August 11, 2020
This week we focus on a few moves that some may find counter – even jarring – to the narratives we are familiar with as grass roots activists working for environmental justice and and end to the drivers of the climate crisis now fast upon us. Democrats more willing to let President Trump have a second term than vote for Biden; trees that turn out to be major methane polluters. We are called upon to decide, as Ted Glick writes. And that requires looking deeply into the complexities underlying our wish to bring simplicity into a world far to accustomed to ice cream on demand, comfort, easy transport. It is all too easy to bring the very conditions we want to move away from right into thinking about a just and sustainable culture.
But first the news.

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Table of Contents

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NY & Northeast Activist News

National Activist News

Counter-narratives

Indigenous Peoples News

Intersections

In Case You Missed It

New Energy News

Science & Climate

Industry News

Regulatory & Court News

Politics & Economics

And Now for Something Completely Different


New York City’s Hottest New Energy Fight

Oil-fired power plants want to build new gas replacements just as a fresh slate of anti-fossil fuel legislators heads to Albany.

NEW YORK ― A chain-link fence runs along 20th Avenue through northwest Queens. To the South are blocks of brick multifamily homes, where grandmothers tend fig trees in verdant front yards and proud immigrant parents celebrate high school graduations with gaudy banners hung from balconies. North of the fence, power plants burn the oil and natural gas that feeds New York City’s insatiable thirst for electricity.

That fence is about to become a battle line in the fight over the city’s energy future.

One of the companies on the complex, NRG Energy, has quietly revived plans to replace its 50-year-old oil-burning generators with new gas-fired units, part of a $1.5 billion makeover the utility giant says will allow it to comply with state pollution rules while meeting electricity demand.


Energy company NRG is proposing to build a new 437 megawatt (MW) fracked gas power plant on the Astoria waterfront in Queens, New York. If built, the plant would pollute our air and water and worsen the climate crisis. Astoria residents already have elevated rates of asthma, and the new plant would add toxic smog and particulate matter that would worsen respiratory illnesses. These pollutants are especially dangerous for kids, the elderly and other vulnerable people. This new plant would degrade air quality across Astoria, NW Queens and nearby Bronx and Manhattan neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the plant would deepen New York’s reliance on climate-destroying fracked gas, and entirely contradict the mandates set forth by New York’s climate law passed in 2019. We can create good union jobs by building renewables or battery storage instead! We don’t need this toxic plant.

Call Governor Cuomo at 877-235-6537 and tell him that he must stop the Astoria NRG power plant! Our Air, Climate and Health Should Come Before NRG’s Profits!


But the new cadre of climate-change hard-liners who unseated incumbents in this summer’s primary wants to upend that. The group of more than half a dozen campaigned for the New York State Legislature on platforms that included shutting down fossil fuel generation and bringing private utilities under government control.

“This is what it means to live out your belief in the Green New Deal,” said Zohran Mamdani as he squinted through the fence on a sunny recent Saturday morning. The 28-year-old democratic socialist unseated 10-year incumbent Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas in the Democratic primary for the 36th Assembly District last month.

New York City’s roughly 15 “peaker” plants ― which produce extra generating capacity when the city’s demand eclipses the regular supply, like during a heatwave ― are aging, and they run primarily on oil and gas. As the city looks to shrink its output of planet-heating gases, the plants seem like low-hanging fruit.… —”New York City’s Hottest New Energy Fight,” Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPost, 8/8/20

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ConEd, Eversource blasted by New York,
Connecticut officials after ‘wholly inadequate’
storm response

New York and Connecticut officials chided electric utilities across the Northeast for a “wholly inadequate” response as outages persisted in the aftermath of a storm that ravaged the coastal region.

Hurricane Isaias hit the Carolinas Monday before being downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved further north up the east coast, leaving millions of people without power. Governors, regulators and other state officials were quick to criticize utilities on Wednesday and Thursday for being under-prepared, even after millions of dollars spent on storm hardening measures.

The storm brought Consolidated Edison and other utilities in the Northeast their largest power outages since 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. Utilities in the region say they are working as quickly as possible to restore power, and industry leaders note the storm was uniquely destructive.

“You’ve got a really wide swath of some of the most populous parts of the United States with huge trees down, 27 tornadoes all across the region following the storm that impacted everything from Florida to Maine. So let’s not understate just how devastating this particular storm is,” said Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness for Edison Electric Institute.

Utilities are in the business of delivering reliable service, and the public should know that I’m not interested in their excuses.—Marissa Gillett, Chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority

New York and Connecticut governors directed state regulators to open an investigation into utilities handling of the storm, while New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, D, said his state was “pressing all the major utilities to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.”

“Several years ago, Connecticut experienced large-scale outages that took days to recover from, and we were told that the utilities … were improving their resources so that they can be prepared for the next time Mother Nature inevitably hits again,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, D, said in a series of Tweets, referring to Hurricane Sandy. “And now here we are, with a wholly inadequate response to another storm.”…—”ConEd, Eversource blasted by New York, Connecticut officials after ‘wholly inadequate’ storm response,” Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive, 8/7/20

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Pennsylvania Won’t Say Where 66% of Fracking’s Radioactive Leachate From 30 Landfills is Going,
Claim it’s “Safe” & “Private”

Janice Blanock talks to Public Herald about losing
her son Luke Blanock to Ewing Sarcoma in 2016.
PA DEP’s TENORM data could play a critical role
in helping the Blanock’s discover whether oil and gas had anything to do with what happened to
Luke. © Nina Berman for Public Herald

In Pennsylvania, the final destination of 66 percent of liquid waste from 30 municipal landfills accepting fracking’s oil and gas waste remains unknown. Oil and gas waste from fracking contains high concentrations of Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM), and wherever this radioactive TENORM waste is stored, rain carries water-soluble radionuclides such as Radium-226 through the landfill to create what’s known as leachate – the landfill’s liquid waste. This TENORM-laden leachate is commonly sent to Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTPs) that are not equipped to remove it before it’s dumped into rivers.

PublicHeraldPodbean

If you’re talking about fracking, you’re talking about TENORM, which is present throughout the process in waste streams like pipe scale, sludge, drill cuttings, wastewater, and contaminated equipment. What starts as Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) contained deep beneath the Earth’s surface is brought to the surface by fracking and concentrated into TENORM.

