Trump’s ANWR Drilling Leases Under Review: Biden Admin Looking at 'Legal Deficiencies,' Environmental Impacts
The Interior Department launched its official review of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the agency announced Tuesday.
The Biden administration found "multiple legal deficiencies" in a prior review of the program's implementation under the Trump administration, and suspended lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in June.
A public process will be used to determine the scope of the review. The Trump administration pushed through an ultimately lackluster sale of oil and gas leases in the immense, environmentally and culturally sensitive refuge in the final days before President Biden took office.
As reported by Alaska Public Media:
At the very least, the new process could delay drilling by years. To Mike Scott, senior representative for the Sierra Club's Our Wild Alaska campaign, it's not enough.
"This is really the time that Congress should take action, and restore the protections by dismantling the leasing program," he said.
Among the new alternatives to be considered are "those that would: designate certain areas of the Coastal Plain as open or closed to leasing; permit less than 2,000 acres of surface development throughout the Coastal Plain; prohibit surface infrastructure in sensitive areas; and otherwise avoid or mitigate impacts from oil and gas activities," the notice in the Federal Register says.
After decades of debate, Congress in 2017 required Interior to hold two auctions for drilling leases in the Arctic Refuge. The first, on Jan. 6, drew just three successful bidders and roughly $11.5 million dollars – far less than Congress was counting on. On Jan. 19, the Trump administration issued seven leases to AIDEA, a state-owned corporation, and one apiece to two small firms.
For a deeper dive:
By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, “Thirsting for Solutions," here.
Tom Kennedy learned about the long-term contamination of his family's drinking water about two months after he was told that his breast cancer had metastasized to his brain and was terminal.
The troubles tainting his tap: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a broad category of chemicals invented in the mid-1900s to add desirable properties such as stain-proofing and anti-sticking to shoes, cookware and other everyday objects. Manufacturers in Fayetteville, North Carolina had been discharging them into the Cape Fear River — a regional drinking water source — for decades.
"I was furious," says Kennedy, who lives in nearby Wilmington. "I made the connection pretty quickly that PFAS likely contributed to my condition. Although it's nothing that I can prove."
The double whammy of bad news came more than three years ago. Kennedy, who has outlived his prognosis, is now an active advocate for stiffer regulation of PFAS.
"PFAS is everywhere," he says. "It's really hard to get any change."
Indeed, various forms of PFAS are still used in a spectrum of industrial and consumer products — from nonstick frying pans and stain-resistant carpets to food wrappers and firefighting foam — and have become ubiquitous. The compounds enter the environment anywhere they are made, spilled, discharged or used. Rain can flush them into surface sources of drinking water such as lakes, or PFAS may gradually migrate through the soil to reach the groundwater — another key source of public water systems and private wells.
For the same reasons the chemicals are prized by manufacturers — they resist heat, oil and water — PFAS also persist in the soil, the water and our bodies.
More than 200 million Americans may be drinking PFAS-contaminated water, research suggests. As studies continue to link exposures to a lengthening list of potential health consequences — including links to Covid-19 susceptibility — scientists and advocates are calling for urgent action from both regulators and industry to curtail PFAS use and to take steps to ensure the compounds already in the environment stay out of drinking water.
Thousands of Chemicals
PFAS dates back to the 1930s and 1940s, when Dupont and Manhattan Project scientists each accidentally discovered the compounds. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, now 3M, soon began manufacturing PFAS as a key ingredient in Scotchgard and other non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant products.
Thousands of different PFAS chemicals emerged over the following decades, including the two most-studied versions: PFOS and PFOA. Oral-B began using PFAS in dental floss. Gore-Tex used it to make waterproof fabrics. Hush Puppies used it waterproof leather for shoes. And DuPont, along with its spin-off company Chemours, used the compounds to make its popular Teflon coatings.
Science suggests links between PFAS exposure and a range of health consequences, including possible increased risks of cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, liver damage, kidney disease, low birth-weight babies, immune suppression, ulcerative colitis and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
"PFAS really seem to interact with the full range of biological functions in our body," says David Andrews, a senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on this reporting project). "Even at the levels that the average person has in this country, these chemicals are likely having an impact."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even issued a warning that exposure to high levels of PFAS might raise the risk of infection with Covid-19 and noted evidence from human and animal studies that PFAS could lower vaccine efficacy. A PFAS known as PFBA is raising particular concern with respect to the global pandemic. Philippe Grandjean, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and colleagues recently found a positive correlation between severity of Covid-19 symptoms and the presence of PFBA in individuals' blood, according to their non-peer-reviewed preprint paper published in October.
"There is a whole range of potential adverse effects. To me, the interference with the immune system is the most important," Grandjean says. "According to our data, the immune system is affected at the lowest exposure levels."
Once PFAS gets into the environment, the compounds are likely to stick around a long time because they are not easily broken down by sunlight or other natural processes.
Legacy and ongoing PFAS contamination is present across the U.S., especially at or near sites associated with fire training, industry, landfills and wastewater treatment. Near Parkersburg, West Virginia, PFAS seeped into drinking water supplies from a Dupont plant. In Decatur, Alabama, a 3M manufacturing facility is suspected of discharging PFAS, polluting residents' drinking water. In Hyannis, Massachusetts, firefighting foam from a firefighter training academy is the likely source of well-water contamination, according to the state. Use of PFAS-containing materials such as firefighting foam at hundreds of military sites around the country, including one on Whidbey Island in Washington State, has also contaminated many drinking water supplies.
"It works great for fires. It's just that it's toxic," says Donald (Matt) Reeves, an associate professor of hydrogeology at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo who studies how PFAS moves around, and sticks around, in the environment.
It can be a near-endless loop, Reeves explains. Industry might discharge the compounds into a waste stream that ends up at a wastewater treatment plant. If that facility is not outfitted with filters that can trap PFAS, the chemicals may go directly into a drinking water source. Or a wastewater treatment facility might produce PFAS-laced sludge that is applied to land or put into a landfill. Either way, PFAS could leach out and find its way back in a wastewater treatment plant, repeating the cycle. The compounds can be released into the air as well, resulting in some cases in PFAS getting deposited on land where it can seep back into drinking water supplies.
His research in Michigan, he says, echoes a broader trend across the U.S.: "The more you test, the more you find."
In fact, a study by scientists from EWG, published in October 2020, used state testing data to estimate that more than 200 million Americans could have PFAS in their drinking water at concentrations of 1 part per trillion (ppt) or higher. That is the recommended safe limit, according to some scientists and health advocates, and is equivalent to one drop in 500,000 barrels of water.
"This really highlights the extent that these contaminants are in the drinking water across the country," says EWG's Andrews, who co-authored the paper. "And, in some ways, it's not a huge surprise. It's nearly impossible to escape contamination of drinking water." He references research from the CDC that found the chemicals in the blood of 98% of Americans surveyed.
U.S. chemical makers have voluntarily phased out their use and emission of PFOS and PFOA, and industry efforts are underway to reduce ongoing contamination and clean up past contamination — even if the companies do not always agree with scientists on the associated health risks.
"The weight of scientific evidence from decades of research does not show that PFOS or PFOA causes harm in people at current or historical levels," states Sean Lynch, a spokesperson for 3M. Still, he notes that his company has invested more than US$200 million globally to clean up the compounds: "As our scientific and technological capabilities advance, we will continue to invest in cutting-edge cleanup and control technology and work with communities to identify where this technology can make a difference."
Thom Sueta, a company spokesperson for Chemours, notes similar efforts to address historic and current emissions and discharges. The company's Fayetteville plant has dumped large quantities of the PFAS compound GenX, contaminating the drinking water used by Kennedy and some 250,000 of his neighbors.
"We continue to decrease PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River and began operation this fall of a capture and treatment system of a significant groundwater source at the site," Sueta stated in an email.
A big part of the challenge is that PFAS is considered an emerging contaminant and is, therefore, not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But most of the ongoing PFOS and PFOA contamination appear to come from previous uses cycling back into the environment and into people, notes Andrews.
A big part of the challenge is that PFAS is considered an emerging contaminant and is, therefore, not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2016, the EPA set a non-binding health advisory limit of 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. The agency proposed developing federal regulations for the contaminants in February 2020 and is currently reviewing comments with plans to issue a final decision this winter.
Several U.S. states have set drinking water limits for PFAS, including California, Minnesota and New York. Michigan's regulations, which cover seven different PFAS compounds, are some of the most stringent. Western Michigan University's Reeves says that the 2014 lead contamination crisis in Flint elevated the state's focus on safe drinking water.
Still, the inconsistency across the country has created confusion. "The regulation of PFAS remains varied. States are all having different ideas, and that's not necessarily a good thing," says David Sedlak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. "People are uncertain what to do."
The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council, or ITRC, a coalition of states that promotes the use of novel technologies and processes for environmental remediation, is working to pull together evidence-based recommendations for PFAS regulation in the absence of federal action.
