The following radio reports are done in partnership with Public News Service. Please click on the headline to read the entire article or on the highlighted “HERE” to listen to the report.

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

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

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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EXPERTS HAVE RANKED NEW MEXICO SECOND IN THE NATION FOR SOLAR POTENTIAL, AND SIXTH FOR WIND-POWER POTENTIAL.

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.”

Economic Institute report on farmworker protections includes unsightly data for IA and other states

Illegal immigrant while working in the fields in the summer

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A NEW REPORT LOOKING AT FEDERAL INVESTIGATIONS OF WAGE AND HOURLY STANDARDS ON U.S. FARMS SHOWS MOST CASES RESULT IN VIOLATIONS. IT SAYS THE PACE OF INVESTIGATIONS IS SLOWING, POTENTIALLY LEAVING MORE MIGRANT WORKERS VULNERABLE.

February 16, 2021

Mike Moen, Public News Service – IA

AMES, Iowa — An arctic blast has left all of Iowa frozen in recent days, but the spring planting season is inching closer.

new report suggests those who work on farms still face obstacles when it comes to workplace protections, and some of the Iowa data isn’t pretty. The nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute examined 15 years of federal enforcement of labor standards within agriculture.

Moms breathe easier with Morgan Stanley projection that phases out coal

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February 10, 2021

LINCOLN, Neb. – New analysis from the financial giant Morgan Stanley projects coal will be all but eliminated from electricity generation in the U.S. by 2033, primarily because of falling prices for renewable sources including wind and solar.

Patrice Tomcik, national field manager for the group Moms Clean Air Force, believes shifting away from fossil fuels can’t come soon enough. She said everyone exposed to air pollution from coal-fired power plants face health risks, but some Nebraskans are more vulnerable. “The reality is that Black, Brown, indigenous and other people of color, and low-income populations and children, are especially impacted by these polluting sources,” Tomcik contended.

Pollution from burning fossil fuels at coal-fired power plants and other sources is responsible for one in five premature deaths globally, according to findings published in the journal Environmental Research. In 2019, Nebraska relied on coal for 55 percent of its electricity, with just 20 percent generated by wind.

Congressman Simpson’s Salmon-Recovery Plan called ‘Sea Change’ for North West

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February 9, 2021

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho congressman may have taken the first step in untangling the tricky knot of dams in the Northwest and their effects on salmon. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, laid out a $33 billion Columbia Basin Fund. While it includes breaching the four lower Snake River dams, it also addresses replacing their benefits, such as energy and irrigation for local agriculture.

Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, said it’s a critical lifeline for the region’s endangered salmon and steelhead. “My reaction to Simpson coming out with this plan is ‘Finally!'” Brooks remarked. “Finally, someone is giving this attention to this issue because it is such a big problem and it is going to require a big solution, and Simpson is giving it the attention it deserves.”

WA could speed up electric-vehicle rollout according to energy report

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February 5, 2021

SEATTLE – Washington state is on the right track for electrifying its transportation sector, but still has work to do, according to a new report. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has taken a comprehensive look at states’ policies for deploying electric vehicles, and ranks the Evergreen State sixth in the nation.

The group’s Director of State Policy, Bryan Howard, said Washington could improve in a few key areas.

Supporters say Rep. Haaland can unite at Interior Department

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February 5, 2021

HELENA, Mont. – New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead the U.S. Interior Department is historic for Native Americans. As a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, she would be the first Native American cabinet secretary.

Shelly Fyant, chair of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in western Montana, said the nomination also is important for the divided country. She said Haaland has proven she can be bipartisan and will bring her experience as a Native American woman to the position.

Oregonians choose rivers for protection in Congressional Bill

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February 4, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. — New legislation in Congress would protect rivers Oregonians have identified as their most cherished. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., released the River Democracy Act on Wednesday. After hearing from nearly 2,500 Oregonians about which rivers they want protected, the bill would give 4,700 miles of rivers and streams across Oregon a Wild and Scenic River designation.

NM Legislature debates tougher rules, and penalties for Oil and Gas polluted water waste

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January 27, 2021

By ROZ BROWN, PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE – NM

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Senate has agreed to take up a bill that would increase penalties for produced water spills by the oil and gas industry.

“Produced water” is the flowback from fracking, known to contain dangerous chemicals and heavy metals toxic to humans. Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said spills from produced water occur as frequently as three times a week, and subsequently poison New Mexico’s land, water and air. “Currently this waste really is out of control,” Feibelman contended. “We’re seeing thousands of ponds and corroded steel tanks that store this waste.”

If passed, the legislation also would ban oil and gas companies from using fresh water in most cases, and require them to disclose the chemical composition of produced water from spills and any proposed use outside the oil field.

Key insurance protection for organic farms as they continue to increase

Ripe carrots growing organically

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January 19, 2021

As of 2019, federal agriculture officials said there were more than 16,000 organic farms in the United States

Iowa is among the top states when it comes to the number of organic farms in operation, but producers have long struggled to obtain crop insurance that can better protect them from losses. A new initiative aims to help close these gaps. Last summer’s derecho storm left many Iowa farm fields flattened.

Kate Hansen, policy assistant at the Center for Rural Affairs, said these situations can be especially devastating for small to mid-size producers who don’t have the right crop insurance that can soften the blow. She noted about a decade ago, when more organic farms came into existence, there weren’t many coverage plans that matched up with their products. But that’s changed.

With Keystone XL Pipeline axed MT tribes, environment win

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January 22, 2021


HELENA, Mont. – President Joe Biden made the Keystone XL Pipeline one of his top priorities on his first day in office, issuing an executive order to revoke the controversial project’s permit. Tribes and conservation groups are cheering the decision. The pipeline aimed to deliver 800,000 gallons per day of Alberta tar sands through Montana on its way to Louisiana and Texas. Bill Whitehead is chairman of the Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water Supply System in northeastern Montana.

He said it’s been a long-fought battle, with many ups and downs.

According to AZ legislator Biden’s Climate-Change Policies will benefit Arizonans

According to AZ legislator Biden’s Climate-Change Policies will benefit Arizonans

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January 29, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. – President Joe Biden signed executive orders this week aimed at tackling climate change, curbing pollution, conserving natural resources and addressing environmental justice.

To further develop his administration’s policies, the directives also created a federal Office of Climate Change and a National Climate Task Force to formulate objectives on global warming and public health. Arizona State Rep. Andrés Cano – D-Tucson – said after years of climate inaction, Biden’s changes are both welcome and essential

Elected Official group hopes Trump no longer wields climate influence

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January 13, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa – As calls grow for President Donald Trump’s removal from office over the Capitol riot, other groups say his environmental policies have put the country in peril in a different way.

The current urgency from House Democrats is focused on the 25th Amendment or a second impeachment, but groups that want action on climate change feel the Trump administration has long been unresponsive on environmental issues.

Alex Cornell du Houx, who heads the group Elected Officials to Protect America, said impeachment would prevent Trump from seeking office again and from having influence on protecting air and water quality.