Saturday, December 29, 2018

Organic Food Hurting the Climate?/RNN

Not quite the question we expected to be posing today.  But one that needs exploring.  At the end of the day we want to use practices that preserve, not use up, our natural capitol.

This should spur an interesting debate and counter-research.

Organically farmed food has a bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed food, due to the greater areas of land required. This is the finding of a new international study involving Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
The researchers developed a new method for assessing the climate impact from land-use, and used this, along with other methods, to compare organic and conventional food production. The results show that organic food can result in much greater emissions.
“Our study shows that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 percent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas. For some foodstuffs, there is an even bigger difference — for example, with organic Swedish winter wheat the difference is closer to 70 percent,” says Stefan Wirsenius, an associate professor from Chalmers, and one of those responsible for the study.
The reason why organic food is so much worse for the climate is that the yields per hectare are much lower, primarily because fertilisers are not used. To produce the same amount of organic food, you therefore need a much bigger area of land.
The ground-breaking aspect of the new study is the conclusion that this difference in land usage results in organic food causing a much larger climate impact.
“The greater land-use in organic farming leads indirectly to higher carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to deforestation,” explains Stefan Wirsenius. “The world’s food production is governed by international trade, so how we farm in Sweden influences deforestation in the tropics. If we use more land for the same amount of food, we contribute indirectly to bigger deforestation elsewhere in the world.”
Even organic meat and dairy products are — from a climate point of view — worse than their conventionally produced equivalents, claims Stefan Wirsenius.
“Because organic meat and milk production uses organic feed-stock, it also requires more land than conventional production. This means that the findings on organic wheat and peas in principle also apply to meat and milk products. We have not done any specific calculations on meat and milk, however, and have no concrete examples of this in the article,” he explains.
A new metric: Carbon Opportunity Cost
The researchers used a new metric, which they call “Carbon Opportunity Cost,” to evaluate the effect of greater land-use contributing to higher carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation. This metric takes into account the amount of carbon that is stored in forests, and thus released as carbon dioxide as an effect of deforestation. The study is among the first in the world to make use of this metric.
“The fact that more land use leads to greater climate impact has not often been taken into account in earlier comparisons between organic and conventional food,” says Stefan Wirsenius. “This is a big oversight, because, as our study shows, this effect can be many times bigger than the greenhouse gas effects, which are normally included. It is also serious because today in Sweden, we have politicians whose goal is to increase production of organic food. If that goal is implemented, the climate influence from Swedish food production will probably increase a lot.”
So why have earlier studies not taken into account land-use and its relationship to carbon dioxide emissions?
“There are surely many reasons. An important explanation, I think, is simply an earlier lack of good, easily applicable methods for measuring the effect. Our new method of measurement allows us to make broad environmental comparisons, with relative ease,” says Stefan Wirsenius.
The results of the study are published in the article “Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change” in the journal Nature. The article is written by Timothy Searchinger, Princeton University, Stefan Wirsenius, Chalmers University of Technology, Tim Beringer, Humboldt Universit├Ąt zu Berlin, and Patrice Dumas, Cired.
More on: The consumer perspective
Stefan Wirsenius notes that the findings do not mean that conscientious consumers should simply switch to buying non-organic food. “The type of food is often much more important. For example, eating organic beans or organic chicken is much better for the climate than to eat conventionally produced beef,” he says. “Organic food does have several advantages compared with food produced by conventional methods,” he continues. “For example, it is better for farm animal welfare. But when it comes to the climate impact, our study shows that organic food is a much worse alternative, in general.”
For consumers who want to contribute to the positive aspects of organic food production, without increasing their climate impact, an effective way is to focus instead on the different impacts of different types of meat and vegetables in our diet. Replacing beef and lamb, as well as hard cheeses, with vegetable proteins such as beans, has the biggest effect. Pork, chicken, fish, and eggs also have a substantially lower climate impact than beef and lamb.
More on: The conflict between different environmental goals
In organic farming, no fertilizers are used. The goal is to use resources like energy, land, and water in a long-term, sustainable way. Crops are primarily nurtured through nutrients present in the soil. The main aims are greater biological diversity and a balance between animal and plant sustainability. Only naturally derived pesticides are used.
The arguments for organic food focus on consumers’ health, animal welfare, and different aspects of environmental policy. There is good justification for these arguments, but at the same time, there is a lack of scientific evidence to show that organic food is in general healthier and more environmentally friendly than conventionally farmed food, according to the National Food Administration of Sweden and others. The variation between farms is big, with the interpretation differing depending on what environmental goals one prioritises. At the same time, current analysis methods are unable to fully capture all aspects.
The authors of the study now claim that organically farmed food is worse for the climate, due to bigger land use. For this argument they use statistics from the Swedish Board of Agriculture on the total production in Sweden, and the yields per hectare for organic versus conventional farming for the years 2013-2015.
More on biofuels: “The investment in biofuels increases carbon dioxide emissions”
Today’s major investments in biofuels are also harmful to the climate because they require large areas of land suitable for crop cultivation, and thus — according to the same logic — increase deforestation globally, the researchers in the same study argue.
For all common biofuels (ethanol from wheat, sugar cane and corn, as well as biodiesel from palm oil, rapeseed and soya), the carbon dioxide cost is greater than the emissions from fossil fuel and diesel, the study shows. Biofuels from waste and by-products do not have this effect, but their potential is small, the researchers say.
All biofuels made from arable crops have such high emissions that they cannot be called climate-smart, according to the researchers, who present the results on biofuels in an op-ed in the Swedish Newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “The investment in biofuels increases carbon dioxide emissions.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Rising Waters Are Drowning Amtrak's Northeast Corridor/Bloomberg

