The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydro-power projects. Since 1935 when it first became an independent regulatory agency it has done little to protect citizens from exploitation. Instead, the agency uses its vast powers to facilitate the expansion of dirty and deadly extraction for export to international markets. FERC ensures that toxic energy projects create greater profits for rich developers while leaving poisoned communities with the lie of so-called U.S. energy independence through fossil fuels.
There’s some mixed news coming out of Vancouver, Canada this week. On the one hand, the city announced at an international sustainability summit that it would commit to using 100 percent renewable energy to power its electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years. On the other hand, Vancouver is also dealing with a fuel spill in the waters of English Bay that is washing up on beaches and threatening wildlife. On March 26, Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Gregor Robertson motion calling for a long-term commitment to deriving all of the city’s energy from renewable sources. At the ICLEI World Congress 2015 this week in Seoul, South Korea, the city went a step further, committing to reaching that goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning by 2030 or 2035.
When it comes to climate change (and other struggles), there is ample evidence that we won’t be able to accomplish what is necessary under the current economic framework. But people are instinctively leery of big changes. It’s natural to wish that we could persuade the oil companies and other bad actors to reform themselves and get with the program. It would be so much easier. But the weight of reason andhistorical evidence shows that to be a dead end. In such a case, and in the face of the rapidity with which climate change is spinning out of control, the rational way to proceed is to get to work doing what’s necessary, however unconventional or difficult it may seem. The demands put forward by the climate change movement should reflect this. Nationalizing the big energy companies would make all the difference to the fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Right from the start, it would eliminate profit from the energy calculus and remove a large pool of money that’s used to manipulate government policy.
A Stanford University study published earlier this week found that utility-scale solar development built alongside existing infrastructure, on rooftops or in backyards, may be more than enough to power whole communities. The research, published in Nature Climate Change, modeled land-use efficiency in California, a global solar energy hotspot. The study examined how urban areas could be made more efficient by developing more localized sources for renewable energy. “The quantity of accessible energy potentially produced from photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) within the built environment exceeds current statewide demand,” the study found. “Our results show that we do not need to trade these places of environmental value for the production of renewable energy as ample land and space exists elsewhere,” said Rebecca Hernandez, study lead author and an environmental earth system scientist at Stanford. “Additionally, developing renewable power generation in places close to where it is consumed reduces costs and loss of electricity associated with transmission.”
In a far corner of North Dakota, just a few hundred miles from the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline, 84,000 barrels of crude oil per day recently began flowing through a new line that connects the state’s sprawling oilfields to an oil hub in Wyoming. In West Texas, engineers activated a new pipeline that cuts diagonally across the state to deliver crude from the oil-rich Permian Basin to refineries near Houston. And in a string of towns in Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota, local government officials are scrutinizing the path of pipeline extensions that would pass nearby. While the Keystone project awaits a final decision, scenes like these are unfolding almost every week in lesser-known developments that have quietly added more than 11,600 miles of pipeline to the nation’s domestic oil network.
The state-record $25 million fine North Carolina’s environmental agency filed Tuesday penalized Duke Energy for years of groundwater contamination. Ash elements found in test wells around the Sutton power plant in Wilmington had broken state standards for as many as five years, state documents say. Duke acknowledged contamination problems at Sutton in late 2013, when it agreed to pay up to $1.8 million for a water line to a low-income community near the plant. The fine is the state’s largest for environmental damage, quadrupling the $5.7 million levied as part of a 1986 air-quality case.
Many people have claimed to have played a pivotal role in getting New York governor Andrew Cuomo to “ban” fracking, and although the “ban” is more of an extension of a temporary moratorium, it took the hard work of many thousands of activists, both sung and unsung. One person who can rightly claim to have done more than her fair share is Vera Scroggins, retiree, citizen journalist and dedicated “Northeast Pennsylvania frack tour” operator. As a member of Shaleshock Media Alliance, she has posted countless hours of videotaped interviews, fracking operations footage, hearings, meetings, rallies and protests, often accompanied by her own sometimes-amusing commentary.