University of Southern Denmark and Harvard professor Grandjean suggests a safe level of PFAS in drinking water is probably about 1 ppt or below. The European Union's latest risk assessment, which Grandjean says corresponds to a recommended limit of about 2 ppt for four common PFAS compounds, is "probably close," he says. "It's not a precautionary limit, but it's certainly a lot closer than EPA's."
GenX, introduced in 2009 by DuPont to replace PFOA, is among a newer generation of short-chain PFAS designed to have fewer carbon molecules than the original long-chain PFAS. These were initially believed to be less toxic and more quickly excreted from the body. But some evidence is proving otherwise: Studies suggest that these relatives may pose many of the same risks as their predecessors.
"The family of PFAS chemicals being used in commerce is a lot broader than the small set of compounds that the EPA is considering regulating," says Sedlak. "Up until now, the focus of discussion related to regulation has centered around PFOS and PFOA with some discussion of GenX. But the deeper we dig, the more we see lots and lots of PFAS out there."
Andrews notes that the ongoing pattern of replacing one toxic chemical with another is a problem that the federal government urgently needs to fix. "This entire family of chemicals shares many of the same characteristics," he says.
"When these chemicals stop being produced, especially in significant volumes across the country, the levels go down," Andrews says, referring to a corresponding drop in PFOS and PFOA concentrations in Americans' blood after the phaseout of the compounds. "But it raises that concern of what's coming next? Or what are we really being exposed to that we're not testing for?"
Andrews and his co-author Olga Naidenko, also a scientist with EWG, further urge governments to consider one relatively low-hanging fruit: non-essential uses of PFAS. "Even if somebody would make an argument that, for serious fires, we need to use the best foam, I think we can all agree that there's no reason to spray PFAS just to train," says Naidenko. "You can spray water."
Environmental health advocates express hope that 2021 will bring greater progress on PFAS regulation. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to set enforceable limits for PFAS in drinking water and to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance — which would accelerate the cleanup of contaminated sites under the EPA's Superfund program.
Breaking the Chain
Meanwhile, the million-dollar (or realistically much, much more) question is: How do we get PFAS out of drinking water? The bond between carbon and fluorine atoms is one of the strongest in nature. As a result, PFAS degrades extremely slowly in nature. "People have called them 'forever chemicals' for good reason," says Sedlak. "These carbon-fluorine bonds want to stay put."
Because PFAS resists degradation, filtration is the primary strategy for removing it from drinking water. Granulated activated carbon filters can absorb PFAS and other contaminants, although they must be replaced when all of the available surface area becomes occupied by chemicals. The filters also tend to work less well for short-chain compared to long-chain PFAS. Another removal method is the use of ion exchange resins, which can attract and hold negatively charged contaminants such as PFAS. Perhaps the most effective technology to date is reverse osmosis. This approach can filter out a wide range PFAS. At the same time, it carries a high price tag, notes Heather Stapleton, a professor of environmental science and policy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Stapleton has researched the various filters and finds that all of them can work well. She installed an at-home filter after discovering PFAS in her own drinking water. But that cost can be a significant barrier for many people, she notes, making it an "environmental justice issue."
The diversity of PFAS compounds also poses a challenge. Community water systems may spend significant resources to install systems for water treatment only to find that while the method might work well at removing one set of PFAS, it can fail to filter another set, says Naidenko.
Scientists are investigating further chemical and biological treatment methods. Sedlak is among researchers looking into ways to treat PFAS while it is still in the ground, such as via in situ oxidation coupled with microbes to break down chemicals.
"What we know for sure is we were exposed. What we don't know is what sort of lasting health impact that has on us as a community" – Emily DonovanJoel Ducoste, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, laments that currently employed treatment processes still fall short of removing PFAS and providing safe drinking water to Americans. "This has been problematic in our state and is becoming a national problem," he says.
More definitive science surrounding PFAS — optimal treatment methods, truly safe alternatives and potential health effects — can't come soon enough for those dealing daily with legacy PFAS contamination in Wilmington.
"What we know for sure is we were exposed. What we don't know is what sort of lasting health impact that has on us as a community," says Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear, a grassroots group advocating for clean water in the region. Part of their effort, she says, is seeking better medical monitoring of people exposed to PFAS.
Due to the long latency between exposure and disease — often decades — it is difficult to link any PFAS with specific cancers. Kennedy notes no history of breast cancer in his family and no genetic predisposition to the disease. "Those factors made me believe even more that it was PFAS responsible for this," he says.
"It seems like that's not the right way to test chemical safety — the big underlying concern here — to expose the population widely. And yet, that seems to be what we're doing now," says Andrews.
Reposted with permission from Ensia.
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Weighing the pros and cons of solar can help you make the best decision for your home.
The solar boom is underway; the best solar companies are becoming household names, and the benefits of solar energy are taking the spotlight from oil, coal and gas. However, with so much literature to sort through these days, it can be tough to gauge the real solar energy pros and cons — especially since they're so dependent on the customer.
Though a sound investment, solar is a significant one, and we want our readers to fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy before making a purchase. Of course, using the sun as a renewable energy source can reduce your household's monthly electric bills and minimize your carbon footprint. However, there are some factors that make solar a little less valuable for some than others.
We'll go over the full pros and cons of solar energy in this article, but for many homeowners, the decision to go solar comes down to cost. To see how much solar panels would cost for your home, you can get a free quote from an installer near your by using this tool or filling out the form below.
Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: What You Need to Know
By installing a home solar system, you can use photovoltaic solar cells to capture and convert the sun's clean energy into electricity that can power your home or business. This can partially or completely offset the energy you'd typically purchase from your utility company.
While the advantages of solar energy are well advertised, there are also some drawbacks our readers should be aware of. Consider the following pros and cons of solar energy to help you decide if solar panels are worth it for your home.
Benefits of Solar Energy
Let's begin with the fun part — the biggest advantages of solar energy.
1) You can significantly reduce or even eliminate your household electric bills.
One of the most significant benefits of solar energy is also the most obvious: by generating your own energy, you can partially or completely offset the electricity you purchase from your utility. The average solar system lasts for two to three decades, which means most residents enjoy at least a decade or two of free energy after paying off their system with their energy savings and tax credit.
2) Going solar can reduce your carbon emissions.
The clean and natural energy harnessed by your solar system offsets the energy you'd typically purchase from local utilities. For the most part, local utilities carry a large impact stemming from the generation, transportation and distribution of electricity to your community. By using solar panels to generate your own electricity, you offset a portion of the greenhouse gases associated with fossil fuels, lowering your community's overall environmental impact.
3) Investing in a solar power system can increase the value of your home.
Homes with solar are becoming considerably more appealing, and installing the best solar panels can raise an estate's resale value by a decent amount. Note that this helps offset one of the primary cons of solar energy, which is the steep startup cost of solar panels — but more on that later.
4) Going solar can make you eligible for rebates and tax incentives.
Over the past couple of decades, the federal government has implemented numerous plans to incentivize solar energy, including solar tax credits and rebates. Many state governments have followed suit, particularly those where sun exposure is most consistent. Thanks to this, there are some significant ways to recoup part of your solar investment almost immediately. Again, this can help offset the initial cost of your solar panel system, allowing you to generate savings even before those utility reductions begin to stack up.
5) Solar + storage provides reliable backup power.
A solar battery storage system can provide backup power for homes in areas prone to power outages, which seem to be growing each year with the extreme weather brought on by climate change. With a backup battery like a Tesla Powerwall, you can keep your essential appliances powered during a prolonged outage. Even in mild weather, backup batteries let you store and use more of your solar energy, generating more savings.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Unfortunately, there are benefits of solar that won't prove effective for all homes. A few of the most notable disadvantages around solar include:
1) Not every roof can accommodate a solar system.
Solar panel installation requires you to have a certain kind of roof. If you have an older home, especially one with slate or cedar tiles on the roof, then you may not be able to buy solar panels for your personal use. Additionally, homes with skylights and other rooftop features may not have the surface area needed for solar panels.
If you don't have a lot of space or you're unsure about your home's solar capability, contact a local solar installer near you for a consultation. Most top solar companies will send out a representative free of charge.
Keep in mind that you can also install a ground-mounted solar panel system if you don't have a suitable roof.
2) Solar energy can be very location-dependent.
You can have a roof that's ideal for solar panel installation and still not be a good candidate for solar energy. Why? Because to take full advantage of solar power, you need to live in a place that gets consistent daily sun exposure. So, if you live in a part of the country that tends to be pretty cloudy, you may not produce the amount of energy necessary to justify your investment. Also, if your roof is partly shaded by trees or by neighboring homes, you may not get the best mileage from a solar energy system.
Location goes beyond just the amount of sunlight you receive, however. Some readers may live within the jurisdiction of a utility company without a favorable net metering policy. In the most unfortunate cases, utilities will charge hefty interconnection fees that can outweigh the savings solar provides.
3) Solar savings tend to correspond with energy bills.
