Clean water advocates cheer 3M decision on forever chemicals

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December 21, 2022   

South Dakota and all other states have seen the effects of so-called “forever chemicals.”

Those pushing for their removal say 3M’s announcement it will phase them out is another step in the right direction. The major manufacturer of products from cleaning supplies to Post-it Notes said it plans to ensure it’s no longer producing items containing PFAS chemicals by the year 2025.

John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America, said it is an important step in trying to reduce harmful pollutants from reaching natural resources.

“PFAS chemicals are toxic, and they persist in the environment,” Rumpler explained. “They’ve been contaminating drinking water sources all across the country.”

The chemicals were also used in firefighting foam, and the City of Sioux Falls took legal action against 3M and other companies over the presence of PFAS in the soil and groundwater near the city’s airport. 3M said it made the decision based on changes in the business and regulatory landscape.

New EPA Rules on Methane Could Be a Win for Economy

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December 12, 2022   

The Environmental Protection Agency has released rules which would for the first time require regular inspections of all methane-emitting oil and gas production sites throughout the country.

Groups backing the new rules said they will also pave the way for more jobs in Ohio’s the natural gas industry.

The rules are an update to standards the Biden administration released last year.

Sarah Spence, executive director of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, said in addition to cleaner air, the changes could mean more employment in the methane-capture business, particularly in the state’s Utica Shale region.

“We’re already headquarters for two manufacturing firms and five service firms that deal in methane mitigation,” Spence pointed out. “I think these rules will allow those companies to grow and to hire more Ohioans to work for them in those areas.”

Offshore wind leases kick off race to build renewable energy of the future in CA

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December 8, 2022   

California’s first-ever auction for offshore wind leases just brought in more than $757 million in bids.

The Department of the Interior announced the winning bids on Wednesday, which cover five sites located off of Morro Bay and off of Humboldt County.

David Chiu is San Francisco City Attorney and a former Assembly member who authored a bill to kickstart offshore wind.

“When you walk over to the coast and feel the wind blowing on you 20 to 30 miles off the California coast from our Oregon border all the way down to Mexico,” said Chiu, “there is enough offshore wind to power the entire electrical grid: clean, green, 100% renewable, which is remarkable.”

Chiu is one of a hundred local officials who gathered this week at the California Climate Emergency and Energy Security Summit, hosted by the California Energy Commission in Sacramento.

Local officials praise move to stop gas-price gouging with windfall profits cap

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By Suzanne Potter

December 6, 2022   

Governor Gavin Newsom convened a special session of the Legislature on Monday to consider his newly unveiled proposal to cap excess oil and gas profits – money he said comes from price gouging. According to Triple-A, gas in California is significantly higher than the national average.

Alexander Walker Griffin, vice mayor of the city of Hercules, praised the move.

“We’ve seen the record-breaking prices at the pump, $6-, $7-a-gallon gas prices at our local gas stations, which is why have to do something,” he said.

The oil and gas industry cites multiple reasons for the price hikes, blaming reduced capacity at refineries due to maintenance, plus the state’s moves to phase out fossil fuels, and supply issues related to the war in Ukraine.

Igor Tregub, a Ukrainian immigrant who chairs the environmental caucus for the California Democratic Party, said the continued dependence on foreign oil is fueling Vladimir Putin’s war.

“The nerve of oil and gas corporations to use the war in my homeland to make exorbitant profits is inhumane. The Legislature must see this as a national security issue and get it done,” he said.

On heels of midterms, a populist surge in West Virginia

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November 29, 2022   

Local candidates that signed onto a no-corporate-money pledge made midterm election gains in Charleston.

Katie Lauer, co-chair of West Virginia Can’t Wait, said the organization now has two dozen bipartisan elected officials – including Republicans, Democrats and independents in public office across the state. She said the wins signal Mountain State voters are paying less attention to politics and more on the issues affecting their lives.

“Our goal for this cycle was to double that number to get 22 elected officials into office, and we not only met that goal, but surpassed it. So we now have 24 elected officials across the state,” Lauer said. Some are on city council, some are on school boards, some are on county commissions.”

Advocates: State Must Do More on School Bus Electrification

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November 7, 2022   

With the Inflation Reduction Act supporting the beginning of a transition to clean school buses, elected officials in Florida are calling for quicker action.

The Miami-Dade County Public School System has ordered 10 electric school buses, with delivery expected next summer.

While it’s well known that electric school buses will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, a less talked about issue is kids’ and bus drivers’ long-term exposure to diesel exhaust.

The National Institutes of Health says exposure to diesel exhaust particulates is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Research indicates the amount of fine particulates inside a school bus can be 5 to 10 times higher than the surrounding atmosphere, and it’s worse when buses sit still at idle.

Former Mayor of Pinecrest and former Florida state Rep. Cindy Lerner – who is currently on the national leadership council of Elected Officials to Protect America – said the transition to electric buses has advocates excited.