Public Herald has made several attempts with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to verify the destination of landfill leachate containing TENORM, but DEP stopped responding to our inquiries after we published the August 2019 statewide report on how fracking’s radioactive waste enters public waters. Our team has since been forced to rely on delayed Right-to-Know Law requests and DEP’s limited online data.

From the limited data DEP provided to Public Herald in 2019, and from what our team in 2020 has discovered, we now know and mapped the whereabouts of 34 percent of leachate from a limited number of landfills accepting fracking’s oil and gas waste in Pennsylvania.

What we’ve discovered is that DEP’s 2019 response to Public Herald was missing 17 landfills and 4 WWTPs. It begs the question – does the state really not have a handle on tracking TENORM-laden leachate? Or is the lack of transparency an attempt to keep the public uninformed?…—”Pennsylvania Regulators Won’t Say Where 66% of Landfill Leachate w/ Radioactive Material From Fracking is Going…’It’s Private’,” Joshua Pribanic Talia Wiener, PUBLIC HERALD, 8/5/20

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Major gas explosion levels Northwest Baltimore homes,
killing one and seriously injuring others

A major gas explosion ripped through three homes in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore, killing one woman and seriously injuring at least six others.

The explosion occurred before 10 a.m. at Reisterstown and Labyrinth roads, just behind Reisterstown Road Plaza shopping center near the city-county line. The exact cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Rescue crews pulled a woman from the rubble just before noon and freed another man around 12:15 p.m., according to the Baltimore firefighters union.

“This is a horrendous situation,” Baltimore fire chief Niles Ford said.

Further reading Major U.S. cities are leaking methane at twice the rate previously believed | Science|AAAS
Baltimore’s natural gas system is increasingly leaky, raising concerns about safety and global warming | Baltimore Sun

Rescuers continue to search the debris for other survivors, fire officials said. Officials did not provide ages of the people who were rescued, but witnesses said they heard children calling for help after the blast.

A University of Maryland Medical Center spokeswoman confirmed three men were being treated for injuries from the gas explosion at the hospital. One was in critical condition, one was serious and one was in fair condition, spokeswoman Lisa Clough said.…—”Major Baltimore gas explosion kills one, traps others under leveled homes,” Lillian Reed, Colin Campbell, Baltimore Sun, 8/10/20

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Being Candles in Dark Times

“It is clear that the nations of the world now can only rise and fall together. It is not a question of one nation winning at the expense of another. We must all help one another or all perish together.” — Carl Sagan

In 1974 I first understood that all my training was intended to allow me to become a candle in dark times ahead. I assumed that those dark times lay somewhere off in the distant future — and that reality at the time looked pretty rosy for a young man with many options.

Decades later circa 2008, I quit my day job teaching college to devote myself to making a difference in humanity’s trajectory, it was clear that those dark times lay much closer ahead than anyone realized. Twenty years had elapsed since Dr. James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute for Space Studies, had testified to the US congress that global warming had arrived and was detectable in data.

When I got to know him a few years later, Dr. Hansen recounted having lived through many presidential administrations — both Republican and Democrat — which had simply ‘kicked the climate can down the road.’ So by 2008, that proverbial can had traveled miles and miles with no end in sight. Still, back in 2008, those dark times appeared to lay off in the indistinct future — although the dark clouds gathering on the horizon were clearly visible.…—”Being Candles in Dark Times,” Stuart Scott, Medium, 7/10/20

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Counter-narratives

The Moment to Decide

“Once to every soul and nation
Comes the moment to decide.
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight.
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.”

For reasons unknown, this song came to me a couple of days ago as I was sawing downed branches and raking and picking up leaves and branches in my yard after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaias came through my area.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard or sung this song. It was one of the favorites of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I’ve always liked it, both the melody and the words, but especially the words.

It’s similar to other words of note from Albert Camus: “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present,” but there is something about the particular time we are living in right now which makes the words of this song especially on target.

These next few months are absolutely a moment of decision for not just the USA but the world, for reasons most people understand. Not all progressives, though; in a way that is mystifying to me, there are some who see no difference between Biden and Trump. It’s like ideology (“the two parties are equally terrible”) comes before facts and truth.

Another verse to this song references truth:

“New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth.
They must upward still, and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.”

In other words, be open to new developments that call for doing things differently. If there was ever such a time, given the grievous damage to our wounded world’s ecosystems and democracy that a second Trump administration would bring, this is it. That holds true for third partyites, for anarchists who disdain electoral politics, for anyone who is alienated from our corporate-dominated electoral system.

The final verse of this song is pretty religious. The last couple of lines affirm that, despite so much evil and wrong, “Standeth God within the shadows, Keeping watch above his own.” There is a non-religious way of saying something similar: “There ain’t no power like the power of the people, and the power of the people don’t stop.”

Amen.—”The Moment to Decide,” Ted Glick. Future Hope, 8/7/20

Ted Glick is the author of the just published Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

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Trees release flammable methane
—here’s what that means for climate

There are more reasons than ever to conserve forests, but the surprising role of trees as a methane source adds a complication.

In 1907, Francis W. Bushong, a chemistry professor at the University of Kansas, reported a novel finding in the journal Chemical and Physical Papers. He’d found methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, in a tree.

Years earlier, he wrote, he’d cut down some cottonwood trees and “observed the formation of bubbles in the sap upon the freshly cut trunk, stump and chips.” When he struck a match, the gas ignited in a blue flame. At the university, he replicated the flame test on a campus cottonwood and this time captured gas samples. The concentration of methane was not much below the level measured in samples from Kansas’s natural gas fields.

It might not seem so surprising to think of trees in Amazon forests as conduits for this gas, given that soggy soils, peat bogs, and other low-oxygen environments are the domain of microbes that generate this gas. But other studies have found trees generating substantial methane even in dry upland ecosystems—in some cases within the trunk of the tree, not the soil.

The finding was reported mainly as a novelty and faded into obscurity.

Tree methane is back, in a big way.

