Sunday, June 28, 2015

Climate Activist, Bill McKibben, looks at Green Energy Solutions in relation to Electric Utility Practices

Power to the People

Why the rise of green energy makes utility companies nervous.


By Bill McKibben  | The New Yorker | June 29, 2015 Issue

Mark and Sara Borkowski live with their two young daughters in a century-old, fifteen-hundred-square-foot house in Rutland, Vermont. Mark drives a school bus, and Sara works as a special-ed teacher; the cost of heating and cooling their house through the year consumes a large fraction of their combined income. Last summer, however, persuaded by Green Mountain Power, the main electric utility in Vermont, the Borkowskis decided to give their home an energy makeover. In the course of several days, coordinated teams of contractors stuffed the house with new insulation, put in a heat pump for the hot water, and installed two air-source heat pumps to warm the home. They also switched all the light bulbs to L.E.D.s and put a small solar array on the slate roof of the garage.

The Borkowskis paid for the improvements, but the utility financed the charges through their electric bill, which fell the very first month. Before the makeover, from October of 2013 to January of 2014, the Borkowskis used thirty-four hundred and eleven kilowatt-hours [3411 kWh] of electricity and three hundred and twenty-five gallons of fuel oil [325 Gal.]. From October of 2014 to January of 2015, they used twenty-eight hundred and fifty-six kilowatt-hours [2856 kWh] of electricity and no oil [0 Gal.] at all. President Obama has announced that by 2025 he wants the United States to reduce its total carbon footprint by up to twenty-eight per cent [28%] of 2005 levels. The Borkowskis reduced the footprint of their house by eighty-eight per cent [88%] in a matter of days, and at no net cost.

I’ve travelled the world writing about and organizing against climate change, but, standing in the Borkowskis’ kitchen and looking at their electric bill, I felt a fairly rare emotion: hope. The numbers reveal a sudden new truth—that innovative, energy-saving and energy-producing technology is now cheap enough for everyday use. The Borkowskis’ house is not an Aspen earth shelter made of adobe and old tires, built by a former software executive who converted to planetary consciousness at Burning Man. It’s an utterly plain house, with Frozen bedspreads and One Direction posters, inhabited by a working-class family of four, two rabbits, and a parakeet named Oliver. It sits in a less than picturesque neighborhood, in a town made famous in recent years for its heroin problem. Its significance lies in its ordinariness. The federal Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, has visited, along with the entire Vermont congressional delegation. If you can make a house like this affordably green, you should be able to do it anywhere.

Most of the technology isn’t particularly exotic—these days, you can buy a solar panel or an air-source heat pump at Lowe’s. But few people do, because the up-front costs are high and the options can be intimidating. If the makeover was co√∂rdinated by someone you trust, however, and financed through your electric bill, the change would be much more palatable. The energy revolution, instead of happening piecemeal, over decades, could take place fast enough to actually help an overheating planet. But all of this would require the utilities—the interface between people and power—to play a crucial role, or, at least, to get out of the way.

An electric utility is an odd beast, neither public nor exactly private. Utilities are often owned by investors, but they’re almost always government-regulated, and they are charged with delivering power reliably and at an affordable price. Utilities are monopolies: since it would make no sense to have six sets of power poles and lines, utilities are granted exclusive rights to a territory. When you buy or rent a house, you automatically become the customer of the local utility, assuming that you want electricity and you don’t plan to generate all of it yourself. To keep the nation’s utilities honest, they are typically regulated at the state level by a public-service commission that sets rates, evaluates performance, and enforces mandates, such as a requirement that a certain amount of power come from renewable sources.


Whereas most enterprises are about risk, utilities are about safety: safe power supply, safe dividends. No surprises. As a result, the industry “has not attracted the single greatest minds,” David Roberts, who has covered energy for various outlets for a decade and is now a reporter for Vox, told me. “If you’re in a business where the customer is the public-utility commission, and after that your profits are locked in by law, it’s the sleepiest business sector there is, if you could even call it a business sector. They build power plants, sit back, and the money comes in.” The entire realm is protected, he added, by “a huge force field of boringness.”

