How Removing One Maine Dam 20 Years Ago Changed Everything
By Tara Lohan
More than 1,000 people lined the banks of the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine, on July 1, 1999. They were there to witness a rebirth.
The ringing of a bell signaled a backhoe on the opposite bank to dig into a retaining wall. Water trickled, then gushed. The crowd erupted in cheers as the Edwards Dam, which had stretched 900 feet across the river, was breached. Soon the whole dam would be removed.
The Kennebec hadn't run free here since 1837.
Those who advocated for the dam's removal promised that devastated fisheries would return, and the city of Augusta would benefit from new recreational opportunities and a revitalization of the riverfront.
They were right. But it wasn't just Augusta where change was felt.
The removal of Edwards Dam became a pivotal moment in the history of the environmental movement and river restoration in the United States. It was the first functioning hydroelectric dam to be removed — and the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ever voted, against the wishes of a dam owner, not to relicense a dam.
But most importantly the demolition signaled a shift in thinking about how we balance environmental and economic interests — and that had a ripple effect.
"It was the first big dam that came out that demonstrated to the country that our rivers had other values beyond industrial use," says John Burrows, director of New England Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, which was a key player in the dam-removal effort. "It helped folks recognize that our rivers, which we've not taken good care of for several hundred years, could be a different asset for communities. And for society."
Killing a River
Building the Edwards Dam was never a popular idea. Even in the 1830s there was concern that the robust fisheries of the lower Kennebec River would be wiped out. But the cheerleaders of industrialism prevailed, and the dam was built in 1837 to bring power to local mills.
The consequences were immediate.
The dam's construction shut the door on the migration of nearly a dozen sea-run fish species that used to swim up more than 40 miles from the Atlantic Ocean in search of prime spawning habitat in the Kennebec and its tributaries.
"The river was transformed from being a thriving producer of millions of ﬁsh such as shad, herring, striped bass, Atlantic salmon, sturgeon and alewives and supporting a wide cornucopia of other species ranging from otters to eagles — into a wastewater drainage system," Jeff Crane, a dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Martin's University, wrote in a paper published in 2009.
Within a few years, the alewife run on the Sebasticook River, a tributary of the Kennebec just upstream from the dam, was gone. Where once you'd been able to catch 500 salmon a season in Augusta, by 1850 you were lucky to get five. The state reported that the shad industry there was completely lost by 1867. And the sturgeon catch on the lower Kennebec declined from 320,000 pounds a year before the dam to just 12,000 pounds a year by 1880.
In the 1900s the river's problems got even worse. The Kennebec River became a dumping ground for toxic waste from paper mills and municipal sewage. Log drives from the upstate timber industry choked the river's flow, and declining oxygen levels from sewage caused major fish kills. By the 1960s no one wanted to fish or swim in the Kennebec anymore.
Brian Graber, who now works as the senior director of river restoration at American Rivers, grew up in Massachusetts and spent his summers in a family cabin outside Augusta. The Kennebec River of his childhood wasn't a place to have a good time — or even to live.
"I think what struck me the most as a kid was that all the buildings in downtown Augusta were facing away from the river and were either boarded up or just didn't have windows at all along the river," Graber recalls.
But things began to gradually improve after the passage of the national Clean Water Act in 1972.
The state of Maine spent $100 million on water-treatment facilities between 1972 and 1990 to clean up the river and meet modern environmental laws. Improvements in water quality triggered a new interest in expanding river restoration. The Kennebec wasn't hopeless after all.
But one hurdle remained.
During the 1980s efforts to improve fish passage at dams and water quality in the river continued. Even though many environmental groups thought dam removal was the best ecological hope for restoring the Kennebec, few believed it was a winnable campaign.
"At that time removal of dams was a pretty outlandish concept and most people who we were interacting with did not see us prevailing," says Pete Didisheim, senior director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The only other talk of dam removal happening then in the United States was across the country on Washington's Elwha River. (The Elwha's two dams wouldn't end up being removed, however, until 2011 and 2014.)
