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Evan Halper's December 2 article in the Los Angeles Times, "Power Struggle: Green energy versus a grid that's not ready" perpetuates the false narrative that renewable energy increases the risk of blackouts, when in fact the problem is centralized fossil fuel nonrenewable generation.
A more accurate, but perhaps less sensational, story would detail California's national leadership in reliably increasing the use of renewables -- like solar and wind energy. A recent report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the California Independent System Operator, two entities charged with ensuring grid reliability, highlights the many solutions the state is already adopting to address concerns raised by Mr. Hapler.
For example, despite Mr. Halper's claim that "nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine," the potential grid impacts arising from the variability of wind and solar energy are being addressed through improved forecasting and new regional partnerships that better leverage the geographic diversity of wind and solar resources, reducing overall variability in the energy system.
The article also suggests that California regulators recklessly disregarded cost concerns in requiring utilities to deploy energy storage. This couldn't be further from the truth. State regulators only adopted an energy storage requirement after an independent third-party analysis concluded that it is a cost-effective resource offering significant grid benefits.
As for renewables, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently concluded that if a third of the energy in the West were supplied by wind and solar, these resources would displace $7 billion in annual fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas pollution from the energy sector by approximately 30 percent.
The article also devotes significant space to depicting the effects of a 2011 blackout in San Diego that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission attributed to a faulty response by grid operators following an outage of a transmission line. This blackout had nothing to do with renewables. To the contrary, local clean energy like rooftop solar helps mitigate these types of events by generating energy locally and reducing reliance on imported power.
Of course, entirely missing from the article is the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to avoid the increasingly catastrophic impacts to California and the rest of the world. As the LA Times reported the day after Mr. Halper's article was published, a new National Resource Council report warned that accelerating levels of greenhouse gas pollution are increasing the risk of abrupt and severe changes to the climate that will leave nature and society with little time to react. California's leadership in both increasing the use of renewable energy and proactively finding solutions to address any grid impacts should be commended and accelerated, not baselessly criticized.
-- Matt Vespa, Sierra Club Senior Attorney
By Catherine Collentine, Sierra Club Beyond Natural Gas Colorado Campaign Representative
Successful ballot measures in Colorado to ban or place moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") built momentum to get methane emissions regulated in new statewide air-quality standards released in late November. In last month's elections, all four of the local ballot initiatives to halt or ban fracking in Colorado communities passed. Industry outspent community activists 40 to 1, but the people of this state got their message across loud and clear that they don't want fracking near their homes, schools, or communities.
These big wins were followed by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission proposing a set of emissions standards that would, if enacted, lead to a significant reduction in emissions of ozone-inducing methane and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) -- chemicals which form ground-level ozone (commonly known as smog) -- and emissions from natural gas drilling and fracking operations in the state.
While these rules are a step in the right direction to regulate the natural gas industry and would make Colorado the first state in the nation to regulate methane emissions, more action is needed. Colorado is out of compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air-quality standards along the population centers of the Front Range, where four out of five Coloradans live. (Colorado's population is about 5.2 million; more than 4 million live along the Front Range.)
The serious health effects of poor air quality are borne by citizens, especially young children and the elderly who suffer from asthma and other upper respiratory ailments. The natural gas industry is exempt from significant federal environmental regulations including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Through exemptions and lack of regulation, natural gas operations have been allowed to expand without safeguards for public health and the environment. The Air Quality Control Commission rules are necessary to slow this out-of-control polluting by drilling operations.
The proposed rules provide a promising start to significantly reducing methane and other pollutants from Colorado's oil and gas operations, but they must be strengthened further before they are finalized. A final rule must ensure that local control is given to communities to determine if they want destructive fracking in their backyards. The rules must address both the health and climate impacts of drilling and fracking, and require state-of-the-art technology to maximize emission reductions and tighten the timeline for leak detection and repair provisions.
This is our opportunity to hold the natural gas industry accountable to our citizens, communities, and the health of our environment. We look forward to making sure that all voices are heard, especially people facing the prospect of drilling near their homes and neighborhood schools, and those whose health and quality of life are at stake. We will work with the Air Quality Control Commission and the administration of Governor Hickenlooper -- as well as with other stakeholders in this process -- to push for the highest air-quality standards possible.
The Boulder, CO, Event Attracted Artists and Activists from Throughout the US and Abroad
On a cool November morning in Boulder, CO, we all were seated on this packed shuttle bus and decided to start introducing ourselves to each other. Soon I realized I was surrounded by loads of talent from many parts of the US and the world.
And my realization was reinforced when a gentleman seated a couple of rows ahead of me said, “I am Homero Aridjis, pleased to meet you.” Aridjis is Mexico’s most relevant poet, author of more than 50 books, and leader of the Group of 100, perhaps Latin America’s most influential environmental organization.
I got up and introduced myself shaking his hand in admiration. After all, my first assignment for the Sierra Club back in 2001 was to write a column for don Homero about the terrible effects of NAFTA’s Chapter 11 in Mexico. Little did I know that the circle was going to be completed on a rocking bus on our way to Boulder’s Municipal Library.
We finally arrived at our destination to attend the kick-off ceremony of the event that had attracted us all, the Americas Latino Festival, the first Latino arts and cultural event inspired by social and environmental justice and by everyone’s right to enjoy a healthy environment.
I attended representing the Sierra Club, one of the main sponsors, to make two presentations: the first one regarding climate change and environmental justice in the Latino community, and the second about the strengthening of democracy, and voter participation and protection.
I first shared the stage with Adrianna Quintero, founder and executive director of NRDC’s Latino Outreach Program, and Paty Romero Lankao, a sociologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
From left to right, organizer Irene Vilar, presenters Adrianna Quintero, Pati Romero Lankao and Javier Sierra (Photo: ALF)
My presentation dealt with the environmental paradox facing Latinos. On one hand, we Latinos are much more aware than the population in general of the dangers of the climate crisis and the need to open the gates to a prosperous, clean energy economy; and on the other, we disproportionally suffer the consequences of environmental degradation and pollution.
I made extensive use of the findings of the landmark National Survey on Latinos and the Environment conducted last year by the Sierra Club and NCLR. The study revealed that 92 percent of Latinos believe climate change is either taking place (77%) or will happen in the near future (15%). The same percentage believes we all have the responsibility to take care of God’s creation on earth.
Latinos, however, do suffer a daily, toxic bombardment with devastating consequences. Forty-three percent of us live or work dangerously close to a toxic site, such as a coal-burning plant, a refinery, an incinerator or an agricultural field. Almost half said at least one member of their family suffers from asthma and more than 40 percent said at least one family member has cancer. This happens among the community with the nation’s lowest healthcare insurance enrollment.
Then I indicated that without the Latino vote, which has proven to be crucial in the last two presidential elections, the progressive movement, including the environmental community, would fail to attain its lofty goals. And finally I explained how the Sierra Club has been reaching out to Latinos to be an integral part of the conservation movement and of the fight against pollution and polluters.
