October 10, 2019
The future of fossil fuels and all other major emission sources of global warming is a future of stranded assets. But perhaps much of that will be accomplished more quickly than expected as power companies and industry flee contractual commitments in favor of new energy sources. This week we have a few sources, some from former years, of how that works out in practice within the industry.
But first the news.

A Note about Staffing the Banner

After five years of mostly single-handing the job, the Editor is beginning to show some wear and tear, and needs further staff in addition to our wonderful Copy Editor/Proofreader. Here is the full list of what is needed:

    • Northeast Region Editor – your job will be to stay in touch with activists in the U.S. east coast/New England/Eastern Seaboard region, gathering announcements of upcoming activities to be placed in The Banner. Prepare announcements and news stories, conforming to the newsletter’s Style Sheet. About 5 hours/week
    • News Editor – your job will be to scout out online resources for national/international news, science, politics/judiciary/regulatory news and international activist activity and intersectional issues regarding climate change, its drivers and its effects, etc. Also spot and prepare excerpts of announcements or news of national/international grassroots activism and activity news. Prepare excepts of leading paragraphs, noting any associated videos, podcasts or relevant materials, and conforming to the newsletter’s Style Sheet. About 2 hours/day.
    • Associate News Editor – your job will be to review materials from the News Editor and find videos, podcasts and articles that expand or clarify (those “Further reading” items you see in The Banner) and format them for use by the Composing editor in accordance with the newsletter’s Style Sheet. About 4 hours/week
  • Associate News Editor – your job will be to review materials from the News Editor and find videos, podcasts and articles that expand or clarify (those “Further reading” items you see in The Banner) and format them for use by the Composing editor in accordance with the newsletter’s Style Sheet. About 4 hours/week
  • Composing Editor – Review materials from the News Editor and Northeast Region Editor. Identify a thematic focus which expresses them, consulting with and suggest an ordered collection for the Executive Editor. Ensure all materials conform (at text level, not technical compositing level) to The Banner Style Sheet and publishing standards. Your pace will determine your work hours.
  • Associate Proofreader. Assist and back-up the Copy Editor/Proofreader as necessary, working with the materials from the Composing Editor.
  • Publication Compositor – using html editing as necessary, conform all materials from the Composing Editor to The Banner’s Style Sheet and production standards. About 2-3 hours on Sunday or Monday. You will be in charge of the technical composition and de-bugging for both editions of The Banner:
    •  Online Edition: WordPress mark-up tags and its version of html for the originating WordPress Post and its derivative online edition (thebanner.news); Review and debug
    • Subscription Edition: Remove and replace WordPress mark-ups to conform to html5 for the email service platform; Review and debug
    • Notify Executive Editor when both editions are ready for publication
  • If you’d like the Executive Editor/Publisher’s job…
    • Review and compile the results of the foregoing work, make final editorial decisions about thematic focus, purpose and balance.
    • Add late-breaking news, including technical compositing if the publishing Compositor is unavailable.
    • Final check technicals and textual content for both editions, making technical (html) and textual content corrections as necessary or fitting in your judgement.
    • Final proofread of both editions.
    • Schedule the publication of both online and subscription editions.
    • Administer the newsletter’s finances and relations with publication facilities (automated backups review, security alerts, WordPress, Mad Mimi, etc.).
    • Superintend The Banner Style Sheet and revisions
    • Be convivial, appreciative and equitable with all members of the staff.

Please email editor@thebanner.news for further info and discussion. Of which there will be much! – these are just the leading details. And now for the news…

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Click for full size

Time Is Running Out.

This is our moment to stand together and speak in one clear voice:
“Governor Cuomo, keep your word!”

In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo abolished fracking in New York State. Bravo!

In July 2019, he signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, legislation that could make New York State a national leader in the fight against climate change. The bill promises 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Bravo!!

But, at the same time, the Governor is still permitting ongoing operations as well as the construction of new, large-scale fracked-gas power plants and other fracked gas infrastructure projects in the state.

Unless we stop these projects now, we won’t achieve the goals described in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Our citizens, our state, and our planet will suffer.

You are a constituent. You have power, not only in the voting booth but today, to ensure that that you and all New Yorkers will be able to enjoy clean air, fresh water and a livable climate now and for generations to come

We Can Speak for the Earth Together this October 13th!

FILL A CAR. FILL A VAN. FILL A BUS. SEE YOU THERE!

