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Energy and Environment

Lyme Disease Spreads as Humans Unravel the Web of Life?

by: aprilmoore

Wed Oct 22, 2014 at 11:56:59 AM EDT

(Add in other diseases too, like Ebola, which has almost certainly spread due to deforestation and other human depradations on the environment. When (if ever) will we learn? - promoted by lowkell)

A few days ago I received a shocking email from Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).  Subject line:  "Mike diagnosed with Lyme Disease."

Oh no!  As a CCAN board member, I knew that Mike had been dealing with miserable, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and muscle stiffness for sometime.  I felt terrible to learn this news.  Lyme Disease is a frightening illness that is hard to cure and sometimes leaves lasting damage.  

I felt sad to think of this prospect for Mike.  In addition to being a great guy, Mike is an inspiration to climate activists in the mid-Atlantic region, where CCAN operates, and beyond.  One of the most dedicated climate warriors I know, Mike is also an effective organizer, writer, speaker, and fundraiser.  He is a mentor to a great many of us, and we need him to be healthy!

Mike noted in his email that he knows many people in the mid-Atlantic region who have had Lyme Disease.  I have to admit that I can say the same.  Just in the last year or so, the number of people I know with Lyme Disease has increased dramatically.  

Yes, I know that a warming world means many diseases are on the move.   For example, tropical diseases, never before seen in the United States, are expected to move northward from the tropics into the American south. When I first heard about Lyme Disease 25 years ago, it was in places north of us, places like New England and northern Minnesota.

If climate change is pushing diseases toward the poles, then it would seem that the explanation for the increased incidence in our region must lie elsewhere.  So I wondered, what might the answer be?  Clearly, something is going on that is making the mid-Atlantic region hospitable to the tick that transmits the disease.  

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"Solar PV is mostly a threat to utility investors and shareholders, not ratepayers"

by: lowkell

Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 20:09:41 PM EDT

I'm cross posting this here from Scaling Green, as it's directly relevant to Dominion Power, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), and all the ignorant, stupid s*** I've heard recently from the likes of Bill "ALEC" Howell about clean energy, the future of Dominion Power, etc, etc. Do these folks know anything at all about energy markets? Based on what they've been saying in recent days, it sure doesn't seem that way. Now, here's someone who actually DOES know what he's talking about...David Roberts of Grist, who frankly is smarter than the entire SCC, Dominion Power executives and Virginia House of Delegates "leadership" put together. And no, that wasn't meant as a backhanded compliment to David Roberts. :)

UPDATE 11:10 am Wednesday: It appears that even a hyper-conservative coal country legislator (State Sen. Bill Carrico) says he can live with the Clean Power Plan. No doubt because he knows, deep down, that it's a winner for Virginia jobs and the economy. Meanwhile, the Bill Howells of the world are hard at work actually (albeit unintentionally/cluelessly) hastening the demise of Dominion Power.

The headline of this post is quite possibly the energy-related quote of the day, maybe the week or even month. It's courtesy of David Roberts of Grist, back to providing us with consistently incisive analysis after a year-long sabbatical. Today, Roberts has a must-read post (in his case, maybe we should call it an "even-more-must-read-than-usual-for-David-Roberts" post) entitled, "Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct." It's really worth your time to read the whole thing, and we strongly recommend you do that if you're interested in the future evolution of clean energy (which of course you are if you're reading this blog!). For now, here are the key points, including Roberts' awesome quote.