On my second presentation, I shared the panel with some very relevant Latino civil society leaders, such as María Echaveste, former presidential advisor to Bill Clinton and current policy and program development director at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, UC Berkeley; Héctor Sánchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; Ben Monterroso, national executive director of Mi Familia Vota, and Marcos Vilar, national field director of Mi Familia Vota.
The panel’s main focus was continuing the national Latino organization’s efforts to promote voter participation among Latinos, especially in off-years, such as the upcoming 2014 campaign. The panelists also dealt with the dangers of voter ID laws, which are designed to suppress the minority vote, especially the Latino one.
Of special concern was the Supreme Court decision earlier in the year that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the most effective instrument to protect the franchise in the country’s history. I emphasized that in the months that followed the decision, many states across he country moved to restrict the minority vote.
In general, the festival succeeded in attracting personalities in the arts, political activism and the environmental movement to confront problems and challenges from a unique artistic and cultural point of view. The combination worked, thanks to participants like the ones mentioned above and many more, such as:
• Writer Junot Díaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and witness to the Caribbean diaspora in the US.
• Writer Laura Esquivel, author of “Like Water for Chocolate.”
• Journalist Ray Suarez, a 14-year PBS veteran and current anchor of Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story.”
• Spanish artist Lorenzo Durán Silva, whose intricate leave cuttings depicting nature subjects has astonished art critics around the world.
• Guillermo Gómez Peña, Chicano poet, actor and political activist.
• Dafnis Prieto, percussionist, composer and current MacArthur Fellow, and many more.
The Americas Latino Festival has broken ground in the cultural, political and environmental arena, not only for Latinos but for the rest of the country as well. Let’s hope this is only the beginning.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist, @javier_SC
By Elisabeth Keating, Washington State Chapter Communications Chair
Growing up a New Englander, I was steeped in the lore of Thanksgiving. My parents hailed from the Boston Irish tribe of Massachusetts, and my four siblings and I were raised in southwest Connecticut. Thanksgivings were huge feasts, encompassing multiple types of pies, turkey, stuffing, creamed onions and green beans. And there was always the shared ritual of touch football with our cousins.
My family didn't eat any fish at Thanksgiving. But in fact, fish have been an intrinsic component of our nation's Thanksgiving feast from the start. After an Indian named Squanto taught the pilgrims to fish and harvest corn, the pilgrims and he teamed up in 1621 to plan a celebratory meal that probably included Atlantic salmon.
We've come a long way since 1621.
The FDA is now on the cusp of approving the first genetically modified animal: a genetically modified salmon that is part eel and includes antifreeze in its DNA so it can grow all year long. I wonder how John Smith would have reacted at that first Thanksgiving if Squanto had dumped some fish on the table and said, "We didn't actually catch this fish. We made it out of an eel, and threw in some antifreeze. Enjoy!"
In all seriousness:
Given that salmon is a keystone species that is intrinsic to Northwest tribal culture, identity and economic survival, it's hard to understand why the FDA hasn't considered any economic or cultural input from the tribes in its evaluation.
As I learned this fall from Anne Mosness, a wild salmon advocate who served on the steering committee of the failed Initiative 522 movement to label genetically modified food in Washington State, the U.S. FDA hasn't run rigorous testing on the fish from either the standpoint of its safety for human consumption or its potential effect on the wild salmon population if it escapes open pens and enters the environment.
It's not just that the AquaBounty salmon is partially eel, partially made with antifreeze. The AquaBounty salmon is bred to grow far more quickly than wild salmon. The risks of AquaBounty fish are well documented in this Center for Food Safety report: Genetically Engineered Salmon: The Next Generation of Industrial Aquaculture.
And while AquaBounty says it's raising the fish in Panama to prevent dangers of its escaping into the oceans, many of its permits are missing. And eventually, the salmon will be grown in open pens in the Pacific Northwest, given the strong emphasis on aquaculture and farmed fish from NOAA.
Things are moving quickly: Canada just approved genetically modified salmon eggs.
The Northwest tribes have already weighed in in a letter to the FDA, Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribal Community, said "The Tribe is also concerned that genetically engineered salmon pose a grave threat to the environment and to the health of the general population. We strongly believe that it would be an error for the FDA to accept the unsupported "guarantee" that all genetically engineered fish can be contained and not adversely impact people and the environment. History has shown that fish raised in aquaculture facilities can - and will - escape. It is also likely that genetically engineered fish would eventually be raised in open ocean net pens because nearly all commercial salmon production occurs in such pens. Farmed salmon routinely escape."
Tribal culture as well as fishing rights are put at risk by the AquaBounty salmon.
As Chief Weninock, of the Yakama tribe put it, back in 1915:
My strength is from the fish; my blood is from the fish, from the roots and berries. The fish and game are the essence of my life. I was not brought from a foreign country and did not come here. I was put here by the Creator. The approval process for genetically modified salmon has moved forward in secret without much attention from the national press. When you think about what we're at risk of losing, that seems extremely reckless.
• A rich tribal culture organized around the celebration of wild salmon, steeped in tradition.
• All the money and effort poured into salmon habitat restoration on the Elwha Rver and the Puyallup, to name just a couple.
• Massive efforts on the Sierra Club's part (as well as our partners) to make ecosystem-based management a key tenet of the revitalized Columbia River treaty.
• The entre wild salmon fishing industry: An economic bulwark of Washington State.
• Healthy food: full of omega vitamins. (Genetically modified salmon does not have the health benefits of wild) " Essential food for Pacific Northwest's rich and abundant wildlife including spirit bears, grizzlies, orcas, and wolves.
• A big profit for AquaBounty
• An untested fish that won't be labeled in stores or distinguishable from real wild salmon
• The first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption: that has been tested as a drug, not an animal.
This doesn't make sense. The risks are too high.
Eating salmon is about more than consuming any fish that's put in front of you and not knowing where it comes from. As the Northwest tribes know, it's about celebrating the cycle of life and carefully harvesting our bountiful planet.
In September 2013, the Lummi Nation held the first reef net fishery in generations. The net is suspended between two canoes. Tribal fishermen watch for the salmon to swim close to the surface, then lift the net. “A sxwole (reef net) is a gift from our creator, therefore an inherent right,” said Al Scott Johnnie, tribal cultural administrative policy assistant. “The sockeye salmon spirit came to our people and showed them how to make the reef net from the willow and other materials that were used from long ago. This was a way of life for our people, and the method was also to allow our sockeye to go up into the river so they could replenish, because they were our extended family.” For more information, read "Lummi Nation holds reef net fishery at Cherry Point."
OK, it's scary. What can you do about it?
