Formosa Plant May Still Be Releasing Plastic Pollution in Texas After $50M Settlement, Activists Find
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.
Diane Wilson kayaking to the fence line of Formosa's Point Comfort plant to check for nurdles newly discharged from the plant on Jan. 15. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
Their suit against Formosa Plastics Corp. USA resulted in a $50-million-dollar settlement and a range of conditions in an agreement known as a consent decree. Key among the conditions was the company's promise to halt releasing the nurdles it manufactures into local waterways leading to the Texas Gulf Coast by Jan. 15.
Formosa's plastics plant is seen dominating the landscape in Point Comfort, Texas. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
Wilson described the occasion as "day one of the zero discharge settlement." As of that date, Formosa could be fined up to $15,000 a day if it were found still discharging nurdles. That would put the multi-billion-dollar plastics maker in violation of the court settlement made after U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt determined the company had violated the Clean Water Act by discharging plastic pellets and PVC powder into Lavaca Bay and Cox Creek in a June 27 ruling last year.
The deal, signed by Judge Hoyt in December, represents the U.S.'s largest settlement in a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by private individuals against an industrial polluter. The settlement mandates that both Formosa and the plaintiffs agree to a monitor, remediation consultant, engineer, and trustee for ongoing monitoring of the plant.
Diane Wilson is seen with volunteers before their meeting across the street from Formosa's Point Comfort manufacturing plant. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
After calling the group's meeting to order, Wilson gave an update on how requirements of the consent decree were progressing. The volunteer team of nurdle monitors, who have been collecting nurdles discharged by the plant for the last four years, listened eagerly. Wilson said that Formosa had missed the Jan. 15 deadline to deliver the waivers they needed to sign, which would grant them permission to monitor on the company's property along the fence line. Without the signed forms, the group put off their on-the-ground monitoring trip. Instead, they headed for the banks of Cox Creek, where Wilson set off in a kayak to check on one of the plant's outfalls.
Within 10 minutes she collected an estimated 300 of the little plastic pellets. Wilson says she will save them as evidence, along with any additional material the group collects, to present to the official — and yet-to-be-selected — monitor.
Wilson received the waiver forms from Formosa a day after the deadline. The group planned to set out by foot on Jan. 18, which would allow them to cover more ground on their next monitoring trip. They hope to check all of the facility's 14 outtakes where nurdles could be still be escaping. Any nurdles discharged on or after Jan. 15 in the area immediately surrounding the plant would be in violation of the court settlement.
Ronnie Hamrick picks up a mixture of new and legacy nurdles near Formosa's Point Comfort plant. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
Pointing along the creek's edge, Ronnie Hamrick, a member of the San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper and former Formosa employee, showed me how to distinguish new plastic pellets from the legacy nurdles from past discharges. The new ones are brighter and white compared to the older ones, which take on a dull gray color. Old nurdles were plentiful along the creek's banks despite cleanup crews deployed by Formosa in that area. Newer ones were easy to find in the water after Hamrick pushed a rake into the marsh, stirring them up from below the water's surface in Cox Creek.
Ronnie Hamrick holds a few of the countless nurdles that litter the banks of Cox Creek near Formosa's Point Comfort facility. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
When Wilson returned from her kayak, she showcased her find: The nurdles she had just collected from the Formosa outfall were bright white, making them easy to distinguish from the older ones littering the bank where she had launched her kayak. She plans to turn them over as evidence of newly discharged nurdles to the official monitor once one is selected in accordance to the consent decree.
Lawsuit Against Formosa’s Planned Louisiana Plant
On that same afternoon, Wilson learned that conservation and community groups in Louisiana had sued the Trump administration, challenging federal environmental permits for Formosa's planned $9.4 billion plastics complex in St. James Parish.
The news made Wilson smile. "I hope they win. The best way to stop the company from polluting is not to let them build another plant," she told me.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court against the Army Corps of Engineers, accusing the Corps of failing to disclose environmental damage and public health risks and failing to adequately consider environmental damage from the proposed plastics plant. Wilson had met some of the Louisiana-based activists last year when a group of them had traveled to Point Comfort and protested with her outside Formosa's plastics plant that had begun operations in 1983. Among them was Sharon Lavigne, founder of the community group Rise St. James, who lives just over a mile and a half from the proposed plastics complex in Louisiana.
Back then, Wilson offered them encouragement in their fight. A few months after winning her own case last June, she gave them boxes of nurdles she had used in her case against Formosa. The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups in the Louisiana lawsuit, transported the nurdles to St. James. The hope was that these plastic pellets would help environmental advocates there convince Louisiana regulators to deny Formosa's request for air permits required for building its proposed St. James plastics complex that would also produce nurdles. On Jan. 6, Formosa received those permits, but it still has a few more steps before receiving full approval for the plant.
Anne Rolfes, founder of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, holding up a bag of nurdles discharged from Formosa's Point Comfort, Texas plant, at a protest against the company's proposed St. James plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Dec. 10, 2019. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
In their Jan. 15 lawsuit, the groups, which also include Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Healthy Gulf, point out that a Texas judge called Formosa's Point Comfort plant a "serial offender" of the Clean Water Act. They also cite another Formosa facility in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which has been in violation of the Clean Air Act every quarter since 2009.
Construction underway to expand Formosa's Point Comfort plant. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
The new plant slated for St. James Parish "is expected to emit and discharge a variety of pollutants, including carcinogens and endocrine disrupters, into the air and water; [and] discharge plastic into the Mississippi River and other waterbodies," the lawsuit alleges.
Silhouette of Formosa's Point Comfort Plant looming over the rural landscape. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
DeSmog's Sharon Kelly reported that out of all the new or expanding U.S. refineries, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, and petrochemical plants seeking air permits, Formosa's St. James plant would top the list of air polluters.
"Wilson's victory against Formosa was very encouraging," Sharon Lavigne told me over the phone. She plans to cite it as one of the many reasons why the St. James Parish Council should reverse its 2018 decision to grant Formosa a land use permit for the sprawling plastics facility. She and others will address the council over a multitude of issues at its upcoming Jan. 21 meeting.
From the Gulf Coast to Europe
Just a day after Wilson found apparently new nurdles in Point Comfort, the Plastic Soup Foundation, an advocacy group based in Amsterdam, took legal steps to stop plastic pellet pollution in Europe. On behalf of the group, environmental lawyers submitted an enforcement request to a Dutch environmental protection agency, which is responsible for regulating the cleanup of nurdles polluting waterways in the Netherlands.
The foundation is the first organization in Europe to take legal steps to stop plastic pellet pollution. It cites in its enforcement request to regulators Wilson's victory in obtaining a "zero discharge" promise from Formosa and is seeking a similar result against Ducor Petrochemicals, the Rotterdam plastic producer. Its goal is to prod regulators into forcing Ducor to remove tens of millions of plastic pellets from the banks immediately surrounding its petrochemical plant.
Detail of a warning sign near the Point Comfort Formosa plant. The waterways near the plant are polluted by numerous industrial facilities in the area. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
Besides polluting waterways, the ongoing build-out of the petrochemical and plastics industry doesn't align with efforts to keep global warming in check.
Wilson and her fellow volunteers plan to keep monitoring the Point Comfort plant until it stops discharging the tiny plastic pellets into Texas waters entirely.
Nurdles on Cox Creek's bank on Jan. 15. Wilson hopes her and her colleagues' work of the past four years will help prevent the building of more plastics plants, including the proposed Formosa plant in St. James Parish. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
I reached out to Formosa about whether it was aware its Point Comfort plant was apparently still discharging nurdles but didn't receive a reply before publication.
A sign noting the entrance to the Formosa Wetlands Walkway at Port Lavaca Beach. The San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper describes the messaging as an example of greenwashing. Julie Dermansky / DeSmogBlog
Reposted with permission from DeSmogBlog.