Sunday October 13th, 2019 1:00 – 3:30
Location: Victor C Waryas Park, Poughkeepsie, NY Map: Victor C Waryas Park
Assembly point: westernmost loop end of Main Street, Poughkeepsie. Plenty of on-street parking

UPDATES AND RSVP: Earth to Cuomo: Rally for New York’s Climate
Facebook page:
Earth To Cuomo

Twitter, Facebook postings: use #EarthToCuomo
For more Information/Questions: (845) 905-9100 or earth2cuomo@gmail.com

Sponsored by 350.orgMothers Out Front•Food & Water Action•Sane Energy•NYPIRG

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BeyondExtremeEnergy BXE is traveling from Pittsburgh Pa area (Oct 17) then several other communities down through to Nelson County, VA (Oct 20) on a ‘roadshow’ to listen to struggles plus present our latest FERC to FREC campaign. We are still open to potential stops on those 2 days between, we might have one or two but not sure yet about them.

Contact:   indpol@igc.org

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States’ Rights & Pipelines: Let’s just nip this in the bud.

Not a news flash that Trump’s EPA is filled with fossil fuel criminals. But I’m sure there are good people in there somewhere holding onto whatever dignity they can, and maybe those people will be reviewing our comments opposing the new proposal to take away our rights to protect our WATER. This law is what helped us stop Williams NESE and Constitution. We need to protect it.

I set up this Action Network comment generator to make it easy to send letters directly to the comment docket at the EPA. The amazing attorney Noelle Picone who helps fight the Williams Pipeline with Surfrider Foundation NYC Chapter volunteered her time to comb through language with me, so it’s solid.

Please visit THIS LINK to send your letter by October 21. There are LOADS of suggested points you can copy and paste if it’s too much for you to handle right now. Cause who needs one more thing to do? But, you want to do this.

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Upcoming DrawDown EVENTS

DrawDown EVENTS Upcoming

Click for full view of entire schedule, with links to registration

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Health officials’ claim of no cancer cluster
angers Canon-McMillan crowd

Health officials’ claim of no cancer cluster angers Canon-McMillan crowd

During a community meeting Monday, state Department of Health officials and a UPMC Ewing sarcoma expert provided a statistical analysis as to why a Ewing sarcoma cluster does not exist in the Canon-McMillan School District.

Many people in the audience weren’t having any of it, given that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has documented six cases of the rare childhood bone cancer with only 250 diagnoses nationwide each year, along with many other rare childhood cancers in the district.

In addition, the Health Department used only three of the six cases within the boundaries of the school district, 2005 through 2017, to conclude that the number is above expected levels but not a cluster. [A ‘cancer cluster’ is defined as a group of cases of the same type. In a community challenged with a complex mixture of toxic sources such as Canonsburg, such a definition is more a statistical nicety, irrelevant to the way living systems respond individually to such challenges.—Editor]

Sharon Watkins, the director of the Health Department’s Bureau of Epidemiology, did say there was an elevated number of females with Ewing sarcoma in an area including Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties. The department also will do additional analysis of registry data to determine if anything above expected levels stands out, she said.

The panel could not answer most questions from residents wanting to cut to the heart of concern — whether pollution exposure from shale gas development could be causing Ewing sarcoma or any of the other rare cancers affecting preschoolers and students in the district. Studies to date have not made that link.

The meeting started at 6 p.m. but was brought to an end about 7:30 p.m., with people still standing in line to ask questions, leading to boos from the audience of more than 200 people.

“This was the wrong panel for this audience,” said Ned Ketyer, a retired pediatrician and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Philadelphia, who attended the meeting.

Some residents expressed anger that the Health Department’s list didn’t include the late Kyle Deliere, a lifelong resident of the village of Cecil whose address is mistakenly listed in Belle Vernon. The department also didn’t include David Cobb of Cecil Township and Mitchell Barton of North Strabane, who were diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2018 but not yet on the registry.…

“We want to know if something in the environment is causing these cancers,” Ms. DiNicola said. “Are we doing anything to find out why we have six, eight, 27 of these cancers in the region?”…

The Ewing sarcoma cases coincide with Post-Gazette findings that nine Canon-McMillan preschoolers and students during the 2018-2019 school year also had cancer and mostly rare types. Those cases include two cases each of osteosarcoma (bones) and leukemia (blood), and one case each of liposarcoma (connective tissue), rhabdomyosarcoma (soft tissue), neuroblastoma (nerve cells), liver cancer and Wilms (kidney) tumor.

In addition, a teenage student died in February from astrocytoma, a brain and spinal cord cancer, pushing the total to 10.

