Everybody in all the legislatures should say something like this every few minutes all day until this is settled.
Tag Archives: Environment
Minnesota Energy: Decarbonize, locally produce
The McKnight Foundation and GridLab contracted Vibrant Clean Energy, LLC, to prepare a report called Minnesota’s Smarter Grid: Pathways Towards a Clean, Reliable and Affordable Transportation and Energy System. Among other things, the report says:
The study has shown that the economy in Minnesota can decarbonize by 80% (from 2005 levels) by 2050. All the decarbonization pathways involve deeper energy efficiency of existing electric demands (particularly in the industrial sector), heavy electrification of transportation, transitioningheating of space and water from natural gas and resistive heating to heat pumps, building new zero-emission generation technologies, and retiring fossil-fuel generation.
The electrification of other sectors provides the electricity sector with new demands, which have different load profiles to existing demands and have greater flexibility potential. These new loads provide increasing sales for the electricity sector to invest against. Further, the greater flexibility allows the electricity grid to incorporate more variable resources, which are low-cost and nearzero emissions. Further, the electrification provides net cost savings for consumers because the reduction in spending on other energy supplies (natural gas for heating and gasoline for transportation) outweighs the additional spending in the electricity sector for the electrified loads.
One step backwards for copper-nickel-sulfide mining in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters
I was just starting to think that every single thing that could go wrong in the effort to stop or limit destructive copper-nickel-sulfide mining in the fragile Boundary Waters ecosystem was going to go wrong. Then, suddenly, a reversal of fortune.
This is complicated but for those not following, I’ll try to provide an explanation.
The Boundary Waters contains rock near the surface that miners want to mine. And, very little can be done to stop this, given that we chose over the last few years to put Republicans in charge, and they are puppets of industry, especially extractive industries like mining.
Part of the process of mining in the boundary waters, which are legally protected from mining is to remove the protections by “swapping” land that is not in the protected area for land that is in the protected area. This is known as the Polymet Land Swap because Polymet is the the company that wants to do this particular mining. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been convinced, against their constituent’s demands, that the mining will continue. So, the land swap seemed a done deal, and everything that various opponents to the project have tried has failed.
Until just a few moments ago. One effort to limit or stop the mining is to insist that the courts have a look at the relative value of the land being swapped in this deal. The usual powers had tried to get that taken off the table, and it seemed successfully, until today. Under public pressure, netotiators in Congress have worked out a deal to drop the limit on the court’s consideration of relative value. It is all here in this press release from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 24, 2018 End congressional delays, let courts finally review PolyMet land exchange Saint Paul, Minnesota — Monday, congressional negotiators announced that a provision to end court review of the PolyMet land exchange had been dropped from the National Defense Authorization Act. Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is one of the organizations asking for a court review of the PolyMet land exchange, and released the following statement: “Sixteen months ago, we asked a federal court to review the PolyMet land exchange to ensure it provides an equal value exchange for taxpayers and public land users,” stated Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “Attempts to derail this review through congressional action have stalled the finalization of the land exchange and delayed justice for Minnesotans. This could have been done by now – it’s time to end the delays and let the courts do their job.” In March 2017, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, The W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, and Center for Biological Diversity asked a federal court to review the land exchange, arguing that it illegally undervalued public land. There are three additional lawsuits that argue that the PolyMet land exchange violates federal laws. In March 2018, U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson dismissed PolyMet’s motions to dismiss these lawsuits, but indefinitely stayed all of them pending congressional action. On June 28th, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it had completed the transfer of over 6,600 acres to PolyMet, but this action is subject to court review and can be modified or reversed if found to be in violation of federal law.
Is Fracking Bad For You?
If that is a question you have, the answer may be in the fifth and current edition (2018) of Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, by Concerned Health Professionals of NY. Continue reading Is Fracking Bad For You?
