July 2, 2019
In John Barth’s novel “End of the Road,” the protagonist Jake Horner spends most of his time in a neutral mental state, endlessly considering with a complete lack of interest a small sculpture of Laocoön bound by serpents. There comes a day when the radio announces there will be no weather today. Jake mollifies himself by endlessly rocking and humming “Pepsi Cola hits the spot.” This week, and much of this past twelve months, has seemed to many to be a time in which one looks out the window and wonders whether what one is experiencing is weather. And if it isn’t…—what is it? And what shall we do while we wait? This week we explore how our weather, and how it has begun to resemble our situation.
But first the news.

Action Alert! Public Comments Still Accepted on PSC
“Matter of a Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Initiative”

The NYS Public Service Commission was accepting, through July 1, public comments from individuals will be accpted until July 15 on Case #18-M-0084: In the Matter of a Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Initiative (part of the New Efficiency New York proceeding) in response to the NY Utilities Updated Report filed in this proceeding on May 21, 2019.

Though the NYS Public Service Commission set a comment deadline of July 1, the PSC needs to see a continuous flow of comments, showing that public awareness of the issue continues to grow. Therefore, our online comment form will remain open through July 15, and we encourage everyone to send a comment.

The Renewable Heat Now campaign (organized by Alliance for a Green Economy, New Yorkers for Clean Power, NY-GEO, HeatSmart Tompkins, Fossil Free Tompkins, Sane Energy Project, Frack Action, Pace Energy and Climate Center, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Earthjustice, and Mothers Out Front.) is circulating an online comment link for the public to use: Online Comment link .

The Renewable Heat Now campaign (organized by Alliance for a Green Economy, New Yorkers for Clean Power, NY-GEO, HeatSmart Tompkins, Fossil Free Tompkins, Sane Energy Project, Frack Action, Pace Energy and Climate Center, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Earthjustice, and Mothers Out Front.) is circulating an online comment link for the public to use to comment on Case #18-M-0084: In the Matter of a Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Initiative (part of the New Efficiency New York proceeding) in response to the NY Utilities Updated Report filed in this proceeding on May 21, 2019: Comment link.

Background

A majority of the greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings in New York comes from on-site combustion of fossil fuels. The success of New York’s climate policy rests in large part on our ability to dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate this fossil fuel use through environmentally beneficial electrification. Heat pump technologies are the best way to efficiently electrify space and water heating — they use a fraction of the energy needed by fossil fuel furnaces and water heaters, they can be powered by renewable electricity, and they are the only scalable way to move the heating sector to the 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals now enshrined in law. We CANNOT keep building out fossil fuel infrastructure or converting buildings from one fossil fuel to another (fracked gas) if we hope to come close to these goals.

Please share this comment link throughout your networks! Thank you! —Andra Leimani, Alliance for a Green Economy

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Lansing power plant to be revived as a data center

Lansing power plant to be revived as a data center: What to know about the plans

The Lansing power plant, a landmark on Cayuga Lake for a half-century, is dumping the coal and will replace the facility with data servers.

Since 1955, the Cayuga Power Station in Lansing has stood as an unmistakable landmark on the eastern shore of the lake, a reminder that despite the region’s progressive reputation, fossil fuels still keep the lights on.

That could all change next year, when the monolith on Cayuga Lake is converted into a data center, shutting down the turbines and hosting cloud storage or possibly helping Cornell University with computing power.

The particulars of the plan are yet to be fleshed out by representatives from the power plant, but its owners will present their plan to the public at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 26 at Lansing Town Hall.

“One of the things that we’re united about is this idea that community involvement and community engagement can really make a difference,” said Lauren Chambliss, a senior lecturer at Cornell University. “Retiring our Lansing power plant and converting it to something other than fossil fuels is a huge step in making our own beloved state a leader in this arena.”

Earlier this year, two power plants owned by Riesling Power LCC, the last two coal-fired plants in New York, informed local officials that they were exploring converting their operations to data storage, making the facilities consumers of power instead of producers.“They want to get out of the power generating business,” Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne said during Lansing’s May board meeting. “They don’t want to do anything with natural gas. They don’t want to genera.…

Mothers Out Front, in unison with other environmental groups, local officials and residents, cite concerns about how the plant will be decommissioned, including the  cleanup of the coal ash that remains on site, as well as how the company’s current workers will be transitioned to a field with a dramatically different skill set.

They also plan to discuss the environmental impact of the data center, its energy usage and how it will be supplied.…—Thomas Giery Pudney, “Lansing power plant plans to convert to data center,” Ithaca Journal, 6/22/19

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DrawDown Events in Central New York
Latest Revised Version

Click to download full schedule

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Court throws out federal approval of Cadiz water pipeline

Court throws out federal approval of Cadiz water pipeline

A federal judge has struck down Trump administration decisions that cleared the way for Cadiz Inc. to build a water pipeline across public land in the California desert.