In 1991 the owners of the Edwards Dam, Edwards Manufacturing Company, applied for a 50-year renewal license to operate it. The newly formed Kennebec Coalition jumped in to convince the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency in charge of the relicensing, to deny that permit. The coalition was made up of the nonprofits American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Trout Unlimited and its Kennebec Valley chapter.
"People began to not only imagine what dam removal would do for the benefit of the fish, but also what it would do for the benefit of the town if they had a functioning, free-flowing river running through it," says Andrew Fahlund, currently senior program officer at the Water Foundation, who was working for American Rivers during the push for dam removal.
The coalition had a strong argument. The dam produced only 3.5 megawatts of power, providing less than 0.1 percent of Maine's electricity. It employed only a few people and was aging and unsafe, having been breached numerous times. It blocked critical upstream fish habitat, including the migration of endangered sturgeon.
And a restored fishery would bring economic as well as ecological benefits — profits that could be more widely shared than those of the small company that owned the dam.
But taking down a functioning hydroelectric dam for the benefit of fish had never been done before.
"Initially the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff issued their proposal that the dam should be relicensed," says Burrows. "It took our organizations doing a lot of work with some experts to actually demonstrate that the ecological values of removing the dam outweighed the power generation." The coalition produced 7,000 pages of documentation on the impacts of the dam and the economic importance of a restored fishery.
At the same time, they worked to educate the public and earned national attention and the support of Maine's governor, Angus King, who said that the removal of the dam would help the Kennebec "reclaim its position as both an economic asset and an ecological miracle."
Dam proponents countered that removal would be too expensive and would cause riverbank erosion, bring more downstream floods and lower property values for those along the riverfront.
But in 1997, after mounting evidence from the coalition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted to deny license renewal. It ordered that the dam be removed. People campaigning for removal were ecstatic, while dam owners across the country were shocked.
This was the first time the commission used its authority to deny a permit against the wishes of a dam owner. And it hasn't been done since.
It wasn't just the commission's ruling that was groundbreaking; it was also the first time a dam was coming down on the main stem of a river and not a smaller tributary, which Graber says was a significant achievement. "It was a pivotal moment for us to build a national movement to take out dams," he adds.
A crowd gathers on the banks of the Kennebec River of the breaching of Edwards Dam in 1999. NRCM
The battle wasn't yet won, though.
It took another year for a negotiated settlement to be reached with the dam owner, conservation groups and federal and state agencies that managed to stave off the threat of lengthy lawsuits from Edwards Manufacturing Company.
Much of the funding for the removal ended up coming from Bath Iron Works, a downstream shipbuilder that was expanding its operations into prime sturgeon habitat. The company paid into the dam-removal settlement as part of its environmental mitigation.
The decision had far-reaching impacts.
"The success of this effort would serve as an example of what could be accomplished for other river restoration activists around the nation, thereby contributing to the dramatic growth of dam removal efforts and ﬁsheries restoration projects," wrote Crane.
A River Reborn
The removal of Edwards Dam in July 1999 turned out to be a chance for Augusta to rebuild its relationship to the river.
"Like most towns in New England of that era, their backs had been turned to the river for more than 100 years," says Fahlund, who was on the banks that day. He remembers it feeling electric and the atmosphere festive — music played, commemorative T-shirts were sold and reporters from around the world showed up.
It was also, he says, a day of mixed emotions for some residents. The dam had been a piece of the town's history for more than 160 years, both infrastructure and monument, but part of the campaign to remove it had been to counter the notion that dams are meant to last forever.
That echoed beyond the town limits. "Even though it wasn't a huge dam, it had somewhat of a seismic impact on people's thinking about dams that they're not necessarily permanent fixtures in eternity on the landscape," says Didisheim.
As soon as the dam came down, the river rebounded. Fish immediately had access to 18 more miles of habitat, up to the town of Waterville at the mouth of the Sebasticook River. Atlantic sturgeon began to swim past the former dam site, and alewife and shad soon returned. Within a year seals could be seen chasing alewives, a type of river herring, 40 miles upstream from the ocean.