But what has been a virtue, by and large, is now almost certainly a vice. Scientists insist that in order to forestall global warming we need to quickly change the way we power our lives. That’s perhaps most easily done by giant companies with big budgets for new technology; Google, Apple, and Ikea have all announced major plans to switch to renewable energy. For average Americans, however, the biggest source of carbon emissions is their home, so the utilities’ help is crucial in making the transition. And, even without climate change, utilities face a combination of threat and opportunity from disruptive new technologies.


Consider the Borkowskis’ new air-source heat pumps, which use the latent heat in the air (down to about zero degrees) to heat their home and provide hot water. These devices have made it practical for electricity to be used for tasks traditionally performed by oil and gas. Smart thermostats, such as the Nest, allow you to make your home far more energy-efficient—and can even, when connected to the “smart meters” that are now appearing on many houses, permit the utility to turn your demand down for a few seconds in response to fluctuations in the supply of sun and wind. Electric vehicles provide a major new use for electricity and, perhaps soon, the opportunity for huge numbers of idle car batteries to serve as a storage system for reserve power. (Solar and wind power can be a challenge to incorporate into the grid, because they’re intermittent—cloudy days happen, the wind fails. Affordable batteries are essential to making renewable energy widely available.)

“Americans spend eight per cent of their disposable income on all forms of energy,” David Crane told me. Crane is the C.E.O. of NRG, the country’s biggest independent power provider; the company operates more than a hundred energy-generation facilities, selling electricity to utilities that, in turn, sell it to customers. Nobody wants that eight-per-cent figure to rise, Crane said, because when energy prices go up the country tends to trip into recession. But plenty of companies, including Crane’s, would like to see a larger slice of that eight per cent. “I’m interested in electric cars, for instance, not just because of the effect on air quality but because I want to take market share away from oil,” Crane said. “It’s a brutal fight for market share.”

Power utilities now face uncertainty of a kind that traditional phone companies faced when cellular technology emerged. A few utilities welcome the challenge; others are resisting it; and the rest are waiting for someone to tell them what to do.


Read the full article at The New Yorker online to learn about McKibben’s interview with the co-founder and C.E.O. of SolarCity. McKibben also interviewed the New York State chairman of energy and finance and learned about his initiative called REV - Reforming the Energy Vision - that is trying to change the rules so that the utilities can both shift direction and make money. 

Click here to go to The New Yorker online.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

NY State Tax Incentives to Heat and Cool Homes Efficiently using Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps use the constant below-ground temperature to heat and cool homes.
Geothermal heat pumps provide a clean and efficient way to heat homes and buildings in winter and cool them in summer. Importantly, they also have much lower operating costs as compared to furnaces, electric heaters and air conditioners -- save energy and save money!

The potential for widespread adoption of geothermal heat pumps in New York was recently boosted by the passage of bills in the State Senate and Assembly.
  • Senate Bill S2905 and Assembly Bill A2177a establish a 25% tax credit (up to $5000) for the purchase and installation of geothermal energy systems.
  • Senate Bill S4279 and Assembly Bill A5508 provide a tax exemption for the sale and installation of residential and commercial geothermal heat pump systems equipment.
Final approval of these important pieces of legislation is now in the hands of Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Senator Robert Ortt will hold a press conference (Tuesday, June 30th,  12:30PM at 10 Winter St., Buffalo - Map) to call on Governor Cuomo to sign the bills in to law.

TAKE ACTION: Call Governor Cuomo's office urging him to sign into law these important bills that will make geothermal heat pumps more affordable, and will lead to lower energy usage and lower energy bills.
Call 518-474-8390 -- You'll hear a recording: Press 2 to leave your message, or press 3 to speak with a person.

For a detailed description and video on how geothermal heat pumps work, visit the U.S. Dept. of Energy website.

