News Article | April 20, 2017
The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Richard Denison, PhD tipped me onto news that the chemical industry’s chief trade association now has one of its own in a key EPA office. Nancy Beck, PhD began work on Monday as second in command of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Immediately prior to her appointment, Dr. Beck was with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in the position of Senior Director of Regulatory Science Policy. Prior to that she worked in the White House’s regulatory czar’s office during parts of the G.W. Bush’s and Obama’s administrations. President Trump has a funny way of “draining the swamp.” Just a few weeks ago, ACC was recommending that EPA appoint Dr. Beck to its Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). Now the ACC has achieved much more than that—-Dr. Beck will be running part of the show. EDF’s Denison highlights the problem with Beck’s appointment to the Office of Chemical Safety: “…[she] is expected to play a key role in implementing the new reforms made to TSCA, including in critical decisions that EPA will be making literally any day now, many of them driven by firm statutory deadlines. These decisions will directly affect the financial interests of the companies represented by ACC. And they will involve deciding whether or not the agency should take positions for which Dr. Beck has advocated on behalf of her former employer, as recently as last month. Any reasonable person would see a conflict here, one sufficient to seriously question whose interests Dr. Beck will be representing in playing such a role in TSCA implementation.” In his blog post “Foxes, henhouse and TSCA implementation,” Denison reminded me of a theme that has swirled for decades around U.S. chemical safety policy. It was one of the reasons that the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gained traction. The public has little confidence in the current system for determining the safety of chemicals we encounter in our homes, workplaces and communities. Dr. Beck agreed. She expressed a similar sentiment while with the ACC. She wrote that more transparency in the process of assessing the health risks of chemicals: In her new position at EPA, Dr. Beck can move right away in that direction. She should start by answering the questions posed by Richard Denison. How does Dr. Beck plan to gain the public’s trust? Will her decisions be grounded in the letter and spirit of the law and not on positions she advocated on behalf of chemical manufacturers? Before President Trump was elected, Dr. Beck wrote of the important policy decisions the EPA is facing with the 2016 amendments to TSCA. She wrote that the revisions: She may not have realized at that time, but those decisions now will be left to her and other Trump appointees. I wonder whether building public confidence will be on their minds.
News Article | April 20, 2017
That’s as much as Germany’s yearly emissions. It’s hardly the first example of a business charging ahead on climate change mitigation while governments dither. Pretty much every giant corporation has made a commitment to reduce its emissions: food titan Unilever, everything maker General Electric, and IKEA (where you get your OMLOPPs), and on and on. But what Walmart does matters. The company is such a behemoth that its policy changes trigger transformation around the globe. Walmart is the 10th largest economic entity in the world, after Canada, so this effort, dubbed “Project Gigaton,” is akin to every Canadian signing on to a strict sustainability plan. Most of Walmart’s environmental footprint comes from other businesses extracting raw materials to manufacture Walmart’s products. So it will be pushing its suppliers to clean up their act, aiming to slash a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain. The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with Walmart to cut its emissions for years, and so there’s a track record here. In 2010, Walmart pledged to cut 28 million metric tons (like removing 6 million cars from the road), then surpassed that goal in five years. Now, they’re aiming to meet a goal 35 times larger, by 2030.