The higher your electricity bills, the more energy you'll be able to offset with solar. But the inverse is also true: if you live somewhere with low utility costs, then the savings from switching to solar energy are going to be more modest. In other words, there are some parts of the country where the financial advantages of solar energy are going to be pronounced, and other places where those financial advantages are going to be nominal. It all depends on the cost of electricity where you live, and how much of it you use.
4) The upfront cost of going solar can be significant.
After adding up panels, labor, inverters and more, the average solar system investment ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. The specific number will vary according to the size of your home, if you need energy storage technology, your household energy use and the type of solar panels you choose. For example, if you make your own DIY solar panels, you'll cut down on installation fees, or if you want to get the most efficient solar panels, they'll cost significantly more.
There are plenty of ways to offset the cost of solar, including tax incentives, utility savings, increased home value and financing options. Still, there's no getting around it: Making the switch to solar is a significant investment.
5) Solar is getting more expensive with supply chain issues.
Worldwide supply chain issues have squeezed the costs of solar materials, shipping and labor. As a result, investing in solar in 2022 is proving a touch costlier than in years past. Still, solar technology itself continues to improve in efficiency and value while declining in price. We wouldn't recommend waiting to install a system, however, as the federal solar tax credit will be reduced in 2023 and will phase out altogether in 2024.
Weighing Solar Energy Pros and Cons
So, do the advantages of solar energy outweigh the disadvantages? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer here, as different homeowners may experience different levels of value when they make the jump to solar.
Before investing in a system, make sure you do your due diligence. Consider local sun exposure, the size and direction of your roof, local tax incentives and your own household energy expenses. Also, think about whether you want (or need) a solar battery.
Getting quotes from a few solar providers can give you more details about how much a new system will cost you. By weighing the pros and cons of solar energy for your home, you can make the best decision possible.
To get connected with a solar installer near you for a free consultation, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.
FAQ: Solar Energy Pros and Cons
When is solar energy a bad choice?
We aren't naive enough to claim that solar is always a good choice. For homeowners with low energy costs, shady roofs or insufficient space, the cost of solar can outweigh its benefits. Your location is important, too — not just in terms of sunshine, but also the financial incentives available to you. Check your local net metering policy and statewide and local incentives to see if you can save money on solar.
What are three disadvantages of solar energy?
The three biggest disadvantages to solar energy include:
- The long-term nature of the investment: Life happens. Things change. Unfortunately, transferring solar loans or leases over to new homes or homeowners can be tricky. Some solar companies charge to have the panels relocated, and not all new homeowners will accept the solar lease or loan should you wish to transfer it.
- Not every roof can accommodate a solar system: Small roofs, roofs with obstructions or roofs made with alternative materials can have trouble accommodating solar panels.
- The cost of solar: Purchasing 25 years' worth of electricity upfront can make a lot of customers uncomfortable — and we understand why! The upfront cost of solar won't be feasible for all homeowners. Luckily, solar leases, flexible loan plans and incentives are making solar accessible to a wider range of home and business owners.
What are the advantages of solar?
Solar panels provide a reliable, low-maintenance way to avoid the carbon dioxide emissions associated with conventional energy generation. In addition to the environmental benefits, solar typically provides a great deal of energy savings for customers weighed down by rising utility costs. When properly designed and installed, solar is one of the best and most sustainable investments you can make.Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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By Jessica Corbett
Climate justice campaigners plan to descend on Washington, DC in October to protest outside the White House for a week straight, calling on President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency and end all new fossil fuel projects.
The Build Back Fossil Free coalition announced the People Vs. Fossil Fuels: Biden's Test demonstrations, to be held October 11-15, in a statement Thursday. The week of action will come just before COP 26, a United Nations climate summit scheduled to begin in Scotland at the end of next month.
The coalition's main message is: "President Biden, you cannot claim to be a climate leader when you are still supporting fossil fuels. Stand with frontline communities, stand with future generations, stop approving fossil fuel projects, declare a climate emergency now."
"As fires burn, oceans rise, and cities flood, we're mobilizing to Washington, DC to demand that President Biden act on climate justice right now," said Joye Braun, a frontline community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.
Activists plan to gather in McPherson Square at 8:00 am ET each day, focusing on different themes throughout the week:
- Monday, October 11: Indigenous Peoples Day
- Tuesday, October 12: Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis
- Wednesday, October 13: Climate chaos is happening now
- Thursday, October 14: We need real solutions, not false promises
- Friday, October 15: We did not vote for fossil fuels (youth-led action)
"The fossil fuel industry has brought devastation to our homelands and it's time that we bring this fight to Biden's doorstep," said Braun. "Despite President Biden's climate rhetoric, his administration has failed to stop major projects like the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, defended oil drilling in the Arctic, promoted fossil fuel exports, and allowed drilling, mining, and fracking to continue on Native and public lands."
"We showed up to vote," the organizer added, referencing last year's presidential election, "and we will continue to show up to make him uncomfortable in his inaction until the drastic needed steps are taken to mitigate climate change and protect Mother Earth."
President Biden needs to STOP approving fossil fuel projects & take the climate crisis seriously, not embrace false… https://t.co/qq2ZzJPduw— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch) 1633016634.0
Sharon Lavigne, executive director of RISE St. James, one of the groups fighting a proposed Formosa Plastics complex in an area of Louisiana called "Cancer Alley," said that "I'm looking forward to going to DC to speak to President Biden to ask him to refuse all fossil fuel projects."
"If Formosa Plastics is built, it would be a death sentence for the people over here," warned Lavigne, who was honored earlier this year with the Goldman Environmental Prize. "We want to live and we want to breathe clean air."
Siqniq Maupin, director of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, who is fighting oil drilling in Alaska, declared that "we're going to make it clear that we're here to protect our land and waters."
John Beard, director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which taking on Gulf Coast fossil fuel refineries and export facilities, said that those who gather in DC will encourage the president to "usher in a just transition to a clean, green renewables economy."
The coalition's announcement comes a day after the Canadian fossil fuel company Enbridge revealed that its new Line 3 — a larger replacement for an aging pipeline — is "substantially completed and set to be fully operational" this week, despite ongoing Indigenous-led opposition.
Since taking office in January, Biden has resisted calls from Native American and climate leaders to use his power to stop Line 3. The president has also made various promises to cut planet-heating pollution, from a broad plan to halve all U.S. emissions by 2030 to a methane-focused pledge with European leaders unveiled earlier this month.
The coalition's plans also come as two pieces of legislation intended to deliver on many of Biden's climate pledges — a limited bipartisan infrastructure bill and a broader Build Back Better package — face an uncertain future due to obstruction by right-wing Democrats.
WEST VIRGINIA: Protestors show up at Joe Manchin's yacht with the message: "NO CLIMATE, NO DEAL" https://t.co/APwSwW85YU— People vs. Fossil Fuels (@People vs. Fossil Fuels) 1632863424.0
"President Biden came into office promising bold action to transform our economy with renewable energy and good jobs, but he passed the buck to a dysfunctional Congress," said Jean Su of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Biden has immense executive powers to speed the end of the fossil fuel era and ignite a just, renewable-energy revolution."
Su, director of the center's energy justice program, warned that "without executive action on fossil fuels, there's no way for the president to protect us from the climate emergency. We're calling on Biden to reclaim his power from coal- and gas-state senators and show us he can be our Climate President."
Though Biden, while touring the damage of a deadly storm this month, called the climate emergency a "code red" situation, experts and activists have accused him of not matching that rhetoric with necessary action.
As John Paul Mejia of the youth-led Sunrise Movement put it Thursday: "We are so glad to be joining to descend upon DC and make our voices heard, because we cannot negotiate anymore. This is a matter of life or death."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Usually, humans huddle up in blankets to stay warm in the winter.
For the glaciers of Switzerland, however, the opposite is true. A ski resort in the Swiss Alps is using blankets to protect a glacier from melting in the summer sun.
"We lay the fleece over the glacier like a natural protective shield," Gian Darms, who handles snow conditions for a cable car operator called Titlis Bergbahnen, told Reuters.
Resort staff at one of Switzerland's most popular Alpine destinations are covering parts of Mount Titlis with a pro… https://t.co/f3oFPTr0My— Reuters (@Reuters) 1630102200.0
The strategy is being employed atop the 10,623-foot Mount Titlis. The mountain's glacier has already lost ice in the last few decades and is expected to disappear entirely within the next 50 years due to the climate crisis.
To delay this process, resort employees spend five to six weeks every summer covering parts of the glacier with protective polyester fleece. This radiates the sun's energy back into the atmosphere, preventing melting and also preserving the snow that fell on the glacier the winter before. The employees then remove the coating and use collected snow to fill any cracks in the glacier's surface.
While this is not the first year that the resort has employed this strategy, the amount of glacier covered has increased over time to almost 100,000 square meters (approximately 1,076,391 square feet).
"[W]e've been covering more and more in the last few years," Darms told Reuters in a video. "Almost 30,000 square meters [approximately 322,917 square feet] more this year alone."
