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. Hearing on California Gas Price-Gouging Bill Listen to the story HERE. March 22, 2023 California lawmakers hold a hearing in Sacramento today on a bill to hold oil companies […]
California lawmakers hold a hearing in Sacramento today on a bill to hold oil companies and gasoline refiners accountable for alleged price gouging.
According to the Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom, gas prices in California hit an average of $6.42 per gallon last fall, which was $2.61 more than the national average. And it happened even as crude oil prices dropped and state taxes and fees remained unchanged.
Farrah Khan, mayor of Irvine, said she supports Senate Bill 2, which would establish an independent watchdog within the California Energy Commission. “It’s going to establish a new division to provide independent oversight and analysis of the market,” Khan explained. “This new division would have the power to subpoena information deemed necessary to root out and address any of the abuses of market power.”
The Western States Petroleum Association said in a statement, “This new windfall penalty in this proposal is actually worse than the original bill. The Legislature would be giving away all its authority to a group of unelected bureaucrats who will have the power to set gasoline prices and impact fuels markets. [This] will likely lead to the same unintended consequences as his initial proposal – less investment, less supply, and higher gasoline prices for Californians.”
Steven Hernandez, mayor of Coachella, said it is a matter of fairness to the families who live paycheck to paycheck. “People struggle to afford gas and rent, and to pay medical expenses,” Hernandez pointed out. “When we’re mindful of the working class, I think we’re better off as a society.”
A new report found forced power outages in this winter’s extreme weather only added to “unreliability” in the fossil-fuel sector.
The PJM Interconnection is the electricity market including Pennsylvania and a dozen other states. Coal and gas plant owners’ failure to honor their reliability commitments may cost them as much as $2 billion in penalties.
Dennis Wamsted, energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and the report’s author, said some states saw rolling blackouts, and PJM used emergency measures to keep the lights on in Pennsylvania. Wamsted argued it all makes the case for renewable energy as an alternative.
“We are an organization that favors the transition to renewables,” Wamsted explained. “We think renewable energies like solar, wind, battery storage, are here today. They are reliable today, they are cheaper than fossil fuels, and they also don’t pollute the air, and solve, you know, a lot of our climate change problems.”
New York environmentalists are protesting banks heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry as part of a national day of action today (Tuesday). Led by the group Third Act, protests across the U.S. will consist of rallies, art installations, and activists cutting up credit cards. According to the Rainforest Action Network’s 2022 Fossil Fuel Finance report, the world’s 60 largest banks invested over $4.5-trillion in fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted in 2016.
Vanessa Arcara, president and co-founder of Third Act, said banks like JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are some of the biggest offenders in the U.S.
“These four banks alone have provided well over one trillion dollars in lending and underwriting to the fossil fuel companies that build things like new coal plants, fracking wells, gas export terminals, and more,” she said.
Soot, or fine particulate matter, is a dangerous mix of metals and acidic substances – from burning coal, manufacturing and vehicles. The particles are small enough to enter the lungs and bloodstream.
Patrick Drupp – director of climate policy at the Sierra Club – said the EPA could save up to 20,000 lives based on its own science, by adopting a more stringent soot standard.
“Everyone has a right to breathing clean air,” said Drupp. “And right now, that right is being denied to a lot of people around the country.”
Drupp said 20 million Americans live with dangerous levels of soot pollution year-round, and that the EPA is proposing to set soot standards at levels slightly higher than recommended by its own scientific advisory committee.
The public can comment on the proposal until March 28.
As the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine war approaches, climate activists are making plans to rebuild Ukraine with clean energy once the war is over.
Groups of elected officials in both countries are holding informal talks about what they describe as a “Clean Energy Marshall Plan” for Ukraine.
Igor Tregub, a Ukrainian-American and Leadership Council member of the nonprofit Elected Officials to Protect America and former Berkeley Land Board Commissioner, said Russia makes $258 million a day in oil-and-gas profits to fuel its war machine.
“There is a clear nexus between divesting from fossil fuels and instead, investing in a democratized renewable-energy supply, such as distributed solar, and wind power,” Tregub pointed out.
Supporters of a California law to ban oil and gas drilling within 3,200 feet of sensitive sites like homes and schools are gearing up to fight a new ballot measure which would invalidate the law.
Last week, a referendum qualified for the ballot to overturn Senate Bill 1137, which automatically put the 2022 drilling restrictions on hold.
Katie Valenzuela is a member of the Sacramento City Council who grew up in Oildale in Kern County, and she supports the ban.