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And while the oil giant has been responsible for massive methane releases, Exxon has now proposed a new regulatory framework for cutting emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas that it hopes regulators and industry will adopt. As Exxon put it, the goal is to achieve "cost-effective and reasonable methane-emission regulations."
So, why is Exxon asking to be regulated?
The answer may be simply that Exxon is very good at public relations. As industry publication Natural Gas Intelligence reported, this announcement "comes as energy operators face increasing pressure from lenders and shareholders to engage in decarbonization by following environmental, social, and governance standards."
ExxonMobil is proposing new rules to cut methane emissions. We think it makes sense for industries to work together… https://t.co/NnLNZ2yO5O— ExxonMobil (@ExxonMobil)1583281279.0
Exxon's proposed regulations have three main objectives: finding and detecting leaks, minimizing the direct venting of methane as part of oil and gas operations, and record keeping and reporting.
Casey Norton, Exxon's Corporate Media Relations Manager, explained to DeSmog that Exxon's proposal was not expected to be adopted as-is by regulatory agencies. "This is a starting point for conversations with policy makers and other regulators," he said. "For example, New Mexico, Argentina, the EU, who are all considering new regulations for methane emissions."
Under President Trump, the federal government last year rolled back Obama-era rules for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions and for restricting these emissions during drilling on public lands.
This isn't Exxon's first foray into voluntary regulations of methane. The corporation's natural gas subsidiary XTO started a voluntary methane emissions program in 2017. In June 2018, XTO noted that the voluntary program, which was mostly about replacing leaking valves, had reduced methane emissions by 7,200 metric tons since 2016.
However, leaking valves are not the biggest source of methane emissions. In February 2018, four months before XTO was touting the success of its methane reduction program, the company experienced the second largest methane leak in U.S. history. A gas well it operated in Ohio suffered a blowout, releasing huge amounts of the heat-trapping gas.
Did XTO's voluntary program accurately report this? As The New York Times reported, "XTO Energy said it could not immediately determine how much gas had leaked."
But a group of scientists using satellite data eventually did pin down the amount released — 120 metric tons an hour for 20 days. That adds up to roughly 50,000 metric tons more released than the 7,200 metric tons in reductions XTO was claiming months later. That one leak was estimated to be more than the methane emissions of the total oil and gas industry of countries like Norway.
As DeSmog reported, XTO is also flaring the most natural gas of any company in the Permian oil field (natural gas is almost 90 percent methane). While flaring isn't as bad for the climate as directly venting the methane into the atmosphere, it is increasing the levels of carbon dioxide and toxic air pollutants and is another problem the industry is saying it will address even as the practice continues on a large scale.
And now the same company is recommending that the rest of the industry and regulators adopt their approach to regulating methane emissions.
"It is not target-based, it is not volume-based," Exxon's Norton said. "Again, it's starting a conversation, saying these are things that you can look at."
Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University whose work focuses on methane emmissions in the oil and gas industry, drew attention to areas of Exxon's framework he thought were lacking. For starters, he pointed out that the proposed framework does not mention emissions from "imperfect well casings and from abandoned wells," which Howarth says "can be significant." He also noted that the proposal does not describe "a methodology for characterizing any of these emissions; there are techniques for doing so, but there is not much demonstrated use of these techniques by industry."
Finally — and this is the real danger with any sort of industry self-regulation — Howarth said there must be some type of independent oversight to assess actual emissions instead of relying on the industry to self-report. XTO's well blowout in Ohio is an excellent example of why this third-party verification is critical. Without oversight, the "system is ripe for abuse," according to Howarth.
Sharon Wilson of environmental advocacy group Earthworks documents the oil and gas industry's current widespread practices of flaring and venting methane. Sharing her concerns about Exxon's methane emissions proposal, she told DeSmog,"Exxon's recent announcement is too little too late when it comes to the climate crisis they've help cause and are still making worse. Reducing methane emissions by any percentage is not enough when Exxon continues to expand sources of the same climate pollution."
Wilson called for the company to support federal and state rules to cut methane.
Trump Administration Reversed Existing Methane Regulations
Methane emissions have become a much bigger issue in the last decade since the U.S. boom in shale oil and gas produced by fracking. Despite overseeing a huge rise in oil and gas production, the Obama administration acknowledged the methane problem and proposed and adopted new methane emissions regulations, which the Trump administration has since repealed.
The Trump administration has staffed regulatory agencies with former industry executives and lobbyists who have been quite successful at rolling back environmental, health, and safety rules.
"EPA's proposal delivers on President Trump's executive order and removes unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry," Wheeler said. "The Trump administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use."
The problem with this free-market assumption is that Wheeler is wrong about the industry's financial incentive to limit methane emissions.
The unreal natural gas prices in the #Permian get even more unreal: Nat gas at the Waha hub (near El Paso) have ho… https://t.co/Zfj0XfXIJh— Javier Blas (@Javier Blas)1554326358.0
There is too much natural gas, aka methane, flooding world energy markets right now. Current prices to buy it are lower than the costs to produce it. The methane currently produced in Texas' Permian Basin spent a good portion of last year at negative prices. There is no financial incentive for producers in the Permian to voluntarily cut methane emissions in the current market environment.
That is why Permian producers are flaring (openly burning) it at record levels as well as directly releasing (venting) methane into the rapidly warming atmosphere. So much for letting the free market address the issue.
Even the Remaining Regulations Are Controlled by Industry
While the Trump administration has rolled back many regulations for the oil and gas industry, the regulatory system in the U.S. was already designed to protect industry profits — not the public or environment. When the federal government creates regulations, the process can be heavily influenced by industry lobbyists, and if they don't agree with the regulations, there are many ways they can get them revised to favor their companies.
While Exxon did publicly say in 2018 that it didn't support repealing the existing methane regulations, the company also wrote to the EPA voicing support for certain aspects of the American Petroleum Institute's (API) comments on the issue, and the API approved removing the regulations. In that letter Exxon used the same language it is now using with its propsed regulations, saying any rules need to be "cost-effective" and "reasonable." But if the regulations are cost-effective, will they actually be effective in reducing methane emissions in a meaningful way?
Excerpt from Exxon letter to EPA about methane regulations. ExxonMobil
The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the influence that the oil and gas industry and its major U.S. trade group the American Petroleum Institute can have over regulations. After the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government put into place new safeguards known as the "well control rule" in order to prevent another disaster during deepwater offshore drilling.
In 2019, the Trump administration revised the rule, weakening it, even though, as the Journal reported, federal regulatory staff did not agree "that an industry-crafted protocol for managing well pressure was sufficient in all situations, the records show." The staff was ignored. (And the move is undergoing a legal challenge.)
Industry crafted protocol. Just the thing Exxon is now proposing.
This type of industry control over the regulatory process was also brought to light after two Boeing 737 MAX planes crashed and killed 346 people. Boeing had fought to make sure that pilots weren't required to undergo expensive and lengthy training to navigate the new plane.
Reuters reported on internal communications at Boeing which revealed the airplane maker simply would not let simulator training be required by regulators:
"I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX," Boeing's 737 chief technical pilot said in a March 2017 email.
"Boeing will not allow that to happen. We'll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement."
Boeing got its way. And 346 people died.
Nearly a year after a second crash of a Boeing 737 MAX that led to its grounding, the full extent of the company’s… https://t.co/uUHyItbBrD— The Daily Beast (@The Daily Beast)1583592004.0
For the past six years, I have reported on the failed regulatory process governing the moving of dangerous crude oil by rail (and even wrote a book about it). The only meaningful safety regulation that resulted from a multi-year process was requiring oil trains to have modern electronically controlled pneumatic brakes.
As I reported, shortly after this regulation was enacted, Matthew Rose, CEO of the largest oil-by-rail company BNSF, told an industry conference that "the only thing we don't like about [the new regulation] is the electronic braking" and "this rule will have to be changed in the future." As per the wishes of Matthew Rose, that rule was repealed despite the substantial evidence clearly showing this modern braking system greatly increases train safety.