News Article | October 28, 2016
America celebrates National Seafood Month each October, a time to take notice of sustainable fisheries and enjoy the benefits of eating seafood. One of most popular fish in the marketplace is U.S. wild-caught Pacific cod, a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.* Often called the king of whitefish, consumers love its mild taste, and versatility in recipes. But not all cod is created equal. For premium-quality Pacific Cod from Alaska’s North Bering Sea, Alaskan Leader Seafood, the most progressive, innovative and vertically integrated “Hook & Line“ fishing company in Alaska delivers the best cod in the marketplace. Alaskan Leader’s catch area encompasses the pristine waters of the North Bering Sea, where the big, healthy, wild cod produce uncommonly large and delicious fillets. The Alaskan Leader fleet uses the “one hook, one fish” catch method; a custom-designed and patented longline system that places individually baited hooks along the ocean floor. This harvesting method is the most ecologically friendly and leave’s the ocean’s floor and ecosystem undisturbed and limits the amount of bycatch coming onboard. This method also preserves the utmost quality in the catch. Once hooked, the fish remain alive and healthy until brought onboard, where they are quickly processed and flash frozen at sea (FAS), creating the best quality product in the marketplace. “What consumers ultimately want when they purchase fish, is for it to taste delicious. Our method of flash freezing (FAS) soon after the cod is caught helps retain that "ocean fresh flavor" that so many consumers desire, making it the best in the market,” said Keith Singleton, president of the value added division for Alaskan Leader Seafoods. Today’s customers like their fish mild, moist and flaky, all attributes of Alaska cod. It can be baked, poached, steamed, sautéed, or deep-fried for fish and chips. And it makes an excellent ingredient in seafood salads, casseroles and chowders and is compatible with a variety of sauces, herbs, spices and flavored butters. Lean Alaska cod is especially appealing to consumers who are watching their diets. Low in fat and calories, high in protein, it contains all the essential amino acids and several important minerals. To incorporate more cod into a healthy diet, Alaskan Leader Seafood offers these delicious recipes for healthy and tasty meals. Brush the fillets with the melted butter. Mix the pesto, grated Parmesan Cheese and breadcrumbs together. Using a spatula, coat the top of the Codfish with the Pesto mixture. Make sure to cover the entire fillet Bake in an oven safe dish for 15-20 minutes depending on thickness If frozen, thaw the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle seasonings on the each fillet. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a non-stick skillet. Heat the skillet to medium high and place the Cod into the pan. Cook about 4-6 minutes per side until fish is flaky. 100 Percent Utilization/100 Percent Sustainability All of Alaskan Leader’s product is 100 percent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified Sustainable, and rated “Best Choice” by SeafoodWatch. Many conservation groups along with The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and The Environmental Defense Fund applaud the “Hook and Line” fishery as the most Eco-Friendly fishing method existing today. Lastly, Alaskan Leader Cod is 100 percent traceable back to the vessel and 100% product of USA. About Alaskan Leader Seafoods, LLC Alaskan Leader Seafoods is the most progressive, innovative and vertically integrated hook and line fishing company in Alaska. The company is still 50% owned by the original seven fishing families who founded the company over 25 years ago. Its vessels are the newest and cleanest in the fleet, maintained so well that they fly the Maltese Falcon Cross, the symbol of inspection excellence from the American Bureau of Shipping. All its vessels are American built, U.S. Coast Guard inspected and licensed. Its sustainable hook and line fishery is applauded by several conservation organizations including the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and The Environmental Defense Fund as the most eco-friendly fishing method existing today. Each and every product that carries the “Alaskan Leader Seafoods” brand ensures that it is harvested responsibly, carefully processed and guaranteed as a 100 percent USA product. For more information visit http://www.alaskanleaderseafoods.com
News Article | February 11, 2017
Republican leaders in Congress say they’ll use an obscure rule called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule as early as next week. The rule, finalized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in November 2016, requires oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from operations on federal and tribal lands. An open records request from environmental group Friends of the Earth reveals the top three companies — ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, and Encana Energy — which will profit from the rule’s rollback. Part of Obama’s climate plan, which aimed to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas drilling by 40 percent by 2025, this rule mandated that companies capture and sell methane instead of venting or flaring it. Oil extraction produces natural gas as a byproduct, and this has been an inconvenience due to the low price of natural gas and the infrastructure needed