Pollution sources include shale gas operations near the district with concern over the U.S. Department of Energy uranium mill tailings disposal site in North Strabane, which has remained at background radiation levels ever since the $137 million cleanup was completed in 1985, and the ABB Inc. chemical disposal site in the village of Muse in Cecil Township.…—David Templeton, Don Hopey, “Health officials’ claim of no cancer cluster angers Canon-McMillan crowd,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/7/19

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How Do We Stop Climate Change?

While climate change got more attention from the media in 2019 than it had before, we are still light years away from the awareness we need. Most people still don’t realize what we are facing.

Further reading: Extreme Silence: How the U.S. Media Have Failed to Connect Climate Change to Extreme Heat in 2018

The words from Greta Thunberg come from a talk she did with us at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, on December 4th, 2018. Notice this was still a week before she was invited to speak to the COP plenum on December 12th, which caught the mainstream media attention and got broadcast all over the world. That day, she became world famous.—Greta Thunberg, “How Do We Stop Climate Change?” UPFSI|YouTube, 9/18/19

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Climate Change Activists Are Planning a Series of Protests

Climate Change Activists Are Planning a Series of Protests In Melbourne, Starting Next Week

Climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion is planning demonstrations across Melbourne in October, 2019 during what it’s calling Spring Rebellion – a series of events calling for the state and federal governments to declare a climate emergency.

The demonstrations begin in the CBD (Central Business District) on Monday October 7 and they will likely affect traffic and commuters during afternoon peak hour. Protestors will meet at 4pm in Carlton Gardens before walking to Flinders Street Station for a blockade of as yet undisclosed streets from around 5pm. Trams, traffic and footpaths will likely be affected.

Further reading Rebel Daily 1: The Sun Rises on a New Wave of Rebellion
XR Unchained: Day 2 of Rebellion

On Tuesday October 8 a march will begin at 8am at Carlton Gardens and will occupy an unnamed major intersection in the CBD. The protest is planned to go well into the evening with performances from local arts groups and bands.

Yarra Trams has announced possible disruptions on October 7 and 8 to lines 48, 70, 75, 86 and 96 and has advised commuters to be prepared and plan ahead.

Protestors will stage more blockades on Wednesday October 9 by branching off into various unnamed locations across the city from 3pm. On Friday October 28 from 6am until 5pm, another blockade will take place in front of the offices of mining company BHP in protest of the International Mining and Resources Conference – Australia’s largest mining industry convention.

There are also several low-key events happening as part of Spring Rebellion. Footscray record store and cafe Counterweight Vinyl & Espresso is hosting a dance and fundraiser on October 5 from 10am until 7pm to raise funds for Extinction Rebellion’s legal costs. If a quiet protest is more your thing there’s a peaceful meditation on the steps of parliament on Monday October 7 from 10am until 7.30pm. Bring your own snacks and chairs if you plan to stay a while otherwise cushions will be supplied for shorter pop-ins.

Then on Saturday October 12 protesters will meet in Carlton Gardens for a body-painting session before taking their protest art through the streets. You can also attend a family-friendly info session on October 27 to learn about Extinction Rebellion’s mission. It’s aimed at educating kids and finishes with art workshops where they can make badges and signs for upcoming marches.…—Olivia Hart, “Extinction Rebellion Is Planning Protests and Blockades Across Melbourne in October,” Broadsheet, 9/30/19

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Stuart Scott Addresses Young People

I have dedicated my life to teaching ecological sanity within an insane human society where an abstract concept like money is valued more highly than life itself. I am suffering from cancer at the present time, October, 2019 and so I speak haltingly, addressing young people with a challenge, and reminding them that they have much more power than they know.

The weekly school strike is more important than missing a day of school. The strike is more important than going to school altogether! And since I am a teacher, that is a pretty radical thing to say. But there will be no meaningful jobs or careers, ostensibly the reason we give kids for their going to school, if the protests and strikes are not successful.

So I urge young people to expand the school strikes from one day a week to 2, then 3, etc. When millions of kids start staying out of school multiple days a week as a climate protest, that’s when governments will know that must change. It’s not just a matter of ‘moral suasion’. Schools and schools systems get funding based upon student attendance. Have a whole lot of students skipping a whole lot of school days as a protest and believe me, things will start to happen behind the scenes.… —”Stuart Scott Addresses Young People,” UPFSI|YouTube, 10/4/19

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The UN Secretary General Urges Public Pressure
to Address the Climate Emergency

The UN Secretary General Urges Public Pressure to Address the Climate ‘Emergency’

The United Nations secretary general says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change “emergency.”