KCBS News & Public Affairs Director, Sonya Green speaks with Rob Purser, Fisheries Director of the Suquamish Tribe, Valerie Segrest, Community Nutritionist and registered member of the Muckleshoot Tribe, and Anne Mosness, long time Fisherwoman and President of the Women's Maritime Association about their take on the possible approval of genetically engineered salmon for commercial sale.
The National Outdoor Book Awards has named Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall, by photographer, writer, and borderlands activist Krista Schlyer, as the winner of the 2013 award for Nature and the Environment.
When Schlyer learned that hundreds of miles of border walls recently built along the U.S.-Mexico border were causing damage to sensitive wildlands and wildlife, she took notice. More important, she took photographs. These photos, along with a well-researched narrative of the wild places of the borderlands, fill the 292 colorful pages of Continental Divide.
"This is groundbreaking work," says National Outdoor Book Awards Chair Ron Watters. "The effects of the border wall on the environment have been left out of the national discourse, but Krista casts a bright light on this forgotten part of the debate."
"Krista's writing and photography raise awareness about threats to land, air, water, and wildlife in our borderlands," says Dan Millis, leader of the Sierra Club's Borderlands Team and Conservation Program Coordinator for the Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. "Continental Divide is engaging, stunningly beautiful, and has a tremendous impact on us, the audience. For years, Krista has been a steadfast and powerful advocate for borderlands conservation, and she has helped Sierra Club bring the work of the Borderlands Team to a whole new level."Borderlands Campaign, says she wrote Continental Divide to help people understand what's at stake in the borderlands. "The fate of endangered jaguars, Sonoran pronghorn, ocelots, one of the last five free-ranging bison herds in North America, rare ecosystems that don't exist anywhere else in the United States -- all of these are jeopardized by the border wall. What are we willing to sacrifice for our war on the border?
"I saw this herd of bison crossing the border fence back when it was just a barbed-wire fence, and I later learned that they were traveling between their main water source in Mexico and their main food source back in the U.S. This was in 2007, just as the U.S. government was starting construction of the border wall. The wall now blocks migrations not just by bison, but thousands of other creatures that call the borderlands region home."
Working with the International League of Conservation Photographers, Schlyer organized a border-wide expedition to photograph landscapes, wildlife, and the impacts of the walls and the border buildup. The result was a photo exhibition that has toured around the country, and Schlyer's subsequent work culminated in Continental Divide.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already built more than 650 miles of walls and metal fencing along the 1,950-mile border separating the United States and Mexico, and another 700 miles of wall and fencing are planned. When Congress authorized the border wall, it allowed Homeland Security to waive environmental laws near the border, and as a result, the wall has devastated wildlife migration paths. It has also rerouted human traffic through the most pristine and sensitive of wild lands, including wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and national forests.
"Continental Divide is an important work on nature, and it's timely," says Waters, the National Outdoor Book Award chair. "It is the judges' hope that the book plays a role in jump-starting a more fully informed debate on the wall."
Between mid-October and the second week of November, the EPA held 11 public listening sessions across the country to solicit feedback, ideas, and input from the public about the best Clean Air Act approaches to reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants -- the nation's largest stationary source of carbon pollution, responsible for about one third of all greenhouse gas pollution in the United States.
Doing what it does best -- mobilizing grassroots support -- the Sierra Club answered the bell for the listening sessions. Club activists and supporters packed conference rooms, raised the roof at rallies and hearings, and submitted comments online, sending EPA a loud and clear message that Americans want the strongest possible safeguards against industrial carbon pollution from power plants.
In Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Lexana (Kansas), New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., more than 3,000 Sierra Club members and coalition supporters turned out for the listening sessions, organized and participated in rallies, and generated media attention. Over 2,000 people, including nearly 1,200 Sierra Club members and supporters, gave testimony supporting strong new carbon-pollution guidelines. By contrast, a total of 375 people testified in opposition.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Sierra Club's online organizing efforts, more than 16,000 people took action online, urging the EPA to put forth the strongest possible safeguards.
The Sierra Club has compiled a report about the listening sessions, recapping what came down at each location, including details from testimony and a statistical breakdown of how many citizens spoke out for and against strong new guidelines.
While historically the military has been one of the world's biggest fossil fuel consumers, in recent years it has moved to the front lines of alternative and renewable energy investments. The U.S. Department of Defense has committed to 680 alternative energy projects, driven by the fact that shifting to cleaner fuels not only benefits the environment, but also, ultimately, because it "reduces energy dependency, helps protect service members and costs less money," according to Department of Defense spokesperson Mark Wright.
One of the major goals of the energy projects is to cut down on petroleum use, and one of the ways the military is doing this is through investments in alternative fuel vehicles, such as plug-in electric vehicles and energy storage. And like many military projects that drive technological innovation, the benefits will eventually be shared by everyone.
A recent report by Navigant Research estimates that the U.S. military will more than double its current $435 million spending on alternative fuel vehicles by 2020, mostly through investments in plug-in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for non-tactical purposes (i.e., vehicles used for administrative or operative support of military functions). Based on interviews with Department of Defense officials and alternative fuel vehicle acquisition policies, Navigant predicts this investment will result in the military acquiring nearly 100,000 electric vehicles within the decade.
Scott Shepard, a lead researcher on the report, said that although "[Department of Defense] investment in [plug-in electric vehicles] will not drive mainstream interest in plug-in electric vehicles," the military investments may well help drive the technology development in advancing plug-in vehicles.
Vehicle-to-grid technology is one of these exciting developments. Some of the military's planned plug-in vehicle fleets will work as part of microgrids through vehicle-to-grid connections. Vehicle-to-grid-enabled plug-in electric vehicles act as energy storage units when plugged in, able to store energy, and then release it to the grid when needed. In Japan, vehicle-to-grid programs are already in place.
In military application, the vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicles would support power security in established microgrids, even during energy instability or emergency situations -- qualities that make such a setup clearly advantageous to the military. Vehicle-to-grid-enabled microgrids are already underway in bases in Hawaii and Colorado, and plans for expansion have been announced.
Outside of microgrids, vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicles can potentially produce revenue from frequency regulation services for larger grids -- a benefit that is "of specific interest to the military," according to Scott Shepard. The military clearly wants to save fuel and money, and electric vehicles and battery storage are a smart way to do that.
For the rest of us, technical and regulatory challenges still prevent mass vehicle-to-grid adoption in the U.S., but the University of Delaware is testing the vehicle-to-grid technology in civilian lifestyles with a fleet of vehicle-to-grid-enabled electric Mini Coopers, and earning nearly $2,000 per vehicle every year for energy storage and grid-balancing services. If the military investments in vehicle-to-grid technology can open the window for public use, the benefits from getting paid to plug in will likely make plug-in electric vehicles more attractive to new car buyers.
Already we're seeing companies take interest in consumer-based energy storage. For example, a rule by the California Public Utilities Commission requires investor-owned utilities to incorporate 1325 MW of electrical energy storage in their systems by 2020-including 200 MW of customer-side storage, which may involve vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicles in the future.