A short description of how the heat pumps work along with a hat tip to the NY legislation is provided in a recent Letter to the Editor of The Buffalo News:
Cuomo could make NY a leader in geothermal energy

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Brian Higgins puts the Brakes on Transport of High-Level Nuclear Waste across the Peace Bridge

House Passes Bill With Higgins’ Amendment Requiring 
Risk Assessment of Proposed Nuclear Waste Transport 
Across Peace Bridge

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced approval of HR 2200, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2015.  The bill includes an amendment, introduced by Higgins, which requires the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis to examine and share information about the risks associated with a plan to transport highly enriched liquid uranium across the Peace Bridge.

The Department of Energy has a plan to transport liquid nuclear waste from Ontario’s Chalk River Research reactor over the Peace Bridge, through Western New York and other states en route to the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site beginning next year.

Last July Congressman Higgins called on the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct an environmental review of the plan.  He argued, in contrast to spent nuclear fuel, the shipment of liquid nuclear waste is far more complicated, more radioactive, and therefore a breach or contamination would be significantly more dangerous.  Despite the fact that the route was approved nearly two decades ago, the DOE maintained a new Environmental Impact Statement was not necessary.

The bill approved by the House now compels a risk assessment before the plan proceeds.

“The route was approved nearly twenty years ago, and it reflects a pre-9/11 mindset with respect to the threat and consequences of terrorism,” said Congressman Higgins. “This legislation, as amended, would ensure that the Department of Energy has the information it needs to reconsider the wisdom of transporting dangerous nuclear material through high risk areas like Buffalo.”


Monday, June 15, 2015

Clean Energy NEWS

Hawaii Enacts Nation’s First 100% Renewable Energy Standard
Hawaii enacted a law this week that mandates that all of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources no later than 2045. The bill makes Hawaii the first U.S. state to adopt such a standard. This renewable energy standard is being hailed as “the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country.”

The legislation was drafted by Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is “to clear the path for 100 percent clean energy.” Many believe Hawaii can reach the goal well before 2045 because the islands are already a renewable energy leader. “Hawaii’s renewable energy use has doubled in the past five years, with the islands currently generating about 22 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy resources.”

Read the full report at EcoWatch


Republican pours money into U.S. climate, clean energy foundation | Reuters

A Republican businessman said on Monday he is pouring millions of dollars into a foundation that sees opportunities where the majority of his fellow party members do not: easing climate change and speeding the country's transition to clean energy.

Jay Faison of Charlotte, North Carolina, has given $165 million to Clearpath, his foundation dedicated to explaining to centrist Republicans climate science and business opportunities in solar and other forms of green energy. In addition, he is giving $10 million to a related political nonprofit to raise additional funds.

The foundation aims to move the Republicans away from the party line of raising doubts about the science of climate change.

"There's a lot of good solutions, but we are not going to get there if we keep arguing about the problem," said Faison, a founder of audio-visual system companies.

Read the report at Reuters.com

Adam Zyglis | The Buffalo News

Proposal to boost renewable energy is an investment in the state’s future | The Buffalo News

This region is in the difficult process of remaking itself from its smokestack past into a green energy hub with thousands of eagerly anticipated jobs in a growing industry.

That makeover is just one reason to support efforts by the state’s energy research authority to dedicate $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to push further development in renewable energy projects and extend the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program that began in 2004.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority also wants to tweak the program to make it more efficient. The end result would be an increase in renewable generating capacity “by reducing project costs and trimming the cost of financing those developments.”

Read the Editorial at BuffaloNews.com


Ditching Fossil Fuels and Switching to 100% Renewables No Problem, Says Stanford Study

Is it possible for the U.S. to ditch fossil fuels? The answer is yes, according to researchers and engineers from Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley, who have developed a state-by-state plan to convert the country to 100 percent renewable energy in less than 40 years.

The study, published in the Energy and Environmental Sciences, showcases how each state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and even small amounts of tidal and wave power.

The report, led by Stanford civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson and U.C. Berkeley researcher Mark Delucchi, argues that converting the current energy infrastructure into renewable energy will help fight climate change, save lives by eliminating air pollution, create jobs and also stabilize energy prices.