Dear Candidate For Office: About your environmental policy…
Over the last five months, and with increasing frequency, I find myself listening to candidates for office talk about their environmental policies. I’ve looked at the policies of candidates for Minnesota Governor, for US Congress in three different districts, and for Minnesota Senate and House in numerous districts. There is a lot of variation across the candidates. Only one candidate so far has demonstrated a) rich knowledge of the subject, b) well formulated and detailed policy, and c) policy that I find very good and agree with. This is not a post about that candidate, but rather, all the other candidates.
The other candidates have positions that run from “seems kinda OK” to “is maybe mostly OK” but none are good enough. The most common position on a given environmental issue is for the candidate to indicate that they think it is very important. Sadly, when it comes to climate change specifically, the most common position is for the candidate to acknowledge that climate change is real.
Sorry, but you don’t get points for knowing how to write your name on the top of the exam. Continue reading Dear Candidate For Office: About your environmental policy…
Trump Hates You, His Supporters, And Our Planet
A few items that I think you should see:
Trump’s executive order puts the world on the road to climate catastrophe
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a sweeping executive order that effectively guts national efforts to address climate change. If he isn’t stopped, the endpoint of this approach is the ruination of our livable climate and the needless suffering of billions of people for decades to come.
The order starts the process of undoing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan standards for power plants. It also spurs fossil fuel consumption and blocks federal efforts to even prepare for the multiple, simultaneous catastrophes that unrestricted carbon pollution the world faces?—?severe drought, ocean acidification, ever-worsening heat waves, rising seas that threaten to destroy coastal cites.
This is not politics as usual. …
Trump’s Executive Order Threatens to Wreck Earth as a Livable Planet for Humans
Decades of progress on cleaning up our dirty air took a significant hit on Tuesday, along with hopes for a livable future climate, when President Trump issued his Energy Independence Executive Order. Most seriously, the order attacks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan, which requires a 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (compared to 2005 emission rates.)
Tuesday’s blow was just the latest in a series of attacks that threaten our health and the planet’s health. On March 15, Trump also ordered…
I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations
…At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.
I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.
Since January, the surge has transformed into a slow, incessant march of deleting datasets, webpages and policies about the Arctic. I now come to expect a weekly email request to replace invalid citations, hoping that someone had the foresight to download …
Introduced Into The House: H.R.861 – To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.
Representative Mat Gaetz (Republican, Florida) introduced HR 861, “To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency” which is said to defund and remove from existence the Environmental Protection Agency.
Details are unclear, but the idea is to have states and local communities regulate their environmental pollution.
The EPA centralizes research programs, policy guidance, and regulatory procedures. To ask each community to do this amounts to a huge tax increase, because the same effort would have to be repeated many times across the country.
The reason we have a national EPA is because pollution does not respect boundaries. People who live in states run by anti-environmental lawmakers will not pay for pollution mitigation, and the pollution they create will flow down stream or blow down wind to states where people act responsibly about the environment. This is unacceptable.
Ask your house member how they stand on the bill. Ask them to explain their position and report how they intend to vote.
Encourage your house member to vote against the bill.
Encourage your house member to act responsibly with respect to the environment.
US House Votes Against Clean Water, Gives Big Oil Big Gift
Congressional Republicans, voting party line, will end an important provision protecting streams and rivers from coal waste, and a requirement that oil companies report payments to Foreign Governments. The former is blatant hippie punching anti environmental evil. The latter is a fully expected out come if you elect a Russian puppet president, and appoint a Secretary of state whose main job will be to exploit Russian oil fields. So, if that happened, and this happened, then everything is falling nicely into place for the oligarchs, both American and otherwise.
The House has already voted as of this writing, the Senate will be voting shortly, so there is still time to call your Senators
The Sierra Club has set up that will patch you through to your Senators: 888-454-0483.