to move it. The solution: flaring or venting. Every year millions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas often accompanied by hazardous chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylbenzene, spew into the atmosphere during venting and flaring. Environmentalists say that if Congress succeeds in scrapping the rule, not only will greenhouse gas emissions increase, state governments and tribes will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas companies, who stand to recoup that cost. An estimated $330 million worth of natural gas is lost to venting and flaring every year, according to a 2015 report published by the Environmental Defense Fund. On Tuesday, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) defended the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule in the Commerce Committee, refuting Republicans’ claims that the rule would cost jobs, and slamming oil and gas lobbies for pushing its repeal. “We don’t think it’s okay for Congress to allow oil and gas to return [to getting] their resource for free,” Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told DeSmog. “The resource [gas] on these lands is owned by the people.” A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2015 and released today by Friends of the Earth gives some insight into the companies that stood to benefit the most from overturning this regulation. Using information oil producers are required to report to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR), Friends of the Earth analyzed total volumes for gas flared, vented, and beneficially used on public lands for the decade from 2004 to 2014 and concluded that the following three companies have the most to gain from the rule’s repeal: But according to Josh Mantell, energy campaign manager for the Wilderness Society, it’s more principle than greed driving coalitions like the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby for nullifying the BLM flaring rule. “The bigger picture for these groups is that all federal regulations are bad,” Mantell told DeSmog. “And now that Republicans hold both houses of Congress and the White House, they’re telling Congressional leaders to use a sledgehammer of a tool like the CRA to roll back these regulations quickly.” Captured by NASA satellite, drilling equipment, boom-town development, and natural gas flaring in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields lights up the night sky. Credit: NASA In planning to scuttle the flaring regulation, Congressional leaders are hardly doing the business of their constituents. The bipartisan Conservation in the West Poll, released this week, found that 80 percent of surveyed voters in seven Western states — Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming — support requiring upgrades to reduce methane flaring and leaks from natural gas development. Republicans in Congress, and industry lobbying groups, would prefer to leave regulation to the states. Wyoming and Colorado already have regulations on flaring, though weaker than the BLM rule. Even in pro-drilling North Dakota, landowners have filed class action suits against oil companies to capture millions of dollars in allegedly lost royalties due to flaring. Opponents of the Methane Waste and Prevention Rule claim that between the EPA and states that choose to enact their own regulations, there’s no need for the BLM’s rule. But Jon Goldstein, senior energy policy manager at the Environmental Defense Fund, says those arguments don’t hold water. “Without BLM regulation, states will lose revenue, and many of these western states are struggling with budget shortfalls and really need these royalties,” Goldstein told DeSmog. “In addition, Colorado will be impacted from pollution from poorly regulated production in nearby New Mexico and Utah.” Steered into law in 1996 by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in his Contract with America, the CRA gives Congress the power to kill federal regulations easily. It enables senators and representatives to enter a resolution, rather than a bill, to eliminate a regulation they don’t like, usually those rolled out at the end of a previous president’s term. Resolutions can’t be filibustered and need only a simple majority to pass. They still require the signature of the president, which shouldn’t be a problem with the current White House. Over two decades, the CRA has only been used successfully once, in 2001, to nullify a Labor Department’s ergonomics regulation. Today, however, the current Congress has dusted it off in an attempt to roll back much of Obama’s environmental legacy. The CRA has another powerful consequence. When used to repeal a regulation, it blocks all future administrations from developing “substantially” similar regulations. While never tested, that could prevent the BLM or the Department of the Interior from addressing methane flaring or venting again, barring Congress passing a new law. “(The CRA) is extreme tool that could have a chilling effect on the agency who wrote the rule it’s used to overturn, in this case the BLM,” Ross told DeSmog. “This rule by the BLM was crafted over a five year process, with thousands of public contacts. To have Congress planning to shut off debate on this in the blink of an eye can make other agencies think twice about crafting rules only to see their work later disappear.” On Thursday, the same day former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State, the Senate put the CRA to the test to eliminate the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation finalized in December 2016, to prohibit coal mining companies from dumping debris and waste into nearby waterways. The resolution passed 54-45, a day after it was approved by the House. Main image: The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that $330 million worth of natural gas is lost to venting and flaring every year. Credit: Tim Evanson, CC BY–SA 2.0