A recent op-ed from an editor at the trade publication Railway Age referred to these oil trains as a "clear and present danger." Nevertheless, these trains hauling volatile oil through North American communities are still operating with braking systems engineered in the late 1800s.
Exxon Touts 'Sound Science' Despite Its History
Exxon's methane proposal states that any regulations should be based on "sound science." This statement is coming from a company whose scientists accurately predicted the impacts of burning fossil fuels on the climate decades ago and yet has spent the time since then misleading the public about that science.
The current regulatory system in America does not protect the public interest. Letting Exxon take the lead in the place of regulators doesn't seem like it's going to help.
Megan Milliken Biven is a former federal analyst for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency that regulates the oil industry's offshore activity. Milliken Biven explained to DeSmog what she saw as the root cause of the regulatory process's failure.
"Regulatory capture isn't really the problem," Milliken Biven said. "The system was designed to work for industry so regulatory capture isn't even required."
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
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For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
By Simon Davis-Cohen
When the incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown defeated Republican Knute Buehler in a contentious race for Oregon's governorship, many in the state's climate movement let out a momentary sigh of relief. Brown had promised to "lead on climate" while Buehler had pledged his support for new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Now, residents are working to hold Governor Brown to task over what they see as the most pressing climate issue facing the state: the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and its Pacific Connector Gas pipeline. Backed by the Canadian company Pembina Pipeline Corporation, the project would transport natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from Colorado to Oregon's coast, where it would be super-cooled into liquid form and loaded on ships to international markets.
Thousands, Including Several Tribes, Voice Opposition
More than 1,500 people showed up at a hearing in Jackson County, Oregon, to oppose Jordan Cove LNG and the Pacific Connector pipeline. Allen Hallmark
Gov. Brown has remained neutral on Jordan Cove, prompting a range of efforts from activists to sway her against it. For example, Jordan Cove opponents interrupted her 2019 swearing in ceremony and took to the streets with protests. In addition, since the new year, thousands of residents have flooded Department of State Lands regulatory hearings to oppose the project, which they say would jeopardize major fresh waterways and marine areas in the state.
According to Rogue Climate, which has helped mobilize opposition to the project, more than 3,000 residents, including landowners, ranchers, tribal members, youth, local businesses and representatives of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, attended hearings in opposition.
Klamath Tribal Council Chairman Don Gentry told DeSmog that the tribal council believes "we need to exhaust every administrative opportunity that we have to express our opposition to the project and hopefully the permits and licensing will be denied."
The Tribe has participated in the regulatory process throughout, he says, and brought up a host of concerns at the most recent hearings. Those concerns include the pipeline's "potential to disturb human remains and cultural sites" (such as a historic village on the Klamath River), "risks to the [Klamath] River itself," the Tribe's effort to rehabilitate the river's salmon run, risks to wildlife and generally, the perils the pipeline in particular poses for tribal aboriginal territory, as protected by U.S. treaty.
Hannah Schroeder, chair of the Klamath Tribes Youth Council, speaking to Jordan Cove LNG and pipeline opponents the night of the Department of State Lands hearing in Klamath CountySherri Kies
Klamath Tribal Council is not alone. The Yurok and Karuk tribes in Northern California are staunchly opposed, while the Oregon-based Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians are neutral.
Jordan Cove's Many Ups and Downs
Map of the proposed Pacific Connector pipeline's path in Oregon, starting in Malin and ending at the Jordan Cove LNG terminal sited for Coos Bay
Since the $10 billion project was initially proposed in 2007, it has hit several obstacles which threatened to derail it. In 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied a permit, key politicians including U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley have come out against it, and in late 2018, the Oregon Department of Energy recommended against the export facility going forward as proposed. And just this week, a county judge in Oregon reversed a decision to extend a permit for the pipeline.
But the fight is far from over. In 2017, not long after FERC denied the project a permit the year prior, Don Althoff, then-CEO of the parent company Veresen (now Pembina), met with President Donald Trump and the founding director of Trump's National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, of Goldman Sachs.
Shortly thereafter, Cohn announced: "The first thing we're going to do is we're going to permit an LNG export facility in the Northwest."
Support from the fossil fuel industry spans the length of the pipeline, from Colorado to Oregon. Pac/West, a major pro-fracking lobbying and communications firm active in Colorado has also been operating in Oregon. The firm has gone so far as to have Oregon state legislation proposed officially on its behalf, which would have blocked local governments from interfering with fossil fuel infrastructure projects, such as Jordan Cove.
This legislation was in response to a 2017 county "Community Bill of Rights" ballot initiative in Coos County, Oregon, the site of the proposed Jordan Cove LNG terminal. If passed, the local law would have outlawed industrial fossil fuel projects and established legally enforceable rights for local ecosystems. Jordan Cove LNG spent an unprecedented $596,155 in cash and in-kind contributions to help defeat the measure, according to the Oregon Secretary of State website.
Jordan Cove LNG campaign contributions from 2015 to 2018Oregon Secretary of State website
Jordan Cove's contributions to a variety of political campaigns have continued to flow. In 2018, Jordan Cove LNG gave $216,500 to campaigns, according to the Oregon Secretary of State website. But it wasn't enough to stop the election of some politicians, like new state Senator Jeff Golden, from campaigning and winning on an explicit platform to oppose the project.
The current comment period for the Oregon Department of State Lands permitting process ends on Feb. 3. Allie Rosenbluth of Rogue Climate says the department may make a decision on whether to give its approval, as soon as March 5, but expects an extension.
Also on the horizon are the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Draft Environmental Impact Statement coming as soon as Feb. 15 and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality decision on whether to grant the project a Clean Water Act permit, expected Sept. 25.
Murals opposing the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline hang near the site of the Jackson County Department of State Lands hearing. Allen Hallmark
And that means more hearings.
"The bottom line is we want to stop the project," said Klamath Tribal Council Chairman Gentry, "so whatever tools are available to do that—so I'm not ruling out anything."
“How We Fight to Protect the Columbia River From Fossil Fuel Pollution–and Win” via @EcoWatch https://t.co/dnrJigOdkJ #KeepItinTheGround— Columbia Riverkeeper (@Columbia Riverkeeper)1535206505.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Jake Johnson
Amid dire scientific warnings that the international community must act immediately to slash greenhouse gas emissions, President Donald Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reportedly set to take another step in the opposite direction Thursday by unveiling a rule that would gut restrictions on the fossil fuel industry's methane pollution.
According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the proposed rule change Thursday, the EPA's plan would scrap regulations requiring the oil and gas industry to "install technologies that monitor and limit leaks from new wells, tanks and pipeline networks and to more frequently inspect for leaks."
"It would also forestall legal requirements that would have forced the EPA to set rules on emissions from thousands of pre-existing wells and industry sites," the Journal reported.
Because apparently there is no important environmental protection that the Trump administration won't try to destroy.https://t.co/5v6fGf3mDE— Peter Gleick (@PeterGleick) August 29, 2019
The Trump administration expects the rule, which must go through a 60-day public comment period, to take effect early next year. The rollback was immediately praised by the American Petroleum Institute, a major trade group representing the fossil fuel industry.
Because of methane's potency — some estimates suggest the greenhouse gas has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide — environmentalists and scientists have warned the Trump administration's efforts to gut methane regulations could have disastrous consequences.
"This is extraordinarily harmful," Rachel Kyte, United Nations special representative on sustainable energy, said of the Trump administration's proposed rule change. "Just at a time when the federal government's job should be to help localities and states move faster toward cleaner energy and a cleaner economy, just at that moment when speed and scale is what's at stake, the government is walking off the field."
Trump administration officials, and the president himself, have gleefully touted the White House's success in ramping up American production of methane-emitting natural gas, which Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg infamously described as "molecules of U.S. freedom."
During the G20 summit in Japan in June, Trump said he is "not willing" to take action to curb greenhouse gas emissions because such a move would harm corporate profits.