This is from Feb 1 press release from the Center for Biological Diversity:
House of Representatives Votes to Block Rules Protecting Rivers From Coal Waste
Also Votes to End Requirement That Oil Companies Report Payments to Foreign Governments
WASHINGTON— In a party line vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted to rescind Obama administration rules to protect streams from coal waste and requiring mining and oil companies to report payments made to foreign governments. The vote was done through the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used statute allowing Congress to overturn federal rules enacted with the past 60 legislative days. It has not been successfully used since 2001.
“House Republicans just sold out America’s clean drinking water and efforts to combat international fraud in order appease Exxon and coal companies,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Polluting streams with coal waste is disgusting, dangerous and life-threatening to rural people. There will be hell to pay if Senate Republicans go along with repealing these common-sense rules that save lives and prevent corruption.”
The Stream Protection Rule was instituted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to provide greater protections to streams from toxic coal mining waste. It would reduce pollution in 6,100 miles of streams while reducing coal mining output by less than 1 percent.
The requirement that U.S. mining, oil and natural gas companies report payments made to foreign nations was established by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the authority of the Dodd-Frank Act in order to reduce international fraud. Set to go into effect in 2018, the rule was aggressively, but until now, unsuccessfully attacked by Exxon under the leadership of Rex Tillerson.
And here is another press release from a coalition of organizations who have been fighting over this issue for some time:
CONGRESS IS ATTACKING CLEAN WATER SAFEGUARDS IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE COAL INDUSTRY
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives will use an obscure tool, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to dismantle the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which protects clean water for communities living near mining sites. The Senate is expected to vote on the House bill tomorrow.
SPR gives communities in coal country much needed information about toxic water pollution caused by nearby mining operations. It was finalized by the Obama administration in late 2016. The modest and long overdue rule also provides these communities basic protections from the devastating impacts of mountaintop-removal coal mining on water and public health.
This safeguard helps to ensure that coal companies don’t profit off of the destruction of drinking water supplies. Unfortunately, leaders in Congress have targeted the SPR in a blatant attempt to put industry profits before public health. Repealing this commonsense protection through the CRA is a heavy handed tactic that will put many communities at risk now — and could constrain future administrations from acting to protect public health and drinking water in these communities.
A broad coalition of public health, environmental, and conservation groups opposing the CRA, released the following statements:
“Nobody voted against clean air and water in the last election. Regulatory safeguards that keep our air and water safe from toxic pollution are crafted using a democratic process and based on the best available science”, said Trip Van Noppen, President of Earthjustice. “Any attempts to dismantle them using the Congressional Review Act should be opposed. These attacks have the power to fundamentally undermine the very goals of our environmental laws by trying to cripple future attempts to enforce protections for our air, water, and lands.”??
“This is an unconscionable attack on basic clean water safeguards for communities already devastated by toxic pollution from coal mining,” said Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO of Clean Water Action. “Everyone has the right to know what is in their water and every community deserves access to clean water. Congress should reject any action that puts industry profits before protections for drinking water and public health.”
“This attempt to scrap the Stream Protection Rule is a clear case of putting polluters’ profits ahead of the basic well-being of vulnerable communities, and we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “No matter who you are or where you live, you have a right to clean water — but this shameless attack puts families and communities at risk.”
“The Stream Protection Rule protects both clean drinking water for people and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We can’t have a bountiful natural heritage without securing clean water. Legislators who attack this rule through the Congressional Review Act are voting in the interest of big polluters, not local communities or future generations.”
“The potential devastation if the Stream Protection Rule is struck down is unimaginable,” said Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of Citizens Coal Council. “In the 25 states with active coal mining, nearly 100% of the drinking water comes from surface and groundwater that feeds into both public and private water supplies. These water supplies serve 11.4 million people in some of the poorest areas of the nation, where poverty levels in some areas reach nearly 43 percent.”
