Constitution Pipeline: 'The Keystone Pipeline of Natural Gas'
“This Constitution Pipeline is about enriching a few billionaires by impoverishing the people of New York State," Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told Ed Schultz on MSNBC's The Ed Show. "And the bullying that we’ve seen go along with this, the corruption—FERC is really a rogue agency, it’s a classic captive agency, it issued this permit illegally.”
A popular movement is building against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), for its outrageous rubber-stamping of permits for expansion of the gas industry. Kennedy’s powerful indictment of FERC on national television last week was the latest manifestation of this hopeful, much-needed development.
Kennedy was speaking about the Constitution Pipeline, one of about eight interstate pipelines originating in or going through Pennsylvania (ground zero for fracking in the Northeast) that are currently in some stage of getting approval from FERC, which interstate gas pipelines need to do. And the approval process is essentially pro-forma. In the two and a half or so years that I’ve been actively involved with this movement, I know of none proposed that have been rejected. It’s the same with proposed export terminals. At a federal Court of Appeals hearing last year in Washington, DC it was stated in open court that 95 percent or more of such proposed pipelines are approved, with no disagreement from the FERC lawyers present.
Some of the other pipelines which FERC will likely approve—barring the kind of organized people’s uprising we have seen around the Keystone XL pipeline—are: Penn East, Mariner East 2, Atlantic Sunrise, Atlantic Coast, Algonquin Incremental Market and Northeast Energy Direct.
Virtually all of these pipelines are being built, in part, to ship fracked gas from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and possibly elsewhere in the Marcellus Shale region to gas export terminals that are being built or projects that are proposed, including in Nova Scotia, off the coast of NY/NJ and Cove Point in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.
The leadership of FERC knows that they’ve got a problem. Here is how FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur put it at the National Press Club on Jan. 27:
“These groups are active in every FERC docket … as well as in my email inbox seven days a week, in my Twitter feed, at our open meetings demanding to be heard and literally at our door closing down First Street so FERC won’t be able to work. We’ve got a situation here.”
Last week, at a meeting of the FERC Commissioners, there was reference a number of times to the problem of “environmental activists.” This was in reference to the planned expansion of the gas industry to replace expected coal industry retrenchment in coming years.
Actually, it’s a lot more than “environmental activists” who are angry at FERC. One of the noteworthy aspects of this movement is the involvement of affected landowners, property owners, farmers, impacted communities, local elected officials and others who definitely don’t see themselves primarily as environmentalists.
Who was Chair LaFleur referring to when she talked about groups “at our open meetings demanding to be heard, and literally at our door closing down First Street so FERC won’t be able to work?” She was referring to a network of groups and individuals a little more than a half year old, Beyond Extreme Energy.
Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) grew out of the (continuing) battle to prevent an export terminal from being built at Cove Point in Calvert County, Maryland. Ever since its first major action, a week of nonviolent direct action in November at the FERC headquarters in DC that disrupted their functioning, it has stayed active: canvassing and getting arrested in Calvert County; disrupting a meeting of financial analysts and potential Dominion investors in NYC; supporting fracktivists in Pennsylvania who were arrested chanting “Ban Fracking Now” at the inauguration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf; demonstrating at the inauguration of the new Maryland governor, who wants to open his state to fracking; and attending every monthly FERC commissioners meeting since November. At the January meeting Chair LaFleur, in an unprecedented move, adjourned it and cleared the room when we began speaking, one by one, about the human and environmental damage FERC’s decisions are having.
Now BXE is getting organized for another week-plus of actions in DC at FERC. From May 21-29 we will let FERC and the country know that we are not going away and that we will not stop until they become something very different than what they are right now. FERC says that its mission is to provide "safe, efficient, sustainable" energy for the country. It is failing on all counts. FERC must fulfill its mission and make decisions based on what’s best for all of us instead of the fracked-gas industry.
The issue of FERC is more than an issue for communities impacted by their decisions. It is a basic social justice issue, an issue of corruption of democracy.
It is unquestionably an issue that the climate movement has to take up and do so now. The proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan explicitly lists a shift from coal to natural gas as a way for states to meet the plan’s emissions reductions objective, which is ridiculous given that gas is a fossil fuel and given the extensive methane leakage associated with gas production, distribution and storage.
The BXE actions in late May are coming at the right time. Let’s seize the time!
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
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