The logistics of our daily life is extremely complicated and, if we think about it, daunting.  Moving people, freight, coordinating millions of miles of transportation is embedded into daily life?

What if, then, comes along rising tides that start to disrupt our infrastructure?  There are major cities sitting in the Northeast Corridor serviced by Amtrak.  Hubs for commerce, sports, arts.  Home to millions.  What if their ride home gets washed away?  Will life change?  What fails next?

By the middle of this century, climate change is likely to punch a hole through the busiest stretch of rail in North America. Parts of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route, which carries 12 million people each year between Boston and Washington, face “continual inundation.” Flooding, rising seas, and storm surge threaten to erode the track bed and knock out the signals that direct train traffic. The poles that provide electricity for trains are at risk of collapse, even as power substations succumb to floodwaters. “If one of the segments of track shuts down, it will shut down this segment of the NEC,” warned members of Amtrak’s planning staff. “There is not an alternate route that can be used as a detour.”

That was the conclusion of a three-volume, multi-year climate study undertaken with first Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. and then Stantec Inc. Although the report was completed in April 2017, its conclusions were kept private until this November, when a partially redacted version was obtained by Bloomberg through a public records request. Titled “Amtrak NEC Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment,” the document outlines the severe threat facing one 10-mile section of the 457 miles of track, much of which runs perilously close to water.

Image result for pictures of amtrak train

On a recent afternoon near Wilmington, Del., the danger already seemed imminent. North of the city, the distance between the tracks and the Delaware River was alarmingly narrow, even at low tide. Closer to downtown, puddles dotted the West Yard Substation, which powers this section of rail, as well as the Wilmington maintenance yard, one of the few in the country that can repair electric locomotives. Only a slender cobblestone footpath separated Amtrak’s Consolidated National Operations Center, which monitors and controls traffic along the corridor, from the edge of the Christina River. The single access road leading to Amtrak’s only training center for engineers was underwater on a day with no rain.

The climate threat certainly isn’t limited to Delaware. Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has projected which portions of the corridor will experience what she calls “chronic inundation,” defined as flooding an average of at least twice a month. Dahl provided Bloomberg with data showing when chronic inundation is expected to reach portions of the Northeast Corridor.

The authors of the climate risk report wrote that they chose to focus on the section of track in Delaware because of its low elevation, its proximity to the two rivers, and its concentration of critical facilities. They called moving or elevating the track “extreme.” Instead, they recommended building temporary flood barriers that can be installed along the river before a storm, and then removed “to maintain aesthetics and passenger views.” Those walls would require 12 to 30 days to put up, and would cost $24 million per mile of track.

Most important, the authors of the climate report recommended that the same detailed calculations be performed on the rest of the Northeast Corridor, and that the company begin working with state and local governments to prepare for the risks they described. More than a year and a half later, Amtrak, a private company whose stock is primarily owned by the federal government and which depends on congressional funding to operate, has yet to repeat its analysis for the network as a whole.

Amtrak has since de-emphasized the threat of climate change in its public documents, even scrubbing the phrase entirely from its most recent five-year strategic plan. “We don’t see any fundamental risks to the integrity of the corridor,” Stephen Gardner, Amtrak executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said in an interview in November.

Christina Leeds, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said in an email: “Elevation or relocation of the infrastructure is likely to be expensive, disruptive, or impractical, and given the current levels of federal and state funding for Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor, well beyond our means.” She added that the company already faces “$40 billion worth of pressing—largely still unfunded—basic state-of-good-repair risks.”

The report’s authors estimated the initial cost of protecting the study area to be $78 million, based on the premise that water levels around Wilmington would rise 2 feet by 2050. That reflects the median of possible warming scenarios, according to Climate Central, a research group in Princeton, N.J. Other estimates are almost twice as high.

One of the redacted portions of the report is an analysis of the full costs and benefits of protecting the corridor against climate change, making it impossible to know if the company has determined it would save more money by keeping the corridor open than it would have to spend to save it. The disclosure of that information “could possibly cause public confusion,” the company said in a statement explaining its redactions. And anyway, says Allan Zarembski, director of the railway engineering and safety program at the University of Delaware, built-out urban environments leave little land available. “The cost of relocating the track is not the big issue,” he says. “The big issue is, where do you relocate it?”