Read the full report at EcoWatch


Clean Energy Seen as Opening for Developing Countries

Developing countries have the opportunity to leapfrog the west in economic development if they go straight to clean technology while rich countries struggle to wean themselves off fossil fuels, president Francois Hollande of France said on Wednesday.

“They are going to be skipping the stage where industrialized countries were stopped for a long time, for many decades,” he said. “We were dependent on fossil fuel, which means we now have to concentrate on the transition in the medium to long term of abandoning fossil fuels. But they have the chance to move immediately to the new technologies.”

He said clean technologies such as renewable energy were “dropping in price and will continue to drop”, while industrialized countries faced costs in having to scrap old infrastructure and rebuild it anew in a low-carbon fashion.

Read the full article at Climate Central
 

PUBLIC MEETING: DEC's Proposed State Wildlife Action Plan -- TUESDAY at 3PM

 10-Year Plan to Target Conservation Actions for 
Species of Greatest Need and Their Habitats

The proposed State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) to protect rare and declining wildlife species is now available for public comment, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The deadline for written comment is Friday, July 17.

A PUBLIC MEETING will be held on Tuesday, June 16, 3:00pm at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve,  93 Honorine Drive (off Como Park Blvd.), Cheektowaga [Map].

"The State Wildlife Action Plan will help guide DEC's work to protect and restore wildlife, and ensure that these precious natural resources are conserved for future generations," said Commissioner Martens. "The SWAP is a ten-year plan to protect rare and declining wildlife species that is being developed to update the 2005 Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. At the upcoming meetings, DEC staff and conservation partners will present projects carried out through the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy to conserve species of conservation need and propose actions that all of us can do to help protect these species."

The draft ten-year plan identifies 366 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in New York that need conservation actions to thrive. Such species include moose, least tern, northern diamond-backed terrapin, eastern spadefoot toad, lake sturgeon, barndoor skate, humpback whale, brook snaketail and barrens buckmoth. Of those 366, there are 167 species that are identified as high priority SGCN, including little brown bats, spruce grouse, Blanding's turtle, queen snake, American eel, sauger, winter flounder, horseshoe crab, dwarf wedgemussel and American bumblebee. An additional 113 species are seen as possibly needing conservation actions, including least weasel, mink frog, tiger shark, Scotia sallfly, and monarch butterfly. Surveys will help determine their current population status.

To update the draft SWAP, DEC staff and conservation partners assessed the current status of 597 rare and declining species in New York. The assessment included the location and condition of habitats where the species live, threats to the populations and conservation actions to help maintain healthy populations. The most common threats to these species are loss of habitat, pollution, invasive species and climate change. Recommended conservation actions include protection and restoration of habitat, management of SGCN populations and monitoring to maintain current data on SGCN.

DEC will hold public information sessions throughout the state in June to present the draft plan and accept public comment.

New Report: Oil and Gas Industry Pressures and Intimidates Scientists Critical of Fracking


BUFFALO, NY – A new report from the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI), a nonprofit watchdog group, finds that the oil and gas industry has been pressuring and intimidating scientists conducting research critical of fracking. 

The report, titled “Freedom Fracked?”, reviews cases where university researchers have been pressured by  – or even fired from – their institutions due to their criticism, either actual or perceived, of the drilling industry. It is the latest in a series of PAI reports bringing transparency to the industry’s role in shaping academic research on fracking.

The issue has recently made headlines in Oklahoma, where Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, obtained meetings with and apparently sought firings at the Oklahoma Geological Survey as it came closer to acknowledging a link between the disposal of fracking wastewater and the rash of earthquakes that has struck the state in recent years. David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma (which houses the Oklahoma Geological Survey), sits on the board of directors of Hamm’s company.

PAI’s report raises questions about the Energy Information Administration’s decision to make Hamm a keynote speaker, alongside Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, at its energy conference next week.

The report notes that the Oklahoma story, while particularly egregious, is far from the only case in which academic researchers have come under extreme pressure from industry, in some cases losing their jobs as a result.

“This is a clear trend of oil and gas interests exerting their influence to quiet scientists with whom they disagree.” said Kevin Connor, director of the Public Accountability Initiative.