Alewives returned by the millions after the Edwards and Ft. Halifax dams were removed. John Burrows / ASF
And with alewives coming back, so did everything that eats them—river otters, bears, mink, bald eagles, osprey and blue herons.
But the best indicator of the ecosystem's recovery was the resurgence of aquatic insects like mayflies and stoneflies, which signaled improved water quality.
"They all rebounded and the diversity just skyrocketed," says Fahlund. "And so we knew something great was happening and that it was going to lead to everything we had hoped."
Within a few years the river began to meet higher water-quality standards.
"The water… is now that much healthier because it's no longer sitting still and dead," stated a 2009 editorial in the Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel. "Instead, it bubbles and spills its way downstream across rediscovered gravel bars and river ledges, collecting and absorbing oxygen as it moves toward the ocean. The river is alive in a way it hasn't been for generations."
The benefits spread to the community as well. A park and trails were built along the waterfront. "People are out on the water, mostly paddling a kayak or canoeists," says Graber. "The downtown is starting to make use of the river more. The buildings that have been redeveloped are now using the river as an amenity. The river's really just come back to life both for humans and the ecology."
The success didn't end in Augusta, though. The removal of Edwards Dam ignited efforts to take out the next obstacle up-river, the Fort Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook River in Waterville. After eight years of work that dam was removed in 2008, further extending habitat for native fish.
"We have species like sturgeon, striped bass, rainbow smelt and other key sea-run species which now have access to all of their historic habitat in the watershed," says the Atlantic Salmon Federation's Burrows.
The breaching of Ft. Halifax Dam on the Sebasticook River. NRCM
The removal of both dams, in conjunction with active stocking of alewives into lakes and ponds upriver and in other parts of the watershed, has helped the river herring population rebound dramatically. The number of alewives returning to spawn jumped from 78,000 in 1999 to 5.5 million last year.
And the downstream estuary has reaped rewards, too.
When those billions of juvenile river herring leave the freshwater lakes and rivers, they head for the sea and may spend between three and five years in the marine environment. There they serve are a food source for everything from cod and haddock to whales and seals.
"They are really a kind of keystone ecological species for the Gulf of Maine," says Burrows.
The river herring are also a valuable source of bait for commercial lobstermen, who in recent decades have had such a deficit in securing local supplies that they've had to turn to importing bait from southeast Asia, introducing a host of new environmental problems and costs.
"We've now got the largest river herring population on the east coast of the United States, maybe even on the entire eastern seaboard of North America, but that population could easily be three, four times what it is now," says Burrows. "And so we're continuing to work on restoring more habitat and we're hoping to see those populations continue to increase."
Didisheim says an estimated 27 million alewives have reached spawning habitat since the Ft. Halifax Dam was removed, and none of it would have happened without first removing the Edwards Dam.
The Edwards Dam also helped propel a large restoration project a couple hours northeast of Augusta on the Penobscot River. Conservation groups worked with the dam operator on the Penobscot to increase hydropower generation on some other dams and then remove a series of lower dams that opened up more than 1,000 miles of river access for fish, especially critically endangered Atlantic salmon.
While that project was being developed, its proponents could point to the Kennebec River restoration as an example of what could be achieved.
"The Kennebec River activists and city and state leaders did not have the advantage that later river restoration activists would have — namely, the Kennebec River restoration itself as powerful example of how quickly river restoration could work and how successful it could be," wrote Crane. "This is the one reason that the Edwards Dam removal is so important; it showed other communities the process required and how successful it could be."
A Movement Grows
Dam removals followed outside Maine. When the Edwards Dam was removed, about five dam removals were taking place nationwide each year. Last year it was 80. Since Edwards, more than 1,100 dams have come down.
Many of these have been small dams, but there have also been high-profile projects, like the two Elwha River dams that were the largest dam-removal project so far in the world.