Amtrak kept the report from Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, Delaware Governor John Carney, and the Northeast Corridor Commission, whose role, according to its website, is “facilitating collaborative planning” among Amtrak, the federal government, and states along the corridor. After inquiries from Bloomberg about whether Amtrak had distributed the report, Amtrak sent a copy to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which received it earlier this month, according to spokesman Michael Globetti.

Talking about climate doesn’t work with Congress, says Sarah Feinberg, former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, which has oversight of Amtrak. “There are enough problems in the Northeast Corridor that you do not need to lead with climate change,” she says.

Not long after it received the results of the climate report last year, Amtrak released its five-year strategic plan; the first item, under “threats,” was “environment/climate change.” This year’s edition made no mention of climate change. Amtrak also submits annual reports to the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit clearinghouse for the risks climate change poses to companies. Its latest report, dated this May, cited half as many risks as it had in the three previous years. Gone were the threat hurricanes would pose to demand for train service, the effect extreme temperatures would have on operating costs, and the expectation that sea level rise would require increased capital.

Leeds attributed the removal of climate change from the five-year plan to an “editing error,” (Following Bloomberg’s inquiry, Amtrak added “environment/climate change” to that plan’s list of threats.) She also said Amtrak’s decision to identify fewer climate impacts in its carbon disclosure “was based on how resource-intensive the CDP reporting process is and does not represent a decrease in potential impacts.”

Gardner, the Amtrak executive, says the company is taking a piecemeal approach to managing climate risk. “This is about, as we recapitalize those assets, how do we put them in a resilient position for the future,” he said. But if the Northeast Corridor starts to go underwater, Gardner added, Amtrak won’t be the only entity with an issue. “We’re in the heart of all our cities,” Gardner said. “If there’s a risk, there’s a risk to much more than us.”

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Nine states and DC agree to create cap-and-trade program for transportation/Washington Examiner

This is great news and another very good example of states taking the lead in the "business side of green"  For too long we've been limited on an important tool to use in economic development (at least here in the US)...cap-and-trade.  The Northeast once again takes the lead.

Nine Northeastern states and Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday that they will attempt to create a regional cap-and-trade program to limit emissions from transportation, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.
The partners agreed to create a system within a year that caps the region’s transportation emissions and sets up a market of pollution permits so entities can trade in auctions for the right to emit carbon.
The agreement contains little detail, such as which types of entities would be regulated and have to trade in pollution permits.
The revenue from putting a price on transportation fuels would go to investments in “low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure” such as mass transit, electric buses, and electric vehicle charging stations.
The states participating in the initiative with D.C. are Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
“Emissions from transportation account for the largest portion of the region’s carbon pollution and ambitious reductions are needed within the next decade to avoid dangerous impacts to public health, infrastructure, and the environment,” the states said in a statement. “Advancing low-carbon transportation solutions presents an opportunity for our region to improve the way people and goods move from place to place while addressing the threats posed by carbon and other pollution.”
About 28 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, recently passing the power sector as the most polluting. Reducing emissions from transportation is considered more difficult because it would require consumers to shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric ones.
The Trump administration has also proposed relaxing stringent fuel efficiency standards for vehicles set by the Obama administration, which, if finalized, is expected to further discourage cleaner vehicles.
In the power sector, emissions have decreased significantly in the U.S. because cleaner energy sources such as natural gas and renewables have replaced coal due to falling costs.
“We don't have the same degree of cost-effective alternatives for transportation as we do in the power sector,” Noah Kaufman, an economist at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy who studies carbon pricing, told the Washington Examiner. “It’s not as simple as switching from coal to natural gas and renewables. We still need the cost of alternatives to fall to compete with internal combustion vehicles. It’s about changing consumer behavior, which is more difficult.”
The new transportation partnership is modeled after a similar cap-and-trade programestablished by Northeastern states in 2009 targeting carbon emissions in the power sector.
That pact, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, includes six of the nine states that signed the transportation agreement: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Under that plan, regional emissions are to be capped at about 78.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year in 2020 and reduced to roughly 55.7 million tons in 2030. That 2030 goal represents a 65 percent drop from 2009 levels.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Offshore Wind Auction Sets Record/RNN

More good news as we head into Christmas (Merry Christmas and thank you for being part of the RNN family):  Wind energy continues to blow strong economic gains.  That should continue as the technology improves and siting speeds up.

On Friday, December 14, three companies claimed winning bids for Massachusetts offshore wind. Areas could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank on Friday announced the completion of the nation’s eighth and highest grossing competitive lease sale for renewable energy in federal waters. Last Friday’s lease sale offered approximately 390,000 acres offshore Massachusetts for potential wind energy development and drew competitive winning bids from three companies totaling approximately $405 million in winning bids. If fully developed, the areas could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough electricity to power nearly 1.5 million homes.