“Republican leadership has wasted no time in rewarding Big Polluters by attempting to roll back the historic environmental progress made under President Obama. Undoing this critical Stream Protection Rule that helps prevent coal mining companies from dumping toxic waste into drinking water would be outrageous on its own, but this extreme attack goes even further by blocking the Department of Interior from ever issuing rules that allow communities living near mining operations to know what’s being put in their water or to hold these polluters accountable for the increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems that have been linked to their waste”, said Gene Karpinski,
President of the League of Conservation Voters. “With communities across the country increasingly alarmed by contaminants like lead, flame-retardant chemicals, and many other pollutants showing up in their drinking water, shredding safeguards for clean water is the exact opposite of what Congress should do. We call on Congress to do what’s right by standing up to Big Polluters and rejecting this radical attack on clean water.”
“The politicians in Washington, D.C. are out of touch with Alaskans. Across our great state, Alaskans want healthy wild salmon streams,” said Bob Shavelson, Advocacy Director of Cook Inletkeeper. “But the political elites don’t get it—they take money from the coal corporations and ignore the will of the people.”
“Think about it: spiking a rule that tells coal companies they can’t poison our water sources, harm our landscapes or kill fish and wildlife with their waste,” said Scott Slesinger, Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is a polluter-motivated attack on the American people.”
“Appalachia has already lost 2,000 miles of streams to mountaintop removal mining. It’s crucial we protect what is left”, said John Suttles, Director of Litigation and Regional Programs for SELC. “Congress is placing coal-mining profits above the health of the people in Appalachia and the basic right to clean water.”
“National parks and people stand to lose if Congress succeeds in dismantling the Stream Protection Rule,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “The rule safeguards waterways from toxic pollution produced by mining operations. Millions of Americans visit national parks in the Southeast each year, for activities such as bass fishing at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area or white water rafting at New River Gorge National River each year. Will they continue to visit and spend millions of dollars in surrounding communities, if polluted waterways greet them upon arrival?”
“Mountaintop removal has devastated Appalachia’s land and water, and it continues to threaten the health and wellbeing of residents throughout the region,” said Tom Cormons, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. “Appalachian communities are actively working toward a stronger economic future, not dominated by a failing coal industry. We are counting on Congress to do what is right for the people of Central Appalachia by preserving the Stream Protection Rule.”
Natural Resources Committee Democrats Respond to Trump’s Advancement of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines
This is a press release from the Natural Resources Committee Democrats, US House of Representatives concerning President Trump’s decision and actions to push ahead with two highly controversial petroleum pipeline projects.
These projects had previously been stopped because they did not meet environmental standards, or because they violated tribal agreements. It is still quite possible that these reasons still matter, and that President Trump cant’ simply wish the projects back into existence. Or maybe he can. It remains to be determined.
Here is the statement:
Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva and key members of the Committee released the following statement today on the announcement that President Donald Trump will advance the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines through executive order. Grijalva – who published a Feb. 27, 2014, New York Times op-ed opposing the Keystone pipeline and who met with leaders at the Standing Rock Sioux camp opposed to Dakota Access early last year – has been a leading advocate for due process and environmental justice in pipeline construction. He held a Capitol Hill forum with Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) on Sept. 22, 2016, to highlight the damage often done to Native American sovereignty, health and environmental quality when pipelines are rubber-stamped.
“Even for a president who mistakes his own whims for the rule of law and corporate profits for the public interest, these orders are irresponsible,” said Grijalva. “These pipelines are being approved because President Trump wants to make polluter corporations happy, not because they’re good for the country. If either of these pipelines is finalized, the damage to water quality, public health, and eventually our climate will be on his hands. Approving the Dakota Access project in particular violates Native American sovereignty, treaty rights and federal trust responsibility which the Obama administration rightly recognized when it decided the pipeline needed further review.”
“Advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines ignores years of environmental studies and opposition from local residents and landowners,” said Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.). “Instead of investing in polluting fossil fuels, we should be supporting clean, renewable energy projects that will create jobs and help our nation reduce carbon emissions.”