The removal of the 125-foot-tall Condit Dam in 2011 on the White Salmon River, a tributary of the Columbia River in Washington, was a big step in aiding threatened salmon and steelhead. The Condit was removed because adding modern requirements for fish proved to be uneconomical — it was cheaper to remove the dam than build fish passage.
Overall there's been a shift in public thinking about dams over the past two decades. "It's not just something that conservationists and environmentalists are advocating for anymore," says Amy Souers Kober, communications director at American Rivers. "Dam removal also makes sense for economic reasons and public safety in a lot of cases."
That includes Bloede Dam on the Patapsco River in Maryland, where nine people have drowned, she says. Efforts to remove the dam there began in September.
There are also a number of big projects on the horizon, including on the Middle Fork Nooksack River, which Kober says is the number-one salmon-recovery project on the Puget Sound that conservationists hope will help struggling Southern Resident killer whales.
And all eyes are on the Klamath River as plans come together to remove four dams in 2021 in what would become the largest dam-removal and river-restoration project in the world.
Dam-removal proponents don't think we need to take out all of our dams, and of course we couldn't. The United States has more than 90,000 dams, and many still serve crucial functions. But where dams have been removed, the past two decades have shown the environmental results are unparalleled.
"There's no faster or more effective way to bring a river back to life than taking out a dam," says American Rivers' Graber. "That's why we focused on it for 20 years. It's a win for environmental reasons, public safety and a relief from liability for dam owners."
Ultimately, dam removals are much bigger than the dams themselves, says Kober. "Dam removals are really stories about people reclaiming their rivers."
Those stories started with the Edwards Dam.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. According to The National Museum of American History, this popular slogan, with its iconic three arrows forming a triangle, embodied a national call to action to save the environment in the 1970s. In that same decade, the first Earth Day happened, the EPA was formed and Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, encouraging recycling and conservation of resources, Enviro Inc. reported.
According to Forbes, the Three R's sustainability catch-phrase, and the recycling cause it bolstered, remain synonymous with the U.S. environmental movement itself. There's only one problem: despite being touted as one of the most important personal actions that individuals can take to help the planet, "recycling" – as currently carried out in the U.S. – doesn't work and doesn't help.
Turns out, there is a vast divide between the misleading, popular notion of recycling as a "solution" to the American overconsumption problem and the darker reality of recycling as a failing business model.
The Myth: Recycling Began as a Plastics' Industry Marketing Tactic
A recycling dumpster in Los Angeles. Citizen of the Planet / Education Images / Universal Images Group / Getty Images
When it was first introduced, recycling likely had altruistic motivations, Forbes reported. However, the system that emerged was never equipped to handle high volumes. Unfortunately, as consumption increased, so too did promotion of recycling as a solution. The system "[gave] manufacturers of disposable items a way to essentially market overconsumption as environmentalism," Forbes reported. Then and now, "American consumers assuage any guilt they might feel about consuming mass quantities of unnecessary, disposable goods by dutifully tossing those items into their recycling bins and hauling them out to the curb each week."
Little has changed since that Forbes article, titled "Can Recycling Be Bad For The Environment?," was published almost a decade ago; increases in recycling have been eclipsed by much higher consumption rates. In fact, consumerism was at an all-time high in January 2020 before the pandemic hit, Trading Economics reported.
But, if the system doesn't work, why does it continue? Turns out, consumers were misled – by the oil and gas industry. News reports from September 2020 revealed how the plastic industry-funded ads in the 1980s that heralded recycling as a panacea to our growing waste problem. These makers of virgin plastics were the biggest proponents and financial sponsors of plastic recycling programs because they created the illusion of a sustainable, closed-cycle while actually promoting the continued use of raw materials for new single-use plastics.
To the masses, these programs justified overconsumption and eased concerns over trash that could be thrown into recycling bins, Forbes reported. Generations of well-meaning Americans since the 1970's and '80's – believing these communications masterminds – have dutifully used-then-recycled plastics and other materials. They trusted that their discards would be reborn as new goods instead of ending up in oceans and landfills.
