Environment & Climate

Massachusetts Rolls Out Aggressive New Emissions-reductions Goals

by Mark Hand – Clean energy purchases projected to reach 80 percent by 2050. Massachusetts regulators rolled out new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, putting the state one step closer to meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals within the next few years. The regulations, announced on Friday, include clean energy requirements for utilities, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generating plants, and cuts in methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems in the state. The new climate rules also require declining emission limits for passenger vehicles owned and leased by state government executive offices. The regulations are aimed to allow Massachusetts to meet legislatively mandated greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 and then larger reductions in the future. The new regulations take effect on January 1, 2018. The regulations came in response to a 2014 lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation, an...

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Bringing ‘Inconvenient’ Climate Change Information to Audiences Big and Small

by Jessica Wang – The Climate Reality Project is training a new army of activists to carry on and expand former Vice President Al Gore’s work on climate change. It’s been a decade since An Inconvenient Truth inserted climate change into the public consciousness and helped earn former Vice President Al Gore a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in environmental activism. Now an even more impassioned Gore is back in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, and the film follows him as he continues the fight for meaningful action and progressive policy on climate change. Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, An Inconvenient Sequel also shows Gore and his organization – The Climate Reality Project – as it trains a new army of activists to carry on and expand the reach of his work. The Climate Reality Leadership Corps now numbers nearly 13,000 around the world. Filmmaker Jessica Wang talked with one of them —...

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450 Scientists Present Stunning Rebuke of Climate Science Denial

by Joe Romm – NOAA-led report tells the truth about the science behind the warmest year on record. A massive new report by more than 450 scientists, confirms that the Earth warmed to a new record in 2016, driven by a record increase in carbon dioxide levels. The 27th annual “State of the Climate” report, led by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), stands as the first comprehensive rebuke by the nation’s and world’s climate scientists to the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and reaffirmed last week that he intends to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which remains the best hope for America and the world to avert catastrophic impacts. “Surface temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, two of the more publicly recognized indicators of global-scale climate change, set new highs during 2016,” the report explains, “as did several surface and near-surface indicators and essential climate...

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Utah Utility Wants to Triple Monthly Charges for Solar Customers

by Mark Hand – Nevada is still recovering from rooftop solar policy similar to Utah utility’s plan. Utah’s largest electric utility company wants to place new charges on rooftop solar customers, a proposal that critics say would unfairly penalize the customers; in addition, they fear it could lead to a scenario similar to the one that recently played out in Nevada, with rooftop solar companies abandoning the state after policymakers weakened the net metering system. Rocky Mountain Power’s plan would nearly triple monthly customer charges and peak-time usage charges for rooftop solar customers, although the company says the new charges are necessary to create an equitable system between solar and non-solar customers. The Utah Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday to get public input on the company’s controversial proposal. Next week, the commission plans to hold a multi-day hearing where Rocky Mountain Power, solar companies, and other official intervenors in...

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USDA Report: Bee Populations FINALLY Rising After Years of Decline

by Mike Barrett – Honeybee populations may be starting to rebound. The decline in bee populations and the many threats bees face have been well-publicized. Scientists have been frantically hunting for solutions to the problem. Without bees, we lose much of our food. Without food, well …we don’t want that. Thankfully, there is a bit of good news on the conservation front: honeybee populations are finally on the rise.  A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released August 1, 2017 shows that as of April, 2017, an estimated 2.89 million bee colonies existed across the U.S. – an increase of 3% from 2016. Beekeepers started to notice several years ago that fewer and fewer honeybee colonies were surviving the winter. On average, 28.7% of hives survived the winter months. But during the 2014-2015 winter, that number dropped 23.1% and hovered there. Source: Vox 2015 Beekeeper Survey: “We’ve Lost Almost Half Our Bee Colonies...

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Fearing Censorship, Govt. Scientists Leak Alarming Climate Report

by Julia Conley – Scientists at 13 federal agencies released a draft of a report showing that the U.S. is currently being impacted by climate change. A leaked draft of an extensive federal climate change report is causing alarm on Tuesday—both because of its findings, which make clear that the U.S. is currently experiencing the effects of climate change, and because of statements by the report’s authors, who say they’re concerned President Donald Trump will try to suppress the paper. The 543-page report by scientists from 13 federal agencies details rapidly rising temperatures in the United States since 1980 and cites global events including an extreme heat wave in Europe in 2003 and in Australia in 2013, as concrete examples of climate change, saying that both examples offer “relatively strong evidence” that humans are contributing to global warming. The authors write that they have “a medium degree of confidence” that rising temperatures throughout...

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15 Million Americans May be Drinking Water Contaminated with PFCs

by JULIE FIDLER – Perfluorochemicals are found in virtually all Americans More than 15 million Americans across 27 states may have drinking water contaminated with perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that are used to make non-stick cookware and other products, according to a report published in June 2017. PFCs have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and weakened immune systems. What’s more, prenatal exposure to the chemicals has been linked to low birthweight and future obesity. Even small amounts in drinking water are considered a public health threat. Research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University in Boston reveals that drinking water has been polluted with perfluorochemicals from more than 4 dozen industrial and military sources from Maine to California. In a press release, managing editor of the EWG Bill Walker said: “It’s remarkable that the richest country on earth can’t guarantee its citizens that their drinking water is completely safe and has no long-term health implications.” Although...