“To anyone who doubted that our ambitious vision for energy dominance would not include renewables, today we put that rumor to rest,” said Secretary Zinke. “With bold leadership, faster, streamlined environmental reviews, and a lot of hard work with our states and fishermen, we’ve given the wind industry the confidence to think and bid big.”
The provisional winners of today’s lease sale are:

Provisional Winner Lease Area Acres Winning Bid
Equinor Wind US, LLC OCS-A 0520 128,811 $135,000,000.00
Mayflower Wind Energy, LLC OCS-A 0521 127,388 $135,000,000.00
Vineyard Wind, LLC OCS-A 0522 132,370 $135,100,000.00
The following companies participated in today’s lease sale:
Cobra Industrial Services, Inc.
East Wind, LLC
EC&R Development, LLC
EDF Renewables Development, Inc.
Equinor Wind US, LLC
Innogy US Renewable Projects, LLC
Mayflower Wind Energy, LLC
Northeast Wind Energy, LLC
Vineyard Wind, LLC
wpd offshore Alpha, LLC

The three lease areas auctioned today are located 19.8 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard, 16.7 nautical miles from Nantucket, and 44.5 nautical miles from Block Island. A map of the lease areas can be found here.

“This auction will further the Administration’s comprehensive effort to secure the nation’s energy future,” said BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and members of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force have been great partners throughout this process. We look forward to working with them and the lessees as we move forward with next steps for developing offshore wind energy in a responsible manner.”

Before the lease is executed, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission will conduct an anti-competitiveness review of the auction, and the provisional winner will be required to pay the winning bid and provide financial assurance to BOEM.

The lease will have a preliminary term of one year, during which the lessee may submit a Site Assessment Plan (SAP) to BOEM for approval. The SAP will describe the facilities (e.g., meteorological towers or buoys) a lessee plans to install or deploy for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease area.
Following approval of a SAP, the lessee will then have four and a half years to submit a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) to BOEM for approval. This plan will provide a detailed proposal for the construction and operation of a wind energy project within the lease area.

Once BOEM receives a COP, it will conduct an environmental review of the proposed project and reasonable alternatives. Public input will be an important part of BOEM’s review process. If BOEM approves the COP, the lessee will then have a term of 33 years to construct and operate the project.

Before today’s lease sale, the highest grossing offshore wind lease sale was held in December 2016 for the lease area offshore New York that received a winning bid of over $42 million.

After Friday’s auction, BOEM has 15 active wind leases. These lease sales have generated more than $473 million in winning bids for nearly two million acres in federal waters. Money received from offshore wind lease sales go to the United States Treasury.

Boston Bans Plastic Bags/RNN

Boston is a great city.  Fantastic quality of life.  It just got better with the ban on plastic bags.  Nice Christmas present for those of us seeking an elimination of plastic bags.

Boston, the latest major city to ban plastic bags, for some it has been a long time coming.
Boston will begin implementing a citywide plastic bag ban starting Friday in an attempt to reduce litter and curb the environmental harm caused by single-use plastics.
The measure, signed by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh last December, will take effect just before this year’s holiday shopping season.
City Councilor Matthew O’Malley, who represents Boston’s 6th District, said he began working on the ordinance in 2016 and believes it will be “enormously beneficial” to the city.
“If you walk around any given street, you may see a plastic bag that’s caught up in a tree or down in a storm drain,” O’Malley said. “We’re seeing a lot of cities and states, quite frankly, step up in terms of better sustainability and environmental practices, such as implementing some sort of plastic bag ordinance.”
The plastic bag ordinance will solely apply to “checkout bags” used at stores and will not include newspaper bags, produce bags, laundry and dry cleaner bags, or trash bags, the City of Boston website states. Retailers can keep recyclable paper bags, compostable bags and reusable bags in stock and can sell other compliant bags as well.
Inspections will begin Friday for 20,000 square foot and larger retail establishments and on July 1, 2019 for establishments smaller than 10,000 square feet, according to the website.
Bill Rennie, vice president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said the association’s main concern with the plastic bag ban is whether it will increase costs for retailers across the city.
“Plastic bags certainly are less expensive than the alternatives, which you’ll see most people switch to a heavier paper bag,” Rennie said. “There’s, of course, the 5-cent fee that will be added to help offset those bag costs.”
Rennie said there are currently about 90 ordinances across Massachusetts that are similar to the Boston plastic bag ban. He also said, due to the number of similar ordinances, the association would like to see a statewide standard set in place.
“All of these are different from town and town, and that patchwork of ordinances or regulations can be very problematic,” Rennie said. “In general,…MORE

Allan,Zoe.  "Boston plastic bag ban to begin Friday" Retrieved from The Daily Free Press

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kilmartin announces $4.1M for environmental projects from Volkswagen settlement/ProJo

It will be interesting to watch how states manage and invest their monies from this settlement.  Here's an example from RI

