Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , ,

Standing Rock activist speaks at SRJC

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

“This is a low-level oil war going on right in our country,” he [Iron Eyes] said, adding that activists “faced deadly force, people faced corporate-sponsored, state-executed” violence, and that the Keystone project will bring more of the same.

Even though oil has begun to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline, the months-long battle against the controversial pipeline has fueled resistance against an economic system that puts corporate interests ahead of people’s rights, said Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American activist and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Speaking Monday afternoon to a packed crowd of students, faculty and local activists gathered at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Bertolini Student Center, Iron Eyes said the activism at Standing Rock has also energized political resistance against President Donald Trump, who green-lighted the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, and also resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline.
DAPL’s final segment was recently completed after Trump signed an executive order in January lifting President Barack Obama’s administrative opposition to the project. Obama rejected the Keystone project in 2015.
Iron Eyes said those who supported the movement against DAPL have a “responsibility, the duty to take what is powerful from Standing Rock, from the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers” and consider it a victory, even though the protest camps have been razed.
Read more at: Standing Rock activist at SRJC: Standing Rock protest energized political resistance | The Press Democrat

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It can be done: Carbon emissions in the UK have fallen to a 120-year low 

Akshat Rathi, QUARTZ
The last time the UK emitted less carbon dioxide than it did in 2016, most Brits were still traveling by horse and carriage.
Last year, the UK emitted 381 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to an analysis by Carbon Brief. The last time the country spewed less of the greenhouse gas was way back in 1894. (Industrial strikes in 1921 and 1926 also resulted in lower emissions, but for unintended reasons.)
Carbon emissions in 2016 fell by 5.8% compared with 2015, and the use of coal fell by a record 52% over the same period. More oil and gas was burned that year, but both are relatively cleaner fuels. The UK also generated more power from wind than coal for the first time ever last year.
The precipitous drop in coal use was attributed to UK’s carbon tax, which doubled in 2015 to £18 ($22) per metric ton of CO2.
Carbon emissions in 2016 fell by 5.8% compared with 2015, and the use of coal fell by a record 52% over the same period. More oil and gas was burned that year, but both are relatively cleaner fuels. The UK also generated more power from wind than coal for the first time ever last year.
The precipitous drop in coal use was attributed to UK’s carbon tax, which doubled in 2015 to £18 ($22) per metric ton of CO2.
Source: Carbon emissions in the UK have fallen to a 120-year low — Quartz

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

Op-Ed: Trump's Congress speech left unsaid his continued assault on our environment

Rhea Suh, THE HILL

“What kind of a country,” he asked, “will we leave our children?”

In his address to Congress and the nation on Tuesday, President Trump made sparse mention of a leading focus of his first six weeks in office — his unmitigated assault on the nation’s environment and public health.

True, Trump boasted of having worked with congressional Republicans to set mining companies free to pollute mountain streams and destroy forests, by killing the Stream Protection Rule, leaving hard hit coal communities to pay the price.

He highlighted his call to do away with two existing regulations for every new safeguard put in place, an irrational and unlawful approach that short changes the government’s ability to respond to emerging threats in a complex and changing world.

He celebrated his order to revive the Keystone XL dirty tar sands pipeline bragging that he had “cleared the way” for some of the dirtiest oil on the planet to be shipped through the breadbasket of America to be refined on our Gulf coast and shipped, mostly, overseas.

And he took pride in noting his order to sweep aside the voices of the Standing Rock Sioux and force the Dakota Access pipeline across their water sources and sacred lands.

Not great, any of that.

Trump made a fleeting plea “to promote clean air and clear water,” but he never mentioned the order he signed, just hours before, to “eliminate” the Clean Water Rule that provides needed protections for wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for 117 million Americans.

He steered clear of reports that he plans crippling budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and to open more public land to the ravages of coal mining.

And he said nothing about his pledge to eviscerate the Clean Power Plan – the single most important measure the government has taken to fight rising seas, widening deserts, blistering heat, raging fires, withering drought and other hallmarks of climate change.

And who could blame him?

Nobody voted in November for dirty water or to put our children’s future at needless risk. Why would Trump tout an extremist agenda for which there’s little public support?

Read more at: Trump’s Congress speech left unsaid his continued assault on our environment

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Bay Area might adopt world’s first regional oil-refinery emissions caps

Will Parrish, EAST BAY EXPRESS
On May 17, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will consider a proposal that would make the San Francisco Bay Area the world’s first region to place limits on oil refineries’ overall greenhouse-gas and particulate-matter emissions. This new regulation, Refinery Rule 12-16, would prevent oil corporations from making the East Bay a hub of Canadian tar-sands processing, because it would enforce a cap based on historic emissions levels at the five major Contra Costa and Solano county refineries.
Not everyone agrees with this approach.
As the Express reported last June, BAAQMD executive staff members oppose the emissions cap, which they say would be illegal under state law. They also say it could lead to oil-price spikes, a stance shared by the industry.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is about to weigh in on the debate, though. And at the February 1 BAAQMD board of directors meeting, Contra Costa County supervisor and California Air Resources Board director John Gioia noted that ARB Executive Officer Richard Corey is preparing a new letter detailing the agency’s position on Refinery Rule 12-16 and other refinery-related air-quality protections that BAAQMD is considering.
Ultimately, the two-dozen county supervisors and city council members who comprise the BAAQMD board of directors will decide the emissions caps’ fate. But several BAAQMD directors have said they prefer that local rules dovetail with California’s climate programs, so Corey’s letter could help make-or-break the emissions-cap proposal.
Corey reportedly has stated his intention to send the letter by the end of the month. Meanwhile, its content has become a subject of heated speculation among BAAQMD directors.
Read more at: Bay Area Might Adopt World’s First Regional Oil-Refinery Emissions Caps | East Bay Express