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Wind Farm with Tesla Battery Storage Proposed for Offshore Massachusetts

by Samantha Page – The development could power 80,000 homes with clean energy. Massachusetts might be getting a massive new wind farm that uses Tesla batteries to store energy. Deepwater Wind, a wind energy development company, has proposed a 144-megawatt wind farm with 40-megawatt hours of battery storage for a site 30 miles from mainland Massachusetts and 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, the company announced Tuesday. In 2008, Massachusetts passed a law requiring the state to “establish goals and meet targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” Under the law, titled the Climate Protection and Green Economy Act, the state pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Last year, a court ruled that the state had not acted adequately to meet its emissions reductions goals. Following the ruling, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed an executive order directing state agencies to, essentially, do better....

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Senior EPA Official Resigns With Scathing Message for Trump and Pruitt

by Natasha Geiling – “Today the environmental field is suffering from the temporary triumph of myth over truth.” A senior official with the Environmental Protection Agency has resigned from her post, citing the Trump administration’s anti-environment and anti-regulatory agenda in her exit statement as part of her reason for leaving. Elizabeth Southerland worked for the EPA for 30 years, most recently as Director of the Office of Science and Technology for the agency’s Water Office. In her farewell letter, posted publicly by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Southerland singles out several Trump-era regulatory rollbacks, which she argues are threatening the core mission of the EPA. Southerland criticized EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s approach to working with states on environmental enforcement, arguing that Pruitt’s desire to shift environmental protection to the states while cutting funding for federally-funded state environmental programs would merely force states to either increase taxes or decrease environmental enforcement. She also raised...

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Court Tells EPA to Enforce Methane Rule for Oil and Gas Drillers

by Mark Hand – EPA’s failure to enforce rule is causing release of “hazardous air pollutants,” court rules. A federal appeals court ruled late Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency must enforce Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the EPA’s attempt to suspend methane restrictions for the sector, formally vacating the agency’s 90-day stay of key provisions of New Source Performance Standards. The rule is now in effect. The leak detection and repair provisions of the 2016 rule were set to take effect — and “begin delivering significant benefits”— on June 3. But on June 5, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “unlawfully stayed these and other requirements of the rule retroactively from June 2 until August 31, 2017,” the court said. Pruitt and his industry allies “have not offered any support for the proposition that compliance”...

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House Slashes Funding for Clean Energy, Restores Funding for Fossil Fuel Research

by Mark Hand – Republicans targeted a Massachusetts wind project and social cost of carbon. The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a large spending bill for fiscal year 2018 that slashes clean energy spending and approves keeping fossil fuel research at current levels. In a spending package known as the “minibus,” the House voted to set the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) budget at $1.1 billion, a 45 percent cut from the office’s fiscal 2017 budget of more than $2 billion. The Trump administration requested an even bigger cut for the Department of Energy office that would have lowered its budget to to $636 million, or 70 percent, below the 2017 budget. The funding measure passed 235–192, with five Democrats voting for, five Republicans voting against, and six representatives abstaining. It still needs approval from the Senate before it passes into law — a thin possibility, given the largely partisan...

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On Electric Cars, the U.S. Is Stuck in the Slow Lane

by Oscar Reyes – While Europe races toward electric vehicles, U.S. automakers are actually trying to make cars less efficient. The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own. These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway. For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon. Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration. Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of...

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As Pruitt Guts Water Rules, EPA Will Allow Fracking Waste Dumping in the Gulf of Mexico

 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – As the Trump administration moves to gut Obama-era clean water protections nationwide, an environmental group is warning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its draft pollution discharge permit for offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico violates clean water laws because it allows operators to dump fracking chemicals and large volumes of drilling wastewater directly into the Gulf. In a recent letter to the agency, the Center for Biological Diversity told the EPA that the dumping of drilling wastewater — which can contain fracking chemicals, drilling fluids and pollutants, such as heavy metals — directly into Gulf waters is unacceptable and prohibited under the Clean Water Act. Under current rules established by the Obama administration, offshore oil and gas platforms can discharge well-treatment chemicals and unlimited amounts of “produced waters” from undersea wells directly into the Gulf as long as operators perform toxicity tests a few...

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Leaked Draft of Rick Perry Grid Study Debunks His Attack on Renewable Energy

by Joe Romm – But will the Trump administration erase those findings from the final Energy Dept. study? Back in April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered a study to back up his claims that solar and wind power were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability. That’s why it was a surprise when Bloomberg reported Friday that a July draft leaked to them concluded essentially the opposite: “The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.” The leaked draft was completed by Department of Energy (DOE) career staff, however, and thus subject to change by Perry and his team of Trump appointees. So the big question is whether the Trump administration will erase those findings in the final draft, the way they appear to be erasing so many other inconvenient truths. Indeed, a DOE spokeswoman told Bloomberg that “those statements as written are not in the current draft.”...