“We are really very excited about it,” said Lerner, “not only because of the reduction in the greenhouse-gas emissions, but the significant health hazards to lung development – and even to brain development – in children by sitting on the school bus twice a day 5 days a week.”

Advocates press for changes to CA Lead Pipe Replacement Program

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October 28, 2022   

October has been Children’s Environmental Health Month and this week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, so groups in California that advocate for children’s health are asking for changes to the state’s 10-year plan to replace lead pipes.

California could get up to $1.25 billion from the infrastructure bill to replace old lead water lines.

Kelly Hardy, senior managing director of health and research for the group Children Now, said a coalition of health and environmental groups has written a letter asking the California State Water Resources Control Board to “get the lead out.”

“We’re pushing that they use all the available funds to replace all of the pipes and to add filters, so that there’s not an increase in lead in the water when the pipes are being replaced,” she said, “and also, provide for systematic sampling of the water.”

New federal funding helps CT get electric school buses

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October 28, 2022   

Connecticut school districts and bus companies will be receiving more than $8 million in federal funding for electric school buses.

The grant is being awarded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law. While many are embracing the push to electric buses, there are concerns about whether they will perform as well as diesel-powered buses.

Tyron Harris, chairman of the board of education for East Hartford Public Schools, described what is needed to ensure parents understand the truth about the new buses.

“Explaining to them, ‘You’re going to hear that electric buses are expensive, they take too long to charge, driving range of buses is less, that battery electric buses are not good,’ ” Harris outlined. “But helping them to understand that a lot of this is urban myth and the technology has expanded, and there’s more opportunities and more efficiency now.”

Clean Water Act subject of SCOTUS Case

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October 28 2022   

As the Clean Water Act turns 50 this month, parts of it are the subject of a U-S Supreme Court case. Sackett versus E-P-A might let factories, hog farms and wastewater plants pollute waterways in states that lack strong water-quality protections.

A decision in favor of the plaintiffs in the case has the potential to remove the Clean Water Act’s protections for about half the nation’s streams and wetlands. Jim Murphy Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy at the National Wildlife Federation, said the case could have sweeping repercussions across the U-S.

“Could potentially, depending on how the court rules, remove important federal protections from pollution and destruction for up to half of the nation’s wetlands and maybe 60% to 70% of the nation’s streams,” Murphy said,” including many streams that could provide the source waters for people’s drinking supplies. “

NY receives 470 million in federal funding for electric school buses

October 27, 2022   

School districts across New York will be receiving almost $70 million in federal funding for electric school buses, via a grant awarded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Bus rebate competition. It is part of a $1 billion investment from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

New York state has made commitments to having all electric school buses by 2035. One challenge with climate-change initiatives is the initial investment in the new technology.

William Reinhardt, Albany County legislator and former project manager at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said this isn’t new territory, especially as solar paved the way.

“We’re already seeing this with batteries, and we’ve already seen it over the last ten years with solar,” Reinhardt pointed out. “The cost per watt of an installed solar has gone way down, way down. And it’s much more economical than most people realize now, ’cause their mind is still back ten years ago when it was really expensive.”

NorthWestern Energy among utilities appearing not to live up to climate promises

NorthWestern Energy among utilities appearing not to live up to climate promises

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October 24, 2022   

Utilities across the country are making climate pledges – but they’re not necessarily backing them up, according to a new report.

The Sierra Club graded utilities based on their commitments to clean up their power grids. While NorthWestern Energy in Montana wasn’t included in the report, it finds itself in a similar position to other utilities.

This year, the company unveiled its plan to be ‘net zero’ by 2050. Caitlin Piserchia, interim director of the Montana chapter of the Sierra Club, said her organization is skeptical.

“Their net-zero plan envisions them using their gas plants well beyond that, but purchasing carbon offsets to negate the associated emissions,” said Piserchia. “So, it’s not what it appears to be, and we are definitely concerned that it is not nearly ambitious enough.”

CA Local elected officials call for windfall Tax on companies that overcharge for gas

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October 18, 2022   

Gas prices have soared in recent months, and local officials are speaking out in support of a windfall tax on companies engaging in price gouging.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has called a special legislative session on the topic for Dec. 5.

Eduardo Martinez, vice mayor of the city of Richmond, home to a Chevron refinery, said he supports a windfall tax and a drilling tax similar to one charged by the state of Alaska.

“It’s apparent that this situation is the consequence of the five big oil refiners in California who make 97% of the gasoline – controlling the supply to artificially drive up prices,” Martinez said. “A windfall profits tax solution that takes excessive profits out of the hands of oil corporations and puts money back into the hands of consumers surely deserves a special session.”

