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A simulated view of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from Giles High School in Pearisburg, Virginia. Hill Studio for Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition

Major East Coast Pipelines Approved by FERC Despite Strong Opposition

Federal regulators approved plans for two controversial new natural gas pipelines along the East Coast Friday.

In a divided 2-1 vote, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the green light to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects, which would carry shale gas through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, the only dissenting vote, expressed concerns in her written dissent on the redundancy of the collective 900 miles of pipeline, the potential environmental impacts and the relatively small accounted demand for the Mountain Valley project.


Both pipelines have been met with severe local opposition, and some activists expect backlash and increased fights against the projects following FERC's decision.

As reported by the Charlotte Business Journal:

"Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated 'rubber stamp' and said his organization intends to challenge the decision.

'The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers' bills—and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come," he says.'"

"This poorly-planned pipeline will hurt the local economy, pollute central Virginia's clean drinking water supply and scar the Appalachian National Scenic Trail," Ron Tipton, president and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said in a statement.

"Central Virginia does not need another pipeline to fulfill America's energy needs, particularly one that violates local environmental laws and is strongly opposed by local elected officials and citizen groups."

For a deeper dive:

FERC vote: The Hill, Politico Pro, AP. Backlash: Roanoke Times, News Virginian, Charlotte Business Journal

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Insights/Opinion
Natural pine trees can liven up Christmas and the environment when they are replanted after. Cavan Images / Getty Images

5 Ways to Have a Green Christmas (and Help the Planet)

It's pretty common this time of year to hear the song White Christmas, but at EcoWatch we want folks to have a green Christmas. With a couple of tips, you can make sure your winter festivities have a smaller carbon footprint. Here are five ways you can have a more environmentally friendly holiday.

1. Give Green Gifts
Share your love of the planet by giving gifts that are good for the environment. Need ideas? The EcoWatch staff rounded up their favorite gifts, and USA Today highlights items such as iTunes gift cards, reusable straws, organic wine and non-toxic cosmetics in their story about purchasing green presents.

After you decide on the perfect gift, don't forget to also be mindful about the way it's wrapped. Not all wrapping paper can be recycled. In the U.S., you can recycle paper that does not have metallic, velvety or glittery elements, USA Today explains. Alternatives to conventional wrapping paper include recycling brown grocery bags, reusing old newspapers or wrapping gifts in reusable cloth (a 400-year-old Japanese practice called Furoshiki), Madeleine Somerville writes in The Guardian.

2. Dim the Lights
Christmas lights certainly make the season bright, but there's an ecological cost to all that electricity. The U.S. consumes 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy each year on seasonal light displays, The Center for Global Development reports citing a 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Energy. That's more energy than developing countries like El Salvador, Ethiopia, Cambodia or Nepal use in a year!

So what can you do if you think of lights as synonymous with Christmas? In The Guardian, Jessica Aldred suggests switching to LED, solar-powered or rechargeable-battery-powered lights. She also points out that "paraffin candles are made from petroleum residue ... Candles made from soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based wax are more eco-friendly because they biodegrade and are smoke-free."

3. Choose the Right Tree
Christmas trees are so popular that 75 percent of Americans display a Christmas tree, with a majority of them choosing an artificial one, The New York Times reports, based on a data from the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA). But is that the greenest option? While a new study by ACTA found that an artificial tree is more environmentally friendly than a real tree if you use the artificial tree for five years or more, others dispute that claim.

Bill Ulfelder, New York's Nature Conservancy executive director told The Times that "real trees were 'unquestionably' the better option." When bought locally, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Other ways to make your real tree purchase more environmentally friendly are to buy trees that can be replanted or find a local program that recycles trees and turns them into mulch.

4. Have a Glitter-Free Christmas
EcoWatch has written before about the dangers of glitter, which contributes to the microplastic pollution plaguing the oceans. Olga Pantos, a research scientist with New Zealand's Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), told Stuff that on a recent shopping trip that "it was almost impossible to find anything that didn't have glitter." So, choosing non-glittery decorations can help keep microplastics out of the oceans.

5. Help Fight #PointlessPlastic
Greenpeace UK is calling out supermarkets for their unnecessary plastic packaging of festive items, and they want you to join the fight. With the hashtag #PointlessPlastic, they are encouraging people to share photos of the worst offenses in supermarkets. Greenpeace will then ask the public to vote on the most egregious. "By exposing the worst festive plastic offenders, we'll be showing supermarkets that their use of plastic is unacceptable, and that their customers have had enough," Greenpeace states on it website.

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A local government in Tasmania found a clever way to recycle single-use plastics and other landfill-bound waste by building a new road.

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EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays

The holidays are coming and if you're stuck on what to give your eco-conscious friend or relative, we've got you covered. At EcoWatch, we're big fans of homemade presents, products that actually help the planet, and putting our dollars towards a good cause. This year, our staff has rounded up some of the best green gifts we've given and received, as well as the items on our wish list.

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Senate Approves Farm Bill

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The Farm Bill, which is supposed to be passed about every five years but which has for the past few been substantially delayed, finally saw the Senate floor Thursday, where it passed by a vote of 87 to 13.

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Most Diverse Butterfly Center in the U.S. to be Bulldozed for Trump’s Border Wall

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. Some 200 species of butterflies find a home there each year, including the Mexican bluewing, the black swallowtail and the increasingly imperiled monarch. And, as soon as February, almost 70 percent of it could be lost to President Donald Trump's border wall, The Guardian reported Thursday.

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McAfee Knob along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / NPS

Court Tosses Controversial Pipeline Permits, Rules Forest Service Failed to ‘Speak for the Trees’

The Lorax would not approve of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the controversial pipeline intended to carry fracked natural gas through 600 miles in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. That's the sentiment behind a ruling by a Virginia appeals court Thursday tossing out a U.S. Forest Service permit for the pipeline to cross 21 miles of national forest in Virginia, including a part of the Appalachian Trail, The News & Observer reported.

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By Jake Johnson

While the COP24 climate talks are at risk of ending without a concrete plan of action thanks in large part to the Trump administration's commitment to a dirty energy agenda, environmental groups on Thursday celebrated a major milestone in the global movement to take down the fossil fuel industry after the number of public and private institutions that have vowed to divest from oil, gas and coal companies surpassed 1,000.

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