  • Distributed solar power poses a serious threat to power utilities, and "utilities are fighting back, attempting to impose additional fees and restrictions on solar customers."
  • The problem is, the way the utilities are fighting back - "cling[ing] to their familiar business model" while trying to recoup lost revenues through "rate-tweaking" - is not going to save them. Instead, they need to undertake "a wholesale rethinking of the utility business model" -- "sooner" rather than later if they're smart.
  • Two new analyses -- "Financial Impacts of Net-Metered PV on Utilities and Ratepayers" by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and "Does Disruptive Competition Mean a Death Spiral for Electric Utilities?" by Elisabeth Graffy and Steven Kihm --  zero in on the core problem(s) facing utilities faced with the "disruptive threat" of rapidly growing distributed solar power. For instance, what happens "if solar PV penetration rose to between 2.5 and 10 percent of total retail sales by 2022?" The answer: utilities equity and earnings fall a lot, while rates go up only a little.  Which leads us right to Roberts' superb quote: "Solar PV is mostly a threat to utility investors and shareholders, not ratepayers."
  • The problem for utilities is that their whole business model is based on building "more power plants and power lines," which as Roberts points out is both "insane" (in that it's not just diametrically opposed to "our social and environmental goals"), but also the polar opposite of where power markets are headed -- towards more distributed power and more consumer autonomy.
  • Does all this mean an inevitable "death spiral" for investor-owned utilities?  Not necessarily, according to the Graffy and Kihm analysis, as long as utilities are willing and able to muster "the organizational foresight and habits needed to respond proactively to disruptive threats." The problem, in Roberts' view, is that after "a century of enjoying regulated-monopoly status, with returns guaranteed by law and expansion as far as the eye could see, utilities have virtually none of [that]."
  • Another, short-term option for utilities is to try to recover their costs by raising rates, fees, etc. to consumers. The problem with this approach, of course, is that it only leads to "a bunch of dissatisfied customers seeking non-grid alternatives," and "a growing market that will attract more and more entrepreneurial attention, thus accelerating customer defections." In short, "The longer utilities try to hold back the wave with legal or regulatory roadblocks, the harder it will hit them when it finally comes."
  • The bottom line is that utilities need to adapt to the distributed solar power revolution, and fast. If they try to resist this revolution, their demise - the "death spiral" - will only be more assured (and probably more sudden). The alternative: "Instead of viewing ratepayers as passive sources of cost recovery, utilities ought to view them as, y'know, customers. Offer them products and services that satisfy their evolving preferences." We'll see if they're smart enough to do that, but as Roberts points out, "regulated-monopoly" utilities are simply "not prepared for this sh*t."  In other words, the next few years will be crucial - not to mention fascinating to observe as this process plays out.
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Virginia's SCC staff goes rogue, attacks EPA over the Clean Power Plan

by: ivymain

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 17:25:02 PM EDT

(That's a photo of SCC headquarters, by the way. I wonder if it's LEED certified. Heh. ;) - promoted by lowkell)

In recent years paleontologists have come to believe that the dinosaurs did not go extinct; they evolved into today's chickens and other birds. It turns out, however, that some of them did not evolve. Instead, they took jobs at Virginia's State Corporation Commission.

Now they've put their DNA on full display with comments they filed on the EPA's Clean Power Plan. The proposed EPA rules, under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, would require states to reduce the power plant CO2 emissions driving climate change. The staffers assert primly that they "take no position on the broad policy issues," but that they feel "compelled" to point out all the ways the plan is "arbitrary, capricious, unsupported, and unlawful." These mostly boil down to their claims that the plan will force coal plant closures, raise rates significantly and threaten service reliability-claims experts say are badly off-base.

Note that the commissioners themselves didn't sign onto these comments. They come from the career staff at the Energy Regulatory Division, led by Bill Stevens, the Director, and Bill Chambliss, the General Counsel. This is pretty peculiar. I can't think of a single other agency of government where the staff would file comments on a federal rulemaking without the oversight of their bosses.

Bill and Bill acknowledge in a footnote that the staff comments represent only their own views and not those of the commissioners. But that distinction has already been lost on at least one lawmaker. Today Speaker of the House William J. Howell released a statement declaring, "The independent, nonpartisan analysis of the State Corporation Commission confirms that President Obama's environmental policies could devastate Virginia's economy."

And really, "devastate"? But that's the kind of hysteria you hear from opponents of the Clean Power Plan. While the rest of us see healthier air, huge opportunities for job growth in the clean energy sector, and the chance to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption, the Friends of Coal see only devastation. And no wonder: according to the Virginia Public Access Project, Howell accepted $14,000 from the coal industry just this year alone.

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Virginia Sierra Club: Climate Science Deniers Apparently in Charge of State Corporation Commission

by: lowkell

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 13:00:16 PM EDT

This morning, one of the most powerful entities in Virginia (that almost nobody has ever heard of) said something so stupid, so seemingly crazy, so contrary to verifiable facts, that at first it almost seemed like an "Onion" parody. But no, apparently it was real, if you believe the news reports. The question is, why did the SCC do it? Are they really a bunch of climate science deniers, as the Virginia Sierra Club says? Or are they "playing politics with climate change science...bringing discredit on the commission," as Virginia Sierra Club Director Glen Besa believes?

Actually, I'd say this goes way beyond climate science denial or playing politics (although certainly both of those are possibilities, maybe even likelihoods) into another seriously problematic area: namely, that the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) simply does the bidding of...yep, corporations, as its name might indicate. More to the point, the SCC does NOT serve the interest of the public, unless perhaps you believe that "corporations are people, my friend," as Willard "Mitt" Romney infamously claimed. Meanwhile, there's yet another huge problem with the SCC: as a Virginia Democratic elected official explained to me, the SCC is "totally unaccountable," with "zero oversight or sunshine," and that's absolutely "crazy."

