NC project shows opportunity in resilience

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March 15, 2021

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MERRY HILL — At the confluence of the Albemarle Sound and the Chowan River, Bertie County residents celebrated in June 2019 the grand opening of their first public beach.

Amid the joyous splashing and squeals of laughter, Ron Wesson spied a young girl trying to coax her little brother into the water. The boy would not budge, so the older man gently offered to help.

“We kind of sat there, with our toes in the water,” Wesson recounted in a recent interview. “He held my hand, and I walked out there with him. We took it real slow.”

Feds to review public lands oil & gas lease program

March 12, 2021

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GREEN RIVER, Utah – The Biden administration has ordered the U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct a review of the federal government’s oil-and-gas leasing program on public lands, with an eye toward better management.

About 38 million acres of onshore and offshore public lands are under lease, but critics says the program has been fraught for decades with organizational, financial and environmental problems.

Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities said the government isn’t getting a fair financial return for taxpayers, and has allowed the environmental degradation of America’s public lands. “Our hope is that the administration comes forward with a set of recommendations on how to fully modernize the program,” said Weiss, “so that we are fully accounting for the costs of oil and gas that is being extracted from America’s public lands.”

Native Americans anticipate positive educational impact with Haaland at DOI helm

March 11, 2021

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Native American educators say tribal representation at the highest levels of government will likely encourage more civic engagement and trust in the government.

If Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., is approved for the position of Interior Secretary, she would become the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary and oversee the Bureau of Indian Education.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of the Denver-based American Indian College Fund, said only about 20% of 18- to 24-year-old Native American students are enrolled in college compared with 41% of the overall U.S. population.

Underserved, underwater: Mapping a future for coastal NC

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March 10, 2021

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This is the second installment in a continuing series on making the North Carolina coast more resilient to the effects of climate change, a special reporting project that is part of the Pulitzer Center’s nationwide Connected Coastlines initiative.

EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA – Craig Allen’s memory is a little hazy on the finer details of the coastal storm that pushed the waters of Scotts Creek into his grandmother’s backyard in James City. He can’t pinpoint the precise year and time the hurricane rolled in – sometime in the early 1970s when he was in elementary school. He doesn’t recall the storm’s name. But he vividly remembers that it was the first time in his life water flowed over the banks of Scotts Creek and crept alarmingly close to his grandmother’s house on Kennedy Drive.

“Every year since then it’s getting worse,” Allen said. “There’s some trees in the water now that when I was a kid they weren’t in the (Neuse) river.”

Gas company pulls plans for Midcoast Maine pipeline expansion

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Environmental groups say fracking for natural gas can lead to freshwater pollution, as well as fragmentation of forests, wilderness and grasslands. (Jason/Adobe Stock)March 3, 2021

ROCKLAND, Maine – Environmental groups are celebrating an announcement by Summit Natural Gas that it’s withdrawing plans for a Midcoast pipeline expansion from Belfast through Thomaston.

As the state moves toward a clean-energy economy, said Sarah Leighton, director of the Sierra Club’s Maine chapter, there’s no reason to invest in more fossil-fuel infrastructure. She pointed out that fracked gas releases nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, as well as methane. The latter is a greenhouse gas some 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, measured over a 20-year period. “It’s bad for our health,” she said. “There have been studies to show that kids that grow up with homes with gas stoves are much more likely to have asthma than those who don’t. It kills our trees, and also doesn’t make sense financially.”

Local Choice Energy Act of NM seen as 21st century model

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March 3, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. – Supporters of a bill in the New Mexico Legislature say it would transform power and control of the state’s electric supply, creating a 21st-century renewable-energy policy for the state.

Senate Bill 83, known as the “Local Choice Energy Act,” would give local governments the ability to purchase electricity from a provider of their choosing, rather than utility companies that often are beholden to Wall Street investors.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber, who testified in favor of the bill, said that by increasing competition, consumers would benefit from lower utility bills. “I think a combination of technology, climate-change issues, economics and different political environment are all combining to begin to put into place the building blocks of a comprehensive energy policy for New Mexico.”

CO keeps eye on U.S. Senate after House votes to advance CORE Act

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March 1, 2021

LEADVILLE, Colo. — All eyes are on the U.S. Senate after the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, cleared the U.S. House on Friday. Part of a larger public-lands package, the measure aims to boost Colorado’s outdoor-recreation economy and protect some 400,000 acres of public lands including Camp Hale, where 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained for alpine combat in World War II.

Mike Greenwood, a 10th Mountain Division veteran, trained at Camp Hale before being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think this is important because it’s taking another giant step towards protecting the land that many veterans, specifically 10th Mountain veterans, hold sacred to them,” Greenwood explained.

If the CORE Act is approved by the U.S. Senate, Camp Hale would be designated as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape. The site also is known as the birthplace of Colorado’s ski industry, launched by returning war veterans.

Groups call Lake Powell hydropower project ‘unsustainable’

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February 25, 2021

PAGE, Ariz. — Federal regulators have issued a preliminary permit for a pumped-hydropower project using water from Lake Powell, but conservation groups say climate change could make the plan unsustainable.