An expanding network of researchers has discovered methane flowing out of trees from the vast flooded forests of the Amazon basin to Borneo’s soggy peatlands, from temperate upland woods in Maryland and Hungary to forested mountain slopes in China.…—”Trees release flammable methane—here’s what that means for climate,” Andrew Revkin, National Geographic, 3/25/19

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Though forests burn, trees retake farmland globally
as agroforestry advances

It was late afternoon deep in the dry season in Fatikh, a village in the Sahel region of Senegal. Out on his farm, El Hadj Ndiaye, a distinguished gentleman in an elegant emerald-green boubou, was happily extolling the virtues of the young trees dotting his fields, when his mood suddenly darkened.

His gaze had caught on a distant herd of cattle. More than a hundred huge-horned animals in dozens of tones of ocher, white and brown, already a lot thinner than they were at the end of the wet season, steadily drew nearer, foraging for whatever fodder was left on the fields. Soon, the target for Ndiaye’s anger became clear: it was Yack Diouf, the young Serer herder who was guiding his animals to the most promising spots with a few lazy taps of his switch.

Ndiaye, it soon became clear, suspected Yack of being one of those who would try to cut down his trees later in the dry season, once the fodder is all gone. Their verdant, protein-rich foliage would then be a serious temptation to the young men tasked with feeding the livestock of a powerful owner.

“Everyone wants to cut my trees,” he complained. “They say ‘you did not plant this tree, it grew by itself! It is not yours, it is God’s!’ Me and my sons must spend nights out here to protect them. And it’s not just the cattle, it’s also the women who covet them for firewood!”

Exasperated, he muttered that he would get rid of all of them. But he didn’t mean it, it soon became clear. Ndiaye’s trees were simply too useful.

His millet yields had shot up since he had managed the regeneration of his trees, many of them nitrogen-fixing legumes, from shoots sprouting from old root balls and dormant seeds. It wasn’t just the nutrients the trees could find deep underground and offer to the hungry crops via their leaf fall. It was also the distributed shade that allowed crops to keep growing during the hottest hours of the day, and the humidity that stayed in those fields longer than in those bereft of trees. Also, the breaks they formed kept his soils from being blown or washed away by wind or rain while capturing the soil stripped from his neighbors’ fields.…—”Though forests burn, trees retake farmland globally as agroforestry advances,” Patrick Worms, Mongabay, 8/10/20

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A disastrous legacy of exploitative drilling and mining has destroyed the Navajo Nation’s precious water resources.

Growing up in Vanderwagen, an arid, mountainous checker-board region of the Navajo Nation near the Arizona-New Mexico border, Sunny Dooley learned from an early age that safe, clean water was as precious as a rare mineral, and just as hard to find.

Because of naturally occurring uranium and arsenic in the groundwater, the nearest clean well was two miles away. Dooley and her family used to make the trip on foot with steel buckets they would drop down the well before lugging them back, a trail of splashes in the dirt marking the route behind.

Later, when a manual water pump was installed at the well, the water flowed more freely. And when the family purchased a truck, they were able to make the four-mile round-trip in a breeze. Still, water remained a treasured commodity.

“We acclimated to live sparingly with water,” said Dooley, now a distinguished storyteller, who still doesn’t have running water or indoor plumbing in her home. Nowadays, Dooley’s nephew makes the near 20-mile trek in his large truck to the nearby town of Gallup to fill a giant container that provides for Dooley and other members of her family for weeks.

Dooley’s story, however, isn’t an oddity in this great 27,000 square mile swath of land in the Four Corners region of Southwestern U.S. Of the Navajo Nation’s 200,000 plus residents, between 30 and 40 percent have no direct access to running water. Some residents speculate that number is even higher. Half of the Navajo population within the Utah portion of the Nation alone lack indoor plumbing. In a region where the median household income is about half that for the U.S. as a whole, these long, routine treks to find clean water can cost some households hundreds of dollars a month in gas.

The reasons underpinning the Nation’s current clean water crisis date back more than 100 years to a federal Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to favor reservations, but in its application has led to a complex tangle of water rights that impede the Nation’s efforts to provide for its members.

“There’s a bureaucracy of water here,” said Dooley. “Tribal government bureaucracy. New Mexico state bureaucracy. United States government bureaucracy.”…—”Navajo Nation’s Shortage of Clean Water Is Impeding Efforts to Control COVID,” Daniel Ross, Truthout, 8/7/10

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Brazilian Amazon drained of millions
of wild animals by criminal networks

Well organized global crime networks are pulling millions of tropical birds, fish, turtles and mammals out of the Amazon — a lucrative trade that is destroying ecosystems and putting public health at risk.

The researchers point out that COVID-19 likely was transmitted to humans by trafficked animals and that addressing the Brazilian Amazon wildlife trade could prevent the next pandemic.

The Brazilian Amazon is hemorrhaging illegally traded wildlife according to a new report released Monday. Each year, thousands of silver-voiced saffron finches and other songbirds, along with rare macaws and parrots, are captured, trafficked and sold as pets. Some are auctioned as future contestants in songbird contests. Others are exported around the globe.

Fish bound for ornamental home aquariums also pour out of the Amazon, including the tiny, iridescent blue and red cardinal tetra. Arapaima fish — also known as pirarucù, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish — are caught illegally, “laundered” amidst captive-bred specimens and shipped to the U.S. in large numbers.

Other fish are headed for the dinner table, as are freshwater turtles and their eggs, while tapir, peccary and other mammals are sold in Brazil as bush meat. Jaguar teeth, heads and skins are shipped to China.

Millions of animals are being illegally captured and traded live and in parts in a thriving Brazilian black market, according to the report, produced by TRAFFIC, a UK-based nonprofit that studies the trade. “The pervasive and uncontrolled capture of wild animals and plants for the illegal trade is having grave consequences for Brazilian biodiversity, the national economy, the rule of law and good governance,” it says.…—”Brazilian Amazon drained of millions of wild animals by criminal networks: Report,” Sharon Guynup, Mongabay, 7/28/20

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After ComEd bribery case, Illinois groups push
for changes to clean energy bill

Illinois legislators, utility leaders and stakeholders have worked to advance a bill to transition the state to zero emissions by 2030, but an investigation uncovering nearly a decade of alleged bribery activity in the state from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) threatened the landmark legislation.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition previewed on Wednesday an updated version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), to reflect the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities and to increase accountability among utilities.