News Article | December 8, 2016
Originally published on Think Progress. By Joe Romm Given the result of the presidential election, a lot of people have been asking me: “What can I do?” I have a feeling many of you reading this are still going through the famous five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Maybe all at once. After a lot of listening and reading, here’s my take: Activism is the sixth stage of grief. Major environmental groups are reporting “exponential increases” in post-election activism and support. If you are not part of this movement, it is time to join. President-elect Donald Trump and his den of deniers pose an existential threat to America, the world, and, sadly, the next 50 generations. Whatever warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and Dust-Bowlification that we commit to because of his anti-science, pro-pollution policies will be irreversible on a timescale of a thousand years. I also agree with those who argue Trump is an existential threat to American democracy and the core values that make it possible, such as pluralism and freedom of the press. If you agree, that is yet more motivation to act. This list naturally has a climate focus, and it is not exhaustive, but here goes: 1. Activism, activism, activism. The Sierra Club “reported signing up more new members in the eight days after the election than the whole rest of the year,” according to Politico. The Natural Resources Defense Council has seen “exponential increases” in online action and donations. The Environmental Defense Fund has seen a post-election jump in support, with EDF’s Sam Perry saying, “Apparently the sixth stage of grief is activism.” If you like your activism very active, consider joining 350.org. 2. Support the Trump Investigative fund. Help us hold Trump accountable by supporting ThinkProgress and Climate Progress. If you’re reading this, you already see value in the work we do here. We need your help to do more. We launched this effort a week ago and are now more than half way to our $100,000 goal. As ThinkProgress Editor-In-Chief Judd Legum explained, “We need your support for Freedom of Information Act requests, deep-dive investigations, and rapid-fire reporting that ensures Trump’s vision for America is not normalized.” If you donate $40, we’ll send you the “Resist” T-shirt featured above. 3. Figure out what you are fighting for. The forces lined up against progressive values are overwhelming — especially when you toss Putin’s hacking and disinformation team on the scale. Progressives won’t win — and you won’t stay motivated for the many battles ahead — if you can’t figure out exactly what you are fighting for. Recent setbacks certainly make it easy to become disillusioned and lose one’s ideals. But remember, team Trump and his allies have no illusions and no ideals to lose. Worse, they spread lies and fakes news and suppress million of votes specifically to get us to quit fighting. Always remember, however, who got the most votes by far despite all this. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) put it, “The American people didn’t give Democrats majority support so we could come back to Washington and play dead.” 4. Find your message, learn how to deliver it, and then keep repeating it. Conservatives are much better at developing a winning narrative and repeating it endlessly than progressives. A must-hear podcast on that, “How Trump Won the Election by Using Core Narrative Techniques,” features an interview with Randy Olson. You should read his book, “Houston, We Have a Narrative” and mine. If you’re wondering what the winning climate message is, “Here’s What Science Has To Say About Convincing People To Do Something About Climate Change.” And always remember the words of Frank Luntz, the GOP’s top messaging strategist: “There’s a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.” 5. End climate silence. Talk about climate change and its solutions with everyone you know a lot more than you are doing now. The need to have more conversations about an uncomfortable subject is, I believe, one of two crucial messaging lessons the climate movement can learn from the LGBT community (the other is to focus on the immorality of inaction). While two thirds of Americans are moderately or very interested in global warming,” research finds an even larger fraction “rarely or never discuss” it with family or friends. The result is a “spiral of silence” in which “even people who care about the issue shy away from discussing it because they so infrequently hear other people talking about it — reinforcing the spiral,” researchers said. You can break that spiral. 6. Only support politicians who actively campaign on climate. Given the setback of the Trump election, our only chance to save a livable climate is to elect leaders in 2018, 2020, and beyond who make climate action their priority. Also, politicians who actually campaign on climate change are another key to ending climate silence. The polling could not be clearer that this is a winning issue for progressive candidates — inspiring key voting groups (like millennials) while serving as a wedge between the extreme GOP voters and moderate GOPers and independents. 