“Today’s actions are short-sighted with so many questions still remaining as to the risks these pipelines pose to water quality, public health, and the environment,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.). “As the new Ranking Member of the Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Subcommittee, I am especially concerned with the threat the Dakota Access Pipeline poses to Native American sovereignty given the lack of input from tribal leaders whose lands stand to be severely impacted. President Trump should have allowed the thorough review process initiated by the Obama administration to be completed before rushing through this decision.”
“Just days after being sworn in, Mr. Trump has already shown he is ignoring scientists and the community in an effort to serve the big oil industry,” said Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.). This is a complete disregard for the environment and for Native American rights to water, their land, but above all, to be treated with dignity and respect.”
One order directs all federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to expedite approval of the easement to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Moving forward Ranking Member Grijalva will continue to maintain strong oversight of the Dakota Access Pipeline to ensure that any further action taken by the Trump administration protects water quality, tribal sovereignty and does not turn American energy infrastructure projects into super highways that carry oil from Canada to China.
Trump’s orders = two steps back on climate change
The science is clear: Human caused global warming is happening and is serious. Building and expanding infrastructure to make it easier to burn fossil fuels is a very bad idea. The Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline were two such projects, and in recent years, the environmental community, politicians, and others managed to stop these projects.
Today, President Trump signed an executive order that brings these projects back to life and moves them forward.
From Rhea Suh, president of the National Resources Defense Council:
“It’s appalling that Trump wants to throw open our borders to big polluters. Eliminating the national interest determination process, used by both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades, cedes control of our borders to multinational corporations to jam through cross-border infrastructure projects. And it completely shuts out public engagement in decisions that affect our communities, air, water and climate.
“These unprecedented actions could also pave the way for approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline—a project vehemently opposed by the U.S. tribes whose land its crosses and waters it could pollute. Equally troubling, they also revive the Keystone XL pipeline— a tar sands project that would lock our country into, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels of our past. They pose a grave threat to our water, communities and climate. We will use every tool available to help ensure that they are not built.”
From Climate Hawks Vote:
Climate hawks fought one White House over the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and we won. We’re going to fight the next one. And we’re going to keep on fighting until we clear the American skies of the fossil-fueled stormfront of Trumpism – and we will, ultimately, prevail.
In the wake of Trump’s election, thousands of our members pledged resistance, including peaceful civil disobedience if necessary. We’re now calling on all Americans — including political candidates and elected officials — to pledge to resist these climate-destroying pipelines.
From Price Of Oil:
Today, President Trump will be signing executive orders reportedly to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. In response, David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International released the following statement:
“Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do. Trump’s first days in office saw massive opposition, marking the beginning of four years of resistance to his dangerous policies. We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”
It appears that this isn’t just hippie punching by Trump, but rather, a shrewd business deal for someone. According to DeSmogBlog:
As DeSmog has reported, Donald Trump’s top presidential campaign energy aide Harold Hamm stands to profit if both pipelines go through.
Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources who sat in the VIP box at Trump’s inauguration and was a major Trump campaign donor, would see his company’s oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale flow through both lines.
Trump has suggested that these projects would produce tens of thousands of jobs. This is only true in Alt-Universe. In Real-Universe, they will only produce a few dozen jobs long term. In fact, making the movement of a commodity more efficient, which pipeline builder argue pipelines do, reduces the number of jobs to move that commodity, by definition.
Coal Use by US Educational Institutions Down 64% since 2008
A lot of higher education institutions are old, and back in the day, things were different. Not only were most schools simultaneously on top of and on the bottom of great snow covered hills, but they were often surrounded by nearly medieval settlement, or at least, pre-industrial ones, that lacked things like central heat, electricity, and so on, even after these things became common and normal.