The project would pump water from the lake, drain it downhill to a generator, and send the power to massive batteries for storage. The 2,200-megawatt project would supply cities in Arizona, California and Nevada, over lines previously used by the retired Navajo Generating Station.

Gary Wockner, executive director for Save the Colorado, which opposes the plan, said falling water levels will make the Colorado River Basin an unreliable source of water. “It’s trying to build billions of dollars worth of the infrastructure in this lake and in the system that is clearly in severe decline,” Wockner pointed out. “It’s a strange way to try to generate electricity. There’s a lot smarter, faster, easier ways to generate electricity than pumped-storage hydro.”

Some California cities reject gas to power them – won’t be caught off guard like TX

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February 24, 2021

LANCASTER, Calif. – In the wake of last week’s massive power blackouts in Texas, there’s a lot of blame to go around. But groups that fight climate change say the root problem, in every state, is burning fossil fuels.

Clean-energy advocates have said climate change is leading to more extreme weather events, from the storm that froze Texas to the heat and drought driving wildfires in California. San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said that’s why her city uses 100% renewable energy and bans gas hookups in new homes. “When you look at a situation like Texas, so much of that is climate exacerbated,” she said. “And so, we’re getting into some really pretty serious, probably, feedback loops here – that we’re going to have to do everything in our power to turn this around before it’s too late, if it’s not already too late.”

As of 2019, data from the California Energy Commission show, almost half the state’s energy came from natural gas. Natural-gas suppliers have countered that it’s cleaner than coal and easily accessible, day or night. Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez is a former mayor of Oxnard, a lower-income community of color that has hosted oil and gas production for decades but recently rejected a new gas-powered plant. She said the city now boasts a clean-energy storage facility.

Culver City, CA is a model phasing out oil and using 100% clean energy

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February 22, 2021

CULVER CITY, Calif. — State lawmakers proposed a bill, Senate Bill 467, to ban fracking last week, but one city, Culver City, has already taken a big step in that direction.

In October, the city council approved a resolution to wind down drilling within five years; staff are working on an ordinance now.
The city hosts 10 percent of the Inglewood oil field, which has been drilling for about 100 years.

Meghan Sahli-Wells, California state director for Elected Officials to Protect America and former mayor of Culver City, said neighbors are troubled by reports of miscarriages and cancer diagnoses in parts of the city. “Cancer over cancer over cancer in the communities that are closest to the oil field,” Sahli-Wells asserted. “We have a ton of anecdotal stories of people in our community who look at the pollution that’s happening at the oil field site as the culprit.”

PA groups call for regulating smaller sources of methane

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Some older, low-producing gas wells release more methane into the air than they capture for sale. (evgenii/Adobe Stock)

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February 19, 2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmental groups say actions in Washington and Harrisburg to curb methane emissions are major steps forward, but they see a big loophole in regulations that still needs to be closed.

In his first week in office, President Joe Biden directed the Environmental Protection Agency to have a proposal by September to address methane leaks from existing oil and gas facilities. Pennsylvania already regulates emissions from new facilities, and the Department of Environmental Protection is working on the rule-making for existing sources.

But Dan Grossman, senior director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the DEP proposal needs to be strengthened to include existing wells that produce only small amounts of gas. “If Pennsylvania exempts low-producing wells, as they do in their proposal, it’ll leave that gaping loophole in its regime,” said Grossman. “The signal that it sends to Washington is that it’s okay to leave these off the table.”

CA bill to ban dangerous oil/gas extraction methods, and put in safety setbacks introduced

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Three hydro-fracking derricks sitting on a plain in CA, Bakersfield.

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February 18, 2021

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Groups that fight climate change are applauding a bill introduced Tuesday to halt new permits for fracking starting next year, and ban it altogether as of 2027. Senate Bill 467 would also apply to several other extraction methods that advocates say are harmful to human health and the environment.

Kathy Dervin, co-chair of the nonprofit group 350 Bay Area’s legislative committee, said in order to make a dent in global warming, we need to start phasing out oil and natural gas. “California has committed ourselves to become carbon-neutral by 2045,” Dervin pointed out. “And the only way we can do that is by transitioning away from fossil fuels, including oil extraction in our own state.”

Next month, the bill will be amended to require a setback to keep any new oil and gas projects at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, health-care facilities, dormitories or prisons.

New Mexico Legislators to Hear Climate Solutions Act today

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February 17, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. – Supporters of New Mexico’s Climate Solutions Act, to be heard at the Roundhouse today, say it could set a national precedent with its emphasis on creating a “just” economic transition to clean energy.

Noah Long, director of the West’s Climate and Clean Energy Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the bill would ensure the state curbs greenhouse-gas emissions in line with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order that calls for a climate-conscious future that protects people, natural resources and the state’s cultural heritage while creating jobs. “The governor has turned the ship,” he said, “but we would need to make sure that we stay on course for the next 10 and 20 and 30 years – all the way to a net-zero emissions economy.”

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