“Governments always follow public opinion, everywhere in the world, sooner or later,” António Guterres said Tuesday in an interview with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets. Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, added, “We need to keep telling the truth to people and be confident that the political system, especially democratic political systems, will in the end deliver.”

Guterres refused to comment on US President Donald Trump and the Trump administration’s hostility to climate action, but a CBS News poll released on September 15 found that 69 percent of Americans want the next president to take action, while 53 percent say such action is needed “right now.” Guterres said that “it would be much better” if the United States was “strongly committed to climate action,” just as it would be better if Asian countries (notably, China and Japan) stopped exporting coal plants. Until then, he said, “what I want is to have the whole society putting pressure on governments to understand they need to run faster. Because we are losing the race.”

With six days remaining before the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23, the secretary general cited the “fantastic leadership” of young activists as a leading example of how civil society can pressure governments to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5˚C. Recent election results across Europe—in which green parties gained significant public backing—also left Guterres optimistic that at next Monday’s summit the European Union will announce that it promises to be “carbon neutral” by 2050, as the Paris Agreement mandates.

“Nature is angry,” said Guterres, who recently returned from a visit to the Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian unleashed what he called “total destruction.” He further cited a ferocious drought in Africa, melting glaciers, bleaching coral reefs, the hottest month in recorded history last July, and a potential future sea-level rise of 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet) as evidence that “you cannot play games with nature. Nature strikes back.”…—Mark Hertsgaard, “The UN Secretary General Urges Public Pressure to Address the Climate ‘Emergency’,” The Nation, 9/18/19

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An extraordinary landscape at the edge of the world

An extraordinary landscape at the edge of the world

Australia is known worldwide for some truly distinctive rock formations. But there are few more remarkable than the eerie and astounding Pinnacles Desert.

The star turn driving up the long, lonely Indian Ocean Drive north of Perth was not the sparkling ribbon of ocean that hugged the road to the left or the flawlessly blue sky that stretched endlessly into the horizon. It was not the lemon-scented gums that sent dappled light onto the scorching asphalt and left a waft of citrus, nor, as we got further north, the scrubby bush that popped with orange-coned banksia flowers.

On this sunny Saturday that was yet another perfect day in Western Australia, what captured my imagination was something far more incongruous: thousands of huge limestone pillars rising from a stark landscape of yellow sand.

Australia is known worldwide for some truly distinctive rock formations. But there are few more remarkable than the eerie and astounding Pinnacles Desert. And in a land where awe-inspiring geological features with peculiar names barely raise an eyebrow – think Uluru, the Bungle Bungles, Booroomba Rocks and the Tessellated Pavement – the Pinnacles must surely be, well, the pinnacle.

“It’s an incredibly special place. That limestone, the colours, the desert landscape; the fact you can get all of this so close to Perth is remarkable,” said Carola Verschuren, chief explorer at Explore Tours Perth. “I tell visitors it’s like we’re about to enter another planet.”…—Ellie Cobb, “An extraordinary landscape at the edge of the world,” BBC, 9/9/19

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What is a Resilience Circle?

What is a Resilience Circle?

The economy is going through a deep transition, and economic security is eroding for millions of people. We’re worried about our financial security and about the future we are creating for our children. Many of us aren’t part of communities where we can talk openly about these challenges and fears.

In response, people are forming small “Resilience Circles” of ten – twenty people. These groups are exploring a new kind of security based in mutual aid and community support, and helping build a new kind of economy that’s fair and in harmony with the earth.

Resilience Circles help us:

  • Courageously face our economic and ecological challenges, learning together about root causes.
  • Build relationships and undertake concrete steps for mutual aid and shared action.
  • Rediscover the abundance of what we have and recognize the possibility of a better future.
  • See ourselves as part of a larger effort to create a fair and healthy economy that works for everyone in harmony with the planet.
  • Get to know our neighbors, find inspiration, and have fun!

How it Works

Across the country, people are starting Resilience Circles in their communities. The free, open-source Curriculum provides a guide for facilitators to lead groups through seven initial sessions, and after that groups determine their own activities and projects.

Three Components of a Circle

Learning – A Resilience Circle is a place to face the real nature of our economic and ecological challenges. Facing these realities may be overwhelming for isolated individuals, so a Circle is a place to learn with a supportive community. We analyze the economy to expose its structural flaws, and ask if “growth” is really the only way to create financial security.

Mutual Aid – Resilience Circles take concrete steps toward enhancing personal security by slowly stretching our “mutual aid muscles,” which are often badly out of shape. In Session 5 we exchange “gifts and needs,” where participants write down things they can offer – such sewing skills, tools, or child care – and things they need. During this activity we gain a new sense of the wealth and abundance present within the group and the community.