The new bill would seek restitution from ComEd, in addition to the $200 million fine the utility paid to the federal government. The bill would also include performance-based metrics for utilities and a repeal of ComEd and Ameren Illinois’ recent rate hikes.

In addition, the coalition, which includes the Chicago Jobs Council, the Citizens Utility Board and other local businesses and environmental organizations in the state, are working with Rep. Ann Williams, D, and Sen. Cristina Castro, D, to update the bill to include language on equity, ethics and job training.

The bill had included provisions to fund energy efficiency and focus on economic support for underserved communities, but the new version would take a more direct approach to target communities that rely on the fossil fuel industry for jobs, according to the coalition.…—”After ComEd bribery case, Illinois groups push for changes to clean energy bill,” Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive, 8/6/20

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Inside Clean Energy: What’s a Virtual Power Plant?
Bay Area Consumers Will Soon Find Out.

A new project would create a collective power system that could improve grid reliability and reduce dependence on big utilities.

Remember Megazord, the giant robot hero from children’s television whose body was made up of a bunch of smaller robots joining together?

Think of a new project by three Bay Area electricity providers as Megazord for the grid.

East Bay Community Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy have announced that they are working with the solar company Sunrun on a program that will give discounted solar panels and battery storage systems to up to 6,000 households and businesses.

The systems will have two purposes: Providing renewable backup power to those customers, and also enabling them to band together when needed to send electricity out to the grid, with up to 20 megawatts of battery capacity.

Another term for this kind of system is a “virtual power plant,” and anyone who’s been reading me for a while knows that I geek out at the potential of virtual power plants to make the electricity system cleaner and more reliable.…—”Inside Clean Energy: What’s a Virtual Power Plant? Bay Area Consumers Will Soon Find Out.” Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News, 8/5/20

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a name=”sheep-ag-and-sun:-agrivoltaics”>Sheep, ag and sun: Agrivoltaics propel
significant reductions in solar maintenance costs

As the U.S. solar industry expands, arrays are spreading across more land — and the cost of keeping the sun on those panels through vegetation management is rising. A one-shot solution to both the land-use and cost challenges is emerging: agrivoltaics. The term covers dual-use projects that co-locate agriculture and photovoltaic panels, and often reduce O&M costs in the process.

Solar energy panels are expected to cover 3 million acres in the U.S. by 2030 and 6 million by 2050, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “Solar developers want to develop on land, and farmers want to use their land to make money, but there’s a lot of push-back in many rural areas because the landscapes are transforming and looking different,” said Jordan Macknick, lead energy-water-land analyst for NREL. “There’s going to be a large amount of solar development in every state. If this development is not done well or properly, we could see a loss in productivity of farmland.”

Further reading: Pollinator habitats: The bees’ knees of rural solar development | Utility Dive

Developers have responded to the community-acceptance and cost-savings pressures by piloting agrivoltaics projects in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West, often using sheep, and utilities are taking notice. Costs of grazing livestock to manage vegetation growth can often run 30% less than traditional landscape maintenance, according to Lexie Hain, co-founder of the American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA).

ASGA was founded in New York three years ago and now counts nearly 100 members in about 30 states. Most are sheep producers or solar industry representatives, but the trade and advocacy group is currently considering a membership collaboration with a targeted goat grazing business as well. While sheep are considered the gold star for solar because they don’t jump on panels, goats have long been used for utility and pipeline maintenance and perimeter maintenance (or maintaining vegetation around the borders of a site) in countries like France.…—”Sheep, ag and sun: Agrivoltaics propel significant reductions in solar maintenance costs,” Lynn Freehill-Maye, Utility Dive, 8/4/20

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Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel

ThoriumKirk Sorensen explains the liquid fuel thorium reactor — a way to produce energy that is safer, cleaner and more efficient than current nuclear power.

Further reading Is Thorium A Magic Bullet For Our Energy Problems? | Science Friday|NPR
In a country long wary of nuclear, an Indonesian chases the thorium dream | Mongabay
Nuclear Power in Indonesia | World Nuclear Association
Indonesia ThorCon 3.5 GW fission power project | ThorCon

This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxYYC, an independent event. TED’s editors chose to feature it.—”Thorium, an alternative nuclear fuel,” Kirk Sorensen, TED Talk, April 2011

Kirk Sorensen is an engineer and nuclear technologist. He encountered the possibilities of a thorium-cycle nuclear reactor while doing research on how to power a lunar community. Thorium is a cleaner, safer, and more abundant nuclear fuel — one that Kirk believes will revolutionize how we produce our energy.

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a name=”long-time-contrarian-michael-s”>Long-time Contrarian Michael Shellenberger
a Republican Star Witness in Climate Hearings

Fresh off the publication of his new book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Michael Shellenberger — a self-described Democrat and climate activist who nevertheless purports that climate concerns are over-hyped — is now making the rounds as a Republican minority witness in congressional committee hearings on climate change.

A week after testifying to the House Select Committee on Climate Change and subsequently complaining that he was “smeared” by several Democratic committee members, Shellenberger appeared, again as a GOP witness, before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, August 5 in a hearing titled “The Devastating Health Impacts of Climate Change.”

The other four witnesses at that hearing included two medical doctors who spoke about the way climate impacts such as extreme heat and related air pollution from fossil fuels are literally killing Americans. Shellenberger used his testimony to argue that “climate alarmism” is creating mental health problems among young people and that concerns around climate change are largely overblown.

My concern is with the gross misrepresentation of the best available science that is having these severe mental health impacts,” Shellenberger said in response to questioning from Ranking Member Rep. James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky. Shellenberger said climate change is in no way a crisis or emergency and that “it is not even our most severe environmental problem.”

That stands in contrast to the 2019 statement from more than 11,000 scientists around the world declaring “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”

Shellenberger has no training in medicine or climate science, holding a Master’s Degree in Anthropology.

Before Shellenberger made these comments, Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA), a member of the House Oversight Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Environment, said that climate change is indeed an urgent and “existential” problem. “Those focused on downplaying real climate risks have blood on their hands,” he said.…—”Long-time Contrarian Michael Shellenberger Is a Republican Star Witness in Climate Hearings,” Dana Drugmand, DeSmog, 8/6/20

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a name=”covid-19-is-allowing-a-sneak-p”>COVID-19 is allowing a sneak peak
for how high-penetration renewable, flexible
electricity markets will function in the real world

Europe has seen the future of electricity markets and it is flexible.