The Oklahoma scandal parallels that of Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist who lost jobs at both the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Wyoming, due to “pushback from alumni and trustees” at the industry-connected schools. As in Oklahoma, Bill Scoggins – the president of the Colorado School of Mines when Thyne was let go – was a paid board member of several oil and gas firms. Scoggins was also a director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association at the time, a lobbying group that Thyne said pressured his bosses into terminating his research.

A third researcher, Dan Volz, resigned from his position at the University of Pittsburgh after the school discouraged him from speaking on public health issues – and after his work came under attack by industry.

“The industry’s efforts to stifle academic criticism of fracking while promoting its own biased research shows that it is more concerned with optics than developing a sound scientific record,” said Connor. “They will resort to smears and attacks if a researcher’s work does not fit their narrative that the science is settled in favor of fracking.”

The issue of industry pressure on scientific research on fracking is timely given the release last week of the Environmental Protection Agency’s assessment of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing operations on drinking water, and reports that the industry had refused to cooperate with the investigation.

PAI is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group focused on corporate and government accountability issues. In addition to publishing research on critical public accountability issues, PAI maintains LittleSis.org, an involuntary facebook of powerful people and tool for power research that was used to compile data for the report.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Riverkeeper Invites You to Explore Our Watershed

Explore Our Watershed with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper!
Get ready to hike, bike and kayak through our watershed! Riverkeeper's Summer Tour Schedule offers many opportunities to experience our waterways and learn about efforts to protect local ecosystems and water quality.

Upcoming events include:
  • June 18, 5:45-8PM: Biking Tour beginning at the Silo Restaurant (Lewiston) - Register here
  • June 23, 5:45-8PM: Paddle Tour of Cayuga Creek and the Little River at Griffon Park (Niagara Falls) - Register here
  • July 1, 5:45-8PM: Biking Tour of Canalside (Buffalo) - Register here
  • July 8, 5:45-8PM: Biking Tour of LaSalle Waterfront Park (Niagara Falls) - Register here
  • July 11, 9:15-11:30AM: Hiking Tour of Sprague Brook County Park (Glenwood) - Register here
  • July 15, 5:45PM-8PM: Birdwatching Paddle at Hyde Park Lake (Niagara Falls) - Register here
  • August 12, 5:45PM-8PM: Hiking Tour of Hunters Creek County Park (East Aurora) - Register here
Please note that space is limited and advance registration is required for all events. All programs are free to attend. 


Upcoming Community Events:

July 25: The 10th Annual Paddles Up, hosted by the Niagara River Greenway Commission and the Town of Grand Island are once again offering this non-competitive 4.8 mile paddle event around Beaver Island State Park. The event will be held on Saturday July 25. Registration is free and the first 100 to sign up will receive a commemorative t-shirt. For more event information and event registration please visit the Paddles Up website or call (716) 773-9680.

July 26: Buffalo Paddle-Bike-Run: we are excited to partner with Buffalo Paddle-Bike-Run, a brand new outdoor adventure event at Silo City!  Proceeds generated by the race will support Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, so sign up today and bring a friend, too! More details are available on Buffalo Paddle-Bike-Run's website.

Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER is a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water, while connecting people to water. We do this by revitalizing our waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and enhancing public access through greenways that expand parks and open space. Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER is a member of the global WATERKEEPER ALLIANCE.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

EPA Fracking Study Missed Some 'Widespread' Impacts on Drinking Water

Fracking Does Cause ‘Widespread, Systemic’ Contamination of American’s Drinking Water

Josh Fox and Lee Ziesche | June 5, 2015

In a draft report five years in the making, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that fracking does indeed contaminate drinking water, a fact the oil and gas industry has vehemently denied.

But instead of dismantling the industry’s “not one single case of groundwater contamination caused by fracking” refrain, the EPA decided to go with the misleading headline “there is no evidence fracking has led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

It’s a puzzling conclusion since their study was conspicuously narrow (they did no new case studies, dropped three marquee cases that proved water contamination and dropped all air quality studies from the report).