Leandra Cooper is an intern for the Sierra Club's Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative.
Can We Afford More Air Pollution, Climate Disruption, and Higher Bills?
By Matthew Vespa, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law Program
This past June, Southern California Edison (“SCE”), one of the largest electric utilities in the nation, announced the permanent retirement of the 2,200 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (“San Onofre”) after significant tube damage was discovered in its steam generators. The unexpected shutdown of San Onofre presents an exciting opportunity for California to demonstrate how it can continue to meet its future energy needs without new fossil fuel plants.
Unfortunately, state regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) are now considering building new gas plants in Southern California to replace San Onofre. Given the severe impacts of gas plants on public health and the environment, the region’s reduced energy needs, and the availability of clean energy solutions, there is no legitimate basis for the CPUC to approve new gas-fired power plants in response to the San Onofre shutdown.
New Gas Plants Are Costly, Increase Air Pollution, and Move Us Backwards On Meeting Our Climate Goals
New gas plants are extremely costly and would exacerbate the serious public health impacts already experienced in a region with some of the dirtiest air in the nation. New gas plants would also undermine California’s climate targets by replacing a carbon-free energy source with carbon-intensive generation. Following the shutdown of San Onofre, greenhouse gas pollution from in-state electricity generation rose 35 percent due to increased use of gas-fired power plants.1
Authorizing new gas plants as a permanent replacement solution for San Onofre in lieu of clean energy alternatives would mark a significant and potentially unrecoverable step backward in California’s efforts to combat climate change. As recognized by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, “a transition to zero- and near-zero emission technologies is necessary to meet 2023 and 2032 air quality standards and 2050 climate goals.”2
We Don’t Have to Choose Between Reliability and Pollution
Fortunately, no new gas plants are needed. While one might reflexively assume that retirement of a facility the size of San Onofre would require at least some gas-fired replacement generation, this assumption ignores both the significant progress California has already made in transitioning toward clean energy and the additional potential to accelerate deployment of clean energy resources.
Due in part to incorporation of recently adopted building and appliance codes, the latest demand forecast by the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) lowers future projections of energy demand in Southern California by over half the capacity provided by San Onofre. Remaining need resulting from the retirement of San Onofre should be met by properly accounting for anticipated progress in California’s clean energy programs: energy efficiency, distributed (rooftop and small scale) solar, energy storage, and demand response (incentivized changes in energy use by consumers from their regular usage pattern). To the extent that need still remains, it can be filled with additional targeted deployment of these resources.
If necessary, transmission improvements can also reduce the need for new gas-fired generation in the LA Basin. For example, the Mesa Loop-In project proposed by SCE to upgrade an existing substation would reduce generation need in the LA Basin by 1,200 MW –- the equivalent of two new mid-size gas plants.
A preliminary decision by the CPUC to approve new gas plants to replace San Onofre is expected in January. Contact the CPUC today and tell them not to replace San Onofre with new dirty gas plants. Gas plants will make our air and climate worse and just aren’t needed.
For more information on San Onofre and evidence highlighting the lack of need for new gas plants as replacement capacity, read the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the San Onofre Nuclear Plant.
 California Air Resources Board, 2208-2012 Emissions for Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Summary (Nov. 4, 2013) (showing increase in in-state greenhouse gas emissions from 30,732,214 metric tons in 2011 to 41,610,182 in 2012 and attributing change to increase in use of natural gas as fuel due to decrease in hydroelectric generation and loss of San Onofre), available at http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/reporting/ghg-rep/reported-data/2008-2012-ghg-emissions-summary.pdf.
 South Coast Air Quality Management District, Final 2012 Air Quality Management Plan (Dec. 2012), p. 1‑20, available at http://www.aqmd.gov/aqmp/2012aqmp/Final/Chapters.pdf.
By David Scott, Sierra Club President
As many readers of this blog are well aware, in June the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The proposal would strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across nearly the entire continental U.S., despite the fact that there are few, if any, wolves left in the vast majority of their former range.
Four public hearings on the proposed delisting were scheduled for earlier this fall, but three of them -- in Sacramento, Albuquerque, and Denver -- were cancelled due to the federal government shutdown. At the hearing that did take place, on September 30 in Washington, D.C., several Sierra Club activists were among the 73 citizens who spoke out against delisting (only three spoke in favor), and Sierra Club Legislative Director Debbie Sease spoke at a pre-hearing rally.
Despite cancellation of the official hearings, in early October hundreds of wolf supporters held citizens hearings in Albuquerque and Denver. In Albuquerque alone, 300 people showed up for a "Save the Lobo" rally and unofficial hearing where activists recorded video testimony to be delivered after the shutdown. (Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch Brothers, attempted to hold an event next door to the Save the Lobo rally, but only about 30 people showed up.)
Four make-up hearings on the gray wolf delisting have now been scheduled, and three are taking place this week, in Denver, Albuquerque, and Sacramento. A fourth and final hearing will take place in Pinetop, Arizona, on December 3.
Denver - Tuesday, November 19, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 405–1245
Albuquerque - Wednesday, November 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, Sandia Room, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102; (505) 245–7100
Sacramento - Friday, November 22, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the Marriot Courtyard Sacramento Cal Expo, Golden State Ballroom, 1782 Tribute Road, Sacramento, CA 95815; (916) 929–7900
Pinetop, AZ - Tuesday, December 3, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hon-Dah Conference Center, 777 Highway 260, Pinetop, AZ 85935 (3 miles outside of Pinetop at the Junction of Hwy 260 and Hwy 73); (928) 369–7625
I urge all who care about giving gray wolves a fighting chance of continuing their comeback to attend one of the hearings in person and speak out. And if you cannot attend a hearing, please take action here. The deadline for submitting public comments is December 17.
Wolf recovery has been one of our greatest Endangered Species Act success stories. Stripping away federal protections now, before the population has fully recovered, will negate the decades of hard work that have gone into bringing wolves back from the brink of extinction. Without federal protections, this magnificent symbol of our wild heritage will almost certainly slide back into harm's way. Wolf hunting seasons have been reintroduced over the last two years in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and more than 550 wolves were killed by hunters or trappers in the Northern Rockies this past season alone.
Wolves are among North America's most charismatic animals. The howl of the wolf is emblematic of our country's last wild places, reminding us of the power and beauty of the natural world. Wolves once ranged from coast to coast and from Alaska to Mexico, but they have been victims of prejudice since their early encounters with people. Targeted by bounty hunters for their pelts, they were poisoned, trapped, and shot, until by the 1970s, wolves remained only in remote areas of Minnesota and Michigan in the lower 48 states.
The tide began to turn when Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and wolves received official protection that same year. Since then, thanks to the federal protections, wolf populations have rebounded in the continental U.S., and today there are about 1,800 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and roughly 4,000 in the Great Lakes states.