I remember the legacy of this reality at my Alma Mater, a small university in Cambridge, Mass. Most of the campus had its own heating system, which was built at a time when centrally distributed electricity and such were certainly in place but just as certainly not universal. There, a power plant, which I am going to guess formerly burned coal but later natural gas and oil, made electricity for the general grid, but in so doing also produced steam. The steam was then shipped (mostly) across the river and quite a ways down the road to the campus, where it was distributed to many buildings to provide heat. At several points were grates that gave access to the steam heating system, creating open air warmer micro environment, on which homeless folks would sleep. It was a big deal when the University administration decided to put spiky metal barriers over the vents to keep the homeless people from having a chance to survive a cold winter. There was an outcry. The vents were uncovered in a matter of days.
But I digress.
Today’s news, which comes to us from the Department of Energy, is that educational institutions are using way less coal than they used to. And that makes sense only in the context of the above described sort of thing; educational institutions, as large and demanding places where people both lived in work, with many buildings and a lot of contiguous spaces, were among those places that historically developed their own electricity generation systems, as well as heating systems. Some of those electricity generating systems also fed out to the local grid, so the odd situation developed where among a region’s power plants would be one or more owned and operated by a university or college, or an agent thereof. And, a certain number of these burned coal.
But now …
Coal consumption by educational institutions such as colleges and universities in the United States fell from 2 million short tons in 2008 to 700,000 short tons in 2015. Consumption declined in each of the 57 institutions that used coal in 2008, with 20 of these institutions no longer using coal at all. Many of these institutions participate in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Coal consumption has decreased as institutions switch from coal to natural gas or other fuels.
This coal consumption is less than a tenth of one percent of the total US coal consumption, so this may be little more than symbolic to some. But it isn’t. This is fossil fuel not being burned, and it means a lot.
The graph at the top of the post shows the trend.
This is not all good news. It is nice to reduce coal use, but a lot, most, of this coal has been replace with natural gas. However, in some cases, geothermal was used, and some renewable sources of energy have been deployed.
Energy Irony: Trans Canada Wants 15 Billion From Obama
Governments, and the people, should be filing law suits against the energy industry for causing the imminent collapse of civilization as we know it. But instead, the opposite is happening.
TransCanada formally seeks NAFTA damages in Keystone XL rejection
TransCanada Corp is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages, the company said in legal papers dated Friday.
The Keystone XL was designed to link existing pipeline networks in Canada and the United States to bring crude from Alberta and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico coast.
Obama rejected the cross-border crude oil pipeline last November, seven years after it was first proposed, saying it would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy.
TransCanada is suing the United States in federal court in a separate legal action, seeking to reverse the pipeline’s rejection.
About 750,000 homes could be fitted with some really sweet solar arrays for that money. Let’s do that instead!
Diablo Canyon nuclear plant will shut down
This is bad news and good news, but mostly good news. No matter what you think of nuclear energy (and I’m one of those people who give it a stern look and remain suspicious), it does tend to produce electricity with the addition of much less fossil carbon into the atmosphere than, say, burning coal. So, we probably don’t want to see a wholesale reduction in the use of nuclear energy too quickly, and we may even want to see some new plants built.
The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is the only working nuke plant in California, and it is famously located in an earthquake-rich locality. The plant was upgraded to withstand a 7.5 earthquake, but earthquakes occasionally happen that are stronger than that. There has only been one earthquake of that magnitude in Southern California since good records have been kept, and that was in 1952. But still….
Diablo Canyon is historically important because the whole idea of building a major nuclear plant in an earthquake zone catalyzed the anti-nuclear movement, and that reaction probably helped to avoid further such construction, and helped nudge the plant operators to upgrade the earthquake readiness of this plant from handling a 6.75 magnitude quake to a 7.5 magnitude quake. There have been six quakes in that range of magnitude in the region in the historic record.