Just to demonstrate what a bunch of control freaks these people are, see Battle for Transparency at State Corporation Commission Moves Online. As the article correctly points out, SCC deliberations "take place behind closed doors," and "when commissioners meet to consider guidelines for utility companies or payday lenders, the meetings are closed," but the SCC doesn't want anyone to know that. Believe it or not, the SCC isn't even subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This is, in short, the exact opposite of good, honest, open, transparent government, and we should all demand that it change.

But back to the subject at hand: the SCC's utterly laughable "analysis," which basically consists of a bizarre, outrageously false trashing of renewable energy and perversion of economics. The reality is that, outside of the secretive bunch of corporate tools that make up the SCC, basically every other serious analyst out there sees the exact opposite of what the SCC claims to be seeing here when it comes to energy efficiency, solar and wind power. Let's throw out a few facts, not that they will get in the way of the SCC's slavish shilling for its corporate masters, climate science denial, or whatever else they're up to.

1. In fact, the price of renewable energy, particularly solar power, is plummeting. See, for instance, this recent article at Greentech Media, which reports: "After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts' worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's 2 cents cheaper than last year's bids."

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Is Karmis Too Conflicted to Analyze How Virginia Can Respond to Fed's Clean Power Plan?

by: lowkell

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 09:25:18 AM EDT

Cross posted from the Checks and Balances Project. Written by Scott Peterson --
Executive Director, The Checks and Balances Project.

On Tuesday, I was in Richmond for Gov. McAuliffe's unveiling of the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan. I had an opportunity to pursue questions about why Dr. Michael Karmis, Director of Virginia Tech's Center for Coal Research, was chosen to write the critical cost-benefit analysis for Virginia's response to the federal Clean Power Plan (CPP).

A cost-benefit analysis would normally be an obscure, bureaucratic document. But this year the Virginia legislature mandated a cost benefit analysis be included in the third annual state energy plan. How Virginia responds to the federal CPP standards is a big deal. People ask me why a coal backer was tasked with writing this foundational document that the legislature will rely upon. I typically respond, "Good question!"

As I see it, here are some important questions that need to be answered:

  • Why was Dr. Karmis chosen?
  • Why did Dr. Karmis choose Clean Air Markets LLC, J. E. Cichanowicz Inc., and Chmura Economics and Analytics and no firms with renewable energy experience?
  • Did Dr. Karmis consult with any renewable energy experts during his execution of the cost benefit analysis?
  • Did anyone on Dr. Karmis's staff provide input on renewable energy in preparation of the analysis? If so who are they and what are their credentials?
  • Why did Dr. Karmis not ask his Virginia Tech colleague and renewable energy expert Dr. Saifur Rahman for his input on renewable energy?
  • Did any lobbyists recommend to Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) that Dr. Karmis be hired?
  • Is Dr. Karmis too conflicted to write a document the Governor and legislature will depend upon as an unbiased, informed look at how Virginia can best respond to the CPP?
On pages 94 and 95 of his cost-benefit analysis, Dr. Karmis states:
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McAuliffe's Energy Plan has a little something for (almost) everyone

by: ivymain

Thu Oct 16, 2014 at 18:49:37 PM EDT

(This is basically my reaction as well; some good stuff in this plan, but also some bad stuff, and generally not enough specifics about how to get any of the good stuff past our Dominion-bought-and-paid-for General Assembly. - promoted by lowkell)

On October 1, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy released the McAuliffe administration's rewrite of the Virginia Energy Plan. Tomorrow, on October 14, Governor McAuliffe is scheduled to speak about the plan at an "executive briefing" to be held at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. Will he talk most about fossil fuels, or clean energy? Chances are, we'll hear a lot about both.

Like the versions written by previous governors, McAuliffe's plan boasts of an "all of the above" approach. But don't let that put you off. In spite of major lapses of the drill-baby-drill variety, this plan has more about solar energy, offshore wind, and energy efficiency, and less about coal, than we are used to seeing from a Virginia governor.

Keep in mind that although the Virginia Code requires an energy plan rewrite every four years, the plan does not have the force of law. It is intended to lay out principles, to be the governor's platform and a basis for action, not the action itself. This is why they tend to look like such a hodge-podge: it's just so easy to promise every constituency what it wants. The fights come in the General Assembly, when the various interests look for follow-through.