“My elementary school, my home — places where we would shop, the parks we went to — are all very close to some very large oil fields,” Valenzuela pointed out. “I take asthma inhalers every single day to keep me being able to breathe. And I will be doing that for the rest of my life.”
A group of lawmakers is urging the EPA to show the Keystone State support by enacting strong, comprehensive methane regulation standards. Pennsylvania’s oil and gas companies emit more than 1.1-million tons of methane annually, and Elected Officials to Protect America believes the EPA’s new proposal to reduce methane emissions in oil and gas development should be tougher.
Joel Hicks, a Carlisle Borough Councilmember, suggested the agency eliminate routine flaring, the process of burning rather than capturing methane, and strictly limit it to instances when it is necessary for safety or maintenance.
“When you flare methane, it’s not good, but it’s better than releasing it right to the atmosphere, it’s less damaging in terms of the greenhouse gases’ impact to our atmosphere. The goal here is if we contain all this methane, we have more to use and it’s more economical,” Hicks said.
Misinformation about the effects of offshore wind turbines on marine life could derail offshore wind farm projects in New York and New Jersey.
The issue stems from a string of whale deaths in both states over the last two months. Experts have not found a linkbetween offshore wind turbines and harm to whales, but misinformation has continued to spread.
More than 165 New York elected officials signed a letter from Elected Officials to Protect America in support of offshore wind.
William Reinhardt, a member of the Albany County Legislature, noted there have been concerns about the development of a manufacturing facility at the Port of Albany. He feels any environmental impacts need to be addressed immediately.
“As you develop your wind facilities, whether it’s the port or the facilities themselves out in the ocean, you don’t want to fall into the pattern of the fossil-fuel industry, which is to create an awful lot of pollution, much more than you ever would with wind,” Reinhardt cautioned. “But still you want to follow environmental guidelines, and take care of Mother Nature and all that.”
New Mexico residents have two weeks to submit written comments to the Environmental Protection Agency about its proposal to implement stronger standards aimed at reducing methane emissions from oil and gas wells.
Sister Joan Brown, executive director of New Mexico’s Interfaith Power and Light, has been advocating for tougher rules for decades. Along with others, she spoke at this month’s EPA hearings, and said many speakers were confused by the government’s inaction.
“It gets difficult when you’re working with ordinary people, and ordinary people of faith, and they say, ‘Well, we already did this – isn’t that done yet? Why does this take so long?’ We need to move on this and quickly,” she said, “and we can’t have any more delays.”
The public has until February 13th to weigh in on new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce methane pollution at oil and gas facilities.
Emma Galofre Garcia, a doctoral student at C.U. Boulder’s environmental studies program, said the EPA has an opportunity to build on successful efforts led by states including Colorado to rein in methane emissions, a dangerous air pollutant.
“It’s a precursor to ozone and smog, causing lung damage, heart damage, greater susceptibility to respiratory infections. It causes and worsens lung disease such as asthma and bronchitis,” Galofre Garcia said.
New funds will help plug abandoned oil and gas wells in the Keystone State, and should boost the region’s economy in the process.
It is a big job, since there are about 8,900 so-called “orphan” wells in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The state has been awarded $25 million in federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Ted Boettner with the Ohio River Valley Institute said the bids have closed on five projects to plug 79 wells, totaling about $5.8 million.
“And the average cost per well is about $74,000, which is about $6,000 more than the Pennsylvania DEP originally estimated,” Boettner explained. “They’re also looking at additional wells to plug, so they’ll be putting more invitations to qualify, and more bids out soon for companies to bid on, to plug wells.
Some Nevada laws going into effect this year aim to move the state’s clean-energy goals forward and help reduce air pollution.
Senate bill 448 aims to advance Nevada’s goals of reaching 100% carbon-free energy by 2050. One of the provisions of that bill will also provide more charging stations for electric cars in lower-income neighborhoods.
Assembly bill 349 is a law that helped close the classic car loophole, that allowed some to get away with not doing annual smog checks on their older but non-classic cars.
Angelyn Tabalba, communications director for the Nevada Conservation League, said it comes down to being a health priority for Nevadans.
“The thing with these older vehicles is that they are not as energy efficient,” said Tabalba, “and they can put out nine to 18 times as much smog pollution as newer vehicles can.”
According to a recent report from the American Lung Association, a transition to zero-emission trucks between 2020 and 2050 would benefit Clark County with an estimated $4.9 billion in public health benefits due to cleaner air – one of which would result in close to 10,000 fewer asthma attacks.