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Jeremy Corbyn Talks With Naomi Klein About Creating a Better World (VIDEO)

by Jessica Corbett – ‘When people’s minds are opened up, there is no end to the possibilities,’ says Corbyn. “Social justice isn’t copyrighted,” U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told Naomi Klein in an interview published at The Intercept on Thursday. Klein, a journalist and author of the new book No Is Not Enough, asked Corbyn about U.K. conservatives trying to co-opt his policies to appeal to young voters. The pair recently met up in London to discuss Labour’s stunning results in last month’s elections, the Trump administration, Bernie Sanders, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Grenfell Tower fire, and much more. Corbyn made international headlines in June when he led Labour to secure more of the vote share than any party leader since WWII. The election results—described by journalist and Labour supporter Owen Jones as “the most incredible amazing political upset in British history”—were in part thanks to the mass mobilization of young people who turned out to support the party. As Jonathan Cook wrote for Common...

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Tesla Is Building The World’s Biggest Lithium-Ion Battery For Australia

by JULIE FIDLER – The battery system will use energy from a local wind farm. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced July 7, 2017 that his company will use its giant battery, the Powerpack, to build a 100 megawatt (MW) lithium-ion battery system in South Australia. When it is completed, it will be the largest battery storage product in the world. The batteries will store energy produced by a local wind farm in Jamestown, South Australia. The battery system will have the ability to power tens of thousands of homes. Tesla wrote in a statement: “The Tesla Powerpack system will further transform the state’s movement towards renewable energy and see an advancement of a resilient and modern grid. Upon completion by December 2017, this system will be the largest lithium-ion storage project in the world and will provide enough power for more than 30,000 homes, approximately equal to the amount of...

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Incredible! Photographer Captures Rare Images Of Sperm Whales Sleeping

by Amanda Froelich – Photographer Franco Banfi captured the spectacular occurrence of sperm whales napping in synchronization. If you’ve ever wondered if sperm whales sleep, here’s your answer. While diving off the coast of Dominica Island in the Caribbean Sea, professional underwater photographer Franco Banfi had the extraordinary opportunity of photographing sperm whales napping. Banfi was tracking the mammals and recalled that all of a sudden, the whales stopped moving and went into a synchronized vertical rest. According to a team of biologists from the UK and Japan who witnessed something similar in 2008, the behavior signifies the sperm whales sleeping. Further studies revealed that the collective nap occurs for approximately 7 percent of a whale’s life, usually in short intervals of just 6-24 minutes. The surreal images are a sight to behold and inspire even more awe about the natural world. Fellow diver Sabrina Belloni was there with Banfi and can be seen swimming next...

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NOAA Erases ‘human activity’ From News Release on Soaring Greenhouse Gases

by Joe Romm – “It’s a complicated topic that can be difficult to communicate,” the Trump administration claims. In a truly shocking news release on its Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has erased any reference to “human activity” or fossil fuels. The index monitors the warming influence of greenhouse gases like CO2. Last year, NOAA’s news release for the index featured the picture of flaring gas from fossil fuel extraction (see top image). The release began by stating, “human activity has increased the direct warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by 50 percent above pre-industrial levels during the past 25 years, according to NOAA’s 10th annual Greenhouse Gas Index.” This year, the news release begins, “NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, which tracks the warming influence of long-lived greenhouse gases, has increased by 40 percent from 1990 to 2016 — with most of that attributable to rising carbon dioxide...

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EPA’s Pruitt Wants a Televised Debate on Climate Science. Next up: Is the Earth Really a sphere?

by Meteor Blades – Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency-hating chief of the EPA, wants to have a televised debate among scientists on climate change. When my colleague Mark Sumner read the news about this, he pictured a climate Thunderdome in which two scientists enter and a hunk of the public leaves still believing that there really is a debate to be had. Pruitt obviously believes that the subject is debatable, and he has made clear which side he comes down on. Anyone who has followed his work as attorney general of Oklahoma filing 14 lawsuits against the EPA, including a joint challenge to block the Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuel power plants, recognizes just how little he cares about the environment and the people harmed by pollution—including the pollution of greenhouse gas emissions. The oil and gas industry has consequently showered him with campaign contributions and, on official attorney general stationery, he’s been...

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Paul LePage Continues His ‘crusade against solar power’ With Latest Veto

by Mark Hand – Solar advocates are hopeful lawmakers will overturn the veto. After Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed comprehensive solar legislation in 2016, Maine lawmakers crafted a far more modest solar energy bill. And yet this year’s less ambitious bill still proved to be too pro-solar for LePage, who has consistently opposed policies that promote renewable energy in the state throughout his six years in office. On Monday, LePage vetoed L.D. 1504, a bill that directs state regulators to study how to transition away from the state’s current system for reimbursing customers who own or lease solar panels whose excess power gets sent to the grid. Under the legislation, regulators would need to complete the study of the state’s solar industry by 2019. Given his anti-renewables track record, solar energy proponents were not surprised by the governor’s latest veto. “The governor has been on a crusade against solar power and solar legislation for...

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