Here's a summary of some of the major recommendations:

Renewable energy. Advocates and energy libertarians will like the barrier-busting approach called for in the Energy Plan, including raising the cap on customer-owned solar and other renewables from the current 1% of a utility's peak load to 3%; allowing neighborhoods and office parks to develop and share renewable energy projects; allowing third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) statewide and doubling both the size of projects allowed and the overall program limit; and increasing the size limits on both residential (to 40 kW) and commercial (to 1 MW) net metered projects, with standby charges allowed only for projects over 20 kW (up from the current 10 kW for residential, but seemingly now to be applied to all systems).

It also proposes a program that would allow utilities to build off-site solar facilities on behalf of subscribers and provide on-bill financing to pay for it. This sounds rather like a true green power program, but here the customers would pay to build and own the project instead of simply buying electricity from renewable energy projects.  

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Guess Which State is Almost Completely Missing Out on the Solar Power Boom?

by: lowkell

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 14:33:23 PM EDT

Yes, you guessed it: our state, Virginia, is the one missing out on the national solar power boom that's well underway (note: click on the map to "embiggen"). For more, check out the Solar Means Business Report, released this morning. Among other things, the report finds that the "average price of a completed commercial [solar] PV project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and by more than 45 percent since 2012." A few more factoids:

*"Since 2010, U.S. businesses have installed solar systems at their facilities more than 32,000 times."

*"For the second straight year, U.S. businesses, non-profits and government organizations added more than 1,000 MW of new PV solar installations. As of mid-2014, there were 4,531 MW of commercial solar PV installed on 41,803 business, non-profit and government locations throughout the U.S."

*"American businesses are turning to solar because it's good for their bottom line. For many companies, electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases."

*"While retailers have installed the most capacity, auto manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and food servicers, as well as companies in many other industries, have all looked to solar to lower operating costs."

*"The rest of the U.S. is catching up to the likes of California and New Jersey, the first and second largest state markets for commercial solar. Leaders in those states and others like them have put in place smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar." (note: thanks in large part to the strongly negative influence of Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power, Virginia has NOT put in place "smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar")

*"In total, 129 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico live within 20 miles of at least one of the 1,110 commercial solar installations that were analyzed in this report." (again, Virginia is missing out)

Oh, and if that's not enough to make you really angry that Virginia has not seized this opportunity, see an article which just came out a few minutes ago, Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power, which reported: "After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts' worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's 2 cents cheaper than last year's bids."

How cheap is that? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Average Retail Price of Electricity to Virginia residential users as of July 2014 was 11.98 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost to all Virginia power users was 9.79 cents per kilowatt-hour. Again, the new solar power bidding in Georgia came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Remind me again, why aren't we going solar big-time in Virginia (not to mention energy efficiency, which is even cheaper than 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour in most cases)? Oh yeah, our pals at Dominion Power...

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Governor McAuliffe Formally Unveils 2014 Virginia Energy Plan

by: lowkell

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 12:04:45 PM EDT

I don't have time to review this right now, but hopefully I'll get to it later today. The bottom line, though, is that we need to move as urgently as possible to a clean energy economy. No cowardly half measures or "all-of-the-above" bull****, the science clearly tells us we need clean energy all the way!



Richmond, Va. – Governor Terry McAuliffe today formally unveiled the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan at an event co-sponsored by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.  The Governor laid out his strategic vision for energy policy in Virginia in front of a mixture of members of the business and conservation communities.


The Governor’s energy plan highlights his commitment to a true “all of the above” energy strategy that will promote the use and development of all available resources.     


In his remarks, Governor McAuliffe said, “If we are going to build the economy Virginia families deserve, we must begin by giving them the energy plan our economy demands. The plan we are rolling out today is focused on growing our energy economy (particularly in the renewable sector), emphasizing energy conservation, strengthening our energy infrastructure and training the workforce we need for the future.


“By working together, I am confident that four years from now we will live in a stronger Commonwealth that is less dependent on external forces and is fueled by cleaner, cheaper and more abundant Virginia energy.”


Barry DuVal, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and event co-host stated, “We commend Governor McAuliffe’s commitment to an all-of-the above strategy for energy and look forward to working with his administration on strengthening Virginia’s energy infrastructure and growing this important sector of our economy.” 


Michael Town, Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and also a co-host, added, “Governor McAuliffe campaigned on clean energy job creation. The good news is that his Energy Plan recognizes that smart pollution cuts can mean a business opportunity to create clean energy jobs and save consumers and businesses money. Neighboring states have created 290,000 clean energy jobs in recent years while Virginia stood still. He has an opportunity to change that with his response to the Clean Power Plan standards."


