Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

How a Petaluma Safeway controversy kicked off the spread of gas station bans across the Bay Area

Sierra Lopez, BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

A movement that began with specific concerns about a station near a school campus in Petaluma is spreading beyond the North Bay.

When Pinole made news last month for being the first East Bay city to ban new gas stations, the small community of 18,000 was tapping into a trend that has been spreading through the Bay Area for the last three years.

It all started when Petaluma became the first city in the country to ban new gas stations in 2021. But the activists who originally launched that first effort had no idea it would turn into a movement — in fact, JoAnn McEachin, a Petaluma resident who helped start the group NoGasHere a decade ago, says she had no intention of becoming an activist at the time, and she wasn’t even opposed to new gas stations in general.

Her issue was with a 16-pump gas station that had been proposed by the supermarket chain Safeway in 2013. Petaluma, a North Bay city of 60,000 residents, already had 16 gas stations, but her specific issue was with its location — the grocer was looking to build on the corner of McDowell Boulevard and Maria Drive, just across the street from a campus that housed an elementary school, a child development center and a preschool.

McEachin believed being upwind from the roughly 2,000 vehicles it was estimated would drive in and out of the station per day would put the children at risk of poor air quality. She connected with a group of other concerned residents — many of them local moms — who rallied together to form NoGasHere, bringing skills from their day jobs as lawyers, marketing professionals, teachers and administrative assistants to their cause.

“(Safeway) pissed off a lot of women,” said McEachin. “It makes my blood boil when I think about it.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/safeway-gas-station-ban/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

US overhauls electric grid to make way for more renewables

Valerie Volcovivi, REUTERS

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday approved the first major electric transmission policy update in over a decade that aims to speed up new interregional lines to move more clean energy to meet growing demand amid the explosion of electric vehicles, data centers and artificial intelligence.

Approved in a 2-1 vote, the new rule is also the first time the FERC has ever squarely addressed the need for long-term transmission planning, playing a key role in helping meet the Biden administration’s goal of decarbonizing the economy by 2050 and making the grid more resilient to more frequent climate-fueled extreme weather events.

“This rule cannot come fast enough,” FERC Chairman Willie Phillips, who voted for the final rule. “There is an urgent need to act to ensure the reliability and the affordability of our grid.”

“We are at a transformational moment for the electric grid with phenomenal load growth,” he added, citing the surge in domestic manufacturing, proliferation of data centers, and the surge in extreme weather events that have pushed the country’s ageing infrastructure to its limits.

FERC has been working for nearly two years on the rule to reform how new electric transmission gets approved and paid for, with new requirements for moving electricity across states and covering the costs of new projects.

Read more at https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/ferc-overhaul-us-electric-transmission-system-2024-05-13/

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: The growing threat of the biomass energy industry

Jenny Blaker, SONOMA COUNTY PEACE PRESS

Take Action

Update – good news on legislation!

We need to understand the insidious, growing threat of the biomass energy industry, specifically forest-based bioenergy. Bioenergy turns forests into electricity, liquid biofuels, and fuel pellets for export on the international market. Touted as renewable, it is not clean, renewable or carbon neutral. It is devastating to human health and communities, to forests, watersheds, and wildlife habitat, and only worsens the climate crisis.

Golden State Natural Resources (GSNR) plans to build two massive fuel pellet processing plants in Tuolumne and Lassen counties, targeting 1 million tons of wood pellets per year for export, via the port of Stockton, to Europe and Asia. On June 30, 2023, 109 organizations, including scientists, doctors, environmentalists and others, wrote to GSNR vehemently opposing the project because of its potential impacts to climate, communities, and forests.

On February 28, 2024, GSNR ratified an MOU with the giant UK energy company Drax, the second largest biomass energy company in the world. Drax already runs 18 fuel pellet plants in the USA and Canada. Now it is targeting California, which has 33 million acres of forests.

In a shocking exposé of Drax in October 22, the BBC revealed that Drax is responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of mature and old growth trees in Canada and southeast USA. The company’s assertions that it uses only waste wood were proven to be false. Drax is by far the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK. It is subsidized by UK taxpayers to the tune of around £1.4 billion (about $1.8 billion) in subsidies up until last year.