MORE THAN $4 MILLION in grants has been allocated to environmentally friendly projects in Rhode Island from funds received in a settlement with Volkswagen over the sale and leasing of diesel vehicles with illegal and hidden emissions-control defeat device software. / BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/KRISZTIAN BOCSI
MORE THAN $4 MILLION in grants has been allocated to environmentally friendly projects in Rhode Island from funds received in a settlement with Volkswagen over the sale and leasing of diesel vehicles with illegal and hidden emissions-control defeat device software. / BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/KRISZTIAN BOCSI

PROVIDENCE – R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced Wednesday $4.1 million in grants for environmentally friendly projects, funded with money awarded in a settlement with Volkswagen related to the company’s sale and leasing of diesel-fuel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed emissions-control defeat device software in Rhode Island.
The grants were awarded to 16 local initiatives, with allocated amounts varying from $10,000 to $850,000.
“A silver lining of Volkswagen’s malfeasance is being turned into a benefit for Rhode Island,” stated Kilmartin. “It is through this settlement that we can have a real impact on the health and well-being of our citizens and support environmentally beneficial projects right here in Rhode Island. We chose grants based on the ability to most improve the quality of life for Rhode Island citizens, to further reduce harmful emissions from our environment, improve the health of our waterways, offset climate change hazards and create environmentally sound educational opportunities for students. I am especially excited about the Sabin Point Beach project, which will aid remediation efforts to finally reopen the Upper Bay beach to swimming after having been closed for decades and provide recreational opportunities for thousands who might not otherwise have access.”
The initiatives are as follows:
  • City of East Providence Stormwater System Remediation Project to Re-Open Sabin Point Beach to Swimming ($850,000) – To support the East Providence effort to reopen Sabin Point Beach to swimming
  • URI Environmental Mapping and Data Development Projects ($835,000) – For two projects, one to collect data and conduct analysis related to the conservation of salt marshes as sea level rises, and one to update aerial photography for mapping and planning statewide
  • HousingWorks RI/Rhode Island Alliance for Healthy Housing ($500,000) – To support several projects: Through the Alliance, HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University will coordinate statewide efforts to promote healthy housing by working with regulatory agencies, public and nonprofit social service agencies, and businesses and academic institutions to expand a smartphone/tablet-based coordinated referral program; develop healthy homes training modules and materials for contractors, builders, code inspectors and home-visiting health professionals; and coordinate an outreach/educational campaign about the importance of healthy housing and resources that exist to help Rhode Islanders live in safe and healthy homes
  • Green & Health Homes Initiative ($500,000) – To continue its housing intervention program to create safe, energy-efficient and stable housing for families in poverty
  • R.I. Department of Transportation TRIP Mobility Challenge ($500,000) – To support a public-private partnership to test and research factors and new electric-vehicle technologies as they relate to the improvement of mobility for Rhode Islanders
  • HEALTH Home Asthma Response Program ($300,000) – To provide HARP for up to 250 eligible children with severe asthma. The program helps families reduce children’s exposure to asthma triggers
  • Salty Brine State Beach Solar Panel Installation Project ($200,000) – To fund a rooftop solar array to lower costs and energy consumption at the state beach
  • HEALTH Lead Poisoning Prevention Program ($150,000) – To be used by the R.I. Department of Health to address childhood lead poisoning and asthma
  • John (Jay) Cronan Fishing Access Project ($130,000) – To build a passage for migratory fish at the John (Jay) Cronan Fishing Access on the Pawcatuck River in Richmond
  • URI Bird Laser Deterrent Research Project ($50,000) – To fund research and development on a prototype laser as a bird-deterrent system
  • Farm Fresh Rhode Island ($25,000) – To support the Farm Fresh Harvest Kitchen project, a culinary training program for youth in the custody of the R.I. Department of Children, Youth, and Families
  • Rhode Island Schools Recycling Club Food Waste Reduction Program ($22,500) – To support a multiphased program with Rhode Island students designed to study and reduce food waste in Rhode Island schools
  • Hospital Idle Project ($17,500) – To support technologies and practices that lower the amount of time engines idle on Rhode Island ambulances
  • Farm Hazardous Waste Removal ($10,000) – To support the R.I. Department of Environmental Management’s efforts to help farmers self-identify and catalog their unusable pesticides, and work with a contractor to collect and dispose of them
  • School Hazardous Waste Removal ($10,000) – To help Rhode Island schools conduct chemical audits to identify hazardous chemicals on premises and to hire local contractors to dispose of them

Exeter puts emergency freeze on solar-energy projects/ProJo

Do we, at times, have too much a good thing?  Here we see a municipality struggle to keep up with the demand for new permits on solar.  Not a bad problem to work with.  It suggest that demand is good, and investors are seeing good returns.