The current proposal to strip gray wolves of federal protections reflects a political desire, not scientific reality. Now is the time to finish the job of wolf recovery, not abandon gray wolves to the same kinds of destructive forces that endangered them in the first place.
By Michael Marx, Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign Director
The Sierra Club has long supported Walmart workers and communities in their struggle for dignity and fairness. Sustainability simply can't happen without respect and humility, and it won't happen when a company like Walmart fails to follow through on climate promises.
When it comes to the environment, Walmart touts its stewardship, but a report released by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance -- Walmart's Assault on the Climate -- establishes that the world's largest retailer is failing to cut its carbon pollution. Walmart's own accounting shows that its carbon pollution has risen by 14 percent since the 2005 launch of its sustainability PR campaign, when it promised to lower it's emissions across the board.
Walmart's failure to cut its carbon pollution is even more devastating because the company excludes international shipping, new store construction, and sprawl from its calculations. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of the power Walmart uses to power its stores comes from renewable sources. Walmart is failing on clean energy.
On transportation, the Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign is working to help Walmart and other companies increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets. This is an area where Walmart could lead the industry. But the company's reliance on extreme fuel sources like oil from tar sands tie it to the world's dirtiest sources of energy. Large companies have an outsized influence on the efficiency of cars and trucks that manufacturers build, and on the sources of fuel that oil companies use. Nineteen major U.S. companies are avoiding oil from tar sands in their shipping and vehicle fleets. Walmart needs to take similar responsibility for its owned and contracted car and truck fleet and its carbon pollution.
The latest science reaffirms that to avoid irreversible harm from climate disruption, we must immediately make deep cuts in carbon pollution and move quickly toward a clean-energy economy. As the world's largest retailer, Walmart has an outsize share of responsibility to help get us there. Unfortunately, today's report indicates that Walmart is not taking effective steps to shift to renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, or sell sustainable products. Walmart cannot continue to out-size and out-pollute its competitors while simultaneously touting its business model as compatible with environmental sustainability.
Similarly, Walmart cannot continue to support climate deniers and radical anti-environmental public officials. Climate denial is a cynical and dangerous strategy, copied from the tobacco industry, to attack scientists and undermine public trust to delay action on cutting carbon pollution. Walmart has exercised its immense financial power to shirk the American public's demands for socially responsible business. The company is failing America on carbon pollution, it's failing its employees on livable wages and on the dignity and respect they deserve, and it's failing Americans by delaying action on climate.
If Walmart wants us to live better, it can start by treating its workers with the dignity and respect they deserve and taking real steps to cut carbon pollution.
By Elisabeth Keating, Washington State Chapter Communications Chair
After I witnessed a Galapagos green turtle hatchling finding the ocean (see Sharing "Hatch Day" with a Galapagos Sea Turtle), I set out to learn everything I could about the dangers that my turtle will face throughout his 60-year lifespan. I turned to sea turtle expert Dr. Bryan Wallace, Chief Scientist at the Oceanic Society, for some answers. That's Wallace, below, with a Galapagos green sea turtle.
What did I learn? Sea turtles face many threats from global warming. Ocean acidification could harm their shells and deplete their sea grass diet, their nesting beaches may become swamped, and as beach temperatures rise, it could skew the gender of hatchlings.
"The sex of hatchlings is determined by nest temperature," Dr. Wallace told me. "So as the planet warms, the sex ratio of sea turtles could be skewed. We could have higher numbers of females."
Beachfront overdevelopment can cause turtle hatchlings to become disoriented by bright lights, or impeded by buildings from finding the ocean. And in places like the Galapagos, boat strikes are becoming more of a problem as tourism increases. Overfishing also harms turtles, which can get tangled in nets and fishing gear.
Despite all these threats, Dr. Wallace remains positive. "I think we're underestimating how flexible turtles can be. They've adapted before to climate change. The big question is, how fast can they adapt?"
Some environmentalists have taken heroic steps to save sea turtle habitat. But as Dr. Wallace told me, "There are lots of things you can do to help the world's sea turtles, even if you don't live near the ocean. Everyday decisions by individual people really add up. If a significant number of people took responsibility for what they do it could make a big difference. "
Eat sustainable seafood. "By following the guidelines of Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute, you can be sure you're making smart seafood decisions that help protect turtles and marine ecosystems.
Shrimp fishing can be especially harmful to sea turtles and other marine species that get caught in shrimping nets. (Species who are not the intended prey are known as "bycatch.") Making smarter shrimp choices that reduce bycatch could save thousands of turtles."
Avoid plastic bags. "Bring a reusable bag to do your shopping. Even if you live in a landlocked city, your bags end up in the ocean eventually. Plastic doesn't biodegrade very quickly and it's a big deal for turtles. My colleagues and I are seeing more and more plastic in sea turtles' guts when we do necropsies determine the cause of death. A recent study showed that 40 percent of leatherbacks had some level of plastic in them, and that the rate of plastics showing up in turtles' guts is increasing. "
Make sea turtle-friendly travel decisions. "Beachfront development can be very harmful to sea turtles. It's unusual to see a hatchling in the daytime. They usually travel at night to avoid predators. Once ready to leave the nest, they first orient themselves to visual cues. They look for the brightest point on the horizon -- almost always the ocean. So artificial light really screws with their ability to find the ocean. They also use secondary cues like hearing the ocean, the smell of the ocean, and a sense of going downhill to find their way.
If you're taking a beach vacation, do your research and stay at turtle-friendly places. Ask them lots of questions before you book: Are sea turtles nesting at your property? Do you have turtle tours? Are your lights turtle-friendly? Reward seafront resorts that help turtles by spending your money there. "
Learn about sea turtles and where they live. "I work with an organization called The State of the World's Sea Turtles, or SWOT. Our goal is to measure the health of sea turtle populations around the world. We're creating a global network of people working to accelerate the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats, pooling and synthesizing data, and regularly sharing information. As part of this effort we author an annual report called The State of the World's Sea Turtles."
Support SWOT's work by volunteering or making a donation. "The SWOT research team isn't just made up of scientists. We rely upon help from concerned citizens to help us create a global database of sea turtles around the world. If you live near sea turtles and would like to join the SWOT team, we'd love to have you! Visit this page to sign up. Or you can donate to our research efforts and support sea turtle conservation around the world."
Elisabeth Keating is a Seattle-based writer and environmental activist.
By Dan Byrnes, Sierra Club Media Team
Off the charts. Strongest of the season. Super typhoon.
These are the descriptors media reports have given to Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, that made landfall in the Philippines on Friday.
With winds of up to 147 miles per hour, this typhoon might be stronger than any other of its kind to touch land in history. But even worse, the storm brought massive destruction to communities in the Philippines. At least four people were killed, and nearly 720,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.
Just days after the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and properties in the Northeastern United States, this super typhoon reminds us that increasing erratic weather has indeed become the new norm worldwide.