Social Action – Many of our challenges won’t be solved through personal or local mutual aid efforts alone. They require us to work together to press for larger state, national and even global changes. While there is no official Resilience Circle social action agenda, many groups choose to take action based on their own values and interests.—”What is a Resilience Circle?Resilience Circles: Small Groups for Tough Times

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Dakota Access Pipeline Activists Face 110 Years in Prison

Dakota Access Pipeline Activists Face 110 Years in Prison

The charges come two years after the activists publicly confessed to vandalizing the pipeline in an effort to halt construction.

Two women who vandalized the Dakota Access pipeline in an effort to halt construction have been indicted on charges that carry up to 110 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. They are among the harshest penalties environmental activists have faced in the last decade.

Civil liberties lawyers say the charges are in line with industry-inspired scare tactics meant to deter citizens from participating in direct-action protests or acts of sabotage against oil and gas companies. As the deadly impacts of carbon emissions grow ever clearer, the fossil fuel industry has increased pressure on lawmakers and government officials to penalize those who would inhibit their projects’ operations.

At the same time, a growing number of activists have demonstrated willingness to break laws in order to highlight the urgency of the climate emergency and other ecological crises. Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek, who stand accused of damaging pipeline valve sites using a welding torch, “tires ignited by fire, and gasoline-soaked rags,” are part of that trend.

The arrests come more than two years after Montoya, 29, and Reznicek, 38, publicly took responsibility for a series of acts of sabotage that they said was necessary to protect the rivers and waterways under which the Dakota Access pipeline passes. Both women had been involved in the Indigenous-led struggle to stop the pipeline, which attracted thousands of people to opposition camps in North Dakota and Iowa in 2016 and 2017.

“We are speaking publicly to empower others to act boldly, with purity of heart, to dismantle the infrastructures which deny us our rights to water, land, and liberty,” Montoya and Reznicek stated at a press conference in July 2017.

They told The Intercept at the time that they planned to use a necessity defense to argue that they had no choice but to act. Civil liberties attorneys said they are not aware of such a defense being accepted in a federal case related to climate change or environmental issues. It has, however, begun to gain traction in lower courts, where a handful of pipeline protesters have successfully argued that they acted out of necessity.…—Alleen Brown, “Dakota Access Pipeline Activists Face 110 Years in Prison,” The Intercept, 10/4/19

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Stranded Commitments
Who’s Stranded Now?

Who’s Stranded Now?

Utility costs are like taxes.  Everyone knows they have to be paid, but most people have a reason that their own share should be smaller.  And, just as with taxes, there are limitless ways to divide up the revenue burden.

It’s been 20 years since electricity deregulation raised the specter of stranded utility costs – past investments that have turned out to deliver less value than was originally expected — and the question of who should pay those costs: Electricity ratepayers? Customers switching to buy from a competing electricity supplier? Utility shareholders?

So now it’s 2016 and we are back to the same question.  Electricity customers are leaving or are greatly reducing purchases.  Some customers are installing rooftop solar while still buying some power from the utility.  Others are switching to a community choice provider (as I discussed in February) or proposing municipalization.   As utility sales decline, once again we are debating who should pay for utility investments that are less valuable in the new regime.

Policy consistency is important, up to a point.  New information, new analysis, and new technologies, however, constantly alter the energy landscape. Policies that are written with clear dates of future review and potential off ramps may discourage some investment, but they seem just as likely to maintain pressure for verifiable high performance.  Given the dynamism in energy technology and climate science, regulators should be extremely cautious about making inflexible policy commitments to specific technologies.

Utilities are responding mostly as they did in the 1990s, arguing that their investments were deemed prudent by regulators at the time they were made, so their own shareholders should not be on the hook.  In somber tones they invoke a “regulatory compact” that is supposed to assure them a reasonable return on investments in exchange for an obligation to provide safe, affordable, reliable service.  Basically, they argue, a deal’s a deal, even when the market or regulatory environment changes in ways that devalue their installed capital.

Opponents respond by saying “Not so fast.  Utility shareholders have received investment returns comparable to the rates earned by unregulated companies while bearing far less risk. Yes, the market is changing and that is hurting your company. Welcome to a world with some risk.”  And furthermore, the reply continues, the utility commissions that approved those investments were too cozy or politically connected with the utilities, so the deals made shouldn’t be binding.