A quick word about earthquakes. Really large earthquakes are actually pretty uncommon in Southern California; other areas, such as the Pacific Northwest have very few quakes but when they happen they can be huge, easily enough to Fuki up a plant like Diablo Canyon. See Earthquake Time Bombs by Robert Yeats for more on that. Nonetheless, being built to withstand a 7.5 earthquake doesn’t necessarily mean that a smaller quake won’t cause problems, or weaken structures that are then more vulnerable to subsequent strong quakes.
Anyway, the following is from a press release from Friends of the Earth, describing how the plan is to replace the energy coming from Diablo Canyon with non fossil carbon fuels. And that, of course, is the extra good news.
BERKELEY, CALIF. – An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.
The agreement, announced today in California, says that PG&E will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors — the operating licenses for which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In the intervening years, the parties will seek Public Utility Commission approval of the plan which will replace power from the plant with renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Base load power resources like Diablo Canyon are becoming increasingly burdensome as renewable energy resources ramp up. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future.
By setting a certain end date for the reactors, the nuclear phase out plan provides for an orderly transition. In the agreement, PG&E commits to renewable energy providing 55 percent of its total retail power sales by 2031, voluntarily exceeding the California standard of 50 percent renewables by 2030.
“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”
A robust technical and economic report commissioned by Friends of the Earth served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as “Plan B,” provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free. With the report in hand, Friends of the Earth’s Damon Moglen and Dave Freeman engaged in discussions with the utility about the phase-out plan for Diablo Canyon. NRDC was quickly invited to join. Subsequently, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility partnered in reaching the final agreement. The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration. Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation.
The agreement also contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. “We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community,” said Pica. “The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy.”
Diablo Canyon is the nuclear plant that catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Earth in 1969. When David Brower founded Friends of the Earth the Diablo Canyon was the first issue on the organization’s agenda and Friends of the Earth has been fighting the plant ever since. This agreement is not only a milestone for renewable energy, but for Friends of the Earth as an organization.
This is the greatest idea ever: Water Bar
One of the Great Crises we face in today’s world is the stability and security of the water supply. In America, most people don’t have any problems getting water, to the extent that we tend to waste it, and few people even know where there water comes from. Every now and then there emerges a startling and troubling problem with water. A river catches fire, a plume of visible pollution observable from space spreads across a lake, or an entire city worth of children are poisoned with the contents of the city water supply.
Works Progress Studio has been engaged for a while in a project called the Water Bar, and they intend to ramp this project up in the near future if they get enough help.
The original water bar is “a collaborative public art project … simply, a bar that serves local tap water.” It consists of a pop up bar that can be easily deployed, serving a wide range of local vintages, and staffed with scientists or other experts on the water supply. That project started in 2014, and has served over 30,000 people in four states.
This video gives you a flavor (or, should I say, a flavorless…).
I asked Works Progress Studio co-founder Shanai Matteson how this all started. She told me that it “… started out as an experiment – what would happen if we opened a bar that only served regular tap water, and asked our community of environmental science researchers, educators, and advocates to be bartenders – not pushing a message, but just casually engaging in conversation.”
“The second iteration of the project,” she continued, “was an installation at an art museum in Arkansas. We built a Water Bar in the museum’s cafe area, and I think a lot of people didn’t even realize it was an artist project – which is fine with us! We hired college students with backgrounds in research, natural resource management, landscape architecture, business… They kept the bar open every day for 5 months, and all of them said that they learned valuable engagement skills, including new ways of talking to people about complicated science topics”
Now, Water Bar has a GoFundMe page to help them to set up a permanent taproom in Minneapolis. Partnering with several neighborhood and environmental organizations, research scientists, and artists, the idea is to create the Water Bar & Public Studio in Northeast Minneapolis, which is a thriving, and growing, art-oriented community. The location will be a hub for neighborhood events addressing art and sustainability, educational programs, and so on.
The water will be free.
Donations will fund the “taproom,” a creative community space, and a public art and sustainability incubator.