Key highlights of the Energy Plan include:


Strategically grow the energy sector by promoting increased development of renewable generation and supporting innovation in nuclear technology.


Reduce energy consumption by aggressively pursuing energy efficiency measures in government, businesses and residences. 


Invest in reliable and resilient energy infrastructure to strengthen Virginia’s already strong business climate.


Prepare Virginia’s workforce to drive the future energy economy.


To view the full Energy Plan click here.

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Fracking Cover-up in NY State: If It Can Happen There, It Can Happen Anywhere

by: lowkell

Tue Oct 07, 2014 at 14:51:18 PM EDT

Cross-posted from Scaling Green

If you ever hear anyone talk about fracking being a merit-driven process, here's Exhibit A as to why that's just not true.

A federal water study commissioned by the Cuomo administration as it weighed a key decision on fracking was edited and delayed by state officials before it was published, a Capital review has found.

The study, originally commissioned by the state in 2011, when the administration was reportedly considering approving fracking on a limited basis, was going to result in a number of politically inconvenient conclusions for Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to an early draft of the report by the U.S. Geological Survey obtained by Capital through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A comparison of the original draft of the study on naturally occurring methane in water wells across the gas-rich Southern Tier with the final version of the report, which came out after extensive communications between the federal agency and Cuomo administration officials, reveals that some of the authors' original descriptions of environmental and health risks associated with fracking were played down or removed.

The final version of the report also excised a reference to risks associated with gas pipelines and underground storage-a reference which could have complicated the Cuomo administration's potential support for a number of other controversial energy projects, including a proposed gas storage facility in the Finger Lakes region that local wine makers say could destroy their burgeoning industry.

This is important reading for concerned citizens not just in New York, but in other states as well. That includes Virginia, where Gov. McAuliffe recently expressed strong support for a massive, 550-mile natural gas pipeline (originating in West Virginia and terminating in North Carolina), about which the Chesapeake Climate Action Network correctly noted that it would only "encourage more hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking."  Another problem is that, just as in New York State, any serious, unbiased, scientific study wouldn find the same "environmental and health risks associated with fracking" that were found there --but conveniently "played down or removed." Is there any reason to think that sequence of events wouldn't happen in other states, like Virginia?  Far more  likely, to paraphrase the classic song "New York, New York," if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. Just make sure it doesn't happen in your state next.
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Koch Brothers-Funded Group Issues "Study," Gets it Wildly Wrong on EPA's Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 23:00:00 PM EDT

Not that we should expect any better from a group funded by the Koch brothers (read the Rolling Stone demolition of these truly heinous individuals and their "toxic empire") and other fossil fuel interests, but the  bizarre "60 Plus Association" ("the conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons" -- seriously!) has really outdone itself on this one. Check out the Citizen Vox takedown of this propagandistic drivel.
The group relies on a sleight-of-hand to make its claim: It cites only the EPA's projection that electricity prices will increase under its rule (Clean Power Plan Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) Table 3-21) while ignoring the projection, just a few pages later in the very same document, that electricity bills will actually decline. The rule includes efficiency measures that will result in consumers using significantly less power. (RIA Table 3-24). So raw electricity prices will go up a bit, but we will use less power-and pay less overall.

Also, 60 Plus looks only at the agency's analysis for 2020, rather than its longer-term projections. What happens in the long term is obviously more important. It's also much more favorable.


60 Plus points out that electricity prices will rise 6.5 percent in 2020, but it ignores that actual bills will rise by less than half that (3.2 percent) in 2020 and will decline 5.3 percent by 2025 and 8.4 percent by 2030. The numbers are even more favorable under the EPA's other major scenario, in which states band together and comply in regional groups rather than comply separately. There, bills would fall by 8.7 percent by 2030...

It will be interesting to see if any corporate media outlet is gullible enough to pick up this "study." If they do, let's see if they properly identify this group as bought and paid for by fossil fuel interests...
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Tonight, Chris Hayes Begins "All in America: Coal Country"

by: TheGreenMiles

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 11:11:33 AM EDT

The All In staff has also put together a series of advanced reading posts to learn more about the politics of coal, what is "clean" coal, coal & tobacco, and alternative energy.

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Sierra Club Calls on Dominion Resources To Quit American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

by: lowkell

Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 15:47:53 PM EDT

From the Virginia Sierra Club:


Group’s Call Follows High Profile Corporate Defections by Google, Facebook and Occidental Petroleum over ALEC’s Climate Position


(Richmond, VA)  The Sierra Club today called on Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources, Inc., a Fortune 300 company and one of the largest energy corporations in the United States, to withdraw its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC. The Sierra Club, America’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, announced that a recent effort led to more than 27,000 people from across the nation writing to Dominion CEO and chairman Thomas Farrell II, calling on the company to pull out of ALEC.