Both arguments have some merit.  Regulators should try to fulfill commitments, out of fairness, to maintain credibility, and to create a financial environment that can support investment.  But if the regulatory process that made those commitments was so broken that it was not legitimate, then the argument for sticking with unfair commitments is less compelling.

So it has been ironic to now see the arguments of each side flip as regulators reconsider some of the terms set for the current wave of partially exiting customers.…—Severin Borenstein, “Who’s Stranded Now?Energy Institute Blog, 7/18/16

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As co-ops struggle with stranded fossil fuel assets,
Tri-State may finally embrace the energy transition

As co-ops struggle with stranded fossil fuel assets, Tri-State may finally embrace the energy transition

“Our goal is a transition that lowers rates. It might be hard – but it might be beautiful,” the G&T’s new CEO told Utility Dive.

Though many rural power suppliers, burdened by debt from stranded fossil fuel assets, have resisted the growing shift toward renewables and distributed energy resources, some are beginning to see the economic promise of that transition.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission (G&T) Association, which serves 43 member cooperatives in the West, has been a prime example of this trend. Driven by member discontent and the growing cost effectiveness of renewables, the G&T’s new CEO says he wants to embrace the change.

“I saw the need for a shift into the new energy economy before I stepped in,” Duane Highly told Utility Dive. “Utilities once had almost no choice but to build coal, but now policies are different, and economics are drastically different. Our goal is a transition that lowers rates. It might be hard – but it might be beautiful.”

Stakeholders and long-time Tri-State watchers are hopeful of a transition, but want action, not words. It may be “hard” to address longstanding financial obligations in fixed fossil assets, but changes will be necessary to prevent dissatisfied member cooperatives from following former member Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) and soon-to-be former member Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) to early contract exits.

A “beautiful” transition that lowers customer rates might seem out of reach for electricity suppliers like Tri-State with deep debt in stranded fossil fuel assets, observers told Utility Dive. But if it realizes its proposed transition, it can be a model for others willing to take new approaches to their resource mixes and overcome the burden of their fossil fuel habits.…—Herman K. Trabish, “As co-ops struggle with stranded fossil fuel assets, Tri-State may finally embrace the energy transition,” Utility Dive, 8/7/19

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Attacks on Greta Thunberg Are About More
Than Anti-Environmentalism

Attacks on Greta Thunberg Are About More Than Anti-Environmentalism

Freak yachting accidents do happen…”

That was how British businessman, Trump ally, and Brexit bankrolled Arron Banks responded to the news that Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who inspired the school climate strikes movement, was sailing to America to attend the UN Climate Action Summit. His scorn was not unique. 

Many people have already spilled thousands of words of commentary explaining how personal attacks on Greta — often lobbed by old white men, sometimes mocking her Aspergers — are unacceptable. But understanding where those attackers come from, ideologically and professionally, casts an important light on some of their dark statements.

That’s because a large subsection of the commentariat driving the abuse of Greta is part of an established network of radical free-marketeer lobby groups — a network that has firm ties to the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science denial.

The lobbyist network behind attacks on Greta Thunberg

The lobbyist network behind attacks on Greta Thunberg

Click for full view

DeSmog UK was launched in September 2014 as an investigative media outlet dedicated to cutting through the spin clouding the debate on energy and environment in Britain. Since then, our team of journalists and researchers has become a go-to source for accurate, fact-based information regarding misinformation campaigns on climate science in the UK.

European Attacks

Greta first shot to prominence in Europe, and that’s where the earliest mudslinging emerged.

Banks’ tweet was one of the most high-profile. He is among the most prominent funders of Brexit, with long-standing ties to the UK Independence Party and its former leader Nigel Farage. UKIP’s politician, Neil Hamilton, was one of the first to be called out for posting what was perceived by many as a bullying tweet directed at Greta, who is 16 years old. 

Farage has now set up a new outfit, the Brexit Party, also bankrolled by Banks.The party has 29 members in the European Parliament, many of them climate science deniers, thanks to winning 30 percent of the vote in May’s elections.

Further reading: Brexit Party Backtracks on Climate Action Statement, Blaming ‘Keen Young Staffer’

While resisting calls to form an official alliance, the Brexit Party MEPs join other far-right populist parties in Brussels, including Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly the Front National) and Alternative for Germany (AfD). All are united in their hatred for Greta. Two National Rally MPs recently boycotted her visit to France, and AfD representatives have made coordinated attacks on social media.

Those aggressions were orchestrated by the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) — an organisation known for co-sponsoring events with U.S. free-market think tank, the Heartland Institute.