The ruling is a blow to the company’s decades-long effort to pump groundwater from beneath its desert property 200 miles east of Los Angeles and sell it to urban Southern California.

Cadiz wants to use an existing railroad right of way across federal land to pipe supplies from its proposed well field to the Colorado River Aqueduct.

In 2015, during the Obama administration, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Cadiz couldn’t use the right of way and would therefore have to obtain federal permission to run the proposed pipeline across surrounding federal land.

That would trigger a lengthy environmental review that could impose new restrictions on the project, which is fiercely opposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and desert conservationists.…—Bettina Boxall, “Court throws out federal approval of Cadiz water pipeline,” Los Angeles Times, 6/21/19

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Residents of America’€™s Cancer Town confront chemical plant owner

Residents of America’s Cancer Town confront chemical plant owner in Japan

Residents of Reserve, Louisiana, met with environmental groups and stakeholders in Denka in their campaign for clean air

Residents of Reserve, Louisiana, have travelled to Tokyo to confront the executives and shareholders of a Japanese company which runs a chemical plant they say is responsible for a spike in cancers and a litany of other diseases in their home town – the town at the highest risk of cancer due to airborne toxicity anywhere in the US, according to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Their trip involved a series of public and private meetings with environmental groups and stakeholders in the chemicals giant Denka, which operates the Pontchartrain Works facility in Reserve. It marks a significant escalation in the residents’ campaign for clean air.

Reserve is the focus of a yearlong Guardian series, Cancer Town, examining the fight for clean air in the town, as well as other communities in the area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, known colloquially as Cancer Alley.

Further reading: ‘Almost every household has someone that has died from cancer’

The Pontchartrain Works facility, was opened in 1968 by the chemicals giant DuPont and sold to Japanese firm Denka in 2015. It is the only site in the US to produce the synthetic rubber neoprene, which is made of the compound chloroprene, listed by the federal government as a likely carcinogen.

In 2015, the EPA found emissions from the plant placed residents at the highest risk of cancer due to airborne toxicity anywhere in the US.…—Gavin Blair, Oliver Laughland, “Residents of America’s Cancer Town confront chemical plant owner in Japan,” The Guardian, 6/26/19

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Is Weather Collapsing?
Guadalajara hit with freak hail storm

Mexican city of Guadalajara hit with freak hail storm

A freak hail storm has struck Guadalajara, one of Mexico’s most populous cities, burying vehicles in a deluge of ice pellets up to two metres deep.

“I’ve never seen such scenes in Guadalajara,” said the state governor, Enrique Alfaro.

“Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomenons,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

Guadalajara, located north of Mexico City and with a population of around five million, has been experiencing summer temperature of around 31C (88F) in recent days.

While seasonal hail storms do occur, there is no record of anything so heavy.

At least six neighbourhoods in the city outskirts woke up to ice pellets up to two metres deep.

While children scampered around and hurled iceballs at each other, civil protection personnel and soldiers brought out heavy machinery to clear the roads.

Nearly 200 homes and businesses reported hail damage, and at least 50 vehicles were swept away by the deluge of ice in hilly areas, some buried under piles of pellets.…—Agence France-Presse, “Freak summer hailstorm buries cars in Mexico’s Guadalajara | World news,” The Guardian, 7/1/19

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North Atlantic warming hole impacts jet stream

North Atlantic warming hole impacts jet stream

The North Atlantic warming hole (NAWH), a region of reduced warming located in the North Atlantic Ocean, significantly affects the North Atlantic jet stream in climate simulations of the future, according to a team of researchers.

Sea surface temperatures (SST) are projected to increase in most of the world’s oceans as the result of global climate change. However, within an area of rotating ocean currents just south of Greenland an anomaly exists where colder sea-surface temperatures were documented in both global climate-model projections and in observations.

“It’s called a hole because there is a lack of warming,” said Melissa Gervais, assistant professor of meteorology and atmospheric science, Penn State, who used the Community Earth System model (CESM) to investigate the impact of the NAWH on atmospheric circulation and midlatitude jets. “We found that this region of the ocean is a really important place for forcing the jet stream that goes across the North Atlantic Ocean.”

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Climate.

Development of the NAWH is linked to a slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a large system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics northwards into the North Atlantic, and is thought to be caused by an influx of fresh water coming from melting Arctic sea ice.…—Patricia Craig, “North Atlantic warming hole impacts jet stream,” ScienceDaily, 4/15/19

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Court Affirms Yellowstone More Valuable than Gold, Blocks Mining Exploration

Court Affirms Yellowstone More Valuable than Gold, Blocks Mining Exploration

Livingston, MT —A Montana district court has quashed a permit that would have allowed Canadian mining company Lucky Minerals Inc. to explore for gold in Emigrant Gulch just north of Yellowstone National Park. The ruling blocks exploratory drilling that was slated to begin on July 15, 2019, and is a significant victory in the multi-year effort to protect Yellowstone National Park from new mines surrounding the national park.