The ski resort's actions are a symptom of how the climate crisis is impacting mountain glaciers in addition to polar ice. A 2019 study found that the European Alps would lose around two-thirds of their glacier cover by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and more than 90 percent if no action is taken. Another study published this year concluded that mountain glaciers were melting at unprecedented rates, with the fastest-melting glaciers in Alaska and the Alps.
This has serious implications for the European ski industry, Reuters noted, and other resorts have attempted to cover their glaciers. The first time this was tried in Switzerland was in 2004 when white tarpaulin was used over the Gurschenfirn glacier above the Andermatt resort, according to the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). Since then, seven other glaciers in the Swiss Alps have been covered. One small glacier at the Diavolezza resort was even "brought back to life" using this tactic, according to WSL.
A recent study from WSL, ETH Zurich and the University of Fribourg found that this strategy was effective to protect smaller local glaciers, such as those at resorts. In Switzerland, Glaciers under coverings experienced approximately 60 percent less ice and snow loss than other glaciers nearby. However, the strategy is not cost-effective on a wider scale. It would cost a little more than $1 billion a year to cover all of Switzerland's glaciers.
"The only way to effectively limit the global retreat of glaciers is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus the warming of the atmosphere," study leader Matthias Huss concluded.
There are financial incentives available that make it easier for homeowners to invest in solar energy systems, including a number of solar tax exemptions at the state and local levels. These solar tax exemptions can vary by location and may include relief from sales taxes, property taxes and more.
In this article, we'll discuss which tax exemptions are available to homeowners who invest in renewable energy systems in each state, as well as the federal solar tax credit. Read on to learn more, or fill out the form below to get a free, no-obligation quote from a solar installer near you to see how much can save on a solar panel system.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.
Solar Sales Tax Exemptions
Solar sales tax exemptions are a common financial incentive designated by state governments. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there are currently 25 states that offer a solar sales tax exemption.
What does this mean, exactly? Most states levy a tax on consumer purchases, which can range from 2.9% to 9.5%. With a solar sales tax exemption, these taxes are waived on purchases of solar panels, solar batteries and other forms of solar equipment. Naturally, this can reduce the total purchasing cost considerably, making a solar investment a bit more affordable.
For example, if your state has a sales tax of 6% and you purchase a solar panel system for $16,000, you'll end up paying $16,960 in total. If your state has a solar sales tax exemption, however, you'll only pay $16,000.
Solar Property Tax Exemptions
The Solar Energy Industries Association notes that 36 states currently offer a property tax exemption for homeowners who install residential solar systems.
Here's what this means: A solar panel installation typically results in a significant increase in your property values. (On average, homeowners see a solar-related property value increase of about 4.1%.) In states that have renewable energy property tax exemptions, homeowners whose property values rise are protected from a comparable increase in property taxes. In other words, the worth of the home goes up, but homeowners do not have to pay anything more come tax time.
Solar Tax Exemptions: State By State Breakdown
Different states have different laws when it comes to sales and property tax exemptions for solar installations. To learn about the tax incentives available in your area, check the table below:
|State||Solar Property Tax Exemption*||Solar Sales Tax Exemption*|
|Alabama||No exemption||No exemption|
|Alaska||Local exemptions||No sales tax|
|Arizona||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Arkansas||No exemption||No exemption|
|California||100% exempt until 1/2/2025||No exemption|
|Colorado||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Connecticut||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Delaware||No exemption||No state sales tax|
|Florida||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Georgia||No exemption||No exemption|
|Hawaii||100% NHL only||No exemption|
|Idaho||No exemption||No exemption|
|Illinois||Special assessment||No exemption|
|Indiana||100% exempt||No exemption|
|Iowa||100% exempt for 5 years||100% exempt|
|Kansas||100% exempt||No exemption|
|Kentucky||No exemption||No exemption|
|Louisiana||100% exempt||No exemption|
|Maine||No exemption||No exemption|
|Maryland||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Massachusetts||100% exempt for 20 years||100% exempt|
|Michigan||100% exempt||No exemption|
|Minnesota||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Mississippi||No exemption||No exemption|
|Missouri||100% exempt||No exemption|
|Montana||100% exempt for 10 years||No state sales tax|
|Nebraska||Exemptions only for systems over 100 kW||No exemption|
|Nevada||Exemptions only for certain systems over 10 MW||No exemption|
|New Hampshire||Local exemptions||No state sales tax|
|New Jersey||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|New Mexico||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|New York||100% exempt for 5 years||100% exempt|
|North Carolina||80% exempt||No exemption|
|North Dakota||100% exempt for 5 years||No exemption|
|Ohio||Exemptions in Cincinnati and Cleveland||100% exempt|
|Oklahoma||No exemption||No exemption|
|Oregon||100% exempt||No state sales tax|
|Pennsylvania||No exemption||No exemption|
|Rhode Island||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|South Carolina||No exemption||No exemption|
Exemption of either $50,000
or 70% of total property value
|Tennessee||Tax value no more than 12.5% of installed cost||100% exempt|
|Texas||100% exempt||No exemption|
Exemptions only for systems
over 2 MW
|Vermont||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Virginia||Local exemptions||No exemption|
Exemptions only for systems
up to 10 kW
|Washington DC||100% exempt||No exemption|
|West Virginia||No exemption||No exemption|
|Wisconsin||100% exempt||100% exempt|
|Wyoming||No exemption||No exemption|
*Accurate as of time of publication.
Federal Solar Tax Incentives
In addition to these state-specific incentives, there is also a federal tax incentive that is available to all Americans who invest in solar power. The solar investment tax credit (ITC) is currently valued at 26% of the total solar installation cost, meaning homeowners can essentially deduce 26% of that up-front cost.
This tax credit covers:
- The cost of solar panels
- Labor costs for installation
- Additional solar equipment, like inverters, wiring, etc.
- Energy storage devices, including solar batteries
- Sales taxes paid for eligible solar installation expenses (in states that do not have sales tax exemptions)
Note that the federal tax credit is available for all homeowners who purchase a system, whether they buy it outright or finance it with a solar loan, but it is not available to those who lease solar panels.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Tax Exemptions
Are solar panels exempt from sales tax?
In states that have a solar sales tax exemption, yes, the purchase of solar panels is shielded from sales tax. Currently, at least 25 states offer a solar sales tax exemption.
Is solar sales tax exempt in Texas?
No, Texas solar incentives do not currently include a sales tax exemption.
Is solar exempt from property taxes?
Currently, there are 36 states that offer solar property tax incentives. Take a look at the chart included above to find out whether your state offers a solar property tax exemption. Some municipalities may have local property tax abatements as well, so property owners considering going solar should check government websites for additional information about incentives and rebates.
Are solar roofs tax deductible?
Your solar roof shingles can be claimed via the federal solar investment tax credit, allowing you to deduct 26% of your total clean energy system costs.
Do solar panels decrease property taxes?
Solar projects usually increase residential property values, which in some states may actually mean an increase in property taxes. However, in the 36 states that offer a solar property tax exemption, an increase in home values does not result in an increase in property taxes.
By Jake Johnson
On the heels of President Joe Biden's proclamation formally marking Indigenous Peoples' Day, a coalition of Indigenous and environmental leaders on Sunday delivered a blunt message to the White House: "We don't need performative proclamations, our communities are dying."
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) — a broad alliance of tribes, Indigenous rights groups, labor organizations, and others — said in a statement that since taking office earlier this year, "Biden has consistently fallen short of protecting the water that sustains all life on Mother Earth and continuously failed to honor our treaties."
Specifically, IEN pointed to the president's refusal to block Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project, which Indigenous groups have worked tirelessly to stop for years in the face of brutal police repression and arrests. Oil started flowing through the sprawling pipeline — which could have the equivalent climate impact of 50 new coal-fired power plants — earlier this month, and its opponents have vowed to keep up their legal and on-the-ground fights as the Biden administration continues to defend the tar sands project.
A group of indigenous people and activists raise their fists as they pass sections of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline construction during the Treaty People Walk for Water event near the La Salle Lake State Park in Solway, Minnesota on Aug. 7, 2021. KEREM YUCEL / AFP via Getty Images
"If Presidet Biden was committed to honoring the treaties and strengthening sovereignty, he would implement a policy of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent by executive authority and act swiftly to mitigate the climate chaos that has engulfed our communities by ending the anti-Indigenous U.S. legacy of fossil fuel extractivism," IEN said. "We have had enough of your empty words. Our communities need clean water, land returned, divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and healing from residential school traumas."
"Proclamations don't erase the police surveillance of Indigenous peoples standing for our land and water, beatings, and imprisonment for those trying to stop pipelines, fracking, [liquefied natural gas], uranium, and other extractive industries from devastating our ecosystems and our bodies and violating our rights," the coalition added. "No proclamations needed until there is justice for the original stewards of these lands."
IEN's statement came just ahead of a five-day "People vs. Fossil Fuels" mobilization targeting the Biden White House over its inadequate climate policies.