The 27,000-signature campaign followed a September 4 Sierra Club-led rally at ALEC’s Arlington, Va. headquarters, where 80 people from a coalition of nine groups held signs along busy U.S. Route 1 and demanded that Dominion “Dump ALEC.”


ALEC has been described as a “corporate bill mill” that brings together state legislators and lobbyists from big corporations to advance those corporations’ agenda. ALEC suffered a rash of major corporate defections in the past two weeks after Google chairman Eric Schmidt on September 26 said publicly that Google withdrew from ALEC because ALEC has been “actually lying” about climate change


Earlier this summer Microsoft announced it was leaving ALEC because of the organization’s positions against clean energy. Following Google chairman Schmidt’s statement, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp, and Occidental Petroleum quickly announced that they too are pulling out of ALEC.  Also leaving ALEC recently were the major electric utility Southern California Edison and Raytheon, a defense contractor.

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Three Graphics from Lazard Study Show How Competitive Clean Energy's Gotten

by: lowkell

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 17:07:16 PM EDT

Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia, I'd just add that it's long past time for Virginia to stop wasting its time looking backwards towards energy sources of the 19th and 20th centuries (e.g., coal, oil), and instead to look forward to the energy sources of the 21st century (mostly wind, solar, hydro and other renewables). In short, there is absolutely no need anymore for an "all-of-the-above" strategy. In fact, according to the science, the "all-of-the-above" strategy will mean continued global warming and environmental devastation. Crazy, in other words.

The following three graphics (click on the images to enlarge) are from a recent "Levelized Cost of Energy" (LCOE) study by Lazard - one of the world's leading financial advisory and asset management firms.  I'm posting the graphics here because they demonstrate how competitive clean energy's become (even with massive implicit and explicit subsidies to fossil fuels), and also how much cheaper renewable power is going to get over the next few years.  No wonder why the International Energy Agency just explained how solar "could be the world's largest source of electricity by 2050," with coal just about extinct (see the slide "Solar's share varies significantly by region"). Great stuff; now let's get on with the transition from dirty, dangerous, fossil-fuel-based energy to clean, renewable power.

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Video: "We Don't Want Your Pipeline" By Robin and Linda Williams

by: lowkell

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 12:55:07 PM EDT

Great stuff, love it! And no, Dominion, we do NOT want your destructive, dangerous pipeline. Thanks to Robin and Linda Williams for this song, which I'll now be hummning the rest of the day. :)

P.S. Extra credit reading material for Gov. McAuliffe: Nation rushes to embrace natural gas and fracking despite risks to environment

"We Don't Want Your Pipeline" By Robin and Linda Williams from Richard Adams on Vimeo.

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Why Did the McAuliffe Administration Hire Dr. Michael Karmis?

by: lowkell

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 12:14:08 PM EDT

Cross posted with permission from the Checks and Balances Project

Why Did the McAuliffe Administration Hire Michael E. Karmis?Earlier this year, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that requires the McAuliffe Administration to evaluate the costs and benefits to the state of complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. That plan would require Virginia to reduce carbon emissions by 37.5% by 2030 from 2012 levels. Carbon pollution from such sources as coal-burning power plants are fueling climate change and resulting sea level rise in areas such as southeastern Virginia.

The Administration tasked its Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to produce the analysis. DMME hired Michael E. Karmis, PhD.

Professor Karmis is a curious choice. He is considered the state's leading academic expert in coal, with an international reputation. He is the director of Virginia Tech's Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, and founder of the Appalachian Research Initiative for the Environment Sciences, whose partners include leading lights of the coal industry: Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, Cliffs Natural Resources, MEPCO, Natural Resource Partners, Patriot Coal Corporation, and TECO. Karmis is also a director of The Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health, Inc. based in Bristol, Virginia. He is an active consultant to the mining industry. Karmis is the go-to man if you want to know just about anything related to coal in the Commonwealth.  

But is Michael Karmis the man to conduct an impartial analysis of the costs and benefits of complying with the EPA plan? Especially considering that the EPA plan calls for sharply reducing carbon pollution from existing coal-fired plants that generate electricity? Were other less invested in the fossil fuel industry even considered?

Does Karmis have a conflict of interest?