The plastics industry went even further, lobbying 40 states to put the recycling triangle symbol on all plastic – even if it wasn't recyclable, Houston Public Media reported. This bolstered the public image of plastic as a renewable resource, but the cost was clarity about what actually can be recycled. As recent as 2020, a Greenpeace report found that many U.S. products labeled as recyclable could not actually be processed by most domestic material recovery facilities.
The Reality: Most Recyclables Aren't Being Recycled
An initial pre-sort removes contaminates, items that can't be recycled, at Republic Services in Anaheim, California on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Paul Bersebach / MediaNews Group / Orange County Register / Getty Images
The U.S. relies on single-stream recycling systems, in which recyclables of all sorts are placed into the same bin to be sorted and cleaned at recycling facilities. Well-meaning consumers are often over-inclusive, hoping to divert trash from landfills. Unfortunately, the trash often ends up there anyways – with the additional cost of someone at a recycling plant sorting through it.
The single-stream system is easier on consumers, but results in a mixed stream of materials that is easy to contaminate, hard to sort and more expensive to process. There are a variety of items – including dirty pizza boxes, old clothing, hangers, plastic bags, aerosols, batteries and electronics – that, if added to a residential recycling bin, will contaminate the entire batch of recyclables, a Miami recycling center representative told EcoWatch. At that point, it can be too costly and too dangerous for employees to hand-pick out erroneous items. Because these items cannot be processed in the same way as recyclable materials, their inclusion often means the whole batch will fetch a lower price from buyers or must be thrown away.
"Most people have the attitude that if they just put it in the blue bin, it will get taken away and somebody will figure out what to do with it, but putting something in the blue bin and actually recycling it are two very different things," said David Biderman, CEO and executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America.
Misunderstandings, misinformation and mislabeling aside, the harsh reality was and remains that most plastic can't and won't be recycled, reported NPR. For example, the EPA reported that plastic generation in 2018 was 35.7 million tons, accounting for 12.2 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) that year. Of this total, only three million tons were recycled (an 8.7 percent recycling rate). The vast majority – 27 million tons – ended up in landfills, and the rest was combusted. The environmental agency also estimated that less than 10 percent of plastic thrown in bins in the last 40 years has actually been recycled.
The situation is slightly better for other recyclables, though they make up a smaller percentage of MSW. For example, glass products totaled 12.3 million tons in 2018, or 4.2 percent of the annual MSW generation. Almost 25 percent of glass was recycled, 61.6 percent ended up in landfills and 13.4 percent was combusted.
Post-consumer paper and cardboard for 2018 totaled 67.4 million tons, or 23.1 percent of total MSW generation for the year. The material also had the highest recycling rate of any other material in MSW – 68.2 percent. 25.6 percent of paper ended up in landfills and 6.23 percent was combusted.
According to this EPA data, recyclable plastics, glass and paper accounted for 18.5 percent, 5.2 percent and 11.8 percent of MSW landfilled in 2018, respectively. Those three materials alone comprised 35.5 percent of the total landfilled trash in the U.S. for the year; had they been properly collected, processed and purchased, they theoretically could have been diverted and recycled.
The Reason: Recycling Is Bad Business Around the World
Recyclable waste must be sorted, cleaned and processed before it can be sold as a commodity on the open market. Nareeta Martin / Unsplash
Unfortunately, the EPA data also shows that 2018 was not an anomaly but rather another data point showing how the single-stream system in the U.S. has never been economically viable or feasible on a large scale. To further understand why recycling in America is failing, we need to think of recycled goods as commodities – because that's what they are.
According to the recycling center representative, municipalities and counties pay for residential and commercial recyclables to be trucked to local and regional recycling plants for processing. Clean batches are sorted and/or compressed into bales of similar plastics, paper, aluminum or glass. The centers sell the cleaned recyclables on the open market to buyers who will process them into recycled materials like plastic pellets or post-consumer paper; these can be turned into new products.