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Op Ed: A conservative proposal for a carbon tax

Eric Biber, LEGAL PLANET
An impressive lineup of senior Republican leaders has embraced a carbon tax as an approach to address climate change.  The proposal is to trade away the Obama Administration Clean Power Plan and tort liability against fossil fuel companies for a $40/ton carbon tax that would increase over time.  All revenues from the tax would be rebated per capita to individuals, producing a per-person payment of about $2000/year, and increasing over time.
Right now, given the current chaotic political scene in DC, the proposal is probably dead in the water for now.  But I think it is significant, because it is the first serious attempt by Republican institutional leaders to push for action on climate change.  In that light, it is a very positive development for the future.
Is this a deal that we should take?  I’m cautiously optimistic.  As this report from the group that sponsored the proposal indicates, a $40/ton carbon tax would have a major impact on emissions in the U.S., lowering them by about 28% by 2025 from 2005 levels, meeting the U.S.’s Paris commitments.  The carbon tax is about three to four times higher than the current price for cap-and-trade credits in California, and similarly higher than EU emissions trading credits.
Here are the issues that I think still would need to be worked out with the proposal – which I hope the leaders working on this are thinking hard about.
Read more at: A conservative proposal for a carbon tax | Legal Planet

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A look at the new battery storage facility in California built with Tesla Powerpacks 

Megan Geuss, ARS TECHNICA
East of LA, a natural gas peaker plant surrounded by fields of cows got a new, futuristic neighbor. Under a maze of transmission lines, a 20MW battery storage facility made of nearly 400 closet-sized batteries sitting on concrete pads now supplies 80MWh to utilities.
The project is an anomaly not just because it’s one of the largest energy storage facilities on the grid in California today, but also because it was built in record time—the project was just announced in September when regulators ordered utility Southern California Edison to invest in utility-scale battery storage, a year after a natural gas well in Aliso Canyon, California, sprang a leak and released 1.6 million pounds of methane into the atmosphere. The leak prompted a shutdown of the natural gas storage facility, one of the largest west of the Mississippi. Regulators were concerned that such a shutdown would cause energy and gas shortages, although that worry has not come to fruition entirely, and SoCal Gas has begun tentatively withdrawing gas again in recent weeks.
The ability to store electricity is something that appeals to state regulators because it also moves toward helping intermittent renewable energy—like wind, which only is produced when wind blows, or solar, which only is produced when the sun shines—become baseload energy. If you can store it after it’s produced, then you can call upon that energy to feed the grid at any moment, even when wind and sun are absent.
The Tesla battery facility is situated on 1.5 acres, and it’s modular in design—two 10 MW collections of 198 industrial-grade Tesla Powerpacks and 24 inverters are connected to two separate circuits at the Mira Loma substation. Unlike its neighboring Mira Loma natural gas peaker plant, which operates to make up for over- or undersupply of energy on the grid, the new battery facility operates only when there’s immediate demand. Southern California Edison’s market operations group submits bids for the energy at the battery plant and the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), a nonprofit that oversees the state’s electric system, will award the bid if a customer needs that battery power.
Read more at: A look at the new battery storage facility in California built with Tesla Powerpacks | Ars Technica

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Democrats push Obama to protect California coast from new drilling

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With three weeks left until President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists remain hopeful that President Barack Obama will grant their long-standing wish: permanent protection of the California coast from new offshore oil and gas drilling.
North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who met personally with administration officials at the White House in November, said he will continue lobbying for presidential action through Obama’s final hours in office on Jan. 20.
“We’ve got to keep pushing until the end,” Huffman said.
A host of Democratic heavyweights — including California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry Brown, 26 state senators including Mike McGuire of Healdsburg, and the California Coastal Commission’s chairwoman — sent official letters to Obama urging him to use an obscure federal law to withdraw California waters from future energy leasing.
But to their collective dismay, the Pacific Coast was not included in Obama’s decision two weeks ago to protect hundreds of millions of acres in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans in an executive action observers described as an effort to reinforce his legacy as an environmental leader.
Read more at: Democrats push Obama to protect California coast from new drilling | The Press Democrat

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Op-Ed: Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux 

Adam Villagomez and Jenny Blaker, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

More than 500 people marched in silence through Santa Rosa on Dec. 4 in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors who have been putting their lives on the line at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The vigil was timed to coincide with 2,000 veterans arriving at Standing Rock to act as nonviolent “human shields” for the water protectors, who had suffered a violent onslaught at the hands of the fossil fuel industry, with dogs, pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons in sub-zero temperatures and militarized police from six states. There has been a massive groundswell of support for the water protectors in Sonoma County and around the world.