While Biden has promised to listen to the science and treat the climate crisis like an "existential threat," he has continued to pursue drilling initiatives that could ramp up U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and intensify planetary warming.
This week, according to organizers, thousands of Indigenous people and their allies in the climate movement are expected to descend on the White House and engage in "mass civil disobedience" to demand that Biden "declare a climate emergency and stop all new fossil fuel projects."
On Monday morning, IEN organizers wrote "Expect Us" on the statue of Andrew Jackson in front of the White House.
"Our people are older than the idea of the United States of America. We are the original stewards of this land and will continue to fight for the natural and spiritual knowledge of our Mother who sustains our life-ways," IEN said in a statement Monday. "We are the grandchildren of the strong spirits who have survived your residential schools, your pipelines and mines, your reservations and relocation and your forced assimilation and genocide."
"We carry the prayers and intentions of our ancestors and are unafraid," the group added. "Another world is possible, may all colonizers fall."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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How much do solar panels cost? Let's take a look.
Switching to solar power is a proven method for reducing your environmental footprint, energy burden and reliance on traditional utility companies. However, even though the cost of solar has dropped 80% in the last decade, the upfront cost of solar panels is still significant. When selecting the best solar company for your home installation, price is one of the largest factors.
But what is the average cost to install a solar energy system? What are some of the factors that can impact pricing? How much would it cost me, specifically? In this article, we'll answer questions like these with the goal of helping you make a fully informed, responsible decision about a solar energy investment for your home or business.
If you're looking to work with a solar installer, we recommend getting quotes from a variety of providers. Use this tool to get matched up with local solar companies in your area, or fill out the form below.
What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels?
There are a few key factors that lead to variation in solar system installation costs. Understanding these can help you decide whether solar panels are worth it for your home. Let's take a look at them in more detail.
1. System Size Needs
The size of your residential solar system will depend primarily on your energy needs. You can roughly estimate how many solar panels you'll need based on past utility bills, your available roof space and the amount of sunlight in your area, but to get an accurate system size, you'll need a consultation with a local solar installer.
Your installer will evaluate your home energy needs based on irradiance maps, energy bills, satellite imagery of your roof, your utility company and more. It can then recommend a custom solar panel system size to accommodate your energy needs. The larger the system, the more expensive it will be.
2. Type of Solar Panels and Other Equipment Costs
There are three basic types of solar panels, two of which are commonly used residentially: monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Monocrystalline panels tend to be more energy-efficient, which can lead to greater savings in the long run, but they're also a bit pricier on the front end.
That being said, solar panel efficiency is the name of the game for most homeowners who aim to install a system on their roof, as they'll likely have less space to work with than commercial solar projects or ground-mounted solar panel systems will.
Other components you may need to purchase include inverters, wiring, charge controllers, mounts, solar batteries and more. Consider how much backup power is a priority for your home – backup batteries will add some costs on the front end, but additional safety and savings on the back.
3. Geographic Location
Another factor that can have a big impact on solar pricing? Where you live. Unsurprisingly, solar installation tends to be most cost-effective in parts of the country that get a lot of sun exposure, and therefore more energy to convert into electricity. This basically means that solar panels will operate more efficiently and, in many cases, means that you'll need fewer panels overall to power your home.
Those who live in states like California, Florida and Arizona — or really any areas of the Sun Belt or Southwest — will likely get the most out of their home solar power systems. Other factors like the direction of your home and how much shade your house gets will also impact your home's sun exposure, and therefore the efficiency of your system. Also, keep in mind that the further your company is from your home, the more expensive the overall installation will be.
4. Solar Incentives
Both state and federal governments have established incentive programs to encourage homeowners to buy solar panels. There is currently a 26% federal solar tax credit, called an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), available for homeowners who install residential solar panels between 2020 and 2022. It is scheduled to reduce to 22% in 2023 and may not be extended thereafter.
Your solar system cost will also depend on the net metering policy of your local utility company. Most utilities vary in their buyback rates and feed-in tariffs, but policies can have a big effect on the overall value from your solar system and your solar payback period. Be sure to ask your solar installation company about how cooperative your utility provider is with solar energy installations.
Some states offer better solar incentives, rebates and solar tax exemptions than others, and most solar panel installers should help you identify and apply for the programs in your area. However, it's still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local incentives that might be available to you.
5. Additional Factors of Solar Panel Installation Cost
There are plenty of other factors that can impact solar panel installation costs. These include (but are not limited to):
- The availability of solar panels in your area
- Your current electricity bill
- The current cost of shipping
- The number of providers competing for your business
- Supply chain issues
- Local electricity rates
The bottom line? You can learn the most by shopping around. Get a few different proposals from local companies, evaluate what services you might be interested in and ask about sales or specials. Familiarize yourself with the best brands of affordable solar panels if budget is your priority.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost to Install?
To answer this question, let's take a look at the basic price range for solar panel installations. According to a recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, in the first quarter of 2021, the national average cost of a residential solar system was $2.94 per watt. To put this in perspective, this means that after the federal tax credit is applied, a 5-kW system would cost $10,878 and a 10-kW system would cost $21,756. An average residential solar system would sit somewhere between those figures.
The exact price you'll pay for solar panels will depend on a number of factors and is best found by getting free quotes from local solar companies near you.
Next, you might rightly wonder: What exactly am I paying for? The solar panels themselves usually make up just about a quarter of the total system cost. Remaining expenses include labor costs, solar maintenance and additional parts and equipment (such as inverters, racking, wiring, electric vehicle chargers or batteries).
Cost of Solar Panels by State
One of the broadest ways to gauge the overall cost of solar is by looking at the average price of solar panels by state. Our statewide average prices are calculated using market research and data from top brands. These prices can help convey a better understanding of what solar might cost in your area:
Average Cost of Solar By State
Average Cost of Solar Per Watt
Average Cost of a 5kW System After Tax Credit
Keep in mind that 5kW is a baseline size and near the smaller end of most solar panel installations. Use this figure as a minimum.
How to Pay For a Solar Panel Installation
Different solar installers may offer different financing plans, allowing you some flexibility. With that said, there are three standard options for paying for your solar energy system:
- Purchase your solar energy system outright (that is, pay in cash).
- Take out a solar loan to purchase the system, then pay it back with interest.
- Lease your solar system; you will pay less month to month but won't actually own the system yourself.
Our solar financing guide breaks down each of these options to help you make the decision that best fits your needs.
Cost of Solar Panel Maintenance
In general, solar systems are designed to run smoothly for decades without requiring much maintenance or upkeep. However, even the best systems require routine solar panel cleaning and checkups as grime, dirt and debris can accumulate over the solar cells.
Any sizable costs associated with malfunctioning panels should be covered by your panels' warranty, but it's not a bad idea to factor in the costs of a simple few cleanings and occasional maintenance.
How to Find the Lowest-Cost Solar Panels
Again, the best way to assess the cost of solar is to get a quote from a certified installer near you. In addition to receiving an installation price, you can learn your estimated 25-year energy costs, how compatible your home is for solar and even compare quotes to find the best offer. The simple process of getting quotes from multiple providers can save you thousands in the long run. You can use this tool to receive free quotes from local solar providers, or fill out the form below to get started.
Make the Best Choice About Solar Energy
Solar energy is not right for every homeowner, nor for every home. With that said, many homeowners will find that the total cost of solar is more than offset by long-term, recurring energy savings that provide a sizable return on investment. Make sure you factor in cost, energy needs, tax incentives, home value and more as you seek to make a fully informed decision about whether to make the switch to renewable energy with solar.
FAQ: Cost of Solar Panels
As you continue to weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it's natural to have a few questions. The best way to resolve these is to set up a solar consultation with a local expert, but in the meantime, here are a few general answers to some of the most common solar inquiries.
How will solar energy impact my property values?
Your solar energy system is an asset just like any other, and when installed on your home, solar increases your property value accordingly. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has reported buyers are willing to pay an average premium of about $15,000 for a home with a solar panel system.
With that said, you are only going to see your property values go up if you own your solar system outright, as opposed to leasing it. The cost of electricity in your area as well as the net metering policy of your local utility will also impact the overall value of your solar energy system.
Which is better, buying or leasing my solar system?
It all depends on your motivation for going solar. If you want to maximize long-term savings and increase the value of your home, then purchasing your solar system is best. However, if you just want a low-maintenance way to reduce monthly energy costs and practice environmental stewardship, then a solar lease might be a better option.
Also, note that leasing can be a good option for those who might plan on selling their home in the short term. Leasing panels does not make you eligible for the solar tax credit.
How long will my solar energy system last?
Solar systems are designed to be exceptionally durable. With just the most basic upkeep, most solar energy systems should continue to work and produce power for anywhere from 25 to 35 years. Standard warranties for panels typically last around 25 years.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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By Jessie Creamean and Thomas Hill
The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.
The Big Idea
Permafrost – frozen soil in the far north – is thawing, releasing greenhouse gases and long-lost microbes. But one thing that scientists have not studied extensively is whether permafrost contains certain kinds of particles that could affect clouds and weather.