Since it began, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on electricity markets in Europe. Market conditions that most in the industry – including me – thought were still 5-10 years into the future have suddenly, unexpectedly materialized, offering a glimpse of how the grid and power markets will regularly function in the near future. These impacts have many important lessons that regulators, grid operators and power producers can use during the suddenly accelerated transition to electricity markets characterized by large shares of renewable energy, flexible generation and optimization of resources.

So, what happened in Europe? In April, as the EU took action to suppress the spread of the virus, demand for electricity declined as businesses closed their doors, manufacturing and industrial processes shutdown, and families sheltered in their homes.

The results speak for themselves, as Wärtsilä’s new Energy Transition Lab visualization tool illustrates. In April and May, year-over-year total load was down nearly 11%. This put pressure on baseload fossil-fired generators and enabled countries like the United Kingdom to shut off generation from coal for the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The share of renewable generation in Europe in April and May was 45%. There were more than ten days in which greater than half of power generation was from renewables, a milestone many in the industry have been skeptical was possible with current grid infrastructure. It now has happened and serves as a real-world demonstration of the viability of high-penetration renewable scenarios.

The increase in clean renewables corresponded in reductions in the carbon intensity from power production. Carbon emissions from power were down more than 20% and generation from coal declined by more than a third as inflexible baseload capacity gave way to flexible generation, both hybrid and renewable. In fact, average profit for flexible assets like energy storage is up an eye-popping 470% during the COVID crisis.

While these top-level insights provide proof points for the viability of a renewable, flexible grid that my colleagues at Wärtsilä have described and anticipated, digging a little deeper into the data reveals some challenges as well.…—”COVID-19 is allowing a sneak peak for how high-penetration renewable, flexible electricity markets will function in the real world,” Andy Tang, Utility Dive, 8/10/20

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Anglerfish Drop Their Immune Defenses
to Find Love

Male anglerfish are major clingers. To avoid mistaking mates as foreign tissue, the deep sea couples lost part of their immune system in evolution

Love can leave us defenseless, but for some species of deep sea anglerfish letting their guard down for new romance is in their genes. New research finds that evolution has actually eliminated an integral part of the ghoulish fish’s immune system to make sure that when they find a mate, nothing stands between them and complete union, reports Katherine J. Wu for the New York Times.

AnglerFish

ZeFrank’s true facts about angler fish

That’s because certain species of anglerfish have adopted what might seem like an extreme approach to the vast, lightless dating pool of the deep. When a male finds a female, which can be up to 60 times his size, he clamps onto her underside with tiny translucent fangs. The comparatively minuscule male’s love nip then turns into a permanent attachment: his mouth, and eventually even his blood vessels, fuse to the female to provide her eggs with on demand fertilization. (Talk about clingy.)

In biological terms, the male becomes a sexual parasite incapable of surviving without his beloved—his internal organs, with the exception of his testes, shriveled and useless. In a final twist, there are even a few species known to collect multiple supplicant males, accumulating as many as eight of the glorified sperm sacks.

The rub for immunologists is that this kind of body melding shouldn’t be possible for the same reasons humans can’t just go swapping organs willy nilly. An ancient part of the vertebrate immune system called adaptive immunity is programmed to seek and destroy any foreign substance that gets into the body, from viruses to bacteria, reports Erin Garcia de Jesus for Science News.

The findings raise new questions about how these anglerfish that have compromised their immune systems to hang onto their mates manage to stay healthy.

“When you look at [these fish], you scratch your head and think, ‘How is that possible?’” Thomas Boehm, an immunologist at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Germany, tells Science News. The adaptive immune system’s aggressive response to invaders is why organ transplants must be assiduously matched for compatibility, “but these creatures seem to be doing it without knowing what’s going on.”…—”Anglerfish Drop Their Immune Defenses to Find Love,” Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 7/31/20

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Racism and Discrimination
in the Oil and Gas Industry

With the recent focus on systemic racism in America, the oil and gas industry is depicting itself as leading on the issue of diversity in the workforce. However, its public relations efforts and slick advertisements do not reflect the industry’s actual behavior.

In early June, as protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police went global, American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers released a statement vowing that America’s most powerful fossil fuel lobbying organization “has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”

Around the same time, the group “shared with Axios upon a request for comment” internal data showing that women and people of color would fill 54 percent of new jobs created in the sector over the next two decades.

But Sommer’s claims that the oil and gas industry will not tolerate any type of discrimination haven’t stood up very well.

A new report by the group Global Witness highlights the huge gap between the reality of what the oil industry and its main lobbying group says on issues of discrimination and what it really does. Using Chevron as an example.

Chevron CEO Mike Wirth has been the only leader of a major oil and gas company to make a statement condemning police “killings of unarmed black men and women” in America. But Global Witness details how Chevron donates to politicians whose voting records have earned them a grade of “F” from the NAACP when it comes to their voting records on civil rights.

These politicians include Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who recently described slavery in the U.S. as a “necessary evil upon which the union was built.” Cotton earned his NAACP failing grade for voting just 7 percent of the time in support of civil rights. In early June, Cotton described the overwhelmingly peaceful George Floyd marches as an “orgy of violence” in The New York Times, and advocated for sending active U.S. military troops into American cities to “restore order.”…

Report: Industry Guilty of Environmental Racism While Funding Police

Another new analysis, from the research organization LittleSis, highlights the long history of environmental racism perpetrated by the oil and gas industry including the industry’s ongoing financial support of police departments across America, which contrasts with the industry’s public relations efforts.

“Whether it’s posing as green advocates while it intensifies its extraction and burning of fossil fuels, or uttering a few canned words about racial justice as it disproportionately pollutes Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities and helps bankroll police foundations,” Derek Seidman, co-author of the report, told DeSmog. “The fossil fuel industry has a long history of using public relations gestures as cover for its destructive practices.”

LittleSis also singles out Chevron, noting that the firm owns refineries known for polluting communities of people of color and funds police departments.

Chevron is well known for its greenwashing efforts, with its work on the “People Do” campaign in the 1980s earning a distinction of being a “textbook case of successful greenwashing” according to some environmentalists.

Fracking Exec: “What is a Japanese woman doing on this beat?”

