Climate Action Alliance of the Valley news roundup: July 2021
First edition of a new Climate Action Alliance of the Valley Roundup of environmental and energy news! It follows the Weekly Roundup that Les Grady provided for many years; CAAV is so grateful for his efforts.
We plan to publish monthly and will try different approaches. We’d appreciate your feedback. Write us at email@example.com.
Find this July 2021 edition and future monthlies here. Read our monthly summary of Virginia Energy and Environmental news that the Harrisonburg Citizen publishes on its Perspectives page. CAAV is grateful to the Citizen’s editors for providing this community service and also to the Augusta Free Press editor for publishing our weekly Roundup and this new monthly.
Political, Legal, Policy
- The EU proposed a sweeping new climate plan to reduce fossil fuel use. The proposal is both more ambitious and more specific than similar goals of other countries. It has significant implications for business and trade.
- The UN has a plan to help retain biodiversity. (Related stories: BBC, Thompson Reuters)
Legislation and Litigation
- Hampton Roads’ vulnerability to sea level rise and its need for greater resilience to help address, among other matters, its traffic problems helped shape part of the bi‑partisan infrastructure bill. This Senate bill is far-reaching but not assured of passage.
- The House passed its infrastructure bill covering transportation and water; not all members are on board. A New York Timesclimate reporter says Biden’s climate agenda is facing a critical test. Researchers conclude his plan would substantially reduce emissions and save lives. A respected climate journalist, worried about inaction, argues we can’t afford for politicians to continue dithering. The projects, and the jobs they can produce, are waiting. A Houston Chronicle business reporter believes, and explains, “Conservatives deserve chance to show they’re sincere in fight against climate change.” They have their own take on solutions, says this opinion writer.
Administration, regulations, analyses, solutions
- The CA public utility commission (PUC) recently changed its methods for calculating the value of distributed solar, effectively devaluing it. OH’s legislature also wants to discourage “rooftop” solar. KY’s PUC may be piling on. Many utilities have solar‑unfriendly policies and charges, including AL; SELC represented rooftop solar advocatesbefore FERC and received a favorable outcome.
- RMIpays attention to the implications of the changing climate for many sectors and many worldwide locations. A recent report offers proposals for “Creating an Equitable and Durable US Climate Policy” in five major areas.
- Concentrated solar power might be “hot enough to serve a range of industrial processes that otherwise would be very challenging to carry out without copious carbon emissions.” A start‑up is working on financing to pursue R&D. Read on….
- What about carbon capture? Can farmers store CO2in soil or by planting trees, get paid for doing so, and actually reduce (or offset) emissions? How do we measure results of efforts underway or being considered?
- Ditto for “vacuuming carbon from the sky”. “No joke”, per the headline.
- What if there was “a way to tie every ton of CO2 emitted, starting now, to a party responsible for cleaning it up later”? Under the “Carbon Removal Obligation” proposal, companies would accrue a carbon debt for their emissions and would have to clear that debt by removing each ton. A somewhat analogous approach could also apply to the shipping industry.
- The Fed’s Janet Yellen says she wants to assess the risks of the climate crisis on the financial sector. A study reports “Financial Markets Ignore Environmental Damage.”
Visions (Realities?) of the future
- Many climate-related events and results are leading people to re-evaluate whether and how they can remain in their homes and communities. Affected groups include Native Americans.
- Some cities are examining what and how they’ll be in 2040 (Harrisonburg); others are thinking about 2121.
Our Changing Climate
Heat and fires
- Temperatures are soaring in many places in the US (West Coast), Canada, Nordic Countries (90o+). The numbers are staggering—130o in NV and Death Valley, 111 o in Phoenix, and over 120 o in British Columbia. And the near-term outlook in CA isn’t promising. Some of many stories of death and devastation from the past few weeks, including what a “heat dome” is and experts’ reactions: Washington Post, The Guardian, The Guardian, The Guardian, Washington Post, Washington Post, Washington Post, The Guardian, New York Times, New York Times). And the destructive cycle may continue into the weekend and beyond. A freelance journalist says no one was prepared, especially animals. Not just land creatures. Young salmon may be in trouble. Agricultural communities in CA’s interior struggle mightily to produce food despite punishing temperatures.
- As if the searing heat isn’t enough, firefighters have to battle huge wildfires in the West. And they may run out of fuel for their fire-fighting equipment.
- Planting more trees can help low-income communities reduce local heat levels. This can matter a lot, as a report quantifying such levels in large cities, shows.
Drought, flooding, hurricanes, sea ice loss, sea level rise
- What does the long CA drought mean for agriculture?