This entire process – the processing and creation of saleable recycled goods – costs money. As with any good, profitability requires selling for a higher price than it costs to make. Contaminated batches are harder to process into new products and therefore fetch a lower price on the market, if they can be sold at all. Currently, U.S. recyclables are no longer profitable, and no one wants to buy them.
China used to buy the majority of the world's plastics and paper for recycling, The New York Times reported. The U.S. has been the #1 generator of plastic waste in the world for years and used to ship more than half of its total plastic production to China, a November 2020 study found. The research also noted that up to one-fourth of American plastics sent abroad were contaminated or of poor quality, which would make it extremely difficult to recycle anyways.
Starting Jan. 1, 2018, China banned imports of most scrap materials because shipments were too contaminated, The Times reported; the country no longer wanted to be the "world's garbage dump."
As a result, the U.S. and other Western nations who had relied on China to offload their recyclables saw a "mounting crisis" of paper and plastic waste building up in ports and recycling facilities, The Times reported.
The Western nations began sending recyclable waste to other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Malaysia. These countries often lacked the infrastructure to handle recyclables, so a lot of the waste ended up incinerated or landfilled
In response, in 2019, the United Nations passed an amendment to the Basel Convention hoping to protect the poor and developing countries who'd taken up China's vacated role in the global recycling trade. The amendment ambitiously aimed to clean up the global trade in plastic waste, making it more transparent and better regulated and allowing developing countries to reject contaminated shipments. The U.S. did not ratify the amendment, and new evidence suggests it continues to send illegal and/or contaminated shipments to developing countries.
Domestically, the closing of the Chinese market to U.S. recyclables bankrupted many domestic recycling programs because there was too much supply and no real demand. The smaller Asian countries could not accept nearly as much as China had. Prices of recyclables dropped, and bales of scrap materials were sent to landfills and incinerators when they couldn't be sold, another Times article reported.
This left waste-management companies around the country with no market for recyclabes, The Atlantic reported. They've been forced to go back to cities and municipalities with two choices: pay a lot more to get rid of their recycling or throw it away. The news report noted that most are choosing the latter.
"The economics are challenging," agreed Nilda Mesa, director of the Urban Sustainability and Equity Planning Program at the Earth Institute's Center for Sustainable Urban Development. "If there is not a market for the recycled material, then the numbers do not work for these facilities as well as cities, as they need to sell the materials to recoup their costs of collection and transportation, and even then it's typically only a portion of the costs," Columbia's State of the Planet reported.
Tiffany Duong is an avid ocean advocate. She holds degrees from UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and is an Al Gore Climate Reality Leader and student member of The Explorer's Club.
She spent years as a renewable energy lawyer in L.A. before moving to the Amazon to conduct conservation fieldwork (and revamp her life). She eventually landed in the Florida Keys as a scientific scuba diver and field reporter and writes about the oceans, climate, and the environment from her slice of paradise. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @lilicedt.
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One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.
Overall energy demand is expected to rise 4.6 percent this year compared to 2020 and 0.5 percent compared to 2019, according to the IEA's Global Energy Review 2021. Demand for fossil fuels is expected to jump to such an extent that emissions will rise by nearly five percent in 2021. This will reverse 80 percent of the emissions decline reported in 2020, to end emissions just 1.2 percent below 2019 emissions levels. Because the lockdown saw the biggest drop in energy demand since World War II, the projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions will still be the second-highest on record, BBC News pointed out.
"This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement reported by AFP.
Birol said much of that increase was being driven by the resurgence of coal use. In fact, coal demand is expected to increase by 60 percent more than all forms of renewable energy, according to the report. Overall coal demand is expected to increase by 4.5 percent in 2021. More than 80 percent of that growth is in Asia, and more than 50 percent is in China. While coal use is expected to increase in the U.S. and Europe as well, it will remain far below pre-pandemic levels. Still, global coal use is expected to rise to nearly its 2014 peak, BBC News reported.