As atmospheric scientists, we found in a recent study that thawing permafrost contains lots of microscopic ice-nucleating particles. These particles make it easier for water droplets to freeze; and if the ones in permafrost get airborne, they could affect Arctic clouds.
In the summer of 2018, one of us, Jessie Creamean, went to Fairbanks, Alaska, and collected samples of permafrost from a research tunnel deep underground. These samples ranged from 18,000 to 30,000 years old, and our team tested them to see how many ice-nucleating particles are hiding in permafrost.
It turns out permafrost contains a ton of them – up to 100 million highly active individual particles per gram of mostly dead microbes and pieces of plants. This density is on par with what is found in fertile soils, which are some of the most concentrated sources of ice-nucleating particles on Earth. Everywhere in the world, ice-nucleating particles typically play a major role in cloud behavior, and the strength of that effect is still being studied.
This 18,000-year-old permafrost sample contains millions of ice-nucleating particles per gram. Thomas Hill / CC BY-ND
Why It Matters
No one yet knows whether ice-nucleating particles from permafrost are getting into the atmosphere and affecting clouds. But the theory of how ice-nucleating particles change clouds is understood.
Clouds are made up of billions of tiny water droplets or ice crystals, often a mix of both. A cloud is like a forest of trees: All water droplets of the cloud require a seed – a tiny aerosol particle – to form and grow on. Almost any little speck of material from the land or the ocean can be the seed of a liquid cloud droplet. Because of their unique ability to line up water molecules into an icelike grid, they help supercooled liquid in a cloud to freeze at warmer temperatures.
Ice-nucleating particles are extremely good at forming small ice crystals – a rare skill found in less than 1 in a million of all the particles floating around in the air. Ice-nucleating particles can be mineral dust from deserts, specks of soil from farm fields or – like what we found in the permafrost – bacteria and bits of biological material from oceans or plants.
The ability to easily form ice has big consequences for clouds and weather.
Most of the time, airborne water droplets need to freeze before they can fall to the ground as snow or rain. Ice-nucleating particles allow cloud ice to form at warmer air temperatures than normal, up to around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Without these particles, a water droplet can supercool to about negative 36 F before freezing. When ice-nucleating particles are in a cloud, water droplets freeze more easily. This can cause the cloud to rain or snow and disappear earlier, and reflect less sunlight.
As permafrost thaws, ice-nucleating particles are getting into rivers, lakes and eventually the ocean. National Park Service / C.Ciancibelli / Wikimedia Commons
What Still Isn’t Known
Our work found there are a lot of these ice-nucleating particles in thawing permafrost, which is important because permafrost covers 24% of the exposed land surface in the Northern Hemisphere. The question now is whether these particles are getting into the atmosphere or not. No other researchers that we're aware of have looked at permafrost's effect on cloud formation, or the mechanisms by which ice-nucleating particles from permafrost become airborne.
We hypothesize that ice-nucleating particles from thawing permafrost could get into lakes and rivers, make their way to coastal Arctic Ocean waters and spread over large areas. Then, winds could eject these ice-nucleating particles into the air, where they could enhance the freezing of clouds and affect weather.
There are still many unknowns and a lot of work to do.
This summer, we are teaming up with colleagues from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Fairbanks and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, to set out for a six-week expedition to the Alaskan Arctic tundra. We will collect hundreds of samples of permafrost, lake water, river water, coastal ocean water and air samples to see whether ice-nucleating particles from permafrost are present, and in what amounts. Our goal is to use these findings in models to predict how thawing permafrost could alter the region's clouds.
Disclosure statement: Jessie Creamean receives funding for this work from the National Science Foundation (Award OPP-1946657). Thomas Hill receives funding for this work from the National Science Foundation (Award OPP-1946657).
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Before installing a residential solar system, you may stop to wonder: Do solar panels increase home value? It turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.
In this article, we'll go over how much solar panels can increase the value of your home, as well as how that increased value affects property taxes and whether buyers are really looking for homes with solar energy systems. With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about whether solar panels are a good investment for your home.
How Much Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?
Many homeowners, buyers, and appraisers know that the installation of solar panels and solar batteries can increase a property's market value. In fact, one study confirmed that solar installations increase a home's resale value by up to $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed, and another estimated an increase of 4.1% of the home's value.
Where do these figures come from, exactly? To begin with, consider a Zillow study, which notes that homes with solar installations tend to sell for about 4.1% more than homes without. Of course, this is an average. Some locations show a higher value-add (5.4% for New York City), and some show lower (2.7% for Riverside, California). An older study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveals an increase in resale value of approximately $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar power that's installed.
So, how much do solar panels increase home value? Let's take a look at some averages:
|Home Solar System Size||
Amount Solar Panels
Increase Home Value*
*Figures based on study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
It's worth noting that these amounts are roughly in line with the total cost of a solar panel system, which may be just the incentive you need to finally take the plunge into solar power. To get connected with a solar installer in your area and receive a free quote, you can fill out the form below.
Factors That Influence the Value-Add of Solar Panels
While these simple calculations can give you a ballpark, there are a number of factors that influence the value-add of solar panels. Some of the most prominent include:
- Geographic location: Different communities experience different electrical costs (and higher electrical costs result in greater value from your solar panels). Additionally, geography can influence the amount of sun exposure you get, as well as the social benefits of installing solar power.
- Local solar installation prices: Another geographic factor is the cost of getting a new system in your area. If a buyer would save money by purchasing a home with a system already installed, it will make your home that much more valuable.
- System output: As you can see from the chart above, a larger system with more energy generation will provide more added value.
- System age: If you have an older solar system, you'll need to account for depreciation. Older systems won't add that much value to your home when you sell it, as there's a higher chance the buyer will need to do repairs or replace parts sooner.
- System replacement value: Along the same lines as system age, how expensive or difficult parts of your system would be to replace affects the added value of the system overall.
Are Buyers Looking for Homes with Solar Panels?
Another question to consider when figuring how much solar panels would increase your home value is just how enticing a solar system is to buyers in your community. This is something that will vary by geography, and specifically by local solar literacy. Simply put, buyers won't be as willing to invest in a solar system if they don't really understand how solar panels work or how they can benefit from them.
With that said, there's some data that shows homeowners to be pretty open to energy efficiency features, for the most part. For example, more than 80% of homebuyers say that energy efficiency is a priority, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report.
Some earlier data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more than those without. (Granted, this information is about 15 years old; there's now greater supply and greater demand for homes with solar panels, but these data points should be promising nonetheless.)
How Do Solar Panels Affect Property Taxes?
Of course, when your property values go up, that usually means that your property taxes increase as well. The good news is that many states offer exemptions, meaning that when you install a solar system, your property taxes do not go up, even if your property value rises.
Here's a rundown of property tax exemptions by state:
|Solar Property Tax Exemption||States*|
Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida,
Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island,
Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin
|Local exemptions||Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia|
|100% exempt for 20 years||Massachusetts|
|100% exempt for 10 years||Montana|
|100% exempt for 5 years||Iowa, New York, North Dakota|
|100% exempt until 2025||California|
|80% exempt||North Carolina|
|System-based exemption||Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee|
Tax exemption of $50,000 or 70%
of total property value
Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky,
Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming
*Accurate as of date of publication.
Do Solar Panels Make Sense for Your Home?
As you weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it makes sense to consider the overall impact on your property value. You'll also want to take into account factors including:
- How much you spend on utility bills each month: If you live in an area that has high average electricity rates, you'll get a better return on your solar energy investment.
- How much sunlight your home gets throughout the year: Some homes are better positioned for solar panel installation than others. If your home is situated at an optimal angle for harnessing the sun's energy, it makes more sense to go solar.
- Financial incentives available to you: All American homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, but many states and municipalities have added rebates, low-interest loans and other financial incentives for their own residents as well.
For many homeowners, the question of whether to buy solar panels comes down to cost. If you want to see how much solar panel installation would cost for your home, you can get a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area by filling out the form below.
FAQ: Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?
Do solar panels hurt the resale value of your home?
Generally speaking, the opposite is true; installing a home solar array actually increases the resale value of a home, particularly if you have a high-efficiency system that helps lower monthly energy bills.
Solar literacy in your local community is an important factor here, but for most homeowners, the answer to this question will be a resounding no. Multiple studies have shown that buyers are looking for more energy-efficient homes to reduce their carbon footprints and help save on electricity bills.
Do bigger solar installations present a better value-add than smaller systems?
Bigger solar installations may present a better value-add than smaller systems. However, in many cases, it's not the number of panels that matters so much as the power output. A smaller system, assembled with the most efficient solar panels can be just as impactful as a larger, lower-efficiency system.
The aesthetics of the system may also be a factor, with many buyers actually preferring smaller, less conspicuous systems.
How much value does solar add to the home?
A few studies have shown that solar installations increase a home's resale value by up to $6,000 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed, or by about 4.1% of the home's value. However, this can vary quite a bit from one geographic location to the next, even for comparable homes with similar solar panel systems.