Our Map of the Week shows 313 cases where families reported water contamination due to drilling in just six counties in North Eastern, Pennsylvania. Seems pretty widespread to me for a fracking and drilling campaign that’s still in its infancy. So far there’s been around 9,000 wells drilled in Pennsylvania. One report showed the potential for 200,000 – 600,000 fracked wells in the state.

Click Map to Enlarge. BH/NY Friends of Clean Air and Water CC-BY-NC
If the EPA is looking for proof of “widespread” contamination before declaring fracking unsafe, they may not have to wait long. The industries own data shows that 5 percent of fracking wells leak upon drilling and that number only grows over time.

What the EPA presented to the public yesterday was PR, not science and proof of the widespread, systemic contamination of our regulatory bodies by the oil and gas industry.

This isn’t the first time the EPA has released a report burying the science with a misleading headline that supports the Obama Administration’s pro-fracking policies rather than reveal the true dangers of fracking. It’s a disturbing trend we reported on extensively in GASLAND Part II with cases in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Parker County, Texas; and Pavilion, Wyoming.

In Dimock, Parker Country and Pavilion the EPA suddenly dropped water contamination cases when the science proved that fracking was the cause, going as far as slapping a press release claiming Dimock’s water was safe on a report that proved fracking had contaminated the water.

Read the full article at EcoWatch 

Friday, June 5, 2015

EPA Confirms that Fracking Poses a Risk to Drinking Water - TAKE ACTION

Thursday, June 4, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the EPA released a study that confirms that fracking poses a risk to drinking water sources.

Fracking is inherently dirty and dangerous. In a review of its records, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found that 234 private drinking water wells had been contaminated by drilling and fracking. In Colorado, more than 340 leaks or spills that contaminated groundwater have been reported. In New Mexico, state records document 743 such instances. These examples offer just a glimpse of the dangers posed by dirty fracking.  

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

“The EPA's water quality study confirms what millions of Americans already know - that dirty oil and gas fracking contaminates drinking water.

“Unfortunately, the EPA chose to leave many critical questions unanswered. For example, the study did not look at this issue under the lens of public health and ignored numerous threats that fracking poses to drinking water. The EPA must conduct a comprehensive study that results in action to protect public health.

“Instead of blindly allowing destructive fracking to continue in our communities, we should extend statewide fracking bans, like the one in New York, and moratoriums, like the one in Maryland, that will keep dirty, climate-polluting fossil fuels like fracked gas in the ground and invest in truly clean, renewable sources of energy that don’t come with the threat of poisoned drinking water and climate disaster.”

Contact: Jonathon Berman, jonathon.berman@sierraclub.org

~   ~   ~   ~

Tell the EPA to Protect Our 
Drinking Water From Fracking

The EPA released a long-awaited study about fracking impacts on drinking water. The oil and gas industry cheered the results because of its skewed methodology and the pro-industry spin that accompanied its release.

While the study did acknowledge what existing scientific data and countless personal experiences have already shown – that fracking does indeed contaminate groundwater resources – its headline and conclusion misleadingly assert that we shouldn't be worried about fracking impacting drinking water.

The study falls far short of the level of scrutiny and government oversight needed to protect the health and safety of the many millions of Americans living in watersheds impacted by fracking — nearly 10 million within one mile of a fracked well, according to the study.

TAKE ACTION: Click Here to tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the American people deserve better.

Image: Ray Kemble outside US EPA holding contaminated water from Dimock, PA.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Act on Environmental Bills before NYS Legislators Leave Albany

EANY.org
New York’s legislators – the people you pay to represent your interests – are preparing to leave Albany for the rest of the year in just two weeks. And there are still a lot of environmental issues on the agenda that we need your help getting over the finish line. Environmental Advocates and our partners have helped secure enough support for the passage of three priority bills which would:
  • protect New Yorker’s from other states’ fracking waste;
  • ban tiny plastic microbeads that clog our waterways;
  • keep chemical companies from using toxics like arsenic and lead in children’s products.
It takes 32 votes to pass a bill in the Senate, and each of these bills has 32 or more cosponsors. That’s huge! But it’s all for nothing if industry gets its way and blocks them from becoming law.