A recent report in The New York Times highlighting the fracking industry’s financial failures drew an openly racist email response from an industry executive, who focused on the journalist’s ethnicity rather than the content of the story.

“What is a Japanese woman doing on this beat anyway?,” Brian Petty of Wison, an oil and gas industry services firm, wrote to reporter Hiroko Tabuchi. “Can’t the Times find an American journalist?”…—”Racism and Discrimination in the Oil and Gas Industry,” Justin Mikulka, DeSmog, 8/2/20

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Republican Sen. Mike Braun to unveil new bill
scaling back qualified immunity for police

QualifiedImmunityExplainedThe effort sets up a collision course with McConnell and Trump

GOING IT ALONE: A lone Republican senator, Mike Braun (R-Ind.), will today unveil a new bill to reform qualified immunity for law enforcement.

The move sets up a potential collision course with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is throwing his weight behind another Republican police reform bill that does not tackle this issue — and President Trump, who opposes revising the 50-year-old legal doctrine that shields police from civil lawsuits.

Braun insists that now is the time to move ahead with this bill — even without co-sponsors — given the mass protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. “It’s a watershed moment,” the freshman senator told Power Up in an interview ahead of the bill’s release.

Further reading: Advocates From Left and Right Ask Supreme Court to Revisit Immunity Defense | The New York Times

And it sets up a difficult decision for Republicans in a competitive election year when polls show majorities of Americans from both parties say showing Floyd’s killing was a sign of broader problems in law enforcement and that police need to do more to ensure blacks are treated equally to whites.

Braun called the measures within the McConnell-backed policing bill crafted by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — which include discouraging but not banning controversial tactics such as chokeholds and no-knock warrants — “low hanging fruit.” Qualified immunity, he argues, is “something that everybody knows we need to do.”

Braun’s Reforming Qualified Immunity Act would scale back protections that let police officers avoid being held personally liable in lawsuits brought over issues such as the use of excessive force or alleged civil rights violations. It comes just after the Supreme Court punted on the issue, leaving Congress to decide whether to address the doctrine. As it stands now, Braun says qualified immunity is a judicial overreach “in which protection is extended to those acting under the color of the law, even when they commit egregious acts which deprive fellow citizens of their constitutional and statutory rights.”…—”Power Up: Republican Sen. Mike Braun to unveil new bill scaling back qualified immunity for police,” Jacqueline Alemany, The Washington Post, 6/23/20

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Rising Seas Could Menace Millions Beyond Shorelines

As global warming pushes up ocean levels around the world, scientists have long warned that many low-lying coastal areas will become permanently submerged.

But a new study published Thursday finds that much of the economic harm from sea-level rise this century is likely to come from an additional threat that will arrive even faster: As oceans rise, powerful coastal storms, crashing waves and extreme high tides will be able to reach farther inland, putting tens of millions more people and trillions of dollars in assets worldwide at risk of periodic flooding.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, calculated that up to 171 million people living today face at least some risk of coastal flooding from extreme high tides or storm surges, created when strong winds from hurricanes or other storms pile up ocean water and push it onshore. While many people are currently protected by sea walls or other defenses, such as those in the Netherlands, not everyone is.

Further reading Canada’s glaciers are major contributors to rising sea levels | Microsoft News
High Temperatures Set Off Major Greenland Ice Melt —Again | Scientific American

If the world’s nations keep emitting greenhouse gases, and sea levels rise just 1 to 2 more feet, the amount of coastal land at risk of flooding would increase by roughly one-third, the research said. In 2050, up to 204 million people currently living along the coasts would face flooding risks. By 2100, that rises to as many as 253 million people under a moderate emissions scenario known as RCP4.5. (The actual number of people at risk may vary, since the researchers did not try to predict future coastal population changes.)…—”Rising Seas Could Menace Millions Beyond Shorelines, Study Finds,” Brad Plumer, The New York Times, 7/30/20

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World’s top tapir expert prepares
for unprecedented Amazon mission

SavingTapirs

In her first study in the region, Brazilian conservationist and Whitley Gold Award winner Patrícia Medici wants to understand how South America’s largest land mammal responds to changes in the forest caused by human economic activity.

Social and travel restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Brazilian conservationist Patrícia Medici from going to London last month to receive one of the most prestigious awards in the world of conservation science.

The Whitley Gold Award — the top prize given out every year by the Whitley Fund for Nature — is considered such a major honor that it is known as the “Green Oscars” and is handed out by Princess Anne of England, the fund’s patron. Medici, who received her first Whitley Award in 2008, was named the recipient this year for her work to conserved Brazil’s threatened wildlife in general and the lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) in particular. The awards ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society has now been rescheduled to December, if things are normal by then.

Until then, however, Medici says she hopes the health crisis doesn’t prevent her from resuming her expeditions with the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative (Incab) in the second half of 2020.

That’s when she does most of her fieldwork, when the weather is dry in the Pantanal, the sanctuary of the lowland tapir in Brazil, and scientists are better able to document the animal’s behavior and breeding habits. In the Cerrado grassland and the Atlantic Forest, human impact has changed the habitat to such an extent that the tapir is now deemed a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.…—”World’s top tapir expert prepares for unprecedented Amazon mission,” Naira Hofmeister, Mongabay, 6/24/20

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Mauritius grapples with worst environmental crisis
in a generation

Mauritius, envied the world over for its azure waters, alluring beaches and marine riches, is facing one of its worst environmental disasters after a ship ran aground on a coral reef and leaked about 900 tons of fuel into the sea.

The island nation in the western Indian Ocean declared an environmental emergency on Aug. 7.

The Japanese-owned bulk carrier, MV Wakashio, struck the coral reef barrier off the southeastern coast on July 25. It lay stranded for more than 10 days as its condition deteriorated; on Aug. 6, a breach in its fuel tank triggered an oil spill.

The ship, plying under a Panama flag, originated in China and was heading for Brazil. It was not carrying any cargo but did have 3,894 tons of low-sulfur fuel oil on board. That fuel oil is now sullying the waters of Mauritius.