Do you really save money with solar panels?
While the initial investment may be steep, solar panels can definitely help to significantly reduce or even eliminate your monthly electric bills. These ongoing energy savings are a nice addition to the elevation in property values.
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By Geoff York
Whenever I'm fortunate enough to travel north, the stress of daily life seems to fall away with each mile as one goes further away from built environments and closer to raw nature. Returning to Churchill, the small community on the shores of Hudson Bay, is no different. Churchill has a slower pace and reminds you of simpler times when neighbors knew one another and looked after each other. It also has the unique benefit and challenge of polar bears living nearby, and in larger numbers, during the summer ice-free months.
While polar bears in this part of the world have long come ashore in the ice-free period, that span has grown longer by about one full month as the Arctic continues to warm and sea ice melts away. These documented changes in ice also have a negative impact on polar bears' ability to hunt their primary prey – ringed seals – resulting in a declining population trend for this region.
Geoff York is the senior director of conservation for Polar Bears International. Kt Miller / Polar Bears International
Every year, after months of fasting on land, the bears begin to congregate along the coast of Hudson Bay as temperatures drop, anticipating freeze-up and a return to their seal-hunting grounds. This annual concentration of polar bears is one of the most spectacular events in the natural world, but also a poignant one, as these bears live on the front lines of climate change, with longer ice-free seasons straining the limits of their fat reserves.
As Polar Bear Week approaches (October 31-November 6), temperatures are starting to drop and frosty mornings remind us that winter is almost here. Still, conditions are warmer than usual for this time of year, with no persistent snow on the ground and not a hint of ice in the bay, underscoring the urgent need for solid progress at the upcoming COP26 climate talks.
For the past couple of weeks, members of the Polar Bears International team have been roaming across along the shore of Hudson Bay in a Tundra Buggy, sharing our Polar Bear Cams in partnership with explore.org and interacting with audiences around the world through our Tundra Connections webcasts and live chats.
In addition to our outreach efforts, the Polar Bears International team is working on a number of research and conflict-reduction projects this fall, including supporting the efforts of the Town of Churchill to establish the world's first polar bear safe community. The goal is to develop safety protocols and frameworks that can be shared across the North, allowing polar bears and people to coexist with each other. This is important because more polar bears are being driven ashore in more places by melting sea ice, and for longer periods, increasing the chance of negative encounters. By preparing now, communities can take steps to minimize conflict, keeping both polar bears and people safe from harm.
BJ Kirschhoffe / Polar Bears International
This fall, we will continue to support Churchill's bear safety efforts in several ways, with an eye for sharing findings with other Arctic communities. These include:
- Supporting consultations with bear-human conflict-reduction experts to see what lessons may apply to polar bears and the Arctic; they will assess the town's current practices and identify potential areas for enhanced measures
- Working with experts on effective bear detection and deterrents, including bear spray and noise makers
- Launching a waste management project to examine innovative ways to reduce attractants to polar bears. This is important because waste management is a problem across the North. Burying is not sustainable in tundra areas and impossible in bedrock. Yet open dumps are an invitation to trouble, leading to problem bears, conflict, and increased mortality.
In addition, our conflict-reduction efforts include researching four types of ground-based radar to test whether "Detect and Protect" surveillance systems can be developed to warn communities, work stations, and remote camps of approaching bears. This early-warning technology shows great promise in triggering alerts that can prevent encounters, saving the lives of both polar bears and people. As part of this year's Polar Bear Week celebration, we are raising funds to support the development of this technology.
And, finally, this bear season we are continuing research on a project with 3M to develop small tracking devices that can be attached to a polar bear's fur. Last fall, we began testing the devices on wild polar bears in the Western Hudson Bay population and then expanded to bears in zoo settings. This year, we will be testing them on bears in the Southern Hudson Bay population while continuing tests with zoo bears.
Max Lowe / Polar Bears International
This is important because tracking devices provide vital information on polar bears, allowing researchers to follow them even when they're far out on the sea ice or wandering in 24 hours of winter darkness. They allow us to understand the movement patterns and behavior of polar bears, along with other information such as habitat use, abundance estimates, responses to changing sea ice conditions, and population boundaries. It's critical data in a changing Arctic.
Returning to Churchill each fall is always inspiring for our team, giving us a chance to reconnect with the people, the land, and the bears – immersing ourselves in their world for a short time. Last week, we were moved by the sight of a mother bear nursing her cub on the tundra, a rare and special moment for all of us, and a reminder of why we are so committed to polar bear conservation--during Polar Bear Week and every week.
Kt Miller / Polar Bears International
Geoff York is the senior director of conservation for Polar Bears International. He has more than 20 years of Arctic field experience, including work with polar bears in Alaska, Canada, and Russia, and a special interest in human-polar bear conflict-reduction.
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The oil industry responded to the controversial and last-minute sale of oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a collective 'meh' on Wednesday.
The federal government received bids on just 11 of the 22 leasing tracts on offer, and nine of those were purchased at the legal minimum price of $25 per acre by an Alaska state-owned corporation with hopes to sublet the tracts to other oil companies in the future.
No major or even mid-size oil companies entered valid bids.
The ANWR lease sales are mandated as part of the GOP plan to pay for its 2017 tax cuts based on expectations that the sales and oil extraction would net the Treasury $1.8 billion over 10 years; Wednesday's lease sale raised $14.4 million.
Under mounting pressure from climate advocates, the six biggest American banks and five biggest Canadian banks have all pledged not to finance drilling in the refuge. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to prevent oil drilling in the refuge.
"This lease sale was an epic failure for the Trump administration and the Alaska congressional delegation," Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.
"After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza they ended up throwing a party for themselves."
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By Derrick Z. Jackson
I am the very accidental Black nature lover.
I was a typical urban boy in Milwaukee and a rabid sports fan in the 1960s. The most significant eagles to me played football in Philadelphia. The first cardinal I ever paid attention to was Bob Gibson throwing fastballs for St. Louis. My first confirmed sighting of an oriole was Frank Robinson blasting home runs for Baltimore. Bears and lions were fauna native to Chicago and Detroit and invasive species in Green Bay.
A dismal failure at actual sports, I did the next-best thing. I became a sportswriter and photographer. In college, I covered high school sports for the Milwaukee Journal. I shot for the Associated Press at Green Bay Packers games and the 1974 National Basketball Association (NBA) finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. By 1979, at the age of 23, I was covering the New York Knicks and the NBA finals for Newsday.
That was my idea of climbing a summit, clueless of other ranges to scale.
That same year, I met a Black woman named Michelle Holmes. She was a medical student at Harvard University. In our first fall of dating, she said, "Let's go see the foliage."
I responded, "What's foliage?"
A stunned Michelle said, "You know, foliage…foliage? You're kidding. You don't know what foliage is?"
Bald Eagle – just north of the A.T. near Umbagog Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire. Derrick Z. Jackson
Suddenly, I flashed back to the drives in the fall from Milwaukee to Green Bay for Packers games, with farm fields rimmed by yellow, orange, and red trees. "Oh, do you mean the changing of the leaves?" Michelle nodded affirmatively and then moved on to proclaiming that we would go see the leaves on a four-day holiday weekend.
Puzzled by the notion that this would take up a whole weekend, I asked:
"How long can you look at a red leaf?"
That weekend, Michelle chose a mountain to climb. She chose no slouch. It was Mt. Tecumseh, listed as one of the White Mountain's 4,000 footers (there is an ongoing debate as to whether it is just 3,995 feet). As we ascended, a fog so dense enveloped the mountain that my attempt to shout died inches from my lips. At the summit, Michelle despaired that I would never go hiking again because our view was the equivalent of being shrouded under a white bedsheet.
Then, hot and sweaty, I saw beads of dew glistening from a pine tree. I shook the tree to give myself a shower. The cooling effect, combined with the seductive scent of the pine, sent me into an ecstasy that shocked me. "This feels and smells sooooo good!" I told her.
At that moment, I was hooked on nature. Over the next decade, all our vacations, eventually with two little boys, involved camping in the outdoors. We camped in national parks from Acadia to Death Valley, from the Virgin Islands to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and from the Everglades to Kings Canyon/Sequoia and Yosemite. We camped in national forests from New Hampshire to New Mexico. In 1988, we quit our old jobs at the same time and drove from Boston to Alaska, car-camping for six weeks among glaciers, eagles, moose, otters, bears, and puffins and dazzled by fields of lupines and vistas of towering peaks across from spits.
Soon after I took up my new job as a metro columnist at the Boston Globe, I was asked to give a talk at predominantly Black Roxbury Community College. In the question-and-answer period after my set speech, a young Black man asked me about my hobbies.
"Birdwatching," I responded.
That started a giggle that rolled like a tsunami into rollicking laughter in a room of 200 people. I asked the young man, "Why do you think everyone is laughing?" He said, "You know."
I knew where he was going, but I played dumb and said, "No, I don't know, so tell me."