A report published earlier this year by Oil Change International in collaboration with over a dozen other environmental groups warned that U.S. fossil fuel production has the potential to single-handedly imperil global efforts to combat the climate crisis.
"Right now, we're on a sinking boat, and instead of just scooping water out, we must take immediate action to patch the hole where it's gushing in," said Patrick McCully of the Rainforest Action Network. "This means we must put a full-stop to fossil fuel expansion, or we all sink into climate chaos."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Chloe Farand for Climate Home News
Canadians are voting on Monday in an election observers say will define the country's climate future.
Climate policy has played a bigger role than ever before in the lead-up to a federal election. Against a backdrop of mass demonstrations for climate action, all major parties have been keen to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris agreement.
Hit by a racism scandal in which he was exposed for wearing blackface on at least three occasions, prime minister Justin Trudeau has pivoted to environmental issues.
The question in front of voters is how and how fast should their government decarbonize the country's economy?
Canada has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 but it is not on track to meet its goal.
At the heart of the debate is Canada's carbon tax. Introduced in 2016 by Trudeau's Liberal government.
During his campaign for re-election, Trudeau has been pressured by the main opposition Conservatives to scrap the tax and accused on the left of failing to have put the country on course to meet its 2030 target. Trudeau has bet his survival on navigating between them.
When is the election?
Monday, 21 October
Conservative Party: Andrew Scheer
Liberal Party: Justin Trudeau (current prime minister)
New Democratic Party: Jagmeet Singh
Green Party: Elizabeth May
Bloc Québécois: Yves-François Blanchet
People's Party of Canada: Maxime Bernier
What's their climate plan?
Trudeau has ramped up his climate ambition for the election, committing to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and establishing legally-binding five-year targets. To achieve the goal, Trudeau is committed to keeping a price on carbon and hopes to exceed the 2030 target but stopped short of increasing it.
Other measures include planting two billion trees over the next 10 years, interest-free loans to help owners retrofit their homes and improve energy efficiency, expanding incentives for zero-emissions vehicles and halving taxes for businesses developing clean technologies.
Trudeau has been accused of "dissonance" over his climate record for giving the green light to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a day after declaring a climate emergency in Canada.
Scheer has accused the carbon tax of hitting families and small businesses hardest while letting big polluters off the hook. Instead, the Conservative candidate said he would "fight climate change with technology, not taxes," financed with green bonds.
The Conservatives have promised to repeal the carbon tax and the clean fuel standard. The existing mechanism by which heavy emitters pay a carbon price for output emissions above their allowance would also be scrapped. Instead, industrial facilities emitting above the allowance will have to fund research and development in green technology.
Scheer also plans to export Canadian technology and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries such as China to help them transition away from coal. Analysis has found the Conservative plan would see emissions rising until 2030, reversing the current trend.
New Democratic Party
The left-wing NDP promised to align their policies with limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C by achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
An NDP government would establish a climate accountability office to audit progress towards the country's climate goals, ban all-single use plastics by 2022, end oil and gas subsidies, make all Canada's electricity carbon-free by 2030 and move towards electric and free public transport.
The Green Party's manifesto puts climate action at the heart of its vision for society. It promised to cut emissions by 60 percent by 2030 with interim five-year target, achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, ban all extraction of new hydrocarbon while phasing out existing operations and achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Both the NDP and the Greens would maintain a carbon pricing mechanism and oppose the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The French-language separatist party has a climate plan aligned with Québec's provincial plan. It backs policies in line with the tougher 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement, including an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a reform of fiscal policy in favor of green finance and a carbon tax.
People's Party of Canada
The newly-created far-right party denies the scientific consensus on climate change and pledged to boost Canada's oil and gas industries.
What do the polls say?
The Conservatives and the Liberals are neck-and-neck with less than a point between them, according to some estimates.
The NDP are trailing with around 17 percent and the Greens hover under the 10 percent mark.
With less than 33 percent of national support, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals are likely to form a majority government. Instead, one of the two major parties could form a minority government, relying on cross-party support and agreements to pass legislation.
What does that mean for climate action in Canada?
The election is "a deciding factor in the next decade of Canada's climate action," Cat Abreu, executive director at Climate Action Network Canada told Climate Home News.
A majority Conservative government would see "the dismantling of key sections of Canada's climate plan," including the carbon pricing system, said Isabelle Turcotte, director of policy at the clean energy think thank Pembina Institute. But without a majority, a Conservative government would likely have to "soften" its stance to broker deals with other parties, Abreu said.
In the case of a minority Liberal government, propped up by progressive parties, "we might see the potential for some pretty big moves on climate," she added. Turcotte told CHN a minority Liberal government could hold the Trudeau administration accountable for its pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
"It's great that we have been able to talk about climate change in this election but there has been a poor quality of debate. We are not seeing the level of debate that will allow us to see pathways for what a[n energy] transition looks like," Turcotte added.
Ross Mckitrick, professor specialised in environmental economics at the University of Guelph, Ontario, told CHN the election exposed the "contradictions" of Canada's climate policy debate.
"Climate policy is popular enough that every party is on board with it but specific policy measures are very unpopular. It's still the case that people [in Canada] have an aversion to very expensive climate policies," he said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmog UK.
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By Dana Drugmand
Fossil fuel interests appear intent on swaying public opinion about the electric vehicle tax credit, based on recent polling on the policy. A deeper look at these efforts reveals oil and gas funding behind the groups conducting the polls and blatant bias in the polling methodology, according to experts.
Survey results commissioned and publicized by the American Energy Alliance (AEA) seem on their surface to indicate that a majority of respondents are not thrilled about subsidizing EVs purchased by other consumers, particularly wealthy Americans. However, according to polling experts who reviewed the survey for DeSmog, the questions were designed to solicit a certain response and produce results to serve a predetermined narrative that supports the oil industry's interests. According to polling expert Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, the surveys relied on "highly biased questions designed to elicit highly misleading answers."
Who Is Behind the 'Highly-Biased' Anti-Electric Vehicle Poll?
The organization that commissioned the surveys, AEA, is funded by oil interests including the Koch network and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the nation's leading trade group of oil refiners. The group is touting these findings from recent polls in Maine, Michigan and South Dakota, saying the results are consistent with those from surveys they commissioned in nine other states.
"This is further evidence that efforts to compel taxpayers, ratepayers, workers, and consumers to pay for the choices of others, and the preferences of government bureaucrats, are doomed and will lead directly to voter resistance," said Thomas Pyle, president of AEA. "The citizens of Maine, Michigan, and South Dakota see an expansion of the electric vehicle tax credit exactly for what it is: a giveaway to rich Californians and large, already prosperous corporations."
Pyle's statement, and the survey questions themselves, are loaded with misleading information. The tax credit's stated purpose is to lower the cost of electric vehicles, which is critically important for low-to-moderate income Americans. Automakers don't claim the credit, consumers do, including those who opt to lease an electric vehicle. But Pyle appears to disregard these points in an attempt to drum up opposition to the policy.
Pyle's approach makes sense within the context of his and his organization's backgrounds and former lobbying clients, as well as those of the firm conducting the surveys.
The American Energy Alliance is a 501(c)(4) organization — meaning it is not required to disclose its donors — and is the advocacy arm of the Institute for Energy Research. IER supports "free-market energy and environmental policy" and was formed in 1989 from a predecessor organization founded by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch. Donors to IER include oil and gas interests such as the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and Charles Koch Institute as well as ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. The AFPM oil refiners trade group is also a major donor, having given three times as much to the American Energy Alliance compared to any other organization, according to the most recently available tax records.
Thomas Pyle, president of IER and AEA, is a former lobbyist for Koch Industries, the largest privately owned energy company in the U.S. Pyle has also lobbied for the Big Oil trade association formerly called the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, which is now AFPM. Both Koch Industries and the members of AFPM like Exxon make billions in profits from fueling internal-combustion engine vehicles, so policies supporting vehicles not fueled by their products, like the EV tax credit, threaten their bottom lines.