Over the weekend, oily sludge clogged the coastline, washing up on Mauritius’s pristine beaches and threatening a host of ecologically sensitive marine areas. The ship went aground on the reefs of Pointe d’Esny, a Ramsar site and the largest remaining wetland in Mauritius. The Ile aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve, Blue Bay Marine Area and Mahebourg Fishing Reserves all lie close to the spill site.…—”Mauritius grapples with worst environmental crisis in a generation,” Malavika Vyawahare, Mongabay 8/10/20

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Saudi Aramco profit drops 50%
for first half of the year as pandemic batters oil price

Oil giant Saudi Aramco reported a 50% fall in net income for the first half of its financial year, reflecting a devastating year for oil markets and the global economy at large as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In a release published Sunday, the company said net income plunged to $23.2 billion in the first six months of the year, down by half from $46.9 billion over the same period in 2019.

Saudi Arabia’s majority state-owned oil company and the world’s largest crude producer also maintained its second-quarter dividend of $18.75 billion, saying it will be paid in the third quarter. Its first-quarter dividend of the same amount was paid in the second quarter.

Total free cash flow at the company came in at $21.1 billion for the first half, down from $38 billion the year before.

The financial results for the second quarter reflect the biggest shock to global energy markets in decades.

“Strong headwinds from reduced demand and lower oil prices are reflected in our second quarter results,” Aramco President and CEO Amin Nasser said in the release.…—”Saudi Aramco profit drops 50% for H1 2020 as pandemic batters oil price,” Dan Murphy,Natasha Turak, CNBC, 8/9/20

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E.P.A. to Lift Obama-Era Controls on Methane,
a Potent Greenhouse Gas

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected in the coming days to lift Obama-era controls on the release of methane, a powerful climate-warming gas that is emitted from leaks and flares in oil and gas wells.

The new rule on methane pollution, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, has been expected for months, and will be made public before Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously to avoid publicly pre-empting the official announcement.

The rollback of the methane rule is the latest move in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to weaken environmental standards, which has continued unabated during the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, the E.P.A. weakened rules on the release of toxic chemicals from coal-fired power plants, loosened curbs on climate-warming tailpipe pollution and opted not to strengthen a regulation on industrial soot emissions that have been linked to respiratory diseases, including Covid-19.

In July, President Trump unilaterally weakened one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects in an effort to speed up the permitting process for freeways, power plants and pipelines.

However, this and any other regulatory changes put forth by the Trump administration in the latter half of 2020 could be quickly undone in the first half of 2021, if, as polls now suggest, Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the White House and Democrats take control of the Senate. That’s because of a Senate procedure known as the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers 60 legislative days to overturn major new regulations issued by federal agencies. In the early days of the Trump administration, Republicans used the procedure to undo 14 Obama-era rules.…—”E.P.A. to Lift Obama-Era Controls on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas,” Coral Davenport, The New York Times, 8/10/20

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Watchdog finds agencies using outdated standards
for LNG export facilities

Government agencies are using some outdated standards while evaluating permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, according to a new report from a congressional watchdog.

The Government Accountability Office found that eight standards used by the Coast Guard, eight standards used by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and one standard used by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are outdated as of March.

Further reading Filing Challenges Trump Administration Approval of Alaska LNG Project | Center for Biological Diversity
FERC denies requests for rehearing of Alaska LNG approval | Alaska Journal

LNG export facilities liquefy natural gas from pipelines so it can be transported on ships to other places. The outdated standards that are part of regulations used by all three agencies that have since been updated. For example, the outdated FERC standard, issued in 1984, aims to prevent earthquake damage to LNG facilities and uses requirements that have since been replaced, the report said. And Coast Guard regulations rely on a 1994 standard for fire extinguishers that has been updated five times.

The report recommended that the agencies review their standard-specific regulations every three to five years and update them when necessary.…—”Watchdog finds agencies using outdated standards for gas export facilities,” Rachel Frazin, TheHill, 8/6/20

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Definition of Habitat Proposed for the ESA

On July 31, 2020, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the “Services”) released an advance copy of a proposed rule defining “habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week, kicking off a 30-day public comment period. [emphasis added]

This proposal is a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS, 139 S.Ct. 361. In that case, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of 1500 acres of land as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog was challenged because the land was not occupied by the dusky gopher frog, and improvements to the land would be needed in order for it to become occupied. Critical habitat designations are required to be made within 12 months of a decision to list a species. Such designations are important because the ESA prohibits the adverse modification of critical habitat.

In Weyerhaeuser, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit (where it was later dismissed), noting that it must first be shown that the land is “habitat” before it can be designated as “critical habitat.” Notably, while “critical habitat” is defined by the ESA, “habitat” is not. Thus, according to Rob Wallace, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks with FWS, “Our proposed definition of habitat is intended to add more consistency to how the Service designates critical habitat under ESA.”

The proposed rule includes a definition of “habitat” that reads:

The physical places that individuals of a species depend upon to carry out one or more life processes. Habitat includes areas with existing attributes that have the capacity to support individuals of the species.

The Services have explicitly asked for comment on the italicized text. The proposed rule includes an alternative definition as well. Consistent with the ESA, under either definition, habitat can include land unoccupied by the species. However, both definitions the Services make clear that the land must be suitable for the species in its current condition, without any improvements needed.

The Services ask for comment as to whether the proposed and alternative definitions are sufficiently broad or narrow in scope, and whether there are other formulations of a definition that might be preferable to these two options. The Services also request comment on their determination that this proposal qualifies for a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act.—”Definition of Habitat Proposed for the ESA,” Andrea Wortzel, Angela Levin, Morgan Gerard, Viktoriia De Las Casas, Elizabeth McCormick, Environmental Law & Policy Monitor, 8/4/20

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Trump Boosts Deregulation by
Undervaluing Cost of Climate Change

The Government Accountability Office has found that the Trump administration is undervaluing the cost of climate change to boost its deregulatory efforts.

WASHINGTON — A federal report released on Tuesday found the Trump administration set a rock-bottom price on the damages done by greenhouse gas emissions, enabling the government to justify the costs of repealing or weakening dozens of climate change regulations.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s nonpartisan investigative arm, said the Trump administration estimated the harm that global warming will cause future generations to be seven times lower than previous federal estimates. Reducing that metric, known as the “social cost of carbon,” has helped the administration massage cost-benefit analyses, particularly for rules that allow power plants and automobiles to emit more planet-warming carbon dioxide.