From coast to coast across North America, people who are fighting for climate justice are connecting and thinking big about how to work together to end the era of fossil and nuclear fuels and move to clean and just energy. We want to share what is going on and ways that you can get involved. Sign up here for the Popular Resistance Climate Justice Affinity Group to stay informed about actions to retire fossil and nuclear fuels and move to renewable energy
In the wake of a spate of derailments nationwide, more than 100 protesters rallied near the Oradell Reservoir on Saturday, speaking out against the oil trains that pass across that mainstay of the region’s water supply. Every week, an estimated 15 to 30 trains carry as much as 3.6 million gallons of volatile crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota through eastern Bergen County. The line, which is owned by the transportation company CSX, passes through 11 Bergen County municipalities and across a neck of the reservoir, which is the water supply for 750,000 people in Bergen and Hudson counties. Coincidentally, a train carrying crude oil derailed in northern Ontario early Saturday, causing numerous tank cars to catch fire and spill into a river system, authorities in the Canadian province said.
The governments that will be meeting in Paris rule the world, but they do not own the world. Under international law the earth’s shared natural resources belong to the world’s people and their posterity, as the common heritage of humanity. This fundamental principle is embodied in the laws and constitutions of countries around the world. It was codified in the Institutes of Justinian, issued by the Roman Emperor in 535 A.D., which stated, “By the law of nature these things are common to mankind — the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.” Under constitutional principles recognized in the law of many countries, known in the United States as the “public trust doctrine,” governments are required to act not as owners of essential natural resources, but as trustees for the real owners: the people.
The Campaign Against Climate Change, who organised the march, said “well over 20,000” people attended. The number of attendees was buoyed by the bright sunshine of early spring. Last September 40,000 people took to London’s streetsas part of the biggest demonstration on climate change action in history. Sauven said the protest on Saturday was the first step in a year of climate action. “This is much smaller in terms of its aims and objectives [than the global day of action in 2014]. But I think it’s also just the beginning. By the time we get to Paris then we have to have far bigger numbers than we had last year in September.” Lucas said climate change was visible and demanded action. “
If you look at maps of the affected areas, the inescapable impression is of vast expanses of ocean newly open for business. “This is a balanced proposal,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, acknowledging that it “would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources.” If 80/20 is “balanced,” then Obama is “consistent.” In 2008, candidate Obama had attacked John McCain’s proposal to expand offshore drilling, saying, “It would have long-term consequences for our coastlines … When I’m president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium.” In early 2010, he erased that promise with a proposal to end the moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the Delaware to Florida. But weeks later, the Deepwater Horizon went up in flames and sank a mile to the seafloor. It also sank Obama’s East Coast plan, which he withdrew. Now it’s back.
The Tasmanian Government will ban the controversial mining practice known as fracking for another five years. Fracking involves injecting liquid at high pressure into underground rocks to extract oil or gas, and the practice has sparked controversy in New South Wales and Queensland. Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff, who declared a one-year fracking moratorium in March 2014, considered 155 submissions on the subject. Mr Rockliff said there was uncertainty around fracking, and his decision would “protect Tasmania’s reputation for producing fresh, premium and safe produce”. “There is considerable concern around the potential negative impacts of fracking, particularly within our rural communities and farming families who rely so heavily on our global reputation for producing premium and safe products,” he said.
As Senator Whitehouse was being introduced, crowd-wide snickering could be heard as the announcer continually praised the senator’s public image of being a “climate champion” and an environmentalist; both of which are directly contradicted by his support of Spectra Energy’s ‘Algonquin’ pipeline expansion project in his home state of Rhode Island as well as the fact that Whitehouse’s “third largest campaign contributor in 2012 was Goldberg, Lindsay & Co., an investment firm that owns several natural gas distribution and pipeline companies. Goldberg, Lindsay & Co. also contributed $20,000 to the Senator’s “OceanPAC” that distributes money to candidates who support “ocean and environmental issues.” After a few gales of laughter every time Whitehouse made reference to his climate-forward claim-to-green-fame, an audience member loudly inquired about the reason for these ongoing disruptive outbursts. One of the demonstrators stood up and replied, “It’s a JOKE! It’s a joke that Senator Whitehouse is an environmentalist.”
A place of great natural beauty, popular among rock climbers and campers, a part of Tonto National Forest known as Oak Flat has been under federal protection from mining since 1955, by special order of President Eisenhower. On the nearby San Carlos Apache reservation, many consider Oak Flat to be sacred, ancestral land – the home of one of their gods and the site of traditional Apache ceremonies. But Oak Flat also sits on top of one of the world’s largest deposits of copper ore. Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, has sought ownership of the land for a decade, lobbying Congress to enact special legislation on its behalf more than a dozen times since 2005. Year after year the bills failed to pass. But in December, the legislation was was quietly passed into law as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.