7. Don’t debunk Trump’s lies by repeating them and don’t read news outlets that do. Repeating lies and myths — even to debunk them — simply ends up reinforcing them, as countless studies have shown. If you want to debunk a lie, you should focus on stating the truth, not repeating the lie. For more tips, see Skeptical Science’s “Debunking Handbook.” As for the major media, they have no idea how to cover Trump. They blew the election and are now blowing the transition. Besides reading ThinkProgress, I recommend you follow James Fallows at The Atlantic, author of such recent must reads as “How to Deal With the Lies of Donald Trump: Guidelines for the Media” and “A More Detailed Guide to Dealing With Trump’s Lies.” 8. Change your TV viewing habits. Stop watching cable news. The net useful information per hour spent watching is probably negative (so the opportunity cost is off the charts). Half the people on it spread misinformation for a living, and much of the other half do so unintentionally. Also, if you are one of those who don’t watch popular TV and reality shows, it’s time to start. How else can you hope to understand and ultimately move the American people? It was, after all, reality TV that gave us Trump and helped him master the art of entertaining reality-free BS. And pick some things Trump voters watch — not Clinton voters (sorry “Madame Secretary”). I’d suggest “NCIS” and “The Walking Dead.” They are popular shows for a reason AND “Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner says the campaign’s marketing team specifically focused on running ads” during both of them!! As you watch, consider who the zombie horde is a stand in for many Trump voters…. 9. Never give in. “Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” — Winston Churchill If you are still overstressed from the election, your top priority should be to take care of yourself, eat healthy, and get plenty of rest. But if you are reading this, you’re probably in a fairly comfortable position compared to the vast majority of people who will suffer the most because of Trump now and in the future. So get out of your comfort zone and get active. Resist! Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | October 6, 2016
Just a day after the historic announcement that the Paris climate agreement will enter into force this year, countries of the world agreed to a new regimen to curb a large source of greenhouse-gas emissions not covered under that agreement — those from international aircraft flights. At an assembly in Montreal, the member states of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed to a “market-based measure” to reduce the emissions from international flights, beginning on a voluntary basis for countries in 2020 and then entering a second phase in 2027. Emissions would be fixed at 2020 levels, and airlines that exceeded those levels would have to buy credits to offset the additional emissions. The gist is that while international aviation will grow in volume in the future, its emissions should nevertheless be held constant at 2020 levels. “Aviation can now claim its ‘Paris moment,’ ” said Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the president of the ICAO council, in a statement following the news. Although some environmental groups hailed the decision as significant in light of what Paris left unfinished, others suggested the emissions cuts won’t be strong enough. The Environmental Defense Fund called the deal “historic.” “We estimate the total tons avoided is 2½-billion tons over the first 15 years,” said Nathanel Keohane, vice president for global climate at the group. “This represents the first global cap on a global sector, and these emissions are outside the Paris agreement, so we see this as a major step continuing the momentum of Paris.” But not everyone felt the same. “This dangerous shell game does little more than help airlines hide their rapidly growing threat to our climate,” said Vera Pardee of the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement, which objected to the delay until 2020, the voluntary nature of participation after that and the fact that even capping emissions at 2020 would still leave quite a lot of emissions every year. “The world needs less polluting planes, not a dubious offset scheme that just passes off the industry’s exploding carbon debt to someone else.” The agreement would not cover domestic flights — rather, only international ones between two cities. But it is the second major step taken by ICAO this year on emissions — in February, the body proposed a set of engine standards for the carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft. There, too, some environmental groups thought the standards weren’t strong enough. Aircraft emissions have drawn more attention lately, not only because they had escaped the Paris agreement but also because without regulation, they are expected to be a major growth area in the future. “International aviation, if you were to put it all in a single bundle it would be the seventh largest country” for emissions, said Lou Leonard, senior vice president on climate and energy at the World Wildlife Fund. “So 2 to 3 percent of global emissions, and it’s among the fastest growing sectors. So getting a mechanism in place to deal with it now is very important.”