Continue reading “Op-Ed: The growing threat of the biomass energy industry”

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Local OrganizationsTags , ,

Lisa Micheli named as Sonoma County’s Climate Crisis Champion

Maggie Fusek, PETALUMA PATCH

Dr. Lisa Micheli, former president & CEO of Pepperwood Foundation, is a “dedicated mentor shaping the next generation of climate leaders.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson recognized Dr. Lisa Micheli, former president & CEO of the Pepperwood Foundation, as Sonoma County’s 2024 Climate Crisis Champion.

Micheli was honored during a ceremony Monday to celebrate climate crisis champions from the five counties of the 4th Congressional District.

“Dr. Micheli is a tireless advocate for climate change adaptation and environmental protection as well as a dedicated mentor shaping the next generation of climate leaders,” Thompson said. “Dr. Micheli has put her doctorate in energy and resources from UC Berkeley to good use, serving as the Sonoma Community Services and Environment Commissioner, directing the Rutherford Reach Restoration of the Napa River, and founding the Pepperwood Foundation, which has become a leading institute for regional climate resilience in Northern California. She is exceptionally deserving of this award, and I am proud to recognize all that Dr. Micheli has accomplished.”

Read more at https://patch.com/california/petaluma/thompson-names-micheli-sonoma-countys-climate-crisis-champion

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

California reduces payments for rooftop solar power — for second time in a year

Ben Christopher and Julie Cart, CALMATTERS

The utilities commission reduced payments to apartments, schools and businesses selling solar power to the grid despite a barrage of criticism. Commissioners say it reverses unfair subsidies.

After months of debate and two postponed votes, California’s utility regulator unanimously voted today to overhaul incentives for owners of apartment buildings, schools and businesses that install solar panels.

The new regulations are the second major step that the California Public Utilities Commission has taken in the past year to reduce power companies’ financial support for rooftop solar. In December, the commission reduced payments to homeowners who sell excess power from newly installed solar panels on single-family homes.

Still, for solar advocates, it could have been worse.

Thanks to a last-minute regulatory tweak, the new rules today stop short of a previous proposal that solar industry groups and housing-related interests warned would result in the “evisceration” of the multifamily solar market.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2023/11/california-solar-payment/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , , ,

PG&E unveils first 100% renewable remote power system at Pepperwood Preserve

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Pepperwood Preserve unveiled the state’s first fully renewable, stand-alone power system at the nonprofit group’s remote site in the Mayacamas Mountains on Monday — part of the utility’s push to eliminate last-mile distribution lines from especially fire-prone areas.

The new remote, solar-powered system is owned by PG&E and will allow the utility to remove nearly three-fourths of a mile of overhead distribution lines that cascade down a wind-swept hillside. It eliminates, as well, the associated maintenance burden and wildfire liability that power lines in mountainous areas represent.

But it also will serve as a replicable model that can be used in hundreds of other locations to reduce first risk and make for a more resilient power supply, project partners said.

It is part of PG&E’s overall system hardening efforts, developed in the wake of catastrophic wildfires caused by faulty power equipment during extreme winds. Other measures include burying power lines and strengthening power poles and overhead lines.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/first-100-renewable-remote-power-system-installed-at-pepperwood-preserve/?pupeml=5144

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Petaluma gets $1 million to plant more trees

Jennifer Sahwney, PETLUMA ARGUS-COURIER

The city of Petaluma announced it has received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to expand its tree canopy over the next three years.

The plan is to plant about 2,550 trees, said Wendy Jacobs of ReLeaf Petaluma, a local nonprofit that will undertake much of the day-to-day project management.

The tree-planting initiative is part of the Petaluma Canopy Project, a collaborative partnership between the city and local nonprofits including ReLeaf Petaluma, Daily Acts, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, Point Blue Conservation and Cool Petaluma.

The project will “plant trees around parks, schools, residential areas, and our riverbank, with the aim of restoring native species,” according to a news release.