Critics described the Trump administration’s move as turning a deliberate blind eye to the dangers of climate change. Some critics likened it to President Trump downplaying the risks of the coronavirus, hoping it would “go away” but instead leaving the country unprepared for the pandemic.

“Climate change is a massive threat to our economy. That threat will only grow in years to come, even if we take the action necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, one of eight Democrats who requested the review.…—”G.A.O.: Trump Boosts Deregulation by Undervaluing Cost of Climate Change,” Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, 7/14/20

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With Tactics Honed on Climate Change,
Ken Cuccinelli Turned to the Portland Streets

Skilled at using his office to deliver a political message, the former Virginia attorney general is in lock step with Trump’s law-and-order message.

When Ken Cuccinelli was Virginia Attorney General a decade ago, he pursued an extraordinary legal campaign against one of the nation’s top climate scientists, in essence accusing him of fraud for his research tracking the rise in global temperatures.

At the same time, Cuccinelli, a Tea Party Republican, was at the forefront of a court challenge to the Obama administration’s finding that greenhouse gases endangered human health and the environment.

Cuccinelli lost both of those battles, but he won himself a place in the center of President Donald Trump’s culture wars.

From his post as the acting No. 2 official at the Department of Homeland Security, he served as a key lieutenant in the Trump administration’s deployment of camouflage-clad federal agents to put down protests in Portland, Oregon, last month, and the standing threat to send them elsewhere.

Before a Congressional committee last week, Cuccinelli said that state and local officials allowed the situation to get out of control: the federal building in Portland, he said, “wouldn’t be there” if DHS forces hadn’t stepped in. Gov. Kate Brown and other Oregon officials said the federal officers only inflamed a difficult situation and increased violence.

The Trump administration now faces a number of lawsuits and a Congressional inquiry over the DHS show of force. But the confrontation created images that bolstered the law-and-order message that has become integral to Trump’s re-election campaign.…—”With Tactics Honed on Climate Change, Ken Cuccinelli Turned to the Portland Streets,” Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News, 8/6/2

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The likely impact of Great American Outdoors Act

Harvard Kennedy School’s Linda Bilmes analyzes the complicated history and likely impact of the Great American Outdoors Act.

What is the Great American Outdoors Act and what will its impact be on the national parks and federal conservation funding more broadly?

BILMES: The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is the biggest land conservation legislation in a generation. The National Parks Conservation Association, the leading advocacy organization for the parks, is hailing it as “a conservationist’s dream.”

The legislation has two main impacts. First, it establishes a National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund that will provide up to $9 billion over the next five years to fix deferred maintenance at national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and other federal lands, with $6.5 billion earmarked specifically to the 419 national park units.

This funding is needed badly. The number of visitors to the national parks system has increased by 50 percent since 1980, but the parks’ budget has remained effectively flat. This imbalance has led to a $12 billion backlog of maintenance to repair roads, trails, campgrounds, monuments, fire safety, utilities, and visitor infrastructure — which will finally be addressed.

Second, the GAOA guarantees $900 million per year in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a flagship conservation program paid for by royalty payments from offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters. The LWCF was established in 1964 with an authorization level of $900m, but in most years Congress has appropriated less than half of this amount. The LWCF is especially important because it helps fund the four main federal land programs (National Parks, National Forests, Fish and Wildlife, and Bureau of Land Management) and provides grants to state and local governments to acquire land for recreation and conservation.…

Further reading: Ten Years After Deepwater Horizon, U.S. Is Still Vulnerable to Catastrophic Spills | The Seattle Times

Congress passed the legislation by huge bipartisan majorities, in the House (310-107) and Senate (73-25). Although many elected officials of both parties have long supported conservation, the unusual show of bipartisanship that led to enact this legislation is largely due to the political and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The national parks are intertwined with the economy of Western states. Visitor spending in and around national parks — which are mostly located in the West — contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy last year and supported 340,500 jobs. But these communities are now struggling and many of the jobs related to tourism have been lost. The GAOA is expected to create more than 108,000 new jobs to repair park infrastructure, including access roads and bridges in these adjacent communities.…—”The likely impact of Great American Outdoors Act,” Dan Harsha, Harvard Gazette, 7/27/20

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Fossil Fuel Setbacks Rejected
By California Senate Committee

Clean air advocates fall short in their bid to protect communities of color from fossil fuel extraction in urban areas.

San Diego clean air advocates lost their bid to get support for a legislative measure that would minimize the environmental impact of fossil fuel extraction near communities of color.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee voted 5-4 to reject the legislation. They then voted to reconsider.

State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, questioned why the bill was even being considered, citing the governor’s requirement that the legislature should only be considering legislation deemed essential because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further reading: Coronavirus Has Reduced Air Pollution, But Not The Risk In Some San Diego Communities

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing more than a publicity stunt at a time when we cannot afford publicity stunts,” Hueso said.

Assembly Bill 345 would have created a new setback requirement for oil drilling and fracking near communities. There are no such sites in San Diego, but there are many in the Los Angeles basin where drilling sites are scattered throughout urban areas.

Community advocates estimate more than 5 million Californians live within one mile of a drilling site.

The bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, Albert Muratsuchi, D-Los Angeles, said opponents are fear-mongering about the bill’s impact on jobs. He said environmental justice and economic impact are not mutually exclusive.

San Diego advocates worked hard to convince Hueso to support the measure because local communities of color struggle with air pollution.…—”Fossil Fuel Setbacks Rejected By California Senate Committee,” Erik Anderson, KPBS|San Diego, 8/4/20

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A Dangerous Glacier Grows
Inside Mount St. Helens’ Crater

DangerousGlacier

A precarious glacier in the crater of Mount St. Helens grows at an unprecedented rate, posing potential danger to the valley below. A group of adventurous researchers visits the crater to investigate and gets a rare up-close look at the odd co-existence of glaciers, boiling rivers and steam vents that are reshaping the landscape at a rapid pace.

Originally broadcast in 2004. OPB is revisiting decades of stories our reporters and producers captured while working with scientists, photographers, adventurers and explorers on the volcano since its eruption on May 18, 1980.—”A Dangerous Glacier Grows Inside Mount St. Helens’ Crater,” Oregon Public Broadcasting|YouTube, 5/14/20

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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.