But we don't need to keep hearing these wake-up calls. We know what is fueling these superstorms, and there's something we can do about it. Climate disruption and its associated warmer temperatures are aggravating our weather patterns. Warmer ocean water pumps more energy into tropical storms, making them more intense and potentially more destructive. And warmer temperatures could increase the probability of drought and wildfire.
What can we do to slow these storms and and save other communities from threatening blows? The U.S. must lead on global climate action by reducing and ultimately eliminating the number-one cause of climate disruption -- carbon pollution.
True, the U.S. has made progress within its borders to reduce carbon pollution. A grassroots-led effort to move beyond fossil fuels like coal and oil and the advocacy of thousands has led us into a clean energy revolution with wind, solar, and other energy-efficient solutions. And the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever standards to clean up dangerous carbon emissions from new power plants in the U.S., the biggest unchecked source of climate-disrupting pollution.
But we need to scale these efforts up to a worldwide top priority if we want to see fewer weather-related catastrophes. The U.S. Department of Treasury has said it would no longer fund dangerous coal projects abroad, and other international financial institutions in the U.S. government, like the U.S. Export Import Bank, will issue similar guidances. This momentum must pick up steam, because runaway climate disruption won't begin to subside until fossil fuels are left in the ground.
The situation is not hopeless -- we're moving forward toward clean energy at a record pace. But we have to do whatever it takes to protect families and communities around the globe from extreme weather fuelled by the climate crisis. That's why as our thoughts go out to the communities and families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, we must urge our leaders to move forward on clean energy and break the chains held by the fossil fuel industries that are taking us backwards into a dark place. A world fueled by clean energy with a stable climate is possible. We're on the right path, and we can't afford to slow down.
A group of kids and their parents in Albuquerque just won the "Most Significant Political Message" award in the city's recent South Valley Dia de los Muertos Parade. The youth used the parade to speak out against the Albuquerque mayor's plan to over develop the town's river zone. And those kids? They're from the Central Group of the Rio Grande Sierra Club Chapter and the Bosque Action Team.
Here's the back story: Albuquerque is one of the only cities in the United States to have maintained its riparian habitat intact in an urban setting. The area formally called the Rio Grande Valley State Park, is known by locals as "the Bosque," the Spanish word for forest.
The first advocate for the Bosque's protection was Aldo Leopold, who at the time was the first secretary of the the town's chamber of commerce. He said that:
Albuquerque will be the site of the 50th Anniversary of Wilderness Conference in October of 2014 - Leopold helped to establish the country's first Wilderness - the Gila.
But now Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry is pushing a concept for the Bosque that would widen and pack trails, among other developments that would turn this open space into an urban park. Citizens have rallied to protect the area, but so far their cries have fallen on deaf ears from the mayor.
Congrats to the young activists for getting some attention for such an important forest! We hope the mayor responds very soon.
Thanks to Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman for this information.
Flooding and drilling equipment along Colorado's Front Range this fall. Photo courtesy of East Boulder County United.
By Eric Huber, Senior Managing Attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
In 2012 the City of Longmont, Colorado, passed regulations to protect its citizens from oil and gas drilling by prohibiting drilling in residential areas and requiring setbacks away from schools, creeks, and parks. The city also required oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals they truck through town and to consult with the city on wildlife impacts before drilling.
Incredibly, the State of Colorado and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued the city to get rid of the regulations, arguing that only the state can regulate oil and gas. Soon thereafter, the citizens of Longmont voted to ban hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") within city limits -- and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued the city again to undo the will of the people. The State has since joined in with them.
The Sierra Club Environmental Law Program intervened in both lawsuits to help defend the City of Longmont. Meanwhile, several other cities along Colorado's Front Range proposed similar measures. On November 5, the cities of Ft. Collins and Boulder passed five-year moratoriums on fracking. The City and County of Broomfield also proposed a five-year moratorium, which lost by 13 votes, making a recount likely. In the City of Lafayette, citizens passed a ban on fracking coupled with an assertion of the citizens' rights to a clean and healthy environment. Although a fracking moratorium was kept off the ballot in the City of Loveland based on a technicality, steps are underway to get a a special election on that in 2014.
According to press reports, oil and gas interests poured more than $900,000 into a media campaign to try and defeat these various measures. How the Longmont lawsuits turn out could well determine the legal fate of these ballot initiatives, and determine whether hundreds of thousands of people have the right to defend themselves against these industrial activities in their communities.
By Elisabeth Keating, Washington State Chapter Communications Chair
More than 650 Washingtonians gathered at Seattle's Bell Harbor Center on a foggy Wednesday night last week to give Governor Inslee and the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW) their ideas for how Washington state can met its aggressive goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
A passionate crowd of vocal citizens that included parents, students, professors, politicians, small business owners, activists, retirees, farmers, and fishers offered a wide smorgasbord of ideas to the panel. Suggestions ranged from improving fuel emissions standards to establishing a carbon tax (as has been done in British Columbia), shutting down proposed coal export and Baaken oil train terminals, improving energy efficiency in buildings, planting more trees, offering tax incentives for solar energy, investing in public transportation, and improving the infrastructure of bike paths and streets.
Many commenters questioned the logic of reducing greenhouse gases at home while shipping fossil fuels abroad by expanding oil and coal export terminals.
"Passing good climate policy here will be meaningless if we allow Washington to become a way-station for fossil fuel exports," said Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien. "I know that the export question is not your task here today, but it's fundamental to our ultimate goals. Do not allow fossil fuels to be exported from our state."
Carlo Voli, an environmental activist with Seattle350 and Rising Tide Seattle, said, "It would be like somebody trying to end their addiction to drugs while still dealing drugs to other parts of the world."
On the topic of coal export terminals, Governor Inslee said that, "I have insisted that our Department of Ecology evaluate the carbon pollution that would come from the coal if we were to ship it to China and the reason for that is that that carbon pollution ends up in our water. It doesn't matter where it's burned, it ends up in Puget Sound."
The Colstrip coal plant in Montana, one-third owned by Puget Sound Energy, was another major topic of discussion. Governor Inslee acknowledged that Colstrip has to factor into Washington State's calculations: "The first thing people have to understand is in our assessment of carbon pollution we take into consideration the carbon pollution generated by the coal that produces our electricity so when we're getting coal fired electricity from Montana we're figuring that under our tent."
Atmospheric Sciences Professor Dan Jaffee echoed the concerns of many. "The CO2 emissions from the Colstrip power plant alone are more than 21 percent of the emissions for the entire state of Washington, including all sources. These emissions make a substantial contribution to global warming."
Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association, connected Colstrip to depletion of Seattle's hydroelectric power supply.
"North Cascades National Park is home to one third of all glaciers within the Lower 48 states and they are all in retreat due to the warming climate. That means less water and earlier runoff into Ross Lake reservoir, making it more difficult to balance recreation, fish runs and power generation. Customers of Seattle City Light rely on 24 percent of our electricity from the Ross power house," Smith testified.