News Article | December 26, 2015
One of the biggest environmental disasters in US history is happening right now, and you’ve probably never heard of it. An enormous amount of harmful methane gas is currently erupting from an energy facility in Aliso Canyon, California, at a startling rate of 110,000 pounds per hour. The gas, which carries with it the stench of rotting eggs due to the addition of a chemical called mercaptan, has led to the evacuation 1,700 homes so far. Many residents have already filed lawsuits against the company that owns the facility, the Southern California Gas Company. Footage taken on December 17 shows a geyser of methane gas spewing from the Earth, visible by a specialized infrared camera operated by an Earthworks ITC-certified thermographer. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released the footage last week, calling it “one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported” and “absolutely uncontained”: In early December, the Southern California Gas Company said that plugging the leak, which sprang in mid-October, would take at least three more months. Right now, the single leak accounts for a quarter of the state's entire methane emissions, and the leak has been called the worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill in 2010. “Our efforts to stop the flow of gas by pumping fluids directly down the well have not yet been successful, so we have shifted our focus to stopping the leak through a relief well,” Anne Silva, a spokesperson for the Southern California Gas Company, told Motherboard, adding that the company is still exploring other options to stop the leak. “The relief well process is on schedule to be completed by late February or late March.” Part of the problem in stopping the leak lies in the base of the well, which sits 8,000 feet underground. Pumping fluids down into the well, usually the normal recourse, just isn’t working, said Silva. Workers have been ”unable to establish a stable enough column of fluid to keep the force of gas [from] coming up from the reservoir.” The company is now constructing a relief well that will connect to the leaking well, and hopefully provide a way to reduce pressure so the leak can be plugged. Read about a drilling project nearly twice as deep—15 years and $50 billion later, with not a drop of oil to show for it It’s worth noting that the type of gas involved in this leak is part of what makes it so sinister. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change impact. About one-fourth of the anthropogenic global warming we’re experiencing today is due to methane emissions, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Leaks like the current one in California, it turns out, are a major contributor. In Pasadena, for instance, just 35 miles from the leak in Aliso, investigators found one leak for every four miles: So far, over 150 million pounds of methane have been released by the leak, which connects to an enormous underground containment system. Silva says that the cause of the leak is still unknown, but research by EDF has also revealed that more than 38 percent of the pipes in Southern California Gas Company’s territory are more than 50 years old, and 16 percent are made from corrosion- and leak-prone materials. Right now, relief efforts have drilled only 3,800 feet down—less than half of the way to the base of the well. At that rate, the torrent of methane pouring into California won’t be stopped any time soon. Clarification: An earlier version of this story noted that the gas smells like rotting eggs but did not say why. Methane is an odorless gas; a chemical called mercaptan is added to it to create a foul-smelling odor, in case of leaks like this one.
News Article | January 22, 2016
Over the past three months, more than 87,000 metric tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have spewed into the atmosphere from a catastrophic leak in a failed natural gas well in Southern California. Southern California Gas Company, the well’s owner, announced Jan. 18 that it hopes to stop emissions from the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility in northern Los Angeles by late February. But the leak, one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history, will have a lasting environmental impact on local, state, and perhaps federal levels. More than 2,500 households in the Porter Ranch neighborhood near the facility have been forced to relocate because of noxious odors from pollutants such as mercaptan, which is added to odorless natural gas for safety purposes. Some recent reports have also suggested that SoCalGas may have underestimated the amount of benzene, a carcinogen, which has been released during the leak. Timothy O’Connor, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) oil and gas program in California, says it may be difficult to know how much benzene exposure has occurred because of a variable emissions rate and a lack of extensive testing when the leak first started. In addition to footing the bill for relocating people and addressing the leak, SoCalGas faces lawsuits from the city and local residents claiming that the company failed to properly maintain its facility. Starting in mid-November, SoCalGas tried to plug the well but failed. So the gas company began drilling a relief well on Dec. 4, expecting to reach its target, 2,600 meters below the surface, in February. The company also proposed to divert and incinerate some of the methane, but that plan has been scuttled because of concerns about potential explosions. Assessing the environmental impact of a leak like this is complicated because of the varying ways to evaluate a greenhouse gas’s global warming potential, says David T. Allen, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and former chair of the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory board. The Earth-warming effects of greenhouse gases depend, in part, on the window of time being considered, Allen explains. For example, methane, at the time of its release, is 120 times as potent as the same amount of carbon dioxide in terms of radiative forcing—the capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to temperature increases. But over time, methane gets oxidized to CO , so a specific release of the hydrocarbon will lose some of its warming potency. Many scientists calculate greenhouse gas effects in terms of a 20-year time horizon, over which a methane release will have more than80 times the radiative forcing as the same amount of CO . Others calculate the impact over 100 years, when methane’s warming potency drops to 28–35 times that of CO . Because of its potency, methane is a grave concern for climate scientists. In the U.S., leaks from natural gas systems account for 29% of all methane emissions. Nationally, nearly 6 million metric tons of methane in the natural gas supply chain leaked into the atmosphere in 2013, according to EPA estimates. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an environmental advocacy group, has been assessing the Aliso Canyon leak. At its peak in November, the leak was emitting 58,000 kg of methane per hour, or 25% of the daily emissions in California. To put that in perspective, the potential effect of radiative forcing from the leak’s daily emissions, calculated over a 20-year time horizon, was equivalent to that of the daily CO emissions of seven million cars. California, with its population of 39 million, has about 30 million cars. “No single source is going to be enormous on a global scale of all greenhouse gases,” he points out, “but a single leak that equates to a quarter of the emissions of methane of a population of 39 million—that’s a big deal.”
