Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

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

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

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

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags ,

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

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

Op-Ed: How oil won the battle for SB 350

Dan Morain, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
Before he would commit to voting for landmark legislation to cut petroleum use by 50 percent, Assemblyman Adam Gray had a few requests.
Actually, it was more than a few. The term sheet runs three pages. The quid for the quo is something to behold.
In one of his more remarkably bold suggestions, the Merced Democrat sought $550 million a year in cap-and-trade revenue to pay for more water storage. Additional water storage is a great idea. But cap-and-trade money must be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not provide water in perpetuity for Central Valley farmers.
And then there were the three pages of amendments offered by the Western States Petroleum Association. Its demands would have gutted the California Air Resources Board, the agency directly responsible for reducing air pollution created by the oil industry.
Faced with demands made by industry and well-greased Assembly members from his own Democratic Party, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León concluded last week that he had no choice but to gut the most significant part of his Senate Bill 350, the sections that sought to force a 50 percent reduction in oil use.
Not having been in the room when negotiations were going on, I don’t know who said what. But the wish lists offer some insights into the pulls and tugs that led to the decision to limit SB 350. Though it won’t cut oil use, it will reduce electricity use and increase wind and solar power.
Gray was quick to say “we have to take aggressive action on climate change.” He also defended his proposals by saying he wants to “make sure the Valley is not put at a disadvantage,” while people in “Palo Alto are driving around in Teslas.”
Gray is one of 20 or so Assembly Democrats who call themselves moderates, and held out against the petroleum reduction in SB 350. As near as I can tell, being a moderate has little to do with their stands on social issues, or their willingness to challenge the core of Democratic support, public employee unions; they aren’t.
Rather, the definition seems to revolve around a willingness to accept campaign money from oil, tobacco or anyone else, and their malleability when donors come calling. Certainly, the reflections of some of Gray’s donors can be seen in some of the amendments he suggested.
Read more at: Dan Morain: How oil won the battle for SB 350 | The Sacramento Bee

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

Jerry Brown, Kevin de Leon abandon legislative push to require 50 percent cut in gasoline use

David Siders & Jeremy B. White, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
In a major setback for Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate agenda, the governor and legislative leaders on Wednesday abandoned an effort to require a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use in motor vehicles by 2030.
The announcement followed weeks of lobbying by oil companies and resistance not only from Republicans, but moderate Democrats in the Assembly.
For Brown, the failure represented a rare legislative defeat, and on Wednesday there were two: In addition to dropping the petroleum reduction mandate from Senate Bill 350, Brown’s proposal to raise billions of dollars for road repairs appeared to stall.
At a dreary news conference at the Capitol, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said she does not expect a vote on road funding before the legislative session concludes at the end of the week, though she said lawmakers will continue to discuss transportation funding later.
Brown, who has made climate change a priority of his administration, said he will push forward on greenhouse gas emissions using his executive authority. The bill will preserve the California Air Resources Board’s existing power to make regulations that reduce emissions.
Read more at: Jerry Brown, Kevin de Leon abandon legislative push to require 50 percent cut in gasoline use

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

The untold story behind the Clean Power Plan

Carl Pope, HUFFPOST GREEN

So, in seven years, the fuel that launched the industrial revolution went from the height of its magnificence to a tottering finale. How did it happen, and what is the role of the Clean Power Plant rule in the saga?

The media missed the real story on the Obama Clean Power Plan. Most outlets, like the NYT, hail it as a ground-breaking major new initiative, which “could lead to the closing of hundreds of polluting coal-fired power plants, freeze future construction of such plants and lead to an explosion in production of wind and solar energy,” while Republicans blasted it as a huge example of Presidential hubris — precisely because it would accomplish those goals.
Political insiders like Politico and Slate claim it isn’t such a big deal. And at first blush the numbers seem to support the skeptics.The new rule will require reductions in carbon pollution from the power sector by 770 million tons — 32% against a 2005 baseline. But by the end of 2014, utilities had already cleaned up 350 million tons, and emissions were cut by another 15% in the first four months of 2015.
As of last week, power companies had also announced the future shut-down of additional plants which should lead to another 120 million tons — for a pre-CPP rule total of more than 470 out of the 770 million. So most of the cuts required have already taken place or been announced. Even Kentucky, the state whose Senior Senator, Mitch McConnell, seems willing to restart the Civil War over the EPA regulations, was already retiring or had retired 14 coal boilers — and these retirements will provide most of the emission cuts required under the CPP. What’s the big deal?
It’s true that the announcement of the final version of the CPP is more in the nature of a mopping-up operation than the initial invasion of Normandy. But armies engage in mopping-up operations only after they secure victory, and the CPP did not spring like Venus from the brow of President Obama last week — there’s a long history here. The CPP is the keystone of one of the most dramatic and fundamental economic restructures in history.
To understand what’s happened, look back to the summer of 2008. Coal was generating more than half of U.S. electricity, Peabody stock was headed towards $84.05/share, up two-fold since its 2001 IPO. Export coal from Australia was selling for close to $200/ton on the back of Chinese demand. U.S. utilities had proposed to add 150 new coal fired power plants to the 500 coal boilers the country already relied upon.
Read more at: The Untold Story Behind the Clean Power Rule | Carl Pope

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , Leave a comment on Everything you need to know about the EPA’s proposed rule on coal plants

Everything you need to know about the EPA’s proposed rule on coal plants

Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, THE WASHINGTON POST

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed a rule designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. The regulation has prompted heavy lobbying from industry and environmental groups, and the ensuing battle promises to become, as the Natural Resources Defense Council Climate Director Peter Altman put it, “the Super Bowl of climate politics.”

Why is the EPA regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants?

Temperatures at sea, on land and on ice all point to a warming trend over the past century, according to several indicators in the government’s National Climate Assessment.

Under President George W. Bush, the agency argued that Congress never intended to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, so it lacked authority to do so. In 2007, the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA that the law was “unambiguous” and that emissions came under its broad definition of “air pollutant.” It ordered the agency to determine whether greenhouse-gas emissions endanger public health or the environment. The EPA issued an “endangerment finding” in December 2009 that laid the groundwork for the power-plant rule it proposed Monday.

Why target existing power plants?

Existing power plants are the largest source of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 38 percent. (The transportation sector comes in second, at 32 percent.) Much of this pollution stems from aging, coal-fired power plants.

The EPA says the average age of the nation’s coal fleet is 42 years, meaning that most of them aren’t nearly as efficient as new coal plants, although many have been updated. Some were built when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, said Exelon chief executive Christopher Crane.

via Everything you need to know about the EPA’s proposed rule on coal plants – The Washington Post.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , Leave a comment on A battle is looming over renewable energy, and fossil fuel interests are losing

A battle is looming over renewable energy, and fossil fuel interests are losing

Steven Mufson and Tom Hamburger, THE WASHINGTON POST

In state capitals across the country, legislators are debating proposals to roll back environmental rules, prodded by industry and advocacy groups eager to curtail regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases.

The measures, which have been introduced in about 18 states, lie at the heart of an effort to expand to the state level the battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy. The new rules would trim or abolish climate mandates — including those that require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

But the campaign — despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity — has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.

The stage has been set for what one lobbyist called “trench warfare” as moneyed interests on both sides wrestle over some of the strongest regulations for promoting renewable energy. And the issues are likely to surface this fall in the midterm elections, as well, with California billionaire Tom Steyer pouring money into various gubernatorial and state and federal legislative races to back candidates who support tough rules curbing pollution.

via A battle is looming over renewable energy, and fossil fuel interests are losing – The Washington Post.