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Renewable Energy

Massachusetts Might Become America's First State to Commit to 100% Renewables

Clean energy supporters in Massachusetts announced legislation Monday, backed by more than a quarter of the state legislature, committing Massachusetts to get 100 percent of its energy needs from clean and renewable sources by mid-century.

The legislation, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker and in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, establishes targets for Massachusetts to meet its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2035 and all of its energy needs, including heating and transportation, from renewable sources by 2050.

"The supporters of this bill have joined the growing number of stakeholders and leaders who recognize the need for rapid transition to clean, renewable energy to tackle our environmental challenges," Rob Sargent said. "With a can-do attitude, powering our state entirely with clean, renewable energy is as feasible as it is necessary."

A combination of environmental concerns and declining costs for renewable energy have made it the "go-to" option for many communities and businesses, in part because it is pollution-free, but also because it requires no fuel costs. As a result, dozens of major corporations from Google to General Motors to Walmart have already committed to a complete shift to renewable energy. Similarly, dozens of local governments including San Diego, California, St. Petersburg, Florida and Georgetown, Texas, have plans to go 100 percent renewable.

"The federal government is moving backwards on clean energy. So, the states must lead," said S. David Freeman, a long-time utility executive at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the New York Power Authority and the Tennessee Valley Authority. "Massachusetts can show the way by enacting the 100 percent renewable bills and by so doing save consumers millions of dollars in the future with a free fuel energy supply."

Given the considerable resistance renewables are likely to face in Congress and the Trump administration, clean energy proponents are looking to state and local governments, businesses and institutions to ensure continued progress. In addition to the campaign in Massachusetts, Environment America and its partners are planning campaigns to get other states to go 100 percent renewable. And, today they will launch an effort to persuade America's colleges and universities to make similar commitments.

"Despite tremendous progress on renewable energy in the past decade, we've got much more to do and leaders in Washington who want to take us backward," Sargent said. "That's why we're counting on our local and state governments, along with businesses, colleges and universities and other institutions to lead the way by setting their sights on 100 percent renewable energy."

650,000 Children in 9 States Attend School Within 1 Mile of a Fracking Well

More than 650,000 kindergarten through 12th grade children in nine states attend school within one mile of a fracked oil or gas well, putting them at increased risk of health impacts from dangerous chemicals and air pollution.

Moms Clean Air Force

The finding comes from a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center that exposes the proximity of fracking near schools, hospitals, day care centers and nursing homes, risking the health of our children and other vulnerable populations.

"Schools and day care centers should be safe places for kids to play and learn," said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America's Stop Drilling program and co-author of the report. "Unfortunately, our research shows far too many kids may be exposed to dirty air and toxic chemicals from fracking right next door."

Using data provided by the oil and gas industry and state regulators, Dangerous and Close—Fracking Puts the Nation's Most Vulnerable People at Risk, found that:

  • 1,947 child care facilities, 1,376 schools, 236 nursing care providers and 103 hospitals are within a one-mile radius of fracked wells in the nine states examined.
  • More than 650,000 kindergarten through 12th grade children attend school within one mile of a fracked well.
  • The highest percentage of children attending school close to fracked wells is in West Virginia, where 8 percent of children spend their school days within one mile of a fracked well.
  • Texas has the largest number of children attending school close to a well, with 437,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students attending public or private school within one mile of a fracked well.

The report included data from nine states total including Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.

Hospitals, nursing homes, schools and day care facilities within one mile of a fracked well, 2005 through early 2016, in Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.Environment America

"American society aspires to protect children, the sick and the elderly," said Elizabeth Ridlington, policy analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "This report shows that we're violating that ideal because of our overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels. We've sunk to putting vulnerable populations at risk instead of making the wholesale shift to conservation and renewable energy."

Fracking creates a range of threats to our health, including creating toxic air pollution that can reduce lung function even among healthy people, trigger asthma attacks and has been linked to premature death. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to fracking's health risks. Children's immune systems are more susceptible to damage from toxic chemicals while older adults have weaker immune systems and more difficulty breaking down toxics chemicals in the body.

Studies show that the closer you are to fracking, the more susceptible you are to suffering negative health effects. In Colorado, residents living within one-half mile of fracked wells were exposed to pollutants that increased their risk of illness. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University found that in Pennsylvania hospitalizations rates increase near fracking sites.

"Fracking is an inherently dangerous threat to public health and should not be where vulnerable children and families live," said Dr. Walter Tsou, president of Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"It is an unavoidable fact that as fracking operations have spread across the U.S., significant damage to our health and our environment has occurred," said Laura Burns, parent of two and field organizer for Mom's Clean Air Force in Ohio. "Our children are our future. And for the sake of our future, we need to be seeking clean, renewable energy solutions."

Given the scale and severity of fracking's impacts, fracking should be prohibited wherever possible and existing wells should be shut down beginning with those near institutions that serve our most vulnerable populations.

To better protect communities already on the front lines of drilling, stricter regulations should be adopted and federal fracking loopholes should be closed to hold the oil and gas industry to the same standards as other industry. Currently, oil and gas companies are exempt from key provisions in the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

"Our children's health and safety should be non-negotiable," Richardson said. "Ultimately, the only solution to this toxic health threat is to ban fracking entirely and move toward 100 percent renewable energy as swiftly as possible."

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First Offshore Wind Farm in U.S. Begins Final Construction Phase

Surrounded by monstrous blades and tower sections on the docks of the Port of Providence, Gov. Gina Raimondo was joined by local elected leaders and clean energy advocates Monday to celebrate the final stages of construction of the nation's first offshore wind farm.

Fred. Olsen Windcarrier

As soon as next week, the company Deepwater Wind will begin installing the turbine towers and blades for the project, located three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island and east of Long Island, New York.

With the potential to supply all of Block Island with clean power, the 30 MW wind farm could jumpstart the nation's efforts to finally capture the immense pollution-free resource off our coasts, advocates say.

"We're poised to tap the tremendous energy resource provided by the winds that blow off our shores," Rob Sargent, Environment America's Energy Program director and among those celebrating the project today in Providence, said. "Rhode Island deserves tremendous credit for being the first, but it certainly won't be the last."

Located in a renewable energy zone designated by Rhode Island state officials several years ago, the Block Island project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years in amounts equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road, create more than 300 jobs and save local residents up to 40 percent on their energy bills.

Other projects off the Atlantic Coast could provide similar benefits. A 2014 report showed that the 1.5 million acres designated for wind energy off the Atlantic Coast could support enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes, offsetting dirty fossil fuel energy sources and creating local jobs.

Advocates urged other Atlantic Coast states to follow Rhode Island's lead and pressed federal decision makers to continue to do their part to support offshore wind.

"If we're serious about tackling pollution from fossil fuels and helping our local economy, we should commit ourselves to meeting all our energy needs with clean, renewable energy sources such as offshore wind," Sargent said.

"That's why we need bold commitments from governors and state leaders, we need Congress to extend offshore wind tax incentives and we need federal officials to continue leading the way through programs like the Smart from the Start Initiative. With the right support, Block Island will be just the beginning."

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