He said, "You know what I mean."
I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "You know, birdwatching … that's a White thing."
A fresh wave of laughter swept through the room. After it subsided, I said:
"I figured that's what you'd say. Here's what I think." I rattled off the names of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and all the world of marchers and protestors who agitated for civil rights, then said:
"They didn't talk about it this way, but I look at what they were fighting for, and I don't think it was just about voting rights, lunch counters, bus seats, and school desegregation. In an unspoken way, I think they also risked their lives and shed blood for our right to enjoy and take ownership of this whole nation. For me, that means my right to enjoy national parks, to care about the birds, and to feel my presence is equal to anyone else's."
More than 30 years later, ownership, stewardship, and my assertion that birdwatching, the outdoors, and the environment is everyone's thing has become urgent to the point of emergency. On the more pleasant and personal side, Michelle's love of the outdoors led her to section-hike the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) over thirteen years, finishing in 2019. I probably did about 700 miles of the Trail supporting her, including glorious traverses of the Smokies and much of the White Mountains.
Michelle's getting me to love nature led me to become the coauthor and photographer of two books on the restoration of Atlantic puffins to islands off the coast of Maine, where they had been hunted into local extinction for nearly a century. For two decades, we together have escorted a diverse set of urban Scouts into the wilds, from canoe camping in Maine to ten nights of backpacking at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Our troop's commitment to diversity led to one of our girls being in the 2021 inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.
On the less pleasant side, climate change now bears down on us with unbearable temperatures, rising seas, and devastating storms. Black and Latinx families are disproportionately suffering from the impacts in heat islands in redlined neighborhoods and displacement by hurricanes such as Katrina in New Orleans and Harvey in Houston. That is on top of the decades of systemic environmental injustice of Black and Brown families living in injurious, disproportionate, asthmatic proximity to refining and burning of fossil fuels in industry and transportation. The chronic illnesses due to that proximity are considered a major factor in why the COVID-19 Black and Brown death rate remains double that of White victims.
Derrick Z. Jackson with his son, Tano Holmes, and wife, Michelle Holmes, at Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park, Maine. Derrick Z. Jackson
Belying the laughter of that Roxbury Community College audience over my birdwatching, people of color have for several years now actually felt more strongly than White people that climate change must be dealt with immediately. A 2015 New York Times poll found that 79 percent of Latinx respondents considered climate change to be an important problem, compared to 63 percent of White respondents. By a two to one margin, Latinx respondents considered climate change a global problem worthy of U.S. aid to low-income countries for climate mitigation.
In 2020 New York Times election battleground state polls, 84 percent of Black respondents nationally said they worry about their community being harmed by climate change, compared to 55 percent of White respondents. In Florida, two of three Black respondents and three of four Latinx respondents worry about their lives being impacted by rising seas. In Arizona, three of four Latinx respondents worry about being impacted by rising temperatures. Only half of White respondents worry about climate impacts in Florida and Arizona.
This racial divide in climate change concern is critically germane to those who envision an outdoors recreation scene where Black and Brown people backpack along trails such as the A.T. in proportion to their share of the nation's population. According to the very latest analysis by the Brookings Institution, the White population in the U.S., once close to 90 percent for the first half of the 20th century, will likely slip under 60 percent in the 2020 census. That means that four of every ten hikers over all and every other hiker under the age of 25 should be of color to mirror the demographics of this country.
As an outdoor enthusiast, bird author, and journalist, I straddle a knife's edge between the enjoyment and conservation of natural beauty and the ugliness of environmental injustice and the very public racial turmoil that has engulfed many old-line environmental organizations as staff people of color demand much more than token inclusiveness from White executives. I'm appreciative of the increasing number of books and essays by Black people chronicling their individual journeys into nature and digging for a more truthful history of the Black experience in outdoor spaces, which includes helping to build and protect national parks, only to endure segregated facilities during Jim Crow.
As someone who — again inspired by Michelle's vision — ritually camped with Black friends on Memorial Day weekend from our mid-20s to our mid-40s, I smile when I read of new hiking groups, outdoor collaboratives, and environmental journalist networks led by people of color. I wrote in celebration over the 2020 presidential election and the Georgia Senate runoffs for how environmental justice voters showed up big, so big that President Biden's cabinet has an unprecedented number of officials with a track record of fighting against unjust pollution and poisoning of communities of color.
Of course, all this represents just the beginning of a new day. How bright that day becomes will significantly depend on how the predominately White environmental and conservation world responds to all of this. Last year, amid the upheaval over police brutality that ignited sweeping reexaminations of systemic racism, legacy environmental groups claimed to understand they had a role in the reckoning.
Michelle Holmes traversing the Bigelow Mountains on the A.T. in Maine. Derrick Z. Jackson
Websites are full of acknowledgement that the land we all hike on was stolen from Indigenous peoples. Several organizations offered confessionals on the past racist beliefs of founders and decades of White supremacy culture that alienated potential talent of color. Many groups have made environmental justice part of their portfolio and forging partnerships with communities to assist in their fights against pollution and systemically poor infrastructure.
It has finally dawned on environmental leaders, at least rhetorically, that a movement symbolized so long by melting ice and polar bears must meld into a more holistic vision. It is hard to invite people to put on some hiking boots to meditate on the carpets of trillium and tunnels of rhododendron along the A.T. in the South or marvel at scarlet tanagers zipping through the canopy or ravens soaring around the barren peaks of the New Hampshire White Mountains if they can't open their windows in the city during a heat wave because of blowing industrial soot. At some point, environmentalism and environmental justice must stop being two separate words.
The polls say people of color in the U.S. understand that more clearly than White residents. The former are ready to get cracking on getting rid of pollution and being full players and leaders in the green economy, while the latter remains hesitant. In a survey last fall commissioned by West Harlem Environmental Action (WEACT) and the Environmental Defense Fund, 60 percent of Black adults say they are very concerned about air pollution in their community, compared to only 32 percent of White adults. Black and Latinx respondents score higher than White respondents on saying "Clean energy jobs are for people like me."
The reality is that old-line environmental groups face an unspoken challenge equal to any effort to create safe spaces for people of color in the outdoors or in their offices.
They must work toward unity among White people about the urgency of climate change, its interplay with environmental injustice, long-term threats to our economy, and the unavoidable need to part with tax dollars both domestically and abroad for clean-ups and clean energy. The hardest part will be to convince White people of their collective systemic privileges to delay, avoid, or recover from the worst impacts of a boiling planet.
The advantages are endless. In hot places, it could be the affordability of air conditioning and living in naturally cooler areas because of tree canopies and parks. In coastal areas, it could be sturdier homes, car ownership to evacuate to higher ground, or quicker access to federal emergency funds if homes are damaged or destroyed after floods and hurricanes. Just about everywhere, it is the relative lack of living with — and choking on — fossil soot. Groundbreaking studies have shown that, while White people account for most of the pollution in consumer activity, Black and Latinx communities disproportionately breathe it in.
Environmental groups must get White people to account for these advantages in an equitable climate strategy on the daily home-front to have any long-term credibility on inviting people of color into the outdoors on the weekend. As of now, White people collectively refuse to account for them. A 2019 Pew survey found that, while 68 percent of Black respondents thought White people benefit "a great deal" from advantages Black people don't have, only 23 percent of White respondents said they benefit a great deal from their advantages. A 2020 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that only 23 percent of White respondents said they receive "too many special advantages."
White denial of advantage cannot be soft-pedaled by environmental leaders after the surge of White supremacy during and after the two terms of Barack Obama, the nation's first Black president. The last decade has seen the tragedies in Charlottesville, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, the police and vigilante murders of Black people, and the insurrection of January 6, 2021. They cannot be soft-pedaled as forces are on a relentless march to roll back or stymie environmental protections that would degrade daily life and the outdoors for all of us. Denial of advantage is its own fatal disadvantage. Take COVID-19. Black and Brown people remain twice as likely to die from infections, yet 350,000 White people have died. Try to find the advantage there.
In imagining equality in the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked the imagery of the outdoors in his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. He said:
"Let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
"But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring."
Now that we are reimagining the outdoors for all, on every mountainside, we must come to grips that this quest is no longer just about my wife getting me to look at a red leaf or old-line environmental groups hiring "outreach" staff to get people of color out into pristine wilderness.
Environmentalism also must ring down from the mountains to ring out soot in our cities, fight for clean water, and protect people from the rising seas. If we can replace environmental injustice with a true commitment toward pristine environs where people live every day, I can guarantee that a whole lot of people will feel a lot more welcome to climb an actual summit and shake down some dew from a tree.
Derrick Z. Jackson is the 2021 Scripps Howard winner for Excellence in Opinion Writing and the 2021 winner in both Social Justice and Sports commentary from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He is co-author of "The Puffin Plan," winner in Teen Nonfiction from the Independent Book Publishers Association. Published in 2020 by Tumblehome Books.
Reposted with permission from AT Journeys (the magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy).
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