MWR Strategies, the firm conducting the surveys on the EV tax credit, is a research, communications and lobbying company whose clients include electric utility and energy companies with clear fossil fuel interests. For example, TECO Energy — owner of natural gas businesses in Florida and New Mexico — paid MWR $80,000 just this year. Among other energy and utility corporations paying MWR are ENGIE, Public Service Enterprise Group/PSEG Power, and Southern Company. Notably, Koch Industries has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the firm from 2008 to 2016, OpenSecrets data reveals. Other petroleum corporations and trade associations like El Paso Corp. and AFPM's predecessor National Petrochemical & Refiners Association have previously retained MWR.
Michael McKenna, president of MWR Strategies, is an energy lobbyist who led Trump's Energy Department transition team, and, as E&E reported, is "well-known in Republican energy circles" and was recently tapped to serve in the White House as an advisor to the president. McKenna previously worked at several other research and communications firms including Luntz Research Companies, founded by notorious climate denier Frank Luntz (who only recently announced he was wrong and has shifted his views).
Mike McKenna of MWR Strategies / CleanSkiesNews / YouTube screenshot
The MWR Strategies website does not have information about current work, rather the "current" section is a list of links to polling on climate and energy topics dating back to 2008 and earlier. These "polls" are structured in much the same way as the polls about EV tax credits, with questions focused on the (debunked) premise that addressing climate change is too expensive and even asking about the "certainty" of climate science (exploiting scientific uncertainty has been a key strategy of the fossil fuel industry's well-documented disinformation campaign).
MWR's polling strategy appears to be posing misleading questions, some with inaccurate information, in order to garner a particular response. For example, in the firm's March 2008 poll on global warming, one question asked which is more important, addressing global warming or reducing reliance on foreign energy sources — which is a false choice given that renewable energy sources like solar and wind would do both. In another survey from 2006 on energy, the statement "liquefied natural gas cannot explode like gasoline" was posed to respondents. This is also misleading because while the liquid itself won't explode, blasts can occur at LNG sites and associated vapors are combustible.
How MWR's EV Tax Credit Survey Misleads Respondents and Deceives the Public
In the recent surveys MWR conducted on the EV tax credit, one of the statements that respondents could agree or disagree with was, "It is not right for GM to ask taxpayers for a tax credit." General Motors is lobbying to extend and expand the electric car tax credit, but the automaker would not actually claim the credit — consumers would.
Another question claims that "the average buyer of an electric car makes more than 150 thousand dollars per year," a claim that is demonstrably false. When pressed by DeSmog for a citation or clarification, McKenna responded through a media relations contact, pointing to the often-debunked Manhattan Institute report by Jonathan Lesser called "Short Circuit: The High Cost of Electric Vehicle Subsidies."
That report actually cites a 2013 UC-Davis study that examined "the characteristics of 1,200 households who actually purchased a new plug-in vehicle in California during 2011-2012," finding that "46 percent of electric car drivers in California alone had incomes above $150,000." This study, now six years old, does not translate to the statement regarding an "average buyer" that was presented in the survey. In effect, the survey question was premised on a falsified statistic from an outdated data set that only included California.
Excerpt of misleading questions from the MWR poll about consumer attitudes toward the electric car tax credit.
Polling and communication experts told DeSmog that these EV tax credit surveys should not be considered legitimate measures of public opinion. Many of the questions are actually statements that respondents can agree or disagree with. But according to polling expert Joshua Dyck, associate professor of political science at UMass Lowell and director of the Center for Public Opinion, "Agree/disagree items are not a legitimate way to determine public opinion on policy issues."
"There is a well known response bias for respondents in surveys to agree to prompts in questions structured as agree/disagree items," he said. "This is known to survey researchers by the term 'response acquiescence.' In order to get at how respondents actually feel, you should allow respondents to pick from balanced options. I wouldn't put much stock in the agree/disagree items in this survey."
Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, also said these surveys were designed to be misleading.
"Unbiased survey questions intended to elicit people's opinions about or support for a proposition (such as a proposed public policy) can be done in one of two ways. The proposition can be stated in neutral, factual terms with or without the leading arguments both for and against the proposition," he explained. "The questions on AEA surveys did not state the facts about the propositions, but instead made negative claims about the consequences of the propositions. Therefore, people were responding to the negative statements made about the proposition, not the proposition itself."
This response to negative statements gives the misleading appearance that there is little public support for the EV tax credit. "Elected officials who are concerned about voter opinion should probably think twice before expanding favorable tax treatment for electric vehicles. Voters in each of the 12 States we examined are very skeptical of them," MWR's McKenna said in a statement about the poll.
But as Maibach explained, this is probably not true. "The poll done for AEA was not intended to determine how people actually feel about public policies in support of EVs, rather it was done to give the impression that people do not support use of public resources to support EVs," he said.
Maibach's Center for Climate Change Communication, along with Climate Nexus and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, did a poll in July of 820 registered voters in Michigan on their attitudes towards various climate policies. According to the results, "Michigan voters favor expanding the tax credit for those who purchase EVs — close to two-thirds (66 percent) agree the federal tax credit for EVs should extend beyond each manufacturer's first 200,000 vehicles."
Pyle, AEA's president and former Koch lobbyist, told E&E News he stands by his surveys finding little support for the tax credit, adding that he is "not concerned about what the greens think about our work."
But Maibach pushed back against this statement. "The problem with his poll is not that 'the greens' don't like the findings," he said. "The problem is that his findings are bogus, because they asked highly biased questions designed to elicit highly misleading answers."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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While announcing an increase in exports from a Texas liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) referred to the energy source as "freedom gas."
"Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America's allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy," U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Mark Menezes said in a press release.
Further down in the release, the rhetoric continued.
"I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world," Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg, who signed the export order, said.
New York Magazine traced the origin of the phrase to an interview with Energy Secretary Rick Perry earlier this month:
On May 7, Energy Secretary Rick Perry — the dark-horse pick for Trump's most competent Cabinet member — announced in Brussels that the U.S. intends to double liquefied natural gas exports to Europe by 2020. Comparing energy diversification to the American effort to liberate occupied Europe in World War II, Perry said that "the United States is again delivering a form of freedom to the European continent." The Energy secretary added, "Rather than in the form of young American soldiers, it's in the form of liquefied natural gas."
Hoping to clarify the bizarre analogy, a European reporter asked if "freedom gas" would accurately describe American natural gas shipments to Europe. "I think you may be correct in your observation," Perry replied. With this frighteningly dumb exchange, the term "freedom gas" was born, and less than a month later, it is appearing in official DOE press releases.
Founding director of Columbia University's Center for Global Energy Policy Jason Bordoff called the phrasing "bizarre" and mocked it on Twitter.
Personally, I don’t think this goes far enough and would like to request that @EIAgov change its monthly data metric from mcf (million cubic feet) to musf (molecules of US freedom). https://t.co/oto3NkeqjN— Jason Bordoff (@JasonBordoff) May 29, 2019
But he also explained to The Washington Post that it did have a certain logic. U.S. natural gas exports to parts of Europe can provide more energy security and offer an alternative to Russian products and prices.
But Bordoff also said the Trump administration didn't always offer its exports in the spirit of freedom.
"[T]he impact of U.S. LNG exports on the global market after government permits are issued is one that depends on market forces and private sector decisions and this administration, in the spirit of promoting 'freedom gas,' has often pressured Europe to buy our gas instead of Russia's gas," he told The Washington Post. "I worry about the extent to which rhetoric like this risks politicizing a commodity whose very benefits derive from the fact that it is market-driven."
Others worried about promoting natural gas as greenhouse gas emissions threaten to destabilize the earth's climate.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who is running for president on a platform of tackling climate change, likened the rebrand to the attempt to relabel "French fries" as "freedom fries" during the lead up to the Iraq War.
"Freedom gas? Freedom is generally good, but freedom from glaciers, freedom from clean air, freedom from healthy forests that aren't on fire, and freedom from the world we know and cherish is not what we seek," Inslee tweeted.