Part of the strategy is to prioritize areas where the city’s low-income residents live and gather, “which typically have fewer trees than other parts of the city,” the release said.

More trees support the city’s climate goals, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and decrease noise, water and air pollution. The shade they provide also lowers ambient temperatures, the release said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/city-gets-1-million-to-plant-more-trees/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , ,

After tree trimming declared ineffective, PG&E adopts new wildfire mitigation strategy

Grace Scullion, SACRAMENTO BEE

PG&E Corp. is axing its enhanced tree-trimming program aimed at reducing wildfire risk after deeming it largely ineffective, the Wall Street Journal reported.

PG&E Corp. is axing its enhanced tree-trimming program aimed at reducing wildfire risk after deeming it largely ineffective, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The $2.5 billion program thinned and cleared more than one million trees near power lines across Central and Northern California since it went into effect in 2019, the newspaper said after interviews with executives.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides electricity and gas to 16 million across the state, credited the program with reducing total fire ignitions by 7% and ignitions during the fall fire season by 13%.

The embattled utility, which has been blamed for several of California’s worst and deadly wildfires, said it would still trim its backlog of about 385,000 potentially hazardous trees that have yet to be cleared — an effort expected to take nine years.

The Oakland-based company also said it would continue its regular tree-trimming maintenance. Twice per year, the company inspects trees around power lines for hazards. It is also piloting a targeted tree-trim program focused on heavily forested areas of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/after-tree-trimming-declared-ineffective-pge-adopts-new-wildfire-mitigati/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags ,

US residential heat pump sales pass gas furnaces for first time as interest in efficiency tech surges

Robert Walton, UTILITY DIVE

  • Global energy demand rose 1% in 2022 but the rate of energy efficiency improvements was double the average of the past five years boosted by “surging” sales in more efficient technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicles, the International Energy Agency said in a report Wednesday.
  • In the United States last year, residential heat pump sales exceeded gas furnaces for the first time, making up 53% of heating system sales.
  • Sales of electric vehicles grew 55% last year in the United States, and in the first quarter of this year made up more than 7% of new car sales. Globally, EVs made up 14% of new car sales in 2022 and could reach 18% this year, IEA said.

Read more at https://www.utilitydive.com/news/heat-pump-sales-topped-gas-furnaces-United-States/652277/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags ,

Rural counties wood pellet export scheme raises concerns

Gary Graham Hughes, THE NORTHCOAST ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Over the first months of 2023 Humboldt County has taken on a leadership role in a massive scheme that aims to export wood pellets from California to global bioenergy markets.

In January, Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn, who is the official delegate of Humboldt County to the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), an organization of some 40 rural counties from around the state, was appointed to the Board of Directors of Golden State Natural Resources. The five-person board also includes supervisors from Inyo, Modoc, Siskiyou and Butte Counties.

Golden State Natural Resources (GSNR), an “affiliated entity” of RCRC, is a wood pellet manufacturing and export scheme that proposes to construct two new facilities, one each in Tuolumne and Lassen Counties, to manufacture 1,000,000 tons a year of wood pellets. GSNR would then move those wood pellets by rail to ports in Stockton and Richmond for export by ship to markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Increasingly, because of political convenience and carbon accounting loopholes, coal powered electricity generating facilities are converting to burning biomass. This global trend has continued despite the growing body of evidence that shows that wood pellets are a highly carbon-intensive, polluting, expensive, and inefficient energy source.

Even as the imperative to stop burning coal is becoming clearer by the day, the switch to biomass is climate suicide. Per unit of electricity produced, burning wood coughs up more carbon emissions at the smokestack than burning coal.

In fact, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution would be emitted at every step of the GSNR project, exposing this wood pellet export scheme as a losing proposition for the climate.

Cutting forests, trucking trees long distances, chipping the wood, manufacturing pellets, transporting the pellets by rail hundreds of miles to ports, and shipping the pellets to be burned overseas — every single one of these steps would be a significant source of climate pollution.

Read more at https://www.yournec.org/rural-counties-wood-pellet-export-scheme-raises-concerns/