News Article | November 28, 2016
Since Election Day, human-rights organizations like Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP have seen their donations spike. “This is the greatest outpouring of support for the ACLU in our nearly 100-year history,” its executive director announced. “Greater than the days after 9/11.” That goodwill has also spilled over into the coffers — and membership lists — of environmental organizations. While it’s too soon to tell how much green groups will collect in the wake of the election, this month’s flood of support could come as a boon to organizations that usually receive a small portion of philanthropic giving. Environmental and animal welfare groups traditionally rank low on the list of causes Americans donate to. In 2015, they received just 3 percent of total donations, far less than churches, schools, hospitals, even arts and culture. It seems that President-elect Donald Trump’s promises to overturn Obama-era environmental regulations and ditch an international climate agreement have spurred those angered by election results to vote with their wallets. “The incoming administration threatens to roll back environmental protections across the board,” said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen in a statement. With renewed support, Van Noppen said, Earthjustice plans to provide a line of defense against these rollbacks, by deepening its legal team and increasing the number of clients it represents — already more than 600 — in legal battles. Many other environmental organizations are making similar pleas, seeking financial support to fight the Trump administration’s damaging environmental agenda. Every environmental organization Grist contacted said it had seen an increased level of engagement in some way. The climate action group 350.org has gained tens of thousands of new supporters since Election Day, spokesman Jamie Henn said, and has seen donations surge. The organization’s petition to stop climate denier Myron Ebell from running the Environmental Protection Agency gained over 20,000 signatures in a few days. Friends of the Earth, too, is raking in money at an unprecedented level: four times faster than before the election, according to development director Peter Stocker. The Sierra Club said it has gained more than 15,000 new monthly donors since the election, double the number that joined during the rest of the calendar year. Earthjustice has seen a 711 percent increase in online donors over last month, and during the week of Nov. 7, the group saw a 707 percent increase in new online donors compared to the same week in 2015. The Environmental Defense Fund has seen similar upticks. “Without any special prompting from us, people are energized about protecting the progress we’ve made,” membership director Sam Parry said in a statement. “Apparently the sixth stage of grief is activism.” Those numbers will mean big green groups can widen their campaigns and increase their digital outreach — one Grist editor has received up to four Sierra Club fundraising emails a day since the election — but not everyone in the climate movement is convinced that more money alone will make a difference. “We need a surge of people into the streets, and the jails,” says Wen Stephenson, author of What We’re Fighting For Now Is Each Other, a book on climate activism. “We need more resistance camps like at Standing Rock, only everywhere.” Others in the movement agree that Trump-era environmentalism will need to be an on-the-ground battle, because it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make progress in Washington with a Trump administration and GOP-dominated Congress. “Now that the inside game is so difficult, the outside game is even more important,” said 350.org’s Henn. (Note: 350.org founder Bill McKibben is a member of the Grist board of directors.) Other green groups are seeing a surge of interest in organizing and direct action, too. Greenpeace cites a boost in calls and emails from people asking what they can do, as well as more people signing up for training. Stocker, at Friends of the Earth, expects an increase in activists and volunteers at the community level as people reach out to friends, family, and anyone else looking to get involved and work across movements. “People are telling us that this election shook them to the core,” Stocker said. “Those who had never been to a rally or protest are itching to get out and make their voices heard.”
News Article | March 10, 2016
The Environmental Defense Fund's Diane Regas recounts what it took to make headway on the world's biggest retailer's big sustainability goals.