Freedom gas? Freedom is generally good, but freedom from glaciers, freedom from clean air, freedom from healthy forests that aren't on fire, and freedom from the world we know and cherish is not what we seek.— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) May 29, 2019
BBC News pointed out that the language comes from an administration that has sought to roll back emissions controls introduced by former President Barack Obama and promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement.
The press release also comes the same week as a New York Times investigation revealed that the Trump administration is seeking to alter the methodology of government climate reports to paint a less dire picture of the consequences of burning fossil fuels.
😤😤😤Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks, Please Retweet! https://t.co/m7OeLAGOOX— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) December 12, 2018
By Collin Rees
We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.
In Oregon, a powerful coalition of tribes, landowners and activists has been resisting the proposed Jordan Cove LNG and Pacific Connector pipeline project for years, pressuring Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown to block the project. Earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality denied a crucial water permit for the huge fracked gas project, dealing it a "potentially fatal blow," in the words of the coalition.
This was followed by a major win in New York last week, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration denied a water permit for the Northeast Supply Enhancement gas pipeline, better known as the "Williams Pipeline." The rejection of this permit follows a string of important victories for the anti-pipeline movement in New York, sends Williams back to the drawing board, and increases pressure on New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy to deny permits for that state's section of the fracked gas pipeline.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have the chance to show the same kind of real leadership by strongly opposing the massive Line 3 tar sands pipeline that would threaten Minnesota's water, impose on treaty rights and wreck the climate. But they're not going to take action without hearing from thousands of people from all corners of Minnesota and from across the country.
In April, Donald Trump signed two executive orders aimed at gutting clean water protections, silencing people's voices and making it easier for fossil fuel companies to build dangerous pipelines like Line 3. These executive orders and the big win in Oregon are clear signs that our strategy is working. Nationwide, people-powered resistance is raising the bar for climate leadership and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
Photo credit: Emma Fiala
The Line 3 pipeline would cross over 200 bodies of water in Minnesota, including two crossings of the iconic Mississippi River. Allowing Line 3 to move forward would put Indigenous rights, precious water and the climate at deadly risk. Pipeline owner Enbridge wants to force Line 3 from Alberta to Wisconsin through the sacred wild rice beds and treaty territory of the Anishinaabe people, crossing multiple Canadian provinces and three U.S. states.
Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan have shown willingness to question Line 3's permits before, but they've yet to take a definitive stand against the pipeline and commit to stopping it. Walz has said that Line 3 needs a "social permit" in order to be built — so now it's the job of the indigenous and climate justice movements to make it clear that the public is strongly opposed to this tar sands project.
Thousands of people have already signed petitions, made calls to the governor's office, and shown up in person to urge Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan to "#StopLine3" since they took office earlier this year, but more pressure is still needed. Oil Change is joining local partners in Minnesota and other national groups to make one thing very clear: Climate leadership in Minnesota means that Line 3 must be canceled for good.
In light of reports on what's needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, preventing tar sands oil from being extracted and burned is more crucial than ever. Our new report on U.S. extraction, released in January, makes it clear that continued oil and gas production could wreck the world's chances of achieving climate goals. It's time for a rapid and just phase-out of fossil fuel extraction if we're going to meet these goals, and that starts with rejecting dirty projects of the past like Line 3, and investing in real, community-led solution for a clean-energy future that respects Indigenous rights and Mother Earth.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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In part of his ruling, Mr. Justice Dove found that the government had not taken up-to-date information on climate change into account when drafting its policy. This could make it easier for campaigners to challenge new fracking sites in the future on the basis of their climate impacts, The Guardian explained.
"The acknowledgement from the Judge, that climate change is a valid concern for campaigners and councils facing fracking planning applications, is a big win," Claire Stephenson, who was the claimant in the case on behalf of Talk Fracking, said in a press release.
Talk Fracking had challenged a particular paragraph in the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on two grounds, Leigh Day, the law firm that represented the group in court, explained.
- It did not take into account new scientific information that cast doubt on fracking's status as a relatively low-carbon fuel.
- It did not conduct a "lawful public consultation" before revising the policy.
Talk Fracking explained the first point in detail:
Talk Fracking argued that the government had acted unlawfully by adopting Paragraph 209a of the 2015 Written Ministerial Statement into a revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in July 2018, without first reviewing new scientific data in a transparent manner.
New evidence published since 2015 completely debunks the government's claim that fracking has a lower carbon footprint than imported liquid natural gas (LNG). Instead, scientific evidence has suggested that fracking exacerbates climate change.
Justice Dove ruled in favor of Talk Fracking on both grounds, stating that the consultation "was so flawed in its design and processes as to be unlawful."
The government will now have to make arguments to the court about what changes it needs to make in the policy, which sets up guidelines according to which local authorities can make decisions about fracking, The Guardian explained.
"We note the judgment in the case brought by Talk Fracking, and will now consider our next steps," a spokeswoman from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said, as BBC News reported. "Environmental protections are at the heart of our new planning rulebook, setting clear expectations for future development."
Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, told The Guardian that the government was wrong to consider fracking a low-carbon fuel source.
"With the UK's electricity system almost free of coal, natural gas is now effectively the most carbon-intensive major source of power," he said. "Official advice from the Committee on Climate Change concluded that fracking was only compatible with national decarbonisation targets if the gas produced replaced higher carbon sources of energy."
By Zoë Ducklow
1. Where Is the Unist'ot'en blockade, and What's It About?
The gated checkpoint is on a forest service road about 120 kilometers southwest of Smithers in Unist'ot'en territory at the Morice River Bridge. Two natural gas pipelines are to cross the bridge to serve LNG terminals in Kitimat. Unist'ot'en is a clan within the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs claim title to the land, based on their pre-Confederation occupation and the fact that they've never signed a treaty. Their claim has not been proven in court.
The gated checkpoint is meant to control access to their traditional territory. A protocol for entry, based on principles of free, prior and informed consent, is publicly available. While the first checkpoint was built by the Unist'ot'en clan, all the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation have affirmed that their consent is required prior to any development.
TransCanada's Coastal GasLink pipeline will carry natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. It's in the early construction phase. The proposed Pacific Trail pipeline, run by Chevron, proposes to transport natural gas from Summit Lake to Kitimat for conversion to LNG. This pipeline received an environmental assessment certificate, but the investment agreement has yet to be finalized. (The Northern Gateway pipeline, run by Enbridge, was also planned to go through the region, but was scrapped in 2016.)
2. Hasn't the Unist'ot'en Camp Been Around for Years Now? Why Is It Suddenly the Center of Attention?
Yes, the checkpoint was established on April 1, 2009. Since then, annual work camps have added a cabin, healing lodge, pit house and bunkhouse for visitors. The camp is used year-round for healing retreats, culture camps and living.
Coastal GasLink applied for an injunction in November 2018 because workers have been unable to cross the checkpoint to start clearing the pipeline route. The B.C. Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction in December, prohibiting anyone from blocking the bridge. The court also ordered the checkpoint to be dismantled within 72 hours.
A few photos from #Gidumten a few hours ago as RCMP moved in to enforce the injunction for Coastal GasLink #bcpoli… https://t.co/rw3KSTRWt8— ChantelleBellrichard (@ChantelleBellrichard)1546915842.0
It's in the news now because not only did Unist'ot'en camp refuse to take down the checkpoint, but their neighboring clan, Gidimt'en, established a second checkpoint. (The injunction was expanded on Jan. 4 to include that checkpoint.)
Throngs of people are traveling to join the camp in solidarity, and on Jan. 7 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police mobilized to enforce the injunction. Rallies were planned in more than 30 cities around the world.
3. Who Called in the RCMP to Raid the Camp?
The RCMP's job is to enforce the injunction on behalf of the court, and it's not necessarily raiding the camp. On Jan. 7, tactical teams began to dismantle the Gidimt'en checkpoint. On the evening of Jan. 9, RCMP reported 14 arrests of people who refused to comply with the court order. The individuals were taken to Houston, B.C.