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 146 words in story)

Environmental and Community Leaders Denounce Federal Ruling on Cove Point LNG Export Facility

by: lowkell

Tue Sep 30, 2014 at 08:09:19 AM EDT

From the Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

Feds approve massive $3.8 billion source of pollution without a full Environmental Impact Statement

Groups weigh motion for rehearing to prevent safety, climate and economic harm

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Environmental and community groups are bitterly denouncing tonight's decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve permits for the controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility proposed at Cove Point in southern Maryland. They said FERC’s decision defies the facts that the massive facility, proposed by Dominion Resources, will incentivize environmental damage from fracking across the mid-Atlantic region and, according to federal data, would likely contribute more to global warming over the next two decades than if Asian countries burned their own coal.

Groups that have intervened in the FERC case emphasized that they are assessing issues on which to file a motion for rehearing—a necessary step before appeal. They vowed to continue the fight to protect communities across Maryland and the region from the potentially unprecedented pollution and safety risks Dominion's Cove Point project would trigger.

They also called the Cove Point decision a simultaneous stain on the records of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, who failed to substantively challenge FERC’s reckless process—including the agency’s refusal to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement—despite pleas from voters and newspapers like the Baltimore Sun.

“FERC's decision to allow LNG exports from Cove Point is fundamentally flawed because the agency failed to consider the simple fact that exporting LNG will mean more drilling and fracking, and that means more climate pollution, more risk of contaminated groundwater, and more threats to the health of people who live near gas wells,” said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign. “FERC should be standing up for the public good, not the interests of dirty polluters.”

“FERC’s decision to approve Cove Point is the result of a biased review process rigged in favor of approving gas industry projects no matter how great the environmental and safety concerns,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “FERC refused to even require an environmental impact statement for this $3.8 billion facility right on the Bay. We intend to challenge this ruling all the way to court if necessary. For the safety of Marylanders and for people across our region facing new fracking wells and pipelines, we will continue to fight this project until it is stopped.”

“FERC's failure to demonstrate compliance with the most current safety standards in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 59A 2013 is a fatal flaw in the Environmental Assessment that could cost residents and first responders their lives,” said Tracey Eno, a member of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community. “Members of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community (CCHC) believe that these new standards were a direct response to the horrific explosions that occurred at a Skikda, Algeria LNG export facility in 2004, resulting in serious casualties and extensive property damage. We have endured the betrayal of our own elected officials—most notably, our five Calvert County Commissioners, our federal representatives and Governor Martin O'Malley—who have all inexplicably refused to insist on the latest fire safety standards for the Dominion Cove Point LNG export expansion. We now call on the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Transportation to step in and insist on full compliance with NFPA 59A 2013 before Lusby becomes home to the first large-scale liquefaction train ever to be installed in a such a densely populated residential neighborhood in the history of the industry.”

“Potomac Riverkeeper is extremely concerned about the impact of this new LNG export facility on the entire Potomac and Shenandoah Watershed,” said Sarah Rispin, General Counsel for Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc. “We believe that FERC failed to take into account the cumulative impact that having a major export facility on the Chesapeake Bay will have on the watershed, by driving increased fracking activity in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations, and the construction of new pipelines serving the facility that will crisscross the region.”

“We are carefully reviewing FERC’s decision to approve the Cove Point export facility with our clients and planning our next steps,” saidJocelyn D’Ambrosio, associate attorney at Earthjustice. “If FERC has refused to revisit its inadequate environmental review, will have no choice but to petition FERC to reconsider its decision, and ultimately we may have to take the case to court.”

"FERC's decision today ignores the many diverse impacts that an LNG export facility will have on local communities both near and far away,” said Michael Helfrich, director of Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “LNG export threatens local communities' health and safety and waterways, and is simply not in the public interest."
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Earthjustice, the nonprofit law organization that has been representing the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Patuxent Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club in the FERC proceeding, are poised to petition FERC and potentially to sue the agency to challenge an inadequate environmental review.

The Dominion Cove Point project would take gas from fracking wells across Appalachia and liquefy it along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay for export to Asia. The project would be the first LNG export facility ever built so close to so many homes, the first built in close proximity to Marcellus Shale fracking operations, and a potential trigger of more global warming pollution than all seven of Maryland’s existing coal-fired power plants combined. Yet, in its final order, FERC affirmed its highly limited Environmental Assessment, which omitted credible analysis of the project’s lifecycle global warming pollution, potentially catastrophic threat to hundreds of nearby residents, pollution of the Chesapeake Bay and risk to the critically endangered right whale, along with all the pollution associated with driving demand for upstream fracking and fracked gas infrastructure.