The ruling invalidates Lucky Minerals’ exploration license, establishing that it would violate the public’s environmental and public participation rights under Montana’s Constitution to allow the illegal project to move forward. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought by the Park County Environmental Council and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, both represented by Earthjustice.  

“This ruling ensures that Lucky Minerals can’t harm clean water and native wildlife at the gateway into Yellowstone National Park under cover of a license that was never legally issued in the first place,” said Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice attorney. “Lucky Minerals should have read the writing on the wall a long time ago.”…—”Court Affirms Yellowstone More Valuable than Gold, Blocks Mining Exploration,” Earthjustice, 4/16/19

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State of the climate: Heat across Earth’s surface
and oceans mark early 2019

State of the climate: Heat across Earth’s surface and oceans mark early 2019 » Yale Climate Connections

On top of the long-term warming trend, temperatures in 2019 have been buoyed by a moderate El Niño event that is likely to persist through the rest of the year.

That’s one of the key findings from Carbon Brief’s latest “state of the climate” report, a quarterly series on global climate data that now includes temperatures, ocean heat, sea levels, greenhouse gas concentrations, climate model performance and polar ice.

Ocean heat content (OHC) set a new record in early 2019, with more warmth in the oceans than at any time since OHC records began in 1940.

The latest data shows that the level of the world’s oceans continued to rise in 2019, with sea levels around 8.5 centimeters (cm) higher than in the early 1990s.

Further reading: 10 things a committed U.S. President and Congress could do about climate change

Atmospheric methane concentrations have increased at an accelerating rate, reaching record highs in recent months, though scientists are divided on the cause of this trend.

Arctic sea ice is currently at a record low for this time of year. Antarctic sea ice set new record lows in January, and is currently at the low end of the historical range.

Third warmest start to a year

Global surface temperatures are recorded and reported by a number of different international groups, including NASA, NOAA, Met Office Hadley Centre/UEA, Berkeley Earth and Cowtan and Way. Copernicus/ECMWF also produces a surface temperature estimate based on a combination of measurements and a weather model – an approach known as “reanalysis“.…—Zeke Hausfather, “State of the climate: Heat across Earth’s surface and oceans mark early 2019,” Yale Climate Connections, 5/28/19

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Fearing Toxic Fumes, an Oil Port City
Takes Matters Into Its Own Hands

Fearing Toxic Fumes, an Oil Port City Takes Matters Into Its Own Hands

After a series of EPA violations came to light, neighbors in South Portland fan out with portable monitoring devices, ready to test the air they breathe.

Danielle Twomey hoists cardboard boxes and silver canisters out of the trunk of a car and carries them into South Portland’s City Hall. She is from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and she’s here to explain a new city-wide effort to understand the troubling stink in the air—and whether it is safe.

Ever since the city learned that two local companies could be emitting as much as double the permitted amounts of volatile organic compounds, the community has been on edge. Twomey expects the council chambers to be full, as residents come to learn more about the air they breathe—and how to take matters, literally, into their own hands.

South Portland is a close-knit, liberal city with a strong environmental consciousness. It’s also an oil port surrounded by petroleum tanks. Where the shore isn’t scenic beach here, it’s covered with sprawling tank farms holding a range of petroleum products, including heated asphalt and bunker fuel. And there’s the smell. It occasionally fills the air—sometimes to the point of stinging eyes and causing headaches—and it’s not normal.

Further reading: Fumes from Petroleum Tanks in this City Never Seem to Go Away. What Are the Kids Breathing?

Now, people here are wondering if the smell means they’re breathing in VOCs coming from the tanks. Depending on which VOCs are present—and how much—they could irritate the eyes, nose and throat and cause respiratory problems and cancer.

At 6:30 p.m., dozens of residents form a line that winds into the hallway as they sign up to get involved in a community-based temporary air monitoring program. They have come to City Hall to get trained to test their own air.

So many of the faces in the room are familiar to me—my daycare provider, the women who have been knocking on doors to raise awareness about the issue, my pediatrician, who is also a local mom. I’m here as an environmental journalist, and as a mom. This is about my life, too. I’m worried about whether the air here is harming my son, Oscar, who just turned 4, and my baby daughter, Ruby. I sign my name to the list.…—Sabrina Shankman, “Fearing Toxic Fumes, an Oil Port City Takes Matters Into Its Own Hands, ” InsideClimate News, 6/24/19

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It’s so hot in Spain that manure self-ignited,
sparking a 10,000-acre wildfire

It’s so hot in Spain that manure self-ignited, sparking a 10,000-acre wildfire

Firefighters in Spain are battling a major wildfire that probably started after a heap of manure self-ignited amid the intense European heat wave.