EXETER — Saying 12 proposals for utility-scale solar projects have overwhelmed the ability of the planning board and the two-day-a-week planner, the Town Council on Monday night passed an emergency, temporary moratorium on all but rooftop solar development.
In its first full meeting since voters chose several new members, the council voted 3-to-1 to pass the emergency ordinance affecting ground-mounted, solar photovoltaic projects.
Town Planner Ashley Hahn-Sweet handed out 11-by-17-inch spreadsheets to the council that listed 11 proposed solar projects. Another came in Friday, she said, after the sheets had been photocopied.
How to regulate solar projects has dominated discussions for at least a year. The Planning Board began in 2017 to write comprehensive rules that would govern solar projects larger than rooftop installations.
While the Town Council repeatedly sent the Planning Board back to the drawing board on their solar zoning rules, a renewable-energy developer, Mark DePasquale of Green Development, also proposed a change in the zoning ordinance. His plan, referred to as the Green plan, affected 15 specific properties where the company planned to install enough solar arrays to feed a new substation.
The Town Council at that time, whose majority favored the Green plan, adopted DePasquale’s ordinance, over the objections of townspeople who filed into the Metcalf Middle School cafeteria twice last summer and fall.
Then when the Planning Board submitted its proposal, called Solar Draft 8 — referred to as Solar 8 for short — the council adopted it, although one council member realized he had accidentally voted for Solar 8 when he meant to vote against it.
At the revote, the Green rules were reinstated. Then came the election, and instead of three pro-Green council members calling the shots, the council changed to four members favoring Solar 8 and one of the former Green backers.
The Planning Department, meanwhile, was getting applications that had to be considered under changing rules, with different requirements.
Hahn-Sweet’s chart indicated which rules were in effect when each project was proposed, and where the project was in the process.
Just keeping track of where each project was under which set of rules, she said, took up 90 percent of her time, and as a part-time planner, she works only two days a week.
Council President Calvin A. Ellis read the emergency moratorium out loud to about 150 people in the Wawaloam Elementary School cafeteria.
Daniel W. Patterson, formerly the council vice president and now the only member of the pro-Green majority who got reelected, asked what the emergency was. The moratorium’s wording said that proposed solar projects “pose serious threats to the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of Exeter through the potential overdevelopment of areas of town in a manner that conflicts with the town’s comprehensive plan.”
Hahn-Sweet and Planning Board Chairman Michael DeFrancesco said the threat to municipal resources was that the 12 major solar proposals overwhelmed the town’s ability to consider them, especially with conflicting zoning rules.
The moratorium is for 60 days. In that time, DeFrancesco said, the Planning Board will have submitted Solar 9 for the council’s consideration, and will have been able to untangle what each current project needs to go forward.
The council passed the moratorium 3 to 1, with Patterson the sole vote against it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Trump Administration Pitched Coal at a Climate Change Conference/Time

There's many ironies going on at this conference in Poland--from the back drop of heavy coal production in that part of the country to the sponsors and, now, advocacy for continue heavy use of a fossil fuel most experts believe is way past its prime.

Yes, the reality is, we need to deal with traditionalist who believe coal should continue to be part of the mix of fuels.  Their is an environmental and economic reality to navigate.  This conference is the nuts and bolts of implementation of the Paris Accords.  Their will be a trust factor around nation's compliance with their Paris commitments to reduce carbon production.  Better we have transparency now on their true willingness to make shifts and investments into renewables.

