberries. The constant moving about places stress on the bees. In addition, certain crops that may be in the pollination circuit, like cranberries and cucumbers, are not very nutritious for bees. To keep the bees healthy, beekeepers may need to ease up on their schedules. It may be necessary for them to retire bees for a particular season or skip some less nutritious crops entirely.…—”Silence of the Bees | Impact of CCD on US Agriculture,” Nature|PBS, 7/9/09


Siberia — Permafrost, climate change, nature, politics
and a contentious future

ALTERNATE ENERGY: Siberia — Permafrost, climate change, nature, politics and a contentious future

A NASA photograph of Siberia from space of the wild fires fueled in part by natural gas. Many of these fires simply cannot be put out. This photo spans 1,800 miles

A NASA photograph of Siberia from space of the wild fires fueled in part by natural gas. Many of these fires simply cannot be put out. This photo spans 1,800 miles

Torn thru the distance of man
As they regard the summit.
Even Siberia goes through the motions.

— Jon Anderson of Yes, “Siberian Khatru”

In my research on the nuances of alternate energy, one of the most disturbing situations I have come across is the Siberian permafrost and the huge methane reserves that lie underneath. Yes! Global warming is real! This past week for us upstaters, the weather may have changed your opinion. However, the jet stream is to blame for the more recent acute weather changes.

But yes, global warming, dare I say again, is real and regardless of what we believe the cause is, we must adjust for the resulting changes, which will result in higher water levels and the ebbing of the permafrost yielding more highly concentrated greenhouse gases in the form of methane. Under the permafrost is a large quantity of natural gas and not all of it has practical economic value. If this volume of methane is freely released into the atmosphere all at nearly the same time … well, please, read on.

Let’s go over some basics. Siberia is a region of the Russian Federation situated east of the Ural Mountains. Its borders have changed with the advent of the new Russian Federation. It spans several time zones and is larger than Canada. It has the richest deposits in rare earth minerals, aluminum, oil and natural gas in the world. I said 50 years ago that if Russia had ever had the desire to create a free enterprise system, it would have outdone the United States economically and thus been the world leader with the U.S. in a distant second place. Thank goodness for Soviet-style communism … uh, maybe!

Siberia also has the dubious honor of having the largest continuous region of permafrost.…

…Currently, there is chronic release of methane to the atmosphere. Methane has 32 times the carbon of carbon dioxide. It is almost incalculable what effect this could have. The positive feedback greenhouse effect would be accelerated to such an extent that it would reach a point of no return. Picture the feedback on a sound system where you cannot move the microphone out of the feedback range and you are trapped in that auditorium.

…The consequences of a methane proliferation in the Siberian landscape has not yet been evaluated. However, you don’t have to be Lewis and Clark to map out the area where the proliferation of methane from centuries of decay resides to see what could happen with the only trap door holding it in was suddenly opened.…—Jim Bobreski, “ALTERNATE ENERGY: Siberia — Permafrost, climate change, nature, politics and a contentious future,” Finger Lakes Times, 11/25/18


My Interview With Bernie Sanders on Climate Change

My Interview With Bernie Sanders on Climate Change

The bold moral leadership of newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has me feeling more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. But a whole lot of things need to happen very quickly if the political tide is going to shift in time — including finding new ways to engage the public in this fight. In this hopeful moment, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the few politicians who has consistently focused on this issue — Sen. Bernie Sanders — at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont.

On December 3, Sanders hosted a town hall on climate change with guests, including Ocasio-Cortez, founder Bill McKibben, activist and “Big Little Lies” star Shailene Woodley, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, activist and musician Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Mayor Dale Ross of deep-red Georgetown, Texas. The event was streamed live in partnership with progressive media outlets, including The Intercept.—Naomi Klein, “My Interview With Bernie Sanders on Climate Change,” Reader Supported News, 12/4/18


Hundreds of school children are pictured protesting
the climate change policies of the Morrison government
at Sydney’s Martin Place

Students gather to demand the government take action on climate change at Martin Place on November 30, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. Inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish student who led a strike outside Swedish parliament, thousands of students are expected to walk out of school today in cities across Australia to demand government action on climate change. Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged students to stay in school, telling parliament, “what we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools”.—”Hundreds of school children are pictured protesting the climate change policies of the Morrison government, at Sydney’s Martin Place,” The Adelaide Advertiser, 11/30/18


Researcher Accidentally Discovers
How to Grow Coral 40 Times Faster

Man Accidentally Discovers How to Grow Coral 40 Times Faster

A marine biologist is postponing retirement until he plants a million corals, after discovering he can grow a reef that would normally take up to 75 years in just three years

A marine biologist in Florida was about to retire when he accidentally shattered a piece of coral into a bunch of tiny pieces in his lab and they started growing 40 times faster than they grow in the wild.

Coral normally takes between 25 and 75 years to reach sexual maturity. The new technique called “micro fragmenting” reduces it to just three years.

With around half as much coral in the ocean today as there was just 50 years ago, it’s a revolutionary discovery that could literally save the planet.

“My Eureka moment — or Eureka mistake — was when I broke a coral into tiny pieces,” says Dr. Dave Vaughn, the program manager for coral restoration at the Mote Tropical Research Center. “I thought it was going to die and be very stressed. Instead it grew like the dickens.”

Each piece grew to a size that normally took a few years in just a few weeks. Furthermore, the method works on every single species of coral found in the Florida Reef.

“We’ve lost between 25 and 40 percent of the world’s coral,” Vaughn says in the video above. “If you’re wondering if that’ll make a difference or not, you should ask yourself if you like to breathe.”

He notes that land plants produce only about a third of the oxygen we breathe. The rest comes from the ocean.…—Sara Burrows, “Man Accidentally Discovers How to Grow Coral 40 Times Faster,” ReturnToNow, 12/6/18


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