By the night of Jan. 7 the RCMP had breached the Gidimt'en blockade but had not reached the Unist'ot'en blockade or camp. The Unist'ot'en camp beside that blockade, which has been in operation for nearly 10 years, is not part of the order, and because it's not in the way of construction access, can likely remain as is.
4. How Is the B.C. Government, Which Supports the LNG Export Terminal, Reacting to the Raid?
The government has not made an official statement, but Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, visited the Gidimt'en checkpoint on Jan. 6. He arrived with a box of food in hand as a show of support and was admitted into the camp after going through the entry protocol with a Gidimt'en member.
Premier John Horgan is an enthusiastic supporter of the Kitimat LNG project. He has also vowed to implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes such principles as free, prior and informed consent for activities on the territories of Indigenous people, the right not to be forcibly removed from traditional land and the right to maintain connection to the land.
5. Aren't the Wet'suwet'en Among the First Nations Who Have Approved the Pipeline?
It's complicated. The elected chief and council signed the agreement, but the hereditary chiefs are opposed. The 13 hereditary chiefs argue that the elected chief only has jurisdiction over the band's reserves, and that hereditary chiefs retain jurisdiction over the traditional territory where the checkpoint and camps are located.
The band with the elected council who have the reserve is called the Wet'suwet'en First Nation. The hereditary chiefs are leaders of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. The difference has been described like a municipal government versus the federal government. The two governance structures are different and have different jurisdictions. The elected council was established by the federal government when they made reserves. The hereditary chiefs are how the Wet'suwet'en Nation have always governed themselves.
6. Who Are the Wet'suwet'en Nation?
The Unist'ot'en clan is one of five clans that make up the Wet'suwet'en Nation. The camp is on their territory, and the injunction was initially filed against them, but five hereditary chiefs came to the checkpoint Jan. 7 to show their support and solidarity for resisting the pipeline. Wet'suwet'en traditional territory spans 22,000 square kilometers in northwest B.C. west of Smithers.
7. How are First Nations Leaders in B.C. and Canada Reacting?
Some First Nations leaders support the Coast GasLink pipeline, including a chief from the Skin Tyee band, which is part of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation. Up to 20 First Nations (including the elected council of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, as noted earlier) have signed agreements with the pipeline. Agreements provide opportunities for work and training on the job.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs released a statement condemning the RCMP's tactics of "intimidation, harassment and ongoing threats of forceful intervention and removal of the Wet'suwet'en land defenders from Wet'suwet'en unceded territory."
8. What Do the People at the Checkpoint Facing Arrest Say?
Freda Huson is one of the people named in the injunction. She works at the healing lodge at the Unist'ot'en camp.
"We didn't agree with the injunction because they didn't hear our side, and we have too much to lose. We don't want them to say that we can be in a reservation and stay in my buildings here, but they can destroy the rest of the territory," Huson said in a Facebook video on Jan. 7.
"I'm here now because this is my home, this is where I live. This is an unjust system that we live in. My people have been pushed aside, pushed aside for hundreds of years. And it hasn't stopped, it's still happening right now. My people live off these lands.
"The gate is for our protection. We had racists coming in and shooting rifles, ramming my gate with vehicles and using explosives to blow up my gate. And the police in Houston know, and they did nothing about it. They said not enough evidence.
"And now the state. I blame Justin Trudeau, John Horgan. If you guys are listening to this, you guys are behind this project. You guys are behind approving these police to come in and treat me like a criminal. And all I am doing is living on my lands that my clan has title and rights to. You say reconciliation? This is not reconciliation. You're treating my chiefs and us as criminals. We're not criminals. This is our land."
9. When People Say this Could be "Another Gustafsen Lake," What Do They Mean?
The Gustafsen Lake standoff happened in the summer of 1995 in the Secwepemec (Shuswap) region. A Sundance ceremony, which takes a month to complete, was being held when relations with a rancher who claimed ranging rights over the land turned hostile.
The standoff began Aug. 18 and ended Sept. 17. More than 400 RCMP officers, supported by military advisers, blockaded the camp. Landmines were used to block access, police were heavily armed, and helicopters and airplanes were used for surveillance. The police operation cost more than $4.5 million.
No one died in the standoff, although tens of thousands of shots were fired and two people were wounded.
The Sundancers surrendered, and 18 people were charged with trespassing. RCMP tactics—including a smear campaign to spread misinformation about the Sundancers—were criticized during the court proceedings. Fifteen people were found guilty, mainly of tresspass, and jailed.
The fear in this case is that the RCMP will employ similar tactics. Officers have set up an exclusion zone around the area, as they did during Gustafsen Lake.
In my 2nd @EcoWatch post today, #FirstNations @UnistotenCamp activists call Canadian police action against… https://t.co/YV6CqMJT2n— Olivia Rosane (@Olivia Rosane)1546954794.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
The top four banks that invested most heavily in fossil fuel projects are all based in the U.S., and include JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America. Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays in Europe, Japan's MUFG, TD Bank, Scotiabank and Mizuho make up the remainder of the top 10.
This report comes as March has already brought deadly weather to places such as the American Midwest, where historic flooding has left four dead and farm losses could reach $1 billion, and Mozambique, where Tropical Cyclone Idai has devastated the East African country and President Filipe Nyusi estimated that more than a thousand people are likely dead.
Both disasters have been linked to climate change. "Increased flooding is one of the clearest signals of a changing climate," said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben in a statement published by ThinkProgress, adding that flooded Nebraska's "current trauma is part of everyone's future."
Nebraska National Guard
"One inescapable finding of this report is that JPMorgan Chase is very clearly the world's worst banker of climate change," the report, titled "Banking on Climate Change," found. "The race was not even close: the $196 billion the bank poured into fossil fuels between 2016 and 2018 is nearly a third higher than the second-worst bank, Wells Fargo."
A half-dozen environmental groups — Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth — authored the 2019 report, which was endorsed by 160 organizations worldwide. It tracked the financing for 1,800 companies involved in extracting, transporting, burning, or storing fossil fuels or fossil-generated electricity and examined the roles played by banks worldwide.
Global Snapshot of Fossil Fuel Sector Finance
Total fossil fuel financing, in billions of U.S. dollars, by bank and year, 2016-2018.
Past report cards by the groups have focused only on coal, or on "extreme" fossil fuel projects, like tar sands extraction, ultra-deepwater oil drilling, and coal mining, and power generation. 2019's report card expands, for the first time, to cover the fossil fuel sector as a whole.
This year's report card also dived deep into lending to shale oil and gas companies for the first time, finding that Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase "are the biggest bankers of fracking overall — and, in particular, they support key companies active in the Permian Basin, the epicenter of the climate-threatening global surge of oil and gas production."
JPMorgan Chase also provided the most financing to LNG projects, Arctic oil and gas projects, and ultra-deep-water oil and gas extraction, the report concluded. The Royal Bank of Canada topped the list on tar sands oil financing.
"Coal mining finance is dominated by the four major Chinese banks, led by China Construction Bank and Bank of China," the 2019 report found, adding that Bank of China provided the most financing to coal power projects as well.
On March 19, China's State Development & Investment Corp., listed as one of the report's top coal power companies, reportedly confirmed that it would stop investing in thermal coal power plants three years ahead of schedule.
"Since the Paris Agreement, JPMorgan Chase has provided $196 billion in finance for fossil fuels," the groups wrote, "10 percent of all fossil fuel finance from the 33 major global banks."
A JPMorgan Chase spokesperson declined to comment.
In 2017, JPMorgan Chase pledged to "facilitate $200 billon in clean financing through 2025," adding that it had helped finance $18 billion of wind, solar, and geothermal projects between 2003 and 2017.
Barclays, which offered a total of $109 billion for fossil fuel projects, topped the 2019 report's list of "worst in Europe," followed by HSBC, with $77 billion in financing.