Natural gas demand is also expected to rise by 3.2 percent in 2021, to put it more than one percent above 2019 levels, according to the report.
There are, however, two bright spots in the report from a climate perspective. The first is that oil demand, while up 6.2 percent from 2020, is still expected to remain around 3 percent below 2019 levels. This is because oil use for ground transportation is not expected to recover until the end of 2021, and oil use for air travel is expected to remain at 20 percent below 2019 levels by December of 2021.
"A full return to pre-crisis oil demand levels would have pushed up CO2 emissions a further 1.5%, putting them well above 2019 levels," the report authors wrote.
The second bright spot is that renewable energy demand is set to rise in all sectors in 2021. In power, where its rise is the greatest, it is set to increase by more than eight percent. This is "the largest year-on-year growth on record in absolute terms," the report authors wrote.
Renewable energy will provide 30 percent of electricity overall, BBC News reported, which is the highest percentage since the industrial revolution. The problem is that the increase in renewables is running parallel to an increase in fossil fuels in some places. China, for example, is also expected to account for almost half of the rise in renewable electricity.
"As we have seen at the country-level in the past 15 years, the countries that succeed to cut their emissions are those where renewable energy replaces fossil energy," energy expert and University of East Anglia professor Corinne Le Quéré told BBC News. "What seems to be happening now is that we have a massive deployment of renewable energy, which is good for tackling climate change, but this is occurring alongside massive investments in coal and gas. Stimulus spending post-Covid-19 worldwide is still largely funding activities that lock us into high CO2 emissions for decades."
To address this issue, Birol called on the world leaders gathering for U.S. President Joe Biden's climate summit Thursday and Friday to pledge additional action before November's UN Climate Change Conference, according to AFP.
"Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022," said Birol.
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The guide, 40-year-old Charles "Carl" Mock, was attacked Thursday while fishing alone in a forested area near West Yellowstone, Montana, The AP reported. He died in the hospital two days later. Wildlife officials killed the bear on Friday when it charged while they were investigating the attack.
"They yelled and made continuous noise as they walked toward the site to haze away any bears in the area," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote in a press release. "Before they reached the site, a bear began charging the group. Despite multiple attempts by all seven people to haze away the bear, it continued its charge. Due to this immediate safety risk, the bear was shot and died about 20 yards from the group."
The AP reported the bear to be an older male that weighed at least 420 pounds. Wildlife workers later found a moose carcass about 50 yards from the site of the attack.
"This indicates the bear was defending a food source during the attack," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote.
Mock was an experienced guide who worked for Backcountry Adventure, which provides snowmobile rentals and tours in Yellowstone National Park, according to The AP. His friend Scott Riley said Mock knew the risks of working around grizzly bears.
"He was the best guide around," Riley told The AP. "He had sight like an eagle and hearing like an owl... Carl was a great guy."
Mock carried bear spray, but investigators don't know if he had a chance to use it before the attack. Grizzly attacks are relatively rare in the Yellowstone area, CNN reported.
Since 1979, the park has welcomed more than 118 million visitors and recorded only 44 bear attacks. The odds of a grizzly attack in Yellowstone are about one in 2.7 million visits. The risk is lower in more developed areas and higher for those doing backcountry hikes.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advises being aware of surroundings, staying on trails, traveling in groups, making noise, avoiding animal remains, following food storage instructions and carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. Above all, it's important to back away slowly if a bear encounter occurs.
It's also important to pay attention to the time of year.
"Now is the time to remember to be conscientious in the backcountry as the bears are coming out of hibernation and looking for food sources," the sheriff's office of Gallatin County, Montana, wrote in a statement about the attack.
Historically, people pose more of a threat to grizzly bears than the reverse.