Trans-Atlantic Potshots

It’s perhaps unsurprising to find that many of the U.S. commentators verbally assaulting Greta also have ties to the Heartland Institute, given the organisation’s Big Oil funding and long-history of promoting climate science denial.

The institute’s website published a long blog post by one of its ‘policy experts’, Gregory Wrightstone, who attempted to refute many of Thunberg’s arguments for climate action. “It is time for her to go back to school to learn what she doesn’t know and to unlearn so much of what she has been taught,” he concluded.

Many other critics of Greta in the U.S. are tied to another of Heartland’s funders, the Koch family, owners of the U.S.’s largest private energy company.

Marc Morano, communications director of campaign group Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and a regular speaker at Heartland Institute events, has a long history of spreading misinformation about climate change. 

He was also one of the loudest critics of Greta’s visit to the U.S., appearing on Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media to describe the young activist as “bait” to entrap critics of climate policy. Levant was an intern at the Charles Koch Foundation and later worked for the Koch-funded Fraser Institute.…—Mat Hope, “Attacks on Greta Thunberg Come from a Coordinated Network of Climate Change Deniers,” DeSmogUK, 9/23/19

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Gutting of USDA research agencies
is warning to all federal agencies

Gutting of USDA research agencies is warning to all federal agencies, ex-employees say

“Overall the staff of these agencies is down and continues to go down. I think you’re going to see a brain drain continue until the end of this administration,” one former official said.

The Trump administration announced in June, 2019 that it would move two Department of Agriculture research agencies — the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture — and their 547 employees from Washington, D.C., to a rented office in Kansas City, Missouri, within three months.

That sudden announcement and the aggressive timeline that accompanied it led hundreds of employees to resign or retire early, leaving the two critical institutions gutted.

The gutting of the agencies is likely to have a detrimental impact on rural and farming communities that depend on the information and funding they provide, advocates said.

Now more than a dozen scientists, researchers, economists and experts who are currently or were formerly employed by multiple federal agencies, including the ERS and the NIFA, told NBC News the effective dismantling of these two agencies is only the latest hit, but it is the most illustrative of the administration’s intentions: to remove or neuter evidence-based research.

As of now, only 16 from the ERS and 45 from the NIFA have made the move to Kansas City — a very small percentage of the total workforce.…

Numerous current and former employees across multiple agencies, from the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management, pointed to a comment acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made in August that, they said, reveals the motivation for the moves.

Mulvaney said relocating the two USDA offices out of Washington was an example of the administration circumventing the roadblocks to firing federal employees and “draining the swamp.”

“By simply saying to people, ‘You know what? We’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out into the real world into the real part of the country, they quit,” Mulvaney said at a South Carolina Republican Party dinner, noting the difficulty he had in firing federal employees. “What a wonderful way to kind of streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”(sic)…—Phil McCausland, “Gutting of two USDA research agencies is warning to all federal agencies, ex-employees say,NBC News, 10/8/19

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Frank Luntz, the GOP’s message master,
calls for climate action

Frank Luntz, the GOP’s message master, calls for climate action

“Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes more ferocious than ever. It is happening.”

Frank Luntz’s up-close encounter with our increasingly wild weather came at 3:15 a.m. one morning, when the GOP master messenger woke up to his phone blaring an emergency evacuation warning. Luntz saw flames outside his bedroom window. The famous pollster’s home in Los Angeles was in the path of the Skirball Fire, one of the many wildfires that destroyed parts of Southern California in December 2017.

Luntz, whose advice helped Republicans hold power for years and also keep their heads in the sand when it comes to climate change, cited the fire as an example of the climate crisis made personal. He’s the same political consultant who convinced conservatives to re-brand the “estate tax” as the “death tax.” He crafted talking points for the Koch brothers and reportedly convinced the Trump administration to talk about “border security” to drum up support for building a border wall.

But the reality of climate change is increasingly too hard to ignore. “The courageous firefighters of L.A., they saved my home, but others aren’t so lucky,” he said as he recounted the tale during a Senate testimony on Thursday. “Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, tornadoes, and hurricanes more ferocious than ever. It is happening.”

Further reading: An open letter to those who haven’t faced climate change

Luntz was one of three Republicans invited by Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, to speak to the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis about breaking down partisan barriers and taking action on climate change. “Elected Republicans are mostly awful on climate, but it wasn’t always that way, and it doesn’t have to be that way in the future,” Schatz said in a press release before the hearing, “The Right Thing To Do: Conservatives for Climate Action.”

The hearing came amid signs that Republican voters are increasingly out of step with their elected representatives on climate change. In parts of the country hit hardest by extreme weather, like Florida, Republicans are already changing their tune on environmental policy. According to a survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication last year, 52 percent of Republicans said if there’s a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, the environment should come first.

Hari Sreenivasan sits down with strategist Frank Luntz, who has helped shape the Republican message for decades and now says the country is more divided than ever.

Luntz played a role in turning the environment into a partisan battlefield. During President George W. Bush’s first term, his infamous memo warned Republican party leaders that they were losing “the environmental communications battle,” an issue on which Bush was “most vulnerable.” He advised them to emphasize a lack of scientific certainty around climate change and drop “global warming” for the less scary-sounding “climate change.”

Luntz is now offering his messaging services to the cause of climate action. “I’m here before you to say that I was wrong in 2001,” Luntz told the Senate committee. “Just stop using something that I wrote 18 years ago, because it’s not accurate today.”…—Kate Yoder, “Frank Luntz, the GOP’s message master, calls for climate action,” Grist, 7/25/19

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Stranded Commitments: Alberta looks to dump
multi-billion-dollar tar sands trains

Alberta looks to dump multi-billion-dollar tar sands trains – Railway Age

Government oil trains were to start running Alberta’s glut of sludgy bitumen to foreign markets July 1, 2019 under a US$2.8 billion contract committing provincial taxpayers to the leasing of 4,400 tank cars and guaranteed payments to CN and Canadian Pacific. For the time being, they will be costly ghost trains that earn the railways real money for no haulage.

The contracts were hastily negotiated in the dying days of Alberta’s New Democratic administration as a Hail Mary attempt to make Alberta bitumen competitively priced in a global market swimming in high-grade oil. At the same time, the same former government imposed production quotas on oil producers in a market intervention designed to increase prices for bitumen by reducing supply. This succeeded, but only to the extent that the price differential with high-quality oil was not enough to justify the added cost of shipping it by rail. Crude-by-rail shipments out of Alberta dropped to zero.

Further reading Canadian heavy oil falls as Alberta crude-by-rail deal nears
Canadian railways in a catch-22 over crude shipment

The price differential has widened in recent weeks, reviving CBR a bit but not enough to call upon the thousands of tank cars under lease by Alberta.

Now, Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government that routed the New Democrats in April has cancelled the entire scheme and has hired CIBC investment bankers to find a buyer for its car leases and guaranteed haulage commitments to the carriers. Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage declared June 27 she does not expect any trains to run before the contracts are sold—not before autumn at the earliest.…—David Thomas, “Alberta looks to dump multi-billion-dollar tar sands trains,” Railway Age, 7/3/19

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Drought-Proof Cooling Houses’€™ Use Saltwater and Cardboard
to Grow Tons of Healthy Produce in the Desert

Drought-Proof ‘Cooling Houses’ Use Saltwater and Cardboard to Grow Tons of Healthy Produce in the Desert

Just ten square miles of these plantations could produce enough crops and vegetables to feed a country of four million people.

Saltwater and dry desert climates may not seem like a good recipe for growing healthy produce, but that is exactly what a group of scientists has managed to do.

Researchers from the UK-based Seawater Greenhouse company have discovered a drought-proof way to farm fruits and vegetables simply by using solar power and saltwater for irrigation and cooling.

The company has launched plantation projects in arid regions such as Australia, Abu Dhabi, Somaliland, Oman, and Tenerife. Despite the harsh climate of these locations, the plantations are able to grow thousands of pounds of produce simply by making “cooling houses” out of thick walls of dampened cardboard.

While glass greenhouses are designed to keep gardens moist and warm, the cardboard structures use “evaporative cooling” to keep the interior of the plantation structures humid and cool.

Further reading: Exciting New Study Says That Crops Thrive Underneath Solar Panels—and the Panels Produce More Energy

The design of the corrugated cardboard panels helps to cool down the wind coming from the outside of the structure. At the same time, a small solar-powered pump dispenses seawater at the top of the panels so that it can trickle down through the walls of the cardboard for evaporation.

This “evaporative cooling” technique creates the perfect conditions for farming produce in drought-stricken regions.

Additionally, since the seawater is repeatedly collected and recirculated throughout the cardboard panels, the salt can precipitate onto the exterior of the walls. Not only does this help to fortify the cardboard, it can also be harvested and sold for commercial profit.…McKinley Corbley, “Drought-Proof ‘Cooling Houses’ Use Saltwater and Cardboard to Grow Tons of Healthy Produce in the Desert,” Good News Network, 10/4/19

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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.