Visit our Action Page (www.EANYAction.org) and TAKE ACTION on one or all of these bills!

It's EASY and it lets your public officials know their actions are being watched and they are being held accountable. Our Action Page is set up so you can contact your elected officials in whatever way you are most comfortable.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Groups Laud Governor Cuomo’s Renewable Energy Proposal

New York proposes 10 year, $1.5 Billion 
Large-Scale Renewable Energy Program 


ALBANY, NY. – The New York Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) filed a proposal with the Public Service Commission (PSC) Monday to extend and enhance the states cornerstone renewable energy program supporting large scale clean energy as part of PSC’s Large Scale Renewable Energy Track of the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding.

Since its inception in 2004, New York State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) has been a driver of clean energy investment and highly cost effective for New York ratepayers.

New York’s large scale renewable energy projects will contribute a total of $2.7 billion in direct economic investments statewide, have added approximately 670 jobs annually to New York’s workforce, and will reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tons over the life of the projects.

Large scale renewable energy projects like wind power, promote fuel diversity, protect electricity customers from volatile gas prices, reduce the need for power plants that drive climate and air pollution, and improve energy security and independence.

The following joint statement was released by Sierra Club, Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Pace Energy and Climate Center:

“New York’s current Renewable Energy Standard expires at the end of 2015. We applaud NYSERDA's proposal to extend and enhance the State's support for large scale renewable energy with a 10 year, $1.5 billion commitment that is designed to ensure the certainty, longevity, and scale necessary to attract continued private sector investment in these valuable renewable resources."

With this bold proposal, coupled with a strong renewables target such as 50% by 2025, Governor Cuomo can cement New York’s status as a national leader on clean energy and climate policy.

Along with the smart execution and implementation of the forthcoming Clean Energy Fund proposal and Final New York State Energy Plan, New York can stay on track to meeting the Governor’s commitment to reducing climate pollution 80 percent by 2050. This Large Scale Renewables proposal is a huge step forward toward that goal, while also driving the broader pollution reduction and job creation benefits such policies have proven to deliver.
~   ~   ~
SEE ALSO:
NYSERDA Proposes New Strategies to Continue Support of Large Scale Renewables 
Strategies Include a Long-Term Public Commitment to Attract Investment to New York and Spur Development of Clean, Stable Power

REPORT: Large-Scale Renewable Energy Development in New York: Options and Assessment
(168 pages). Click Here

BuffaloNews.com:  
State plans $1.5 billion more to spur renewable energy
10-year program would focus on large wind, solar projects
Click Here

Book: The Great Transition - from Fossil Fuels to Solar & Wind Energy

The Great Transition to Renewable Energy 

The global transition to clean, renewable energy and away from nuclear and fossils is well under way, with remarkable developments happening every day.  

The Great Transition by Lester Brown, Janet Larsen, Matt Roney, and Emily Adams lays out a tremendous range of these developments – here are seven that may surprise you.