"The huge Colstrip coal-fired power plant in Montana, one-third owned by Puget Sound Energy, contributes to the carbon load in the atmosphere which ultimately melts our snowfields and glaciers here in Washington."
Several speakers called for investments in renewable energy. Tyler Comings of Synapse Energy Economics reported on a jobs study commissioned by the Sierra Club. The Synapse study found that wind power and energy efficiency projects would produce 40-50 percent more Washington State jobs than natural gas per unit of energy (as measured in average megawatts). Solar energy projects showed the most promise: The study projected that twice as many jobs would be generated by small scale rooftop solar energy projects as for large scale utility solar project due to the local labor and supplies required.
"We're talking about recapturing dollars that were previously leaving the state," Comings said. "Transitioning off of out-of-state coal could mean less money leaving the state; more investment in local, clean energy; more Washington jobs; and major reductions in carbon emissions."
O'Brian, Co-Chair of the Energy Committee of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club, advocated for three tactics to help achieve the state's goals. "First, shut Colstrip. Any replacement power should come from a mix of renewables and conservation, though we may condone limited natural gas. Second, investigate a carbon tax. Yoram Bauman has some good ideas and polling data. Third, the Utilities & Transportation Commission is where the rubber meets the road in terms of fixing the electric sector. Giving the UTC a specific environmental goal and the teeth to require compliance is the best way to meet the CLEW's goals in the electric sector."
An eleven-year-old testified on behalf of Plant for the planet, a children's advocacy group. "We need to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide by 2020. That's 150 trees per person on Earth. 1 trillion trees will soak up ten million tons of carbon dioxide per year."
And Rev. Robert L. Jeffrey, Sr., Executive Director of "Clean Greens", an organic farm that serves city residents, raised concerns about how climate change disproportionately affects African Americans. "Asthma impacts 30 percent more blacks than whites. Climate change is a race issue."
Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn advocated for expanding metro transit and rebuilding streets to support mixed use like walking and biking. "We should be exporting energy efficiency technology, not coal." The Mayor urged the Governor's panel to act decisively and without delay to curb greenhouse gas emissions. "We are the first generation to experience the effects of climate change and we are also the last generation to be able to do anything about it."
Learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to move Washington beyond coal.
By Ivy Main, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Vice-Chair
The long-awaited Cape Wind offshore wind farm will finally begin construction off the coast of Massachusetts in 2014. So, too, will the much smaller Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island. When completed, Cape Wind's 130 wind turbines will supply almost 75 percent of the power needs of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, while the 5-turbine Block Island Farm will supply enough clean energy to power over 17,000 homes.
2014 also seems likely to see a power purchase agreement for some of the energy to be generated by a 900 MW wind farm off the tip of Long Island that would feed power to a growing and hungry New York market, at a cost that's economic now.
And with a second round of grants from the Department of Energy expected next spring, demonstration projects of 12-25 MW will also go forward in three more locations, producing power in 2017 and helping set the stage for rapid growth in the industry. The first-round grants went to projects in Oregon, Texas, Ohio, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia.
These were a few of the highlights from the American Wind Energy Association 2013 offshore wind conference, held October 22-23 in Providence, Rhode Island. More than 700 attendees packed a ballroom to hear Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and others make the case for why offshore wind energy will play a growing role in the U.S., starting in the Northeast.
Five years have passed since the American Wind Energy Association, the University of Delaware, and the Sierra Club brought together researchers and wind developers for America's first-ever conference on offshore wind energy, in Dover, Delaware. Since then, the conference has grown in scope and attendance, but the only wind turbine to make it to U.S. waters is a one-eighth-scale test model off the coast of Maine.
While Europe surged ahead and now has more than 50 offshore wind farms, the U.S. has been hampered by a slow federal leasing process, uncertainty about tax credits, and a political process ill-suited to the long-range planning and regional cooperation needed to realize the potential of this industry.
But as this year's conference showed, the industry is moving ahead. Several states as well as the Obama administration identify offshore wind as a critical part of the response to climate change, as well as an opportunity to develop jobs. As many speakers explained, there is a strong business case to be made for it as well. Given the price spikes that have plagued natural gas in New England and elsewhere, it makes sense to diversify power sources. In addition to providing price stability, wind energy has also been shown to suppress wholesale energy prices, saving consumers money.
Perhaps most significantly, offshore wind power is likely to be the least-cost option in locations where demand is high, energy is expensive, and alternatives are few. This describes much of the Northeast, especially the densely populated area from northern New Jersey up to Massachusetts.
An analysis from AWS Truepower showed several factors that make offshore wind energy a good option in these areas:
• A growing demand for power, driven in part by new data centers;
• An already-congested transmission grid, coupled with the difficulty of either building new generation close to the load center or adding new transmission lines to bring in power from outside the area;
• The proximity of offshore wind energy areas to these load centers along the coast;
• High localized marginal prices for electricity, making offshore wind competitively priced; and
• The ability of offshore wind to provide power when demand is greatest.
This last element is especially compelling for utilities, which have to meet a demand for power that changes throughout the day. Unlike onshore wind, which blows most strongly at night, and solar energy, which peaks in the middle of the day, offshore wind picks up in the late morning and continues through the evening hours, matching times of highest demand. According to Bruce Bailey, CEO of AWS Truepower, this fact means that in the New York market, the revenues from offshore wind energy will be about two-and-a-half times that of onshore wind energy.
Whitney Wilson, the engineer who conducted the analysis for AWS Truepower, told me that when they looked at all the factors and then at the potential locations for offshore wind farms, one location stood out: a tract of ocean thirty miles off the coast of Montauk Point on Long Island, within the southern section of the Massachusetts/Rhode Island Wind Energy Area. Building wind farms there, her analysis showed, would provide the biggest bang for the buck.
Developer Deepwater Wind, LLC, won the right to develop the lease area last summer in the U.S.'s first-ever offshore wind lease auction. One likely customer may be the Long Island Power Authority, which put out an RFP for 280 MW of renewable energy, specifically mentioning offshore wind.
Lisa Dix, an organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in New York who was also at the conference, says offshore wind makes perfect sense for Long Island, and complements the Long Island utility's recent approval of a feed-in tariff for solar energy.
Other utilities seem likely to follow suit as they assess the benefits of offshore wind for their own customers. A greater understanding of these benefits will lead to the full buildout of the RI/MA area and the soon-to-be-leased New Jersey area.
The experience of Deepwater, Cape Wind, and the developers of the DOE-funded demonstration projects will help build the industry supply chain and workforce, and will produce the kind of learning that leads to lower prices for future projects. One such project involves the 2000 MW of the Virginia Wind Energy Area, which Dominion Power now holds the right to develop. While the economics are not currently as compelling in the cheap-energy South, this would change if the early movers achieve the cost reductions they are aiming for.