Dominion's project has faced and will continue to face significant and widespread grassroots opposition. A coalition of state, national and community groups opposing the project submitted more than 150,000 comments to FERC by the June public comment deadline. In mid-July, more than 1,000 people marched on FERC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters calling on the agency to halt approvals of all LNG export projects, including the Dominion Cove Point facility, followed the next day by a peaceful sit-in that led to 25 arrests.
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New Poll: Majority of Virginia Small Business Owners Support CO2 Pollution Limits

by: wharwood

Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 11:30:31 AM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

Business owners give state leaders, Gov. McAuliffe low ratings for making Va. competitive in growing clean energy economy, protecting environment

WASHINGTON-September 25, 2014-As world leaders meet this week to address climate change and 400,000 people march in the streets in New York City, a new survey shows that Virginia's small business owners support state action to cut carbon pollution and believe that doing so will help Virginia's economy.

At the same time, Virginia's small business community is not entirely pleased with the job Gov. Terry McAuliffe has done protecting the state's water, air, and overall environment.

According to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2):

• 63 percent of small business owners in Virginia think state leaders should do more to compete with other states to attract and develop more clean, renewable energy companies and jobs to Virginia. A similarly high number - 65 percent - voiced support for advancing energy efficiency.

• 52 percent of small business owners in Virginia think Gov. McAuliffe and the state legislature should support the federal standards to reduce carbon pollution produced by power plants.

• 60 percent of Virginia's small business owners give Gov. McAuliffe a fair or poor rating or are not sure about the job he has done protecting the state's water, air, and overall environment. Meanwhile, 84 percent of small business owners in Virginia believe protecting Virginia's good environment and quality of life is important to their state's economic growth.

The survey is available here.

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Video: President Obama Speaks at the Climate Summit 2014

by: lowkell

Tue Sep 23, 2014 at 13:02:31 PM EDT

Phrases we really don't need to hear during this speech, or any speech by President Obama or any other Democrat: "all-of-the-above strategy," "offshore drilling," "fracking," "natural gas as a bridge fuel," etc. Just stick to the science, which has told us over and over again what the situation is and what we need to do, and then do it!

UPDATE 1:16 pm: The speech, which I thought was very strong, just ended. Unfortunately, given that the Republican Party has gone completely insane (and sold out to the big carbon polluters), it looks like those of us who actually respect science will have to do it ourselves. Unless, of course, a miracle happens and Republicans move back towards the strong environmental legacy that's certainly part of their party's historical DNA.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Terry McAuliffe on Energy Issues 2009; Terry McAuliffe on Energy Issues Today

by: lowkell

Sun Sep 21, 2014 at 20:46:30 PM EDT

I'm reposting this from the old Blue Virginia (March 11, 2009). Note that the "Business Plan" is no longer available, even on the "internet archive." Hmmmm. Anyway, I wanted to compare and contrast where Terry McAuliffe was when he actually NEEDED liberals and environmentalists for something (e.g., the 2009 Democratic primary contest with Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran), compared to when he has absolutely ZERO need for liberals and environmentalists (that would be now). I'll put the "now" in italics after the "then." Enjoy.  

Click here (PDF file) to read Chapter 1 of Terry McAuliffe's "Business Plan for Virginia." The plan kicks off with "Virginia's Energy Future."  The major elements are:

1. "Make Virginia a destination for clean energy and clean tech businesses and jobs."
Includes a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard ("Requiring power companies to generate 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025") and net metering ("Encouraging cleaner, locally produced electricity by allowing consumers who produce renewable energy to earn actual retail credit to offset their consumption."). Both are excellent ideas (although I'm with Al Gore, let's shoot for 100% renewables within a decade!).
Yep, they're still excellent ideas. Unfortunately, I haven't heard a word about either of them from T-Mac in a long time.

2. "Invest in clean, renewable sources of energy supply."
Includes development of Virginia's wind, solar, and biomass resources. I'm a huge fan of wind and solar, not so much of biomass (unless we're talking about biomass possibilities like algae that deliver many times the amount of energy OUT of the system as it takes INTO the system).
Frankly, I've heard more about natural gas, oil and coal than I have about wind and solar since McAuliffe became governor. Which, of course, is completely backwards, given that wind and solar prices have fallen sharply since 2009, while the urgency to deal with global warming has only increased.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 479 words in story)

Video: People's Climate March Livestream

by: lowkell

Sun Sep 21, 2014 at 06:53:59 AM EDT

By far the most pressing threat facing humanity. What are YOU doing about it?

Discuss :: (2 Comments)
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