Around 10,000 acres of forest and other vegetation were affected by the blaze near Tarragona in the country’s north-east, according to the Catalan regional government.

Authorities said the fire likely began when an “improperly managed” pile of manure self-combusted in the heat, causing sparks.

Further reading: A ‘screaming’ weather map basically captures France’s extreme heat

Spontaneous ignitions can occur when flammable materials, such as piles of hay, compost or manure heat up to a temperature high enough to cause combustion, according to the US National Park Service.

The firefighters said the blaze is one of the worst in Catalonia in the last 20 years. They warned it could spread to as much as two times its current area because of the harsh weather conditions and tough local terrain, which includes steep slopes and deep ridges.

The Catalan government said that while temperatures are forecast to rise again on Thursday, the strong winds that helped the fire spread quickly late on Wednesday are expected to ease.

Europe has been struggling with a major heatwave this week, with temperatures expected to rise even higher on Thursday and Friday.…—Ivana Kottasová, “Spain battles huge wildfire amid scorching heat wave,” CNN, 6/27/19

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Nestlé is still taking national forest water for its Arrowhead label,
with feds’ help

Nestlé is still taking national forest water for its Arrowhead label, with feds’ help

Where two creeks meet in the San Bernardino National Forest, one is flowing and the other is just a trickle. Nestlé’s bottled water operation is undergoing an environmental review. Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

<pstyle=”text-align: left;”>Nestlé, the world’s largest bottled water company, continues to take millions of gallons of free water from the San Bernardino National Forest two hours east of Los Angeles, 17 months after California regulators told them they had no right to much of what they’d taken in the past. And federal officials are helping them do it, despite concluding Nestlé is drying up springs and streams and damaging a watershed.

Nestlé CEO explains water is
just another commodity
.

The company says it is legally entitled to every drop, and is “sustainably collecting water at volumes believed to be in compliance with all laws and permits at this time,” according to emailed responses to questions from The Desert Sun.

The company reported piping 139 acre-feet — or 45 million gallons — of water from the springs and slopes of the popular national forest last year as part of its Arrowhead brand operations. They were required to pay about $2,000 for a new federal permit, but no fees for the water, which is theirs to use for retail sale. Some conditions were imposed in a management plan that they originally drafted, which was signed in March by the forest’s district ranger.…—Janet Wilson, “Nestlé is still taking public forest water for its Arrowhead label, with feds help,” Palm Springs Desert Sun, 6/13/19

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The Trump administration has reportedly buried reports
warning that climate change will harm crops
and cause health problems

The Trump administration has reportedly buried reports warning that climate change will harm crops and cause health problems

A climate change academic told Politico that the Trump administration is trying “to suppress a message” about the dangers of rising temperatures.

The Trump administration has buried dozens of studies by the US Department of Agriculture warning that climate change will impact US farming in coming decades, Politico reported Sunday [6/23/19].

The studies assessed the impact of rising temperatures, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and volatile weather on agriculture rather than being focused on the causes of global warming, Politico said.

Politico reports that scientists used the studies to warn of the consequences including increased carbon dioxide levels making rice less nutritious, and, separately, an extended allergy season.

According to the report, the studies have been kept off the department’s website and have not been publicized.

Further reading: The Cuyahoga River caught fire 50 years ago. These stomach-churning photos highlight why the EPA exists.

“The intent is to try to suppress a message—in this case, the increasing danger of human-caused climate change,” Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the outlet.

Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue has in the past denied climate change. In a 2014 article he wrote that “snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been around since the beginning of time, but now they want us to accept that all of it is the result of climate change.”

A spokesman for the USDA denied to Politico that climate science reports had been suppressed, saying “Research continues on these subjects and we promote the research once researchers are ready to announce the findings, after going through the appropriate reviews and clearances.”

President Trump has also expressed doubts about the reality of climate change, and his administration has moved to stifle federal government reports on the impact of climate change.

In May the administration acted to prevent the National Climate Assessment— which is produced by 13 federal government agencies – from describing worst-case scenarios on the consequences of climate change in its reports.

“The intent is to try to suppress a message—in this case, the increasing danger of human-caused climate change,” Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the outlet.

Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue has in the past denied climate change. In a 2014 article he wrote that “snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been around since the beginning of time, but now they want us to accept that all of it is the result of climate change.”

A spokesman for the department denied to Politico that climate science reports had been suppressed.…—Tom Porter, “Trump admin buries reports warning of climate change damage,” Politico|Business Insider, 6/24/19

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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.