The United Nations climate change conference underway here in Poland could play a critical role in the fight to stem greenhouse gas emissions and keep temperatures from rising to unsafe levels.
The Trump Administration showed up to pitch fossil fuels. In a closely watched event Monday on the sidelines of official negotiations, U.S. officials touted natural gas and argued in support of coal’s place in the electricity mix.
“It is important to the overall climate discussion that we consider what’s realistic and pragmatic,” P. Wells Griffith, special assistant to the president for international energy and environment, told the crowd “Energy innovation and fossil fuels will continue to play a leading role.”
Coal, of course, contributes more to greenhouse gases on a unit-per-unit basis than any other electricity source and reducing its role is considered a top priority for scientists who want to address global warming. And climate scientists, along with governments in the vast majority of countries, agree that now is the time to sound the alarm on climate change.
The closely watched event underscores the odd position the Trump Administration has placed itself in the international process to address global warming: the U.S. has abandoned its leadership position on climate change but still retains a seat at the table. And, while other countries use the conference as a venue to advocate for speeding up adoption of renewables and eliminating coal, the U.S. has used the venue to rally for natural gas and “clean coal” even as scientists urge government policymakers to move away from fossil fuels.
“The U.S. government has one side event that just further erodes their credibility and they know it,” says Lou Leonard, SVP for climate change and energy at WWF.
This is the second annual U.N. climate conference — officially known as the Conference of the Parties — to take place after President Donald Trump took office last year and promised to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, the landmark 2015 deal in which countries voluntarily committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Trump’s decision to exit the deal cannot legally take effect until after the 2020 presidential election, and the Trump Administration is free to participate in negotiations as it sees fit in the meantime. (It’s also the second year in a row that the Administration has sought to promote fossil fuels on the sidelines of the annual U.N. climate conference).
“They don’t have credibility and leadership capacity and leverage, of course, the way they used to,” says Todd Stern, who led the U.S. negotiating team in lead up to the Paris Agreement.
Despite the controversy, there were few surprises in this year’s event. Administration officials, joined on stage by an energy executive, the head of a conservative clean energy group and a representative of the Australian government, ran through their talking points highlighting how U.S. emissions have fallen in recent years and showing projections that fossil fuel use will continue to grow. Administration officials argued that fossil fuel plants can be made cleaner as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.
In opposition, protesters interrupted in a coordinated action, initially laughing at a claim from Griffith and then chanting refrains like “leave it in the ground” with several delivering remarks before departing in an organized fashion. “These fossil fools are a joke,” an activist shouted at the start of the protest, “but the impacts on our frontline communities are not.”
Behind the scenes the U.S. position remain dynamic. U.S. negotiators continue to engage actively in the talks and thread a difficult needle: abiding by the Administration’s position while also working constructively in discussions on how to implement the Paris Agreement.
Many of the country’s most significant negotiating positions remain the same as under Obama, though some significant recent changes have ruffled feathers. This past weekend, tensions boiled over after the U.S. joined Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait to oppose endorsing the landmark U.N. report on the effects of climate change if temperatures rise 1.5°C. President Trump said he was skeptical of the document despite its grounding in science.
That’s a sharp contrast from three years ago when the U.S. joined with developing countries in the final days of negotiations in Paris to call for an acknowledgement of the 1.5°C objective. “The delegation here had very little running room to navigate this,” says Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
But even as the U.S. advocates for coal and enacts roadblocks to negotiations the U.S. continues to advocate for some Obama-era positions, most notably strong transparency provisions to ensure that developing countries largely abide by the same reporting rules as their richer counterparts. Those measures deal with all developing countries but focus closely on China. “There’s no reason for an ultra-conservative administration not to support transparency for China,” says Reed Schuler, a former State Department climate negotiator who now advises Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Indeed, pushing for strong measures to hold other countries accountable is a logical step for a president who has claimed that the Paris Agreement serves as a scheme for other countries to harm the U.S. economy. And other Republican administrations have supported such rules for decades. “This has its roots in the Bush Administration,” says George David Banks, a former White House energy advisor in the Trump Administration.
But getting tough on China and promoting fossil fuels doesn’t seem to be of sufficient interest to Trump to keep him from withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, despite a consistent claim from the Administration that he’s interested in bringing the U.S. back in the deal.
“There’s the option,” says a senior administration official. “It’s fair to say that there aren’t active negotiations going on at this point.”
Write to Justin Worland at

Winter Electric Grid Reliability Causes Concern/Public Radio

As we head into winter, this is a stark reminder of surges in demand and the compromises we make in filling those.  Our first line of defense against using dirty power is efficiency and lower consumption.  Then we can be creative in how to fill the shrinking pipeline.

New England's electric grid operator says the region should have enough fuel to get through the winter, even if the weather gets colder than expected. But, as Annie Ropeik reports, utilities and power users are still worried about winter reliability long-term.

The grid operator, ISO-New England, says they learned some things from last winter's cold snap. Demand was high and natural gas imports and pipelines were strained. Power plants turned to their coal and oil reserves, emitting enough carbon to negate 75 percent of the environmental benefits of solar power in Massachusetts.

This year, ISO said, it will do better forecasting demand and allocating limited fuel resources. And it'll pay power plants extra to stay online during times of high demand.

But there are concerns for the future. ISO and utilities say the region is too reliant on natural gas, without enough pipelines to deliver more of it as older power plants retire. And market changes to add reliability in other ways can increase costs for consumers.

You can hear the segment here:

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

CCNY Study Shows Plastic Waste Can Be Converted Into Energy And Fuels/RNN

We are always looking for reuse of materials and a second life of assets back into our economy.  

Plastic waste is flooding our landfills and leaking into the oceans, with potentially disastrous effects. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that if current production and waste management trends continue, by 2050 there could be more plastic than fishes in the ocean.
Why is this happening when there are processes and technologies that can effectively recycle, convert to valuable products and extract the imbedded energy from these waste plastics? According to Science Advances, as of 2015, of the 6,300 million tons of plastic waste generated in the United States, only 9 percent has been recycled, 12 percent has been incinerated, with the vast majority – 79 percent – accumulating in landfills or the natural environment.
The Earth Engineering Center (EEC|CCNY) at the Grove School of Engineering of the City College of New York is on a mission to transform plastic waste to energy and fuels.
A recent EEC study titled “The Effects of Non-recycled Plastic (NRP) on Gasification: A Quantitative Assessment,” shows that what we’re disposing of is actually a resource we can use. The study, by Marco J. Castaldi, Professor of chemical engineering Director of Earth System Science and Environmental Engineering and Director of the EEC|CCNY and Demetra Tsiamis Associate Director of the EEC|CCNY, explores how adding NRPs to a chemical recycling technology called gasification – which transforms waste materials into fuels – adds value.
Adding NRPs to the gasification process helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while significantly reducing the amount of waste byproduct to landfill – by up to 76 percent.
In the study, published by the American Chemistry Council, the effects of increasing the percentage of non-recycled plastics (NRPs) are measured at Enerkem, a Montreal-based energy company, in collaboration with the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.
“This study demonstrates that because carbon and hydrogen rich plastics have high energy content, there is tremendous potential to use technologies like gasification to convert these materials into fuels, chemicals, and other products. We were fortunate to engage a couple of students and engineers from our team enabling them to learn about this novel process,” said Castaldi.
Tsiamis added: “Plastics have an end of life use that will be turning waste into energy, which is something we all need and use.”