Study: Most Folks Underestimate Support for Climate Mitigation Policies

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October 13, 2022

The political divide over climate change seems well entrenched, but a recent study suggests the conventional wisdom is wrong.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, showed support for policies to curb climate change is much higher than most people believe. An average Michigan resident, for example, might guess support for climate action is around 43%, but researchers say the actual support level is between 66% and 80%.

Barry Lyons, an anthropologist at Wayne State University, said he is not surprised by the disconnect.

“It’s not surprising to me because I have long believed — that especially,” Lyons said. “Let’s say, in conservative communities, there is a lot of sort of hidden, or socially suppressed or closeted, climate concern.”

MA offshore wind generates clean energy for communities that historically harvested dirty energy

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October 10, 2022   

With many states working on becoming more carbon-neutral, Massachusetts is looking to offshore wind for its sustainable future.

According to a 2021 report, Massachusetts has the largest capability for offshore wind energy generation capacity.

While the state, and the U.S., move toward more energy independence, there has been some worry about how offshore wind might affect the fishing industry. Massachusetts is home to New Bedford, the busiest commercial fishing hub in the country, and residents are worried about how changes might paralyze the town’s economy.

Cobi Frongillo, a town council member in Franklin and a member of Elected Officials to Protect America, a group working to address climate change, said there were plenty of questions to be answered first.

“What are the seasons of building that are going to impact you the least? How large do our fishing lanes need to be, and that’s been a huge beast; having large fishing lanes. Where are your biggest fishing areas, and can we avoid those as much as possible?” Frongillo outlined. “Those are really, really critical conversations and the earlier you have them, the better.”

Study: Methane Worse for Climate, Health Than Earlier Estimated

Study: Methane Worse for Climate, Health Than Earlier Estimated

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October 10, 2022

Environmental advocates anticipating new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency to cut methane pollution caused by the oil and gas industry hope it means an end to routine flaring.

While the industry has maintained flaring is 98% effective at reducing methane, a new study showed the rate is actually closer to 91%.

Kayley Shoup, community organizer for Citizens Caring for the Future, said the findings came as no surprise. She lives on the New Mexico side of the Permian Basin and stressed the new data confirms what she has seen on the front lines.

“Because if you drive around the Permian and you see the flares that are burning, they’re kind of dirty with the smoke coming off of them,” Shoup observed. “And then you see that the common rate of efficiency that they think flares destroy methane is 98%, you go, ‘I don’t think that’s correct.’ “

Exposure to high levels of methane can result in numerous health issues. The report, from the Environmental Defense Fund and University of Michigan researchers, estimated the oil and gas industry releases 16 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere each year.

Report: oil-field flaring emits more methane than previously known

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October 7, 2022   

Ahead of revised methane regulations expected from the federal government, a new study shows that gas flaring in oil-producing states such as Texas could be more harmful than previously thought.

The industry has maintained that flaring at oil and gas fields is 98% effective at reducing methane. The study, however, showed that the rate is closer to 91%.

“And you don’t even have to be an expert with a flare camera to see unlit flares and smoking flares at any given moment,” said Sheila Serna, climate science and policy director at the Rio Grande International Study Center, who previously worked as an air investigator in Texas.

High levels of methane can reduce the amount of oxygen people get from the air, resulting in multiple health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release its supplemental proposal for regulating methane pollution sometime this month.

Elected Officials seek more offshore wind farms to combat climate crisis and grow economy

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October 6, 2022   

Offshore wind is becoming an increasingly popular way for coastal communities to hit their carbon-neutral goals.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy, state policies could procure more than 39,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2040.

Because of the demand, more than 340 elected officials are asking the federal government to increase national offshore wind goals and accelerate the permitting process. Some cities also are looking to the lucrative wind-turbine manufacturing business as a way to recoup some lost industry.

Mary Lupin, vice president of the Rochester City Council, feels it could be a match for Western New York.

“Industry has left. We used to be a huge manufacturing city, and we still have many of the bones of factories and industrial areas that could be built back up to support this industry,” Lupin contended. “I think we still have a lot of work to do in terms of doing the studies to understand exactly what it takes.”

She added it would greatly benefit to Rochester because, in addition to new jobs, it makes wind turbine parts more easily accessible to the city.

CT begins transition to electric vehicles

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October 3, 2022   

The United States is seeing a national push from the federal government and car companies to pivot toward electric vehicles, and Connecticut is riding the trend.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes incentives for buyers of electric vehicles, and elected officials are taking this call to action in stride. Connecticut passed its own Clean Air Act, which requires all state vehicles to be electric by 2030. It also offers incentives for anyone to buy zero-emission vehicles.

Sen. William Haskell, D-Westport, who worked on the bill, feels it was born of the necessity to rid Connecticut. “My state saw 21 days of unhealthy levels of ozone in 2021,” Haskell reported. “That was the highest in New England, and five of our eight counties got ‘F’ grades from the American Lung Association. The American Lung Association weighs in because worse air pollution can create aggravated, serious lung conditions, including asthma and emphysema.”

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