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Anti-Fracking Activists Protest Cove Point and Dominion's Climate Risks at Shareholders Meeting

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Anti-Fracking Activists Protest Cove Point and Dominion's Climate Risks at Shareholders Meeting

Dominion executives may have been hundreds of miles away from the site of the controversial Cove Point export facility Wednesday, but they couldn't escape the ire of those fighting against the liquefied natural gas (LNG) proposal.

The anti-fracking activists voiced their opinions outside of Dominion's annual shareholders meeting in Cleveland, OH. The Ohio Sierra Club, Ohio Student Environmental Coalition and the Energy Action Coalition organized the protest of the $3.8 million LNG site in Maryland. Activists and shareholders also presented resolutions centered around the company reducing its climate risks.

Protesters gathered in Cleveland, OH to speak out against Dominion's climate risks outside of an annual shareholders meeting. Photo credit: Chesapeake Climate Action Network/Twitter

“Climate change is already impacting Dominion’s bottom line. In fact, the company recently moved to raise electric rates for Virginia customers by over 4 percent due to rising gas prices linked to this winter’s extreme weather,” said Emily Heffling, Virginia field organizer at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) who presented a financial risk resolution. “If Dominion refuses to be part of the solution, the least the company should do is come clean on the costs to shareholders. Many other large U.S. companies are conducting assessments of business risks posed by climate change, and our resolution simply asks Dominion to provide the same transparency.

"Many other large U.S. companies are conducting assessments of business risks posed by climate change, and our resolution simply asks Dominion to provide the same transparency.”

Before the meeting, a Dominion shareholder and the CCAN in filing an official complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the company's failure to adequately disclose significant financial and environmental risks associated with LNG export project. Dominion is seeking SEC approval to raise project funds through a public stock initial offering.

“I have been involved in shareholder advocacy with Dominion since 2008, and I am saddened and frightened by their continued negligence on climate change,” said Ruth McElroy Amundsen, a shareholder from Norfolk, VA. “Dominion is the largest carbon emitter in a state where coastal cities like mine already see regular and costly flooding due to sea level rise. The resolution I presented this year asks Dominion to set a clear goal for reducing its greenhouse gas pollution, as opposed to the nearly 60 percent increase they are projecting over the next two decades.”

“Dominion plans for huge increases in its natural gas transmission capacity, including exports overseas via Cove Point that will promote increased fracking in eastern states,” said Seth Heald, a Dominion shareholder from Rixeyville, Virginia. Photo credit: CCAN

There were six resolutions presented by company shareholders, including four by Virginia residents. Here's what they want Dominion officials to do:

  • Report on the financial risks posed to Dominion by climate change (24 percent of shareholders voting yes, representing $7.68 billion in shares)
  • Disclose how the company is measuring and reducing methane emissions (21 percent voting yes)
  • Report on the climate change impacts of the company’s reliance on biomass, or wood-burning, for energy (21 percent voting yes)
  • Adopt quantitative goals for reducing Dominion’s overall emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (20 percent voting yes)

“It is clear that Dominion’s agenda to export natural gas puts Ohioans at risk to more fracking, higher energy costs and more extreme weather,” said Brian Kunkemoeller, conservation manager at the Ohio Sierra Club. “Energy independence and curbing climate change starts and ends with clean energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal—and that’s what we’re calling for today.”

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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