Monday, November 26, 2018

7 Ways RI and Northeast Will Be Impacted By Global Warming, According to New Federal Report/Go Local Prov

Even though environmental changes impact the globe, it is interesting how different, individual the threat can be that we face.  Here in New England we some of the great challenges as temp and water levels rise.  How different is it for your region and for you?

The new federal climate assessment report issued on Friday paints a dire picture for the future of the Rhode Island environment -- and economy -- due to the impacts of global warming.
On the macro level, the study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outlines devastating effects of climate change on the United States. The economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars --  more than 10% of its GDP -- by the end of the century.
The report issued by the administration of President Donald Trump states that the Northeast will be among the hardest hit areas in the country, “Ocean and coastal ecosystems are being affected by large changes in a variety of climate-related environmental conditions. These ecosystems support fishing and aquaculture, tourism and recreation, and coastal communities.”
“Observed and projected increases in temperature, acidification, storm frequency and intensity, and sea levels are of particular concern for coastal and ocean ecosystems, as well as local communities and their interconnected social and economic systems,” states the report.
SEE SLIDES BELOW -- 7 Ways RI and Northeast Will Be Impacted By Global Warming
The study finds that high temperatures will continue to get hotter and impact more days each summer and correspondingly, the number of severe winter days will increase.
“The new study is a comprehensive summary of the effects that are and will result from global climate change. In Rhode Island and in the northeast, we are seeing rising sea level, coastal erosion, storm events and changes in fisheries due to climate change, and these impacts will only increase with time,” Dean Bruce Corliss of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography told GoLocal.
“The report discusses the broad impact that climate change will have on the nation and the need to address climate change issues.  Climate change is an issue that will affect virtually all citizens in the coming years and it needs attention at the federal, state and local level,” said Corliss.
“By the middle of the century, the freeze-free period across much of the Northeast is expected to lengthen by as much as two weeks under the lower scenario and by two to three weeks under the higher scenario. By the end of the century, the freeze-free period is expected to increase by at least three weeks over most of the region,” states the report.
The new federal report says all will not be treated equally. The poor, young and old will be hit the hardest by the effects of climate change. “Although climate change affects all residents of the Northeast region, risks are not experienced equally. The impact of climate change on an individual depends on the degree of exposure, the individual sensitivity to that exposure, and the individual or community-level capacity to recover.”
“Thus, health impacts of climate change will vary across people and communities of the Northeast region depending on social, socioeconomic, demographic, and societal factors; community adaptation efforts; and underlying individual vulnerability. Particularly vulnerable groups include older or socially isolated adults, children, low-income communities, and communities of color,” the report states.
A previous study by Climate Central found that Rhode Island has 25,000 people at risk of coastal flooding. By 2050, an additional 8,000 people are projected to be at risk due to sea level rise.
Teresa Crean with RI Sea Grant and the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center, while appearing on GoLocal LIVE said the impact of rising sea level in Rhode Island is already being seen in communities like Newport, Wickford, Westerly and Oakland Beach. 
URI Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant have developed STORMTOOLS, where anyone can plug in an address and see your risk of coastal flooding now or in the future. 
Based on research Crean says they are looking at one foot of sea level rise by 2035.
A study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2017 shows that thousands of Rhode Island's most prized coastal real estate properties will soon be at risk of tidal flooding, which would have a devastating impact in a state so heavily reliant on its coast.
According to the UCS data, the risk is imminent and fast-growing, with flooding coming not just from storms and heavy rain but instead just from normal high tide.
Hundreds of US coastal communities will soon face chronic, disruptive flooding that directly affects people's homes, lives, and properties.
Newport flooding, Point Section
Rhode Island in Focus
The study's "high level" estimate shows that by 2030, more than 400 Rhode Island properties worth collectively just under $300 million will be at risk of flooding or complete destruction.
As time goes on, projections become increasingly grim. Just 30 years later in 2060, that number more than triples to just around 2,000 RI properties, valued at over $1 billion.
By the end of the century, the high estimate shows over 6,600 properties valued at more than $3.6 billion will be at risk, affecting just under 13,000 people in the state.