1. Solar is now so cheap that global adoption appears unstoppable.
  • The price of solar photovoltaic panels has declined 99 percent over the last four decades, from $74 a watt in 1972 to less than 70 cents a watt in 2014.
  • Between 2009 and 2014, solar panel prices dropped by three fourths, helping global PV installations grow 50 percent per year.
  • See more solar power facts here.
2. Wind power adoption is rapidly altering energy portfolios around the world.
  • Over the past decade, world wind power capacity grew more than 20 percent a year, its increase driven by its many attractive features, by public policies supporting its expansion, and by falling costs.
  • By the end of 2014, global wind generating capacity totaled 369,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 90 million U.S. homes. Wind currently has a big lead on solar PV, which has enough worldwide capacity to power roughly 30 million U.S. homes.
  • See more wind power facts here.
3. National and subnational energy policies are promoting renewables, and many geographies are considering a price on carbon.
  • Unfortunately, governments worldwide still subsidized the fossil fuel industry with over $600 billion, giving this aging industry five times the subsidy that went to renewables.
  • But by the start of 2014, some 70 countries, including many in Europe, were using feed-in tariffs to encourage investment in renewables.
  • See more energy policy facts here.
4. The financial sector is embracing renewables – and starting to turn against fossils and nuclear.
  • The financial services firm Barclays downgraded the entire U.S. electricity sector in 2014, in part because in its view U.S. utilities are generally unprepared for the challenges posed by distributed solar power and battery storage.
  • In January 2013, Warren Buffett gave solar energy a huge financial boost when his MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company announced an investment of up to $2.5 billion in California in what is now known as the Solar Star project. At 580 megawatts, it will become the world’s largest PV project when complete in late 2015. MidAmerican had earlier bought the Topaz solar farm in California, now tied with Desert Sunlight, another California project, as the world’s largest at 550 megawatts. As of its completion in late 2014, Topaz can generate enough electricity to power 180,000 California homes.
  • See more financial sector facts here.
5. Coal use is in decline in the United States and will likely fall at the global level far sooner than once thought possible.
  • U.S. coal use is dropping – it fell 21 percent between 2007 and 2014 – and more than one-third of the nation’s coal plants have already closed or announced plans for future closure in the last five years.
  • Major U.S. coal producers, such as Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, have seen their market values drop by 61 and 94 percent, respectively, as of September 2014.
  • See more coal facts here.
6. Transportation will move away from oil as electric vehicle fleets expand rapidly and bike- and car-sharing spreads.
  • Bike-sharing programs have sprung up worldwide in recent years. More than 800 cities in 56 countries now have fully operational bike-share programs, with over 1 million bikes. In the United States, by the end of 2012 some 21 cities had 8,500 bikes in bike-share racks. By the end of 2016, this is expected to climb to over 70 cities with close to 40,000 bikes.
  • The share of carless households increased in 84 out of 100 U.S. urban areas surveyed between 2006 and 2011. And as urbanization increases, this share will only rise.
  • See more transportation facts here.
7. Nuclear is on the rocks thanks to rising costs and widespread safety concerns.
  • For the world as a whole, nuclear power generation peaked in 2006, and dropped by nearly 14 percent by 2014.
  • In the United States, the country with the most reactors, nuclear generation peaked in 2010 and is now also on the decline.
  • See more nuclear facts here.

Chapter 1 of The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy is available online at www.earth-policy.org/books/tgt.

Supporting data and a PowerPoint summary presentation are also available for free downloading.

ADK Asks Your Support For Two Bills In NYS Legislature


Two bills in the NY State Legislature could give a big boost to recreation and conservation right here in Western New York. The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and the local ADK-Niagara Frontier Chapter are calling on you to contact NY State Legislators to ask them to co-sponsor the bills.

1. Bill to define the boundaries of the Niagara River Greenway:
We have all been disappointed in the way the $400 million Niagara River Greenway money has been used as a slush fund rather than to build the strip of parks and trails along the Niagara River that we were promised.

S.4824 by Senator Marc Panepinto and A.478 by Assembly Member Sean Ryan would correct that by requiring these funds be spent on establishing a linear system of parks and conservation areas along the Niagara River.

ADK Memo RE: Niagara River Greenway - Click Here


2. Bill to add 18 Mile Creek to the definition of inland waterways:
Water and waterways are among Western New York's most valuable assets. Scenic 18-Mile Creek in Erie County looks beautiful, provides lots of fish and clean water, and overlays an aquifer.

S.4109-A by Senator Panepinto and A.3475-B by Assembly Member Ryan will have 18-mile creek classified as an "Inland Waterway" which will protect and preserve those qualities.

ADK Memo RE: 18 Mile Creek - Click Here

Take Action: Contact your NYS Senator & Assembly Member
Urge them to Co-sponsor these two bills.

Senate Directory and Identity:
- For phone number, address and to contact by Email, visit: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators

Assembly Member Directory and Identity:
- For phone number, address and to contact by Email, visit: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/
- To identify your Assembly Member, go here: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/search/


Beaver Meadow Nature Center - 40th Anniversary Bash!

Visit www.buffaloaudubon.org to learn more.