The tribe’s fundamental human rights and rights as a sovereign nation have been violated. As with so many other Native American tribes, they have been swindled, cheated and lied to for years with repeatedly broken treaties and forced displacement. In an egregious example of environmental racism, the pipeline was rerouted away from Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, through Sioux lands, after Bismarck’s mainly white residents rejected it as a threat to their water supply.

A leak from the 1,200-mile pipeline, slated to pass under the Missouri River, would threaten the lives of millions of people downstream and thousands of acres of farming, ranch lands and wildlife habitat. For the Standing Rock Sioux, the Earth is their mother, and protecting her is a spiritual responsibility. The water is her blood and the streams and rivers are her veins. We and the generations to come cannot live without water, the water of life.

The unprecedented convergence of more than 100 tribes, with indigenous people and their allies from all over the world, unites the struggle for indigenous rights and sovereignty with the movement for environmental justice, the protection of the right to clean water and growing concern about climate change and the role of the fossil fuel industry.

Greenhouse gas emissions are escalating, and average world temperatures have been hitting record highs every year. According to climate scientists, using all the oil already available, even without exploiting new reserves, will start a cascade of repercussions that will threaten our survival. The oil needs to stay in the ground.

As protestors gathered outside Citibank in Santa Rosa, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied to Energy Transfer Partners the easement that would allow it to complete the pipeline. An environmental impact assessment will be required, with full public input and analysis. Cheers erupted, while in North Dakota veterans put down their helmets and riot shields to dance in celebration with their hosts.

In an unprecedented historic moment, veterans asked forgiveness of the tribal elders for the damage done to them throughout history.

But this is far from the end of the story. Energy Transfer Partners’ CEO Kelcy Warren and President-elect Donald Trump, who, until recently, held considerable assets in the $3.8 billion pipeline, are adamant that it will go ahead. The day after the Army Corps of Engineers made its announcement, Energy Transfer Partners began legal action to overturn it.

However, delays have already cost the company $450 million. The largest bank in Norway has withdrawn its assets. The Dakota Access Pipeline is contractually obligated to complete by Jan. 1, and if it does not, contractors could pull out, incurring further losses.

According to Lakota prophecy, a black snake will come to destroy the world. In the seventh generation, the youth will rise up to fight it. The pipeline is the black snake, and the youth are rising with extraordinary courage and determination.Now the black snake is wounded, but it is not yet dead and the fight to come may get even harder.
Adam Villagomez, a member of the Dakota Sioux/Chippewa, lives in Sonoma County and works at the Sonoma County Indian Health Project. He is part of a local group that took food and medical supplies to Standing Rock during Indigenous People’s Day. Jenny Blaker, a Cotati resident, is a member of Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux of Sonoma County.
Source: Close to Home: Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , ,

SMART prevents more deliveries of gas-filled cars to Schellville 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Authority prevented a North Coast freight operator from delivering a dozen more rail cars filled with an estimated 396,000 gallons of flammable gas to a storage site south of Sonoma, escalating tensions between the rail agencies.
The squabble is increasing uncertainty for freight customers along the Highway 101 corridor, where Northwestern Pacific Railroad delivers the bulk of malt barley to Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Co., along with grain feed and lumber to several other local companies.
The dispute centers on Northwestern Pacific’s storage of millions of gallons of liquefied petroleum gas in a dairy pasture in Schellville.
On Sunday, SMART denied Northwestern Pacific’s request to transport 18 rail cars, including 12 filled with gas and 6 loaded with grains, from American Canyon to Schellville, where the freight operator already is storing 80 rail cars filled with 2.6 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas.
In response, Northwestern Pacific was planning to file a petition Tuesday with the federal Surface Transportation Board seeking an emergency order allowing transport and storage of the hazardous material.“SMART basically is not the freight police,” said Mitch Stogner, executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority, the public agency that oversees freight service on the line.
SMART officials contend the gas tankers represent a major public safety threat, and that the rail agency has the authority to restrict shipments and storage of such materials along its right-of-way.
Read more at: SMART prevents more deliveries of gas-filled cars to Schellville | The Press Democrat

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Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline in win for climate

Timothy Gardner & Jeff Mason, REUTERS
President Barack Obama on Friday rejected the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada in a victory for environmentalists who campaigned against the project for more than seven years.
“The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy,” Obama told a press conference. He said it would not reduce gasoline prices, and shipping “dirtier” crude from Canada would not increase U.S. energy security.
The denial of TransCanada Corp’s more than 800,000 barrels per day project will make it more difficult for producers to develop the province of Alberta’s oil sands. It could also put the United States in a stronger position at global climate talks that start in Paris on Nov. 30 in which countries will aim to reach a deal to slow global warming.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who determined the pipeline was not in the country’s interest before Obama’s final decision, said approving Keystone “would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change.”
Read more at: UPDATE 5-Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline in win for greens | Reuters