- Harbinger of what’s to come? Flooding in NY subways after tropical storm Elsa dumped a bunch of rain. Remember Hurricane Sandy?
- What connection might there be between the tragic building collapse in the Miami area and sinking land/sea level rise? Can “natural solutions” help if so?
- Chicago is reckoning with climate change and its great lakeis forcing the issue, especially for people of color. So is Detroit. Las Vegas has water shortages to contend with. Reservoirs in the US West are drying up, including in NM; the Hoover Dam may be in trouble. And TX is also affected. Despite the heat and water issues in the US West, NM continues its longstanding and cozy relationship with Big Oil.
Plastics, chemicals, and waste
- Ever wonder what’s in the water you drink from plastic water bottles and other plastic food and drink containers? You might prefer not to know.
- EPA is considering regulating “forever chemicals”. It declined to do so previously. The House is weighing legislative solutions.
- Maine decided companies should pay for recycling costs rather than customers.
Plants, animals, and wild places
- Yellowstone National Park expects major changes—and threats, even to Old Faithful. Yellowstone isn’t the only NP to be affected. Wildlife corridors are one important way to reduce extinction rates among many species. One old concrete bridge over the Mississippi River between IA and IL may become the world’s largest wildlife bridge—for bison.
- Oceans have natural carbon capture weapons—kelp and sea grasses. Except… kelp’s in danger. Some researchers, however, think we need to focus more on plants to understand how they handle stress (e.g., heat) and then put that knowledge to work. Hopefully we can do this to help save manatees from extinction from starvation as oceans acidify and algae and pollution reduce their food sources, which are largely plants. The food system “carbon footprint has been vastly underestimated.” Farmers are working to reduce it by “putting carbon back into the soil.”
- Sadly, and perhaps disastrously, areas of the Amazon Rain Forest now “release more carbon than can be absorbed.” Whether Russia’s massive forests will help or hurt in carbon reduction is in question.
Renewables, biomass, and nuclear
- The inevitable intersection of power lines and renewables—what’s the best approach?
- Biden wants to assess the potential for wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico. LA is very interested. What’s the carbon footprint of wind turbines? Better than that for fossil fuels.
- Think using wood as fuel is environmentally friendly? Maybe not, especially for the folks who live near sawmills that cut the downed trees.
- Can hydrogen help wean us off, given how plentiful it is but how expensive it is to produce?
- The Department of Energy is focusing on cheaper battery storage and on facilitating localities’ permitting processes through automation. Will its strategy work?
- Another type of hybrid vehicle—the “green” blimp.
- A blogger says VA’s airports need to electrify.
- Volkswagen says it will cease making “combustion engine cars” in Europe by 2035.
- How “green” are EVs, really? It’s complicated.
We’re far from done with pipelines and maybe not coal either. This week’s stories told of …
- Supreme Court decision that “pipeline projects with federal approval can seize state‑owned land to build natural gas pipelines.”
- Cancellation of the Byhalia Pipeline in Memphis TN that left unanswered the question of its “right to claim eminent domain.” The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) represented some of the opponents.
- VA, KY, WV regulators having the ability to weigh in on Appalachian Power’s proposals to upgrade three of its WV coal plants.
- A plan to improve a Great Lakes pipeline (line 5) that will have to include, for the first time, an environmental impact statement.
- Apipeline (in NC) leaks fuel, massively.
- We know pipelines can leak methane gas. Landfills do too.
Utilities and electric grid
- A MI utility wants to meet its carbon reduction goals but plans to replace its coal‑fueled plants with those run on natural gas.
- CA wants to test renewable energy and storage and grid capacity, without natural gas.
- Utilities, the financial sector, and industrial energy customers agree that “transitioning away from coal is good for ratepayers.”
- Wonk alert: RMI provides its “Utility Transition HubTM Insights” that foster understanding of what’s ahead for utilities and their customers.
Ideas, Entertainment and Information
- Want to make your lawn more eco-friendly? Thought about using an electric mower to cut that lawn?
- Can you find a way to conserve water by using greywater?
- Like rainbows? Check out HI’s.
- Test your knowledge of climate changes. Use these six interactive tools to boost it.
- Keep yourself informed about “Climate Crimes”—a new series by The Guardian, reporting on the fossil fuel industry’s efforts at misinformation and other misdeeds. And, find out how much you know about heatwaves and their connection to the climate.
- The Guardian covers “AnimalsFarmed” to help us keep up with trends.
- A different way of farming in Germany—cows have a say, sorta.
Compiled by Joy Loving, CAAV Steering Committee