More Money for Fossil Fuels Since Paris Agreement
All told, financial backing for fossil fuel projects has grown, not shrunk, each year since the Paris agreement, the report found. Banks provided $612 billion for fossil projects in 2016, $646 billion in 2017, and $654 billion in 2018.
That's despite the fact that Article 2 of the Paris agreement calls for "[m]aking finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development" — and in the run-up to Paris, major banks positioned themselves as supporting a strong global response to climate change.
"Scientific research finds that an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is warming the planet, posing significant risks to the prosperity and growth of the global economy," JPMorgan Chase Bank, Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley wrote in a 2015 statement. "As major financial institutions, working with clients and customers around the globe, we have the business opportunity to build a more sustainable, low-carbon economy and the ability to help manage and mitigate these climate-related risks."
In 2017, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon told CNBC that he opposed President Trump's plan to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement.
Guerrilla street painting against fossil fuel pipeline investment outside Wells Fargo World Headquarters in San Francisco, Nov. 6, 2017.
Peg Hunter /Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
Activist pressure campaigns focused on individual banks have recently claimed successes. This week, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo both announced plans to stop financing private prisons, which Moody's Investment Services said in a comment "builds on the trend of negative publicity and uncertainty prevalent in the sector."
The past year has brought increasing awareness of climate-related risks in some financial circles — but banks headquartered in the U.S. and Canada have lagged behind.
"According to a survey conducted by Boston Common Asset Management in 2018, European banks are far ahead of large banks in the U.S. and Canada in implementing climate-related risk assessments," American Banker reported in January. "Specifically, 80 percent of European banks surveyed are, in some way, stress-testing their loan and investment portfolios for a 2-degree-Celsius increase in global temperatures, versus just 44 percent of banks in North America."
A report issued last month by U.S.-based Morgan Stanley tallied $650 billion in climate-related disasters over the past three years — and predicted $54 trillion in damages worldwide by 2040, citing figures from the UN. "We expect the physical risks of climate change to become an increasingly important part of the investment debate for 2019," the Morgan Stanley strategists wrote.
The Banking on Climate Change report finds that nonetheless, Morgan Stanley offered fossil fuel companies $19.48 billion in financing in 2018 (down from $23.7 billion the prior year), making it the world's 11th largest financier of fossil fuel projects.
"Alarming is an understatement," said lead author Alison Kirsch, a Rainforest Action Network researcher. "This report is a red alert."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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By Julie Dermansky
Louisiana is ground zero for the devastating impacts of climate change. Even though the state is already feeling the costly impacts to life and property due to extreme weather and an eroding coastline linked to a warming planet, its government continues to ignore the primary cause—human use of fossil fuels.
The impacts to the region, such as worsening floods, heat waves and sea level rise, will only be intensified as the globe continues warming, warn federal scientists in the latest National Climate Assessment report.
But instead of heeding scientists' warnings, Louisiana's government continues to welcome the prospects of new billion-dollar petrochemical plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and an oil export hub, all without a mention of their climate change impacts.
Louisiana politicians continue to claim natural gas is a "clean" source of energy, and usher in not only LNG facilities, but also petrochemical plants fueled by natural gas production.
In Plaquemines Parish, a peninsula south of New Orleans that, like all of southern Louisiana, is plagued by coastal erosion, the governor has hailed a new crude oil export terminal and a massive LNG facility that don't yet have permits.
Embracing Fossil Fuels But Ignoring Climate Warnings
I asked the governor's press secretary what he thought about the Fourth National Climate Assessment, an exhaustive review of environmental data by a team of hundreds of scientists that puts Louisiana square in the eye of physical and financial hardship due to climate change—and got no reply.
I also checked to see if the governor wanted to update his stance on climate change since his remarks during a 2016 radio show when he stated that he believes the climate is changing, but is less certain how much humans play a role in it. "The degree to which human conduct is impacting that change, I think, is somewhat debatable," he said in an episode of Louisiana Radio Network's Ask The Governor show.
"That's like saying, 'yes there is gravity, but I'm not sure what Earth's role is,'" climate scientist Michael Mann told me, commenting on those people who dismiss climate science with reasoning like Gov. Edwards'.
"The reality is that natural factors (volcanoes and fluctuations in solar output) were most likely a cooling influence over the past half century. So not only can natural factors not explain the warming—they were actually working in the opposite direction," Mann told me via email, adding: "Only the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations from fossil fuel burning can explain the warming we have seen."
Climate Denial on Both Sides of the Aisle in the Louisiana
Gov. Edwards, a Democrat, isn't alone in ignoring the latest National Climate Assessment and its warnings for the Pelican State. There is nothing about the landmark climate report on the websites of Louisiana Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, Republican Representatives Garret Graves, Steve Scalise and Clay Higgins, or Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond.
For any Louisiana politician to ignore the National Climate Assessment is a "crying damn shame," former General Russell Honoré, founder of the GreenARMY, a coalition of Louisiana environmental groups and concerned citizens fighting against pollution, said over the phone.
"The promise that welcoming these plants will save the economy is a false promise," Honoré said. "The money doesn't trickle down to poor folks who live near polluting facilities—they stay poor and services for them don't improve."
"I'm not against jobs and growing the economy," Honoré added, but he said he is against embracing polluting facilities in the state while ignoring the harm they do to the people and environment. "If the oil and gas industry is so good for the state, why are the schools and infrastructure failing?" he asked. And he expressed frustration that as more polluting plants are permitted, there isn't an increase in regulators being hired to monitor the new facilities.
Furthermore, Honoré believes that politicians aren't doing their job if they are fawning over major new projects that bring in pollution before the permitting process has assessed them. By doing so, "they ignore the state's constitution, which compels them to protect the people and the environment," Honoré said.
He pointed me to Article IX in the Louisiana State Constitution, which states:
"The natural resources of the state, including air and water, and the healthful, scenic, historic, and esthetic quality of the environment shall be protected, conserved, and replenished insofar as possible and consistent with the health, safety, and welfare of the people. The legislature shall enact laws to implement this policy."
Honoré is concerned about the slew of newly proposed foreign-owned petrochemical plants being built between New Orleans and Baton Rouge along the Mississippi River, a petrochemical corridor known to locals as Cancer Alley.
The petrochemical industry is tied to natural gas production, which can lead to air and water pollution. "Saying natural gas is clean is stupid," Honoré said, pointing out that the methane which leaks from the natural gas supply chain is a huge driver of global warming.
In just St. James Parish, in the middle of Cancer Alley, new and proposed projects include Formosa's $9.4 billion plastics complex, the $1.3 billion South Louisiana Methanol plant, Yuhuang Chemical's $1.85 billion methanol facility; and a $1.25 billion chemical complex proposed by the Chinese firm Wanhua.
Rising Temperatures, Rising Risks
The exceptional risks from rising temperatures in Louisiana are outlined in the Fourth National Climate Assessment's chapter on southeastern states.
From the report:
"Many southeastern cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change compared to cities in other regions, with expected impacts to infrastructure and human health. The vibrancy and viability of these metropolitan areas, including the people and critical regional resources located in them, are increasingly at risk due to heat, flooding, and vector-borne disease brought about by a changing climate. Many of these urban areas are rapidly growing and offer opportunities to adopt effective adaptation efforts to prevent future negative impacts of climate change."
The 2016 flooding in South Louisiana was cited as an example of the destructive potential—and already present reality—of climate change. Scientists have connected extreme rain events to the planet's rising temperatures, and severe flooding is expected to happen more frequently as the globe continues to warm. The report lists the cost of the thousand-year flood that devastated the Baton Rouge area in August 2016 at a staggering $10.1 billion.
"We have got to have a solution to pollution," Honoré said. "And we have to do it now." GreenARMY plans to continue addressing pollution and its many injustices in Louisiana, and is working on a slew of bills to introduce next year. Honoré thinks that doubting climate science is irresponsible, and hopes to get others in the state to face climate change head on while there is still a chance to lessen its worst impacts.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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