If states work together, these cost reductions and the development of a robust, domestic supply chain and workforce will happen better, sooner and smarter. Coordinated regional planning will support rapid growth in the industry while driving down costs in a virtuous cycle.
Given the urgency of climate change and the need to move the electric grid beyond fossil fuels as quickly as possible, Congress also has to make the growth of the offshore wind industry a national priority. Passing a long-term extension of the investment tax credit is a critical first step to support the tremendous renewable resource just off our coast.
Lincoln County, West Virginia, before mountaintop-removal mining.
On October 7, the West Virginia Public Service Commission issued an order in a lengthy asset transfer docket requiring FirstEnergy to, among other things, double its energy efficiency target to 1 percent annually by 2018. Late last year, FirstEnergy-regulated subsidiary Monongahela Power requested permission from the Commission to acquire nearly 1,500 megawatts of coal-fired capacity from fellow FirstEnergy subsidiary Allegheny Energy Supply, at a price to ratepayers of over $1.1 billion.
The Sierra Club intervened in the proceeding, and, along with others, argued extensively that the proposed price was too steep, that acquiring more coal-fired generation was environmentally shortsighted and risky to ratepayers, that the utility would be saddled with excess capacity it would be unlikely to recoup through market sales, and that investments in energy efficiency along with market purchases of electricity would be a dramatically cheaper way to serve customers, create jobs, and protect the environment.
The Club then participated in a coalition of stakeholders to help drive a settlement with FirstEnergy, resulting in dramatic increases in FirstEnergy's energy-efficiency requirements, investments in home and school weatherization projects to save even more energy, assistance to low-income ratepayers, and a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars to Monongahela Power's West Virginia customers.
The Commission approved the settlement, but went further. Citing concerns about overreliance on coal in a world seeking to address carbon pollution, the Commission determined that FirstEnergy must bear more of the risk that carbon pricing, and future environmental regulation would render the investment in more coal-fired generation a bad bet on behalf of its customers. As such, it may only recover from customers funds for part of the asset transfer if it can't sell enough of its new, surplus electricity to non-West Virginia customers.
At end, the dramatic increase in FirstEnergy's energy-efficiency targets in West Virginia will end up helping keep the air clean, fight climate change, protect customers, and create new clean energy jobs in West Virginia.
By Zack Fabish, Attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
This month the Sierra Student Coalition worked with Energy Action Coalition to bring over 6,000 youth activists together at Power Shift -- 2013's largest demonstration of youth action for a clean energy future. Students from more than 720 campuses and communities converged in Pittsburgh, PA, to share, train, and act on climate, energy, and environmental justice issues.
"Fossil fuel companies are like zombies from the apocalypse," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told thousands of cheering activists. "They don't know they're already dead. We're living in the middle of a clean-energy revolution. Renewables are going head-to-head with fossil fuels -- and they're winning."[View the story "15 Powerful Images from #PowerShift 2013" on Storify]
Next year, EPA will propose rules under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act limiting carbon emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired power plants. Not surprisingly, EPA's opponents are putting up a fight. The Federalist Society and a cadre of climate-rule-denying opponents have staked out a position that EPA may not use Section 111(d) to regulate greenhouse gases from any industrial source that is already subject to pollution controls for toxic pollutants under a different part of the law -- Section 112. So, as the climate-rule-deniers would have it, if EPA limits mercury emissions from coal plants under Section 112, it is prohibited from limiting carbon emissions from those plants under Section 111(d).
The climate-rule-denier view fails in many ways. It ignores the legislative history of the Clean Air Act, which shows that Congress did not intend for the law to operate in such an arbitrary fashion and exclude greenhouse gases from control under section 111(d). Fundamentally, it makes no sense. Why would Congress want to ban EPA from controlling greenhouse pollution from coal plants just because the agency controlled mercury pollution under a totally different part of the law? Under a much more sensible reading of the Clean Air Act, EPA may not use Section 111(d) to limit coal plant emissions of a particular pollutant only if it has already regulated that same pollutant under Section 112. For example, EPA cannot regulate mercury under section 111 since it has regulated mercury under section 112. EPA is not regulating carbon dioxide under section 112, and so is free to regulate it under section 111.
EPA has already expressed this eminently reasonable position, (see http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/anpr/.pdf at p. 155), and EPA's reading of the law will merit a court’s deference in any lawsuits challenging the carbon rule. Even some private sector attorneys have acknowledged that EPA's is the correct reading of the law (see http://www.eenews.net//2013/10/24/document_gw_01.pdf). Let’s hope the climate-rule-deniers' lawyers follow their lead and drop this last-ditch effort to block desperately needed controls on greenhouse gas pollution.
By Pat Gallagher, Joanne Spalding, Sanjay Narayan, and Andres Restrepo
Long Island, New York may soon become clean-energy central thanks to a recent decision by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to approve a 100-megawatt solar feed-in-tariff, which will triple solar generation through the Long Island Clean Solar Initiative program.
"The Clean Solar Initiative and residential solar programs have made Long Island a leader in solar power and reduced our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that pollute our air and make people sick," said Sierra Club Organizing Representative David Alicea. A feed-in-tariff lets people who go solar get paid for generated energy that feeds back into the grid, providing incentive for homeowners and business to adopt clean energy. LIPA's approval came with an additional promise to purchase 280 megawatts of renewable energy.
The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in New York played a big role in securing this clean-energy commitment. In September 2012, Beyond Coal organizers launched the "Let's Turn, Not Burn" campaign with local partners and the Long Island Sierra Club group, with the specific goal of pushing LIPA and Governor Cuomo to consider offshore wind energy.
"LIPA was considering several proposals for new energy generation, which included building a new gas plant or purchasing power from an offshore wind project proposed for eastern Long Island," said Lisa Dix of Beyond Coal New York.
While the campaign fell short of a 750-to-900-megawatt offshore wind proposal, the solar feed-in-tariff, a fuel-cell and wind feed-in-tariff, and the 280-megawatt commitment did get the green light last year. However, after Superstorm Sandy plowed through the region, politics threatened to undo the commitment. But the campaign, coalition, and allies were successful in pressuring the governor and legislators in Albany to hold firm on the commitment. "And we won," said Dix.
"We see the renewable energy procurement as the prime opportunity to get the Empire State to finally commit to clean-renewable offshore wind power. It's a sad fact that New York lags behind on renewable energy, an area where it should be leading. This year we will push to double down on wind energy to meet the state's renewable energy targets."
To that end, LIPA's decision marks an exciting development, especially as the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaches. The campaign worked with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Renewable Energy Long Island, the National Wildlife Federation, and others to keep the agency committed to clean energy.
"Long Islanders understand the real devastating effects of climate change," stated Adrienne Esposito, executive director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "We need to act now to curb polluting fossil fuels and increase renewable energies, including investing in offshore wind. It takes us a few months to site fossil fuel power plants and decades for clean offshore wind. We must reverse this pattern, tackle climate change and create a new energy paradigm."