When I saw the video, my first thought was to avoid doing this in Flint Michigan. I asked Shanai Matteson about that. She told me, “We’ve actually had a bunch of people suggest we SHOULD do this in Flint, or Detroit. We wouldn’t attempt that unless we were invited there by residents, but even considering the implications really makes the disparity between those communities and others, like Minneapolis, so plain.”
Matteson also pointed out one of the main problems with the culture of water use in the US. “Most of the stories about Flint have focused on the problem – what went wrong, who was responsible – as well as the work of researchers, residents, and activists to finally get people to pay attention. Few of the stories I’ve read mention that almost none of us know where our drinking water comes from. We probably wouldn’t know if our water had high levels of lead, and most of us wouldn’t know who to call or what to do if we suspected a problem. One of our goals with the Water Bar project is to start getting people to see and understand their connection to these life-sustaining systems, and to the political systems involved with maintaining them – or in the case of Flint, gross negligence and a desire to see public infrastructure privatized.”
Matteson is looking forward to developing this project further. “Our dream is for a space that is approachable and welcoming, but also presents really urgent and serious content. We want to work with our community of artists and designers to find creative ways to engage people in water and environment issues, and we want to be a learning laboratory for future science and environment leaders — or for current researchers and advocacy orgs to share their work with new audiences.”
You can learn more about the Water Bar project here, and of course, go here to go fund them.
Patriot Panels and Freedom Volts: Don’t Tread On Me!
The Nevada state government has just ruined solar energy in their state. From here,
Although Nevada is one of the sunniest places in the world, there has recently been a dark cloud hovering over the rooftop solar industry in the state. Just before Christmas, Nevada’s public utility commission (PUC) gave the state’s only power company, NV Energy, permission to charge higher rates and fees to solar panel users – a move that immediately shattered the rooftop solar industry’s business model.
In addition to the new monthly fee, … customers … will get less back from the utility for energy their solar panels capture and feed into the main power grid. Whereas previously they received full retail value for their surplus electricity, soon NV Energy will only pay a third of that price for exported electricity.
Now, if you live in one of the sunniest states in the US, it is no longer worth it to put solar panels on your roof.
This is part of a national fight over solar energy. In some states, nefarious forces are working toward making it a bad idea to put solar panels on your home or business. In other states, forces for the good are working to make home or business rooftop solar a good idea.
There is a larger scale political divide in this country, with Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Partiers (overlapping groups) on one side and Democrats and environmentalists on the other. The former is against shifting to clean energy and addressing global climate disruption. The latter is working towards shifting away from fossil fuels and addressing climate disruption.
Current and recommended books on climate change.
But a big part of this makes no sense. Those solar panels you may choose, as in individual or small business owner, to put on your roof constitute your way of utilizing your sun. Yes, that sun that falls on your house is not the property of the government, or big corporations, or politicians bought and paid for by big corporations. That is your sunlight, and THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT INTERFERE WITH YOUR USE OF IT TO POWER YOUR OWN HOME.
Public utilities are there to serve the public, and you are part of the public. Those entities, and the state government agencies that regulate them, should not be conspiring to take away your volts. Your Freedom Volts. They should not be stopping you from installing your solar panels … your Patriot Panels … on your own roof.
So why have the Libertarians and their kin not been fighting this? Why have self described “Patriots” not taken up arms, figuratively one would hope, against the nefarious forces that seek to control YOUR access to your OWN ENERGY?
I suspect that eventually they will. Among those who do put up solar panels there must be some who do so to for their own sensible financial reasons. There must be some people who benefit from rooftop solar who are not Democrats or environmentalists, but rather, sensible Republicans or Libertarians who are in it for the FREEDOM, the financial savings, and also, just because it is cool to make your own energy. Perhaps we will see the KINDLING OF FREEDOM among these self sufficient patriots. Perhaps we will see a demand from the right, not just the left, to LEAVE OUR FREEDOM VOLTS ALONE!