Environment

Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

Hydroponic native plants to detox PFAS-contaminated water

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/05/2022 - 12:38pm in

Tags 

Environment

University of South Australia Media Release They’re the non-stick on Teflon cookware, the stain resistance in Scotchgard, and the suppression factor in firefighting foam, but while the staying power of PFAS chemicals was once revered, it’s now infamous as PFAS substances continue to infiltrate the environment and affect human health. Now, new research from the…

The post Hydroponic native plants to detox PFAS-contaminated water appeared first on The AIM Network.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta Launches Investigation into Role Played by Fossil Fuel and Petrochemicals Companies in Causing Global Plastics Pollution Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/05/2022 - 11:55pm in

California AG Rob Bonta launches investigation into the plastics industry’s half-century campaign to promote recycling myths.

EV charging challenges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/04/2022 - 10:39pm in

About a year ago, the old second-hand car that my husband and I bought in 2007 was nearing its end. It had served us very well, but our car mechanic had been warning us for some years that it wouldn’t last for much longer. So we were contemplating what to do; we thought seriously about car-sharing combined with public transport, but for various reasons (the pandemic being one, having a child with special needs another), we decided to buy another car. We gathered information and decided to buy an electric car. The new car has been wonderful – I’ve never really liked driving a car but driving an EV is much more pleasant. And in Utrecht, the city where we live, the local authorities put new electric chargers in the streets at the same pace that new EVs are registered. So, at home we’ve never encountered any noteworthy difficulties with charging.

Until last week, I think we only had positive things to say about our experiences with driving an EV. But then we decided to go to France for a week.

We rented a house about 70 km South of Paris. From home, that should require us to recharge twice, which is fine. In our experience from driving the car longer-distance in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, we’d need two stops of about half an hour to recharge, which is not much longer than the time needed for the entire family to visit the toilet, stretch our legs, buy coffee, and have a bite.

We soon discovered that the EV-infrastructure on our route was very patchy: the electric chargers along the motorways we took in France were few and with large distances in between, and on two occasions we (as well as other drivers) were unable to connect for some unclear technical reason. Eventually we had to drive to some town off the motorway and use a slow (22kW) charger for an hour in order to at least be able to get to our destination. In the village we were staying, there were two chargers ideally situated next to the railway station – but both of them broken down.

Today, on our way back home, we decided to play it safe and planned to recharge when the battery was still around 60%; recharging at that point should allow us to get to Belgium, where there are more charging points along the motorways. At the first stop, there were four chargers, one broken down, three charging, and another 6 cars before us in the queue (mostly with grumpy drivers). One driver was desperately trying to connect her car, but encountered technical issues, that were not solved when we drove away five minutes later. We decided to take the next one – where we found one charger, and 3 cars in the queue. We decided to drive still further, though realizing we now really needed to get close to recharging. We found a place on an industrial site about half a kilometer from the highway (read: no toilets and no coffee), with four functional chargers, all four occupied, but no queue before us. All drivers were chatting to each other – something we’ve seen many times among EV-drivers recharging their cars.

Obviously, these are first-world problems. And for us they are manageable because our kids no longer stress so much if a trip takes much longer and they don’t mind if they need to pee against a tree because there is no toilet. But since about all scenarios for deep decarbonization include moving from gas vehicles to EVs that should drive on renewable energy, the infrastructure should not lag behind. I have no knowledge on how we can expect this infrastructure to develop in the near future. Yet it’s clear that for driving longer-distance in Europe, with each country having its own electrification-strategies and -policies, progress will be as strong as the weakest link in the network.

Apple Announces Unimpressive Self Service Repair Program for Some iPhone Models

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 8:50pm in

After a long wait, Apple finally announced a self service repair program. New right to repair laws are still necessary.

The GOP’s New War On Divestment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 8:31pm in

The GOP’s New War On Divestment

Republican state and federal lawmakers, their campaign coffers filled with fossil fuel donations, are quietly building a nationