December 17, 2019
UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres rightly called the world’s attention to the crucial nature of COP25-Madrid (annual meeting of The United Nations Conference of the Parties). This week we review its shards, and what is left for the people of the world to do in the wake of nations’ criminality that doomed the conference.
But first the news.

Table of Contents

Activist News
Global Leadership Crisis
Indigenous Peoples News
Youth leadership
And now for something completely different

Action Alert! Public comments on Liquefied Natural Gas by Transportation by Rail – December 23, 2019 Deadline

On December 5, 2019, PHMSA [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] granted a special permit to Energy Transport Solutions, LLC to authorize transportation of LNG in DOT-113C120 tank cars between Wyalusing, PA and Gibbstown, NJ, with no intermediate stops, subject to certain operational controls. This proposal sets afoot the conditions for a very dangerous activity. We review here its details, including the likelihood of it’s becoming practiced at all. The Banner is indebted to Bill Houston and Charley Bowman for their evaluations and observations on this matter.

Links to the special permit and associated documents are provided below:

The relevant dockets at Regulations.gov are provided at Liquefied Natural Gas – Transportation by Rail | PHMSA

Subject matter expert notes:

  1. Bill Huston, researcher, videographer, transportation specialist: I’ve been talking to my friend Ron who is a retired NYSDOT guy, who was an inspector in the commercial division (big rigs). Ron also worked for the railroads. 
    • Ron is experienced and knowledgeable, and he really knows these US DOT Special Permits (SP). The Short Answer:
    • It would take enormous expense and effort to meet the permit conditions, so much so, that this SP will likely never be used.
    • CNG trucks comparison: 1 LNG tanker car = 3.8 ultra high pressure CNG trucks.
      LNG unit trains are CNG trucks on steroids.

    There is a legal question as to whether the shipper, New Fortress Energy, can legally fill these DOT-113 cars, when the authorization was granted to permitee Energy Transport Solutions. Are these distinct business entities? Or the same? (If so, then why the charade of a second fictitious name?)

  2. Charley Bowman, journalist, activist: Using an online units conversion website, Unit Juggler, it is calculated that one for the 113C120W tank car permitted to be used:
    • Each tank car will carry 82,651 lbs, or 41 tons of LNG
    •  One ton of LNG is equivalent to the explosive power of 12.4 tons of TNT, (under ideal conditions for explosion)
    • One tank car of LNG, 41 tons has the explosive power of 508 tons of TNT, or 3.1% of the Hiroshima atomic bomb
    • A 10-car train of DOT-113C120W tankers carrying LNG would have the equivalent of 3.1 Hiroshima bombs
    • In May 2019,  the Federal Railway Agency began testing DOT-113 tanker survive-ablility in LNG pool fires as well as testing survive-ability in impacts. The results will not be published before May 2020, five months after the conclusion of the comment period for LNG-by-rail. Therefore, rail experts as well as the general public will be unable to make any specific comments regarding the safety of the DOT-113 tanker. The LNG-by-rail docket is being rushed to conclusion in the absence of critical safety data on DOT-113 tank cars. Here’s a quote:
      • “FRA plans to conduct the full-scale pool fire test of the LNG filled ISO tank before the end in the first quarter of FY2020. FRA is also conducting a full-scale tank car impact testing and analysis of two DOT 113 tanks. The test, which began in March 2019 and is expected to conclude in May 2020, evaluates the performance and crashworthiness of DOT 113 specification tank cars. The test project includes developing puncture models and verifying the models with actual testing data.” — page 13 in: Hazardous Materials: Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail:
        Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis, October 2019
        ,
        Docket No.: PHMSA-2018-0025 (HM-264)
      • [Editor’s note: PLEASE include in all public comments a note on this matter Charley Bowman brings to our attention: The Department of Transportation/PHMSA is attempting to make rules about use this before the safety study of the DOT-113 tank cars is complete!]

Please send your comments on the Regulatory rule-making:

 General information on rule-making and public commenting is at Hazardous Materials: Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail
Submit comments identified by the Docket Number PHMSA-2018-0025 (HM-264) via any of the following methods on or before December 23, 2019:
  • Online Comment page for The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Proposed Rule: Hazardous Materials: Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail.
  • Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
  • Mail: Docket Management System; U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Routing Symbol M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
  • Hand Delivery: To the Docket Management System; Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name (PHMSA) and Docket Number (PHMSA-2018-0025) or RIN (2137-AF40) for this rule-making at the beginning of the comment (the on-line commenting tool takes care of that for you). To avoid duplication, please use only one of these four methods. All comments received will be posted without change to the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) and will include any personal information you provide. If sent by mail, comments must be submitted in duplicate. Persons wishing to receive confirmation of receipt of their comments must include a self-addressed stamped postcard.

For access to the relevant dockets to read background documents or comments received, see Liquefied Natural Gas – Transportation by Rail | PHMSA

If you have the time and expertise, please also comment on or before December 23 on the Special Permit at Hazardous Materials: Issuance of Special Permit Regarding Liquefied Natural Gas

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Thousands Around The World Strike on Black Friday
for Action on Climate Change

The protests are meant to raise awareness of over-consumption and demand action at the U.N.’s COP25, which begins in Spain next week.

Climate protests are taking place around the world this Black Friday to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change. The protests are also timed to demand action during the U.N. climate negotiations, COP25, which will begin in Madrid, Spain on Dec. 2.

Climate activists say more than 80 strikes are happening in the U.S. alone. Protests have already happened in Asia and Europe. In Germany alone, activists say 630,000 turned out.

According to organizers, protesters plan to disrupt large shopping centers in Chicago and hold a march and a rally in Los Angeles called “Don’t Shop. Strike!” According to Reuters, organizers expect strikes to take place in 2,300 cities in 152 countries around the world.…—”Thousands Around the World Climate Strike On Black Friday,” Madeleine Carlisle, Time, 11/29/19

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Local and national experts weigh in on “the defining issue of our time”

Will upstate New York feel like Virginia or Georgia in 50 years? It depends on us. Even under the best-case scenario, if we lower emissions that fuel climate change, upstate will be compare to present-day Virginia. In another scenario, caused by higher emissions, upstate will feel like Georgia.

The example of our changing landscape was one of several presented last Sunday at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park by two local experts in science and the environment. What kind of world will our grandchildren inherit?

“It makes me worried,” said Bruce Gilman, Finger Lakes Community College professor emeritus of environmental conservation and horticulture. Gilman presented findings with Ram Shrivastava, environmental engineer and president and CEO of Rochester area Larsen Engineers. Their message, echoed by scientists worldwide including those at Cornell University, was clear: It depends on how we act now — though there’s no turning back the clock on what we’re already experiencing.…—Julie Sherwood, “Straight talk on climate change,” Monroe County Post, NY, 10/6/19

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Cuomo has taken his eye off New York’s climate goals

The Daily Star’s recent op-ed was right to question Cuomo’s energy plan.

However, missing from that op-ed and from Joe Mahoney’s article regarding National Grid’s moratorium on gas hookups on Long Island, was any detailed analysis of what is happening.

Sadly, it seems fashionable in Albany — and Otsego County — for politicians to acknowledge the dire realities of global warming, while doing little to address the crisis.

…In order for New York’s climate legislation to work, in order for us to make big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this decade and to move to carbon-free electricity in 20 years, we must burn less gas tomorrow than we are burning today.

Sadly, it seems fashionable in Albany — and Otsego County — for politicians to acknowledge the dire realities of global warming, while doing little to address the crisis.

…No one in politics, and certainly none of the “big greens” will acknowledge the real challenge: Even if we succeed, it won’t be cheap or fun or easy. For starters, we need every utility — from NYSEG to ConEd to National Grid — to declare moratoria on fossil fuel infrastructure. We must build generation, transmission and storage capacity that we haven’t even begun to discuss. In every city, village and hamlet, we must dramatically cut gas use with building-envelope upgrades, air- and ground-source heat pumps and district geothermal systems.…—”Guest Commentary: Cuomo has taken his eye off New York’s climate goals,” Joan Turbidy, The Daily Star, 12/14/19

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As Danskammer Announces Plan
for Fracked Gas Power Plant, Activists Vow to Stop It

Planned Hudson River plant has already generated enormous community opposition 

The Wall Street private equity firm Danskammer LLC announced today that is going forward with an application to build a dangerous fracked gas power plant just feet from the Hudson River in Newburgh, NY. 

The company announced its intention for this fossil fuel project over a year ago. Despite fierce and growing opposition from residents and elected officials in the Hudson Valley and surrounding communities, Danskammer has decided to ignore the fundamental and long-lasting problems that another fracked gas power plant will pose to our environment and public health.

Already, over a dozen nearby municipalities and over 100 elected officials have come out against the plant, citing impacts on air quality, water, climate change and nearby environmental justice communities.

In response, Food & Water Action organizer Andrew Pezzullo issued the following statement:

“Instead of listening to science and communities up and down the Hudson River Valley that have formally come out against the power plant, Danskammer decided to push ahead with this reckless proposal. This dirty infrastructure flies directly in the face of the climate goals just signed into law by Governor Cuomo this summer. The governor has the authority to stop this plant, and we will make sure that he does.“

Activists and elected officials from key affected communities, including Newburgh and Beacon, will be delivering the current municipal resolutions to Governor Cuomo next Wednesday (December 11), the same day that Danskammer is expected to file its formal applications for the relevant permits.—”As Danskammer Announces Plan for Fracked Gas Power Plant, Activists Vow to Stop It,” Andrew Pezzullo, Food & Water Watch, 12/4/19

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Canandaigua environmental group
proposes county-wide styrofoam ban

Ontario County is exploring the idea of banning styrofoam products.

A Canandaigua-based environmental group proposed the county-wide ban this week. The County Board of Supervisors told the Finger Lakes Times they’ll look at the measure. It would ban the use and sale of all styrofoam products.—”Canandaigua environmental group proposes Ontario County styrofoam ban,” WHEC|Rochester, 12/12/19

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Global Leadership Crisis

UN Climate Summit Opens with Growing Concern
About ‘Laggard’ Countries

‘The point of no return is no longer over the horizon,’ UN Secretary-General António Guterres said as COP25 began in Spain. ‘It is in sight and hurtling toward us.’

Ahead of the two-week COP25 gathering, the European Parliament declared a “climate emergency” in an effort to pressure the European Union into more ambitious green policies.

Yet others are moving in the other direction, notably the United States, the world’s biggest per-capita emitter, which has begun the long process of leaving the Paris climate agreement entirely, a move expected to be completed next autumn. The Paris Agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations, aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F), but global carbon emissions have continued to rise.…—”UN Climate Summit Opens with Growing Concern About ‘Laggard’ Countries,  Daniel Dombey, Leslie Hook, InsideClimate News|Financial Times, 12/2/19

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USA Called ‘Climate Criminal’ as COP 25 Closes

UN Secretary General António Guterres warned a failed COP process would turn the climate crisis into the “survival of the richest”

Reporters on the ground described two weeks of stalemated United Nations climate negotiations limping to a close, a diplomat branded the United States a “climate criminal” for its stance on the crucial issue of loss and damage, and the hundreds of youth, Indigenous, and other community representatives onsite talked about the grassroot action back home that will continue to spur faster, more ambitious climate action, as COP 25 entered its final hours in Madrid.…

Youth activists called for a global strike day today, to protest two weeks of negotiations in which human rights and social justice issues were sidelined. “Campaigners have been frustrated not only at the slow progress of the talks but also that groups representing women, Indigenous people, and poor people have struggled to have their voices heard within the conference halls where the official negotiations are taking place, even while 500,000 people took part in a mass protest in the streets outside last Friday,” The Guardian writes.

Further reading: How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse

#FridaysForFuture declared the negotiating process “has failed us. On 13 December, local Fridays for Future groups will strike because the outcomes of COP are not only insufficient, but a painful image of how little the politicians care about the planet.”

The group added: “We stand in solidarity with Indigenous people, people from the global south, and people already suffering from the climate crises.”…—”USA Called ‘Climate Criminal’ as COP 25 Closes,” Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix, 1/13/19

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Judge will not dismiss lawsuit
challenging Trump’s shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s power to shrink Bears Ears National Monument. In an order issued Monday night in Washington D.C.,

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied the Trump administration’s request to dismiss the litigation. She did allow the U.S. Department of Interior to renew its request once a coalition of tribal and environmental groups filed an amended lawsuit.

In an order issued Monday night, September 30, 2019, in Washington D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied the Trump administration’s request to dismiss the litigation. She did allow the U.S. Department of Interior to renew its request once a coalition of tribal and environmental groups filed an amended lawsuit.

The litigation hinges in part on whether Native American tribal groups and environmental groups have standing to challenge President Trump’s power. Judge Chutkan also acknowledged the federal government is planning to release a series of management plans for Bears Ears National Monument.

Further reading San Juan County drops out of Bears Ears lawsuit
FOX 13, other news organizations weigh in on open meetings lawsuit

The judge set an Oct. 7 hearing to discuss the future of the lawsuit and any pending legal motions.…—Ben Winslow, “Judge won’t dismiss lawsuit challenging Trump’s shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument,” Fox13|Salt Lake City, 9/30/19

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Dr Peter Carter summarising the lack of “climate emergency”
COP25-Madrid: National Criminality

Dr Peter Carter Director Climate Emergency Institute IPCC expert reviewer Co-author 2018 Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival.—”Dr Peter Carter: summarising the lack of “climate emergency” at #COP25,” Nick Breeze, YouTube, 12/10/19

 

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Philly students at climate change rally
won’t be punished for missing class

The demonstrators shouted chants of “We believe Bill Nye, climate change is not a lie” and “Stand up, fight back” outside City Hall.

Bundled in a bright-pink and purple parka and holding a homemade poster taller than her 6-year-old body, Devi Johnson surveyed the chanting crowd outside City Hall on Friday.

“I made my sign; it says, ‘Let’s race to recycle this place,’” she said proudly, propping up her Magic Marker art of a smiling Earth. “I love the animals,” she added.

Upset that her classmates aren’t recycling, the Philadelphia first grader regularly brings home trash from school lunch and picks up litter around her neighborhood, said her mother, Kendra. So, when the chance to join a Philadelphia climate strike arose, Devi begged her mother to attend.

Further reading Pa., N.J., and other states are cutting environmental spending at the worst time, report finds
Will Philadelphia and the Northeast U.S. lose our seasons to climate change? Not if we can help it. | Opinion
GOP has a generational split over climate change

One of the younger members of the crowd at Thomas Paine Plaza, Devi joined the hundreds of students and adults who left their schools and workplaces to participate in the global, youth-led climate strike.

“[Politicians] say our youth makes us weaker when it doesn’t, it makes us stronger,” Central High School junior Sajda Adam said to cheers.…—”At Philly youth climate strike, students protest global warming,” Oona Goodin-Smith, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/6/19

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Greta Thunberg’s Intervention at COP25

Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of people around the world

Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of people around the world to recognize the present climate emergency, and attempt to force governments and corporations to change their mad dash towards oblivion for the sake of the accumulation of financial wealth. Here is her speech before the United Nations at COP-25 in Madrid, Spain, the 25th time that member states have met to ‘kick the can down the road.’ —”Greta Thunberg’s Intervention at COP25,” UPFSI|YouTube, 12/14/19

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Gov. Mills orders state agencies:
step up Maine’s fight against climate change

Gov. Janet Mills took another step Tuesday toward positioning Maine as a leader in combatting climate change, signing an executive order directing agencies to develop and implement by February 2021 a sustainability plan to meet or exceed the state’s carbon reduction goals.

The governor announces her executive order at the Blaine House, where solar panels designed to meet 25 percent of the electricity demand at the governor’s residence have been installed.…—”Gov. Mills orders state agencies to step up Maine’s fight against climate change,” , Tux Turkel, Portland Press Herald, 11/26/19

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Sky World Dance

“Sky World” was written in Mohawk and English by Theresa Bear Fox of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation as a song of remembrance for those who have passed on. An abridged version was recently recorded by Teio Swathe and released as a music video with Apsáalooke hip-hop artist Supaman fancy-dancing (that’s actually the name of the style!) in White Sands, New Mexico. On October 12 the video won a Nammy Award.

Let’s put our minds together as one
And remember those who have passed on to the sky world
Their life duties are complete, they are living peacefully
In the sky world, in the sky world

An abridged version was recently recorded by Teio Swathe and released as a music video with Apsáalooke hip-hop artist Supaman fancy-dancing (that’s actually the name of the style!) in White Sands, New Mexico. On October 12, 2017 the video won a Nammy Award.…—”Sky Dance,” Theresa Bear Fox, Art & Theology, 8/6/17

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Michael Douglas is furious about the state of American politics
and for good reason.

Everyone knows our political system is broken.

Here’s what most people don’t know: We can fix it.

In just 9 minutes, Unbreaking America: Divided We Fall shows how America’s political system has been hijacked to ensure those with power keep it – and how the anti-corruption movement can stop it.—”Unbreaking America: Divided We Fall,” RepresentUs

Watch how America’s political system has been hijacked to ensure those with power keep it – and how the anti-corruption movement can stop it.

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The old made our climate mess.
And the young will get us out of it

If we are to survive, we must follow the demands and examples of the next generation

World leaders are meeting in Spain to decide whether or not to bother with preventing the destruction of the earth, like people in a vehicle speeding toward a cliff deciding whether to brake or swerve or just chat about other things. Powerful senior citizens in the United States – Trump, Giuliani, Biden – are trading playground insults, and the middle-aged people who make a lot of decisions about how to handle this emergency seem incapable of thinking beyond the singularly imagination-killing criterion of short-term profit.…—”The old made our climate mess. And the young will get us out of it,” Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian, 12/11/19

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Arctic methane levels reach new heights

New data for 2019 show record-breaking levels of methane in the atmosphere within a fragile Arctic region

In a central Arctic location, a research site in the US state of Alaska, record-breaking level in methane concentration was recorded for this year. The sudden jump sent waves of uneasiness through social networks. 

In August, methane levels above 2040 nmol mol-1 (ppb) were spotted by the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, located eight kilometres east of the city of Utqiaġvik (formerly called Barrow) in Alaska. 

To spot methane levels breaking the 2000ppb mark so sharply in this fragile region is unprecedented…—”Arctic methane levels reach new heights,” Ben Heubl, Engineering & Technology Magazine, 9/16/19

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U.N. climate talks end
with hard feelings, few results
and new doubts about global unity

Delegates from nearly 200 nations wrestled for more than 40 hours past their planned deadline.

MADRID — Global climate talks lurched to an end here Sunday with finger-pointing, accusations of failure and fresh doubts about the world’s collective resolve to slow the warming of the planet — at a moment when scientists say time is running out for people to avert steadily worsening climate disasters.

After more than two weeks of negotiations, punctuated by raucous protests and constant reminders of a need to move faster, negotiators barely mustered enthusiasm for the compromise they had patched together, while raising grievances about the issues that remain unresolved.…—”COP25 U.N. climate change conference ends with doubts about global unity,” Brady Dennis, The Washington Post, 12/15/19

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And now for something completely different:
Brazil’s leader accuses DiCaprio over Amazon fires

The Hollywood actor dismisses Jair Bolsonaro’s claim he “gave money to set the Amazon on fire”.

Related reading: Leonardo DiCaprio Speaks Out Against Brazilian President’s Attacks

  • Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has accused Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio of “giving money to set the Amazon on fire”.
  • The president gave no evidence but in the past has accused NGOs critical of his policies of starting fires that ravaged the rainforest this year.
  • Several arrests have been made amid controversial and unproven allegations fires were started to obtain funding.—”Brazil’s Bolsonaro says DiCaprio gave cash ‘to set Amazon on fire’,” BBC News, 11/30/19

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Are We Too Late to Solve the Climate Crisis?

With greenhouse gas emissions on the rise, and extreme weather events becoming more frequent, InsideClimate News Managing Editor Jack Cushman answers a common question in the climate change conversation: Are we too late?—”Are We Too Late to Solve The Climate Change Crisis?” John Cushman, InsideClimate News|YouTube

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Fantastic Fungi

When so many are struggling for connection, inspiration and hope, Fantastic Fungi brings us together as interconnected creators of our world.Imagine an organism that feeds you, heals you, reveals secrets of the universe and could help save the planet.

Now imagine that it’s in the ground beneath your feet. Fantastic Fungi is a journey into the mysterious world of mycelium and mushrooms.

Further info: Fantastic Fungi Film Screening & Events Schedule: Are you coming?

Fantastic Fungi is a vivid journey into the mysterious subterranean world of mycelium and its fruit-the mushroom. fA story that begins 3.5 billion years ago, fungi makes the soil that supports life, with its mycelial networks connecting vast systems of roots from plants and trees all over the planet, like an underground internet. Through the eyes of mycologists, like renowned expert Paul Stamets, mushroom enthusiasts, like best selling author Michael Pollan, and amateur naturalists, like Eugenia Bone, we will learn about the power, beauty and complexity of the fungi kingdom.—”Fantastic Fungi, Film,” Louie Schwartzberg, Moving Art|YouTube, 8/14/19

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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.