"When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s, grizzly bears roamed across vast stretches of open and unpopulated land between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains," the U.S Fish and Wildlife service wrote. "But when pioneers moved in, bears were persecuted and their numbers and range declined. As European settlement expanded over the next hundred years, towns and cities sprung up, and habitat for these large omnivores — along with their numbers — shrunk drastically. Of the many grizzly populations that were present in 1922, only six remained when they were listed by the Service in 1975 as a threatened species in the lower-48 states."
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By Brett Wilkins
In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
If approved, the bill would provide federal funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to respond to the climate crisis, while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in communities disproportionately affected by economic inequality.
"St. Louis and communities across the nation need the Green New Deal for Cities," Bush (D-Mo.) said in a statement introducing the bill. The St. Louis native added that Black children in her city "are 2.4 times more likely than white children to test positive for lead in their blood, and are 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma each year than white children."
"Black neighborhoods host the majority of the city's air pollution sources," Bush continued. "And there is a nuclear waste site—the West Lake Landfill, which is a catastrophe-in-progress."
"This legislation would make sure every city, town, county, and tribe can have a federally funded Green New Deal," she added. "This is a $1 trillion investment to tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
We're introducing the Green New Deal for Cities. Here's what it means for you: ☀️ $1 trillion investment in our c… https://t.co/uJnnbM5NNx— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@Congresswoman Cori Bush)1618852007.0
Specifically, the GND4Cities would:
- Authorize $1 trillion, with a minimum of 50% of all investments going each to frontline communities and climate mitigation;
- Fund an expansive array of climate and environmental justice projects including wind power procurement, clean water infrastructure, and air quality monitoring;
- Support housing stability by conditioning funding to local governments to ensure they work with tenant and community groups to prevent displacement in communities receiving investment; and
- Support workers by including prevailing wage requirements, equitable and local hiring provisions, apprenticeship and workforce development requirements, project labor agreements, and "Buy America" provisions.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, Bush explained that the Green New Deal for Cities is personal for her.
"I remember talking about lead paint as a child, hearing about it on the television and showing up at parks and people testing us for lead," she recalled. "It was like this thing when I was a kid, and it just went away."
Tune in to @STLonAir at noon to hear @RepCori discuss her and her colleagues' proposal for a Green New Deal for Cit… https://t.co/q3N0hmJndg— St. Louis Public Radio (@St. Louis Public Radio)1618845961.0
Bush said that "this whole thing is about saving lives," adding that "there are labor provisions in this bill to make sure that the workers are well-paid and well-treated for work."
"The urgency of this climate crisis and environmental racism demands that we equip our cities and our local governments with this funding," she added.
In her statement introducing the measure, Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that "the GND4Cities would provide local governments the funding to create good-paying, union jobs repairing their infrastructure, improving water quality, reducing air pollution, cleaning up parks, creating new green spaces, and eliminating blight."
"The desire for these investments is there," Ocasio-Cortez added. "We need to give our local communities the funding and support to act."
Although only Monday, it's already been a busy week for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. Earlier in the day, she and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reintroduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing, which they said would significantly improve living conditions and costs for nearly two million people who reside in public housing units, while creating more than 240,000 new jobs.
It’s Green New Deal week!👷🏽♂️🌎 This week we’re highlighting: ✅ Green New Deal reintro tomorrow w/ new Congression… https://t.co/3kEllAc40y— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1618878563.0
Later on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced they will reintroduce their landmark 2019 Green New Deal bill on Tuesday. In a Spanish-language statement previewing the bill's introduction, Ocasio-Cortez said the measure "aims to create a national mobilization over the next 10 years that fights against economic, social, racial crises, as well as the interconnected climatic conditions affecting our country."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.
The industry has essentially recovered none of the pipelines laid in the Gulf in the last six decades; the abandoned infrastructure accounts for more than 97% of all of the decommissioned pipelines in the Gulf.
The pipelines pose a threat to the habitat around them, as maritime commerce and hurricanes and erosion can move sections of pipeline.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement does not conduct undersea inspections even though surface monitoring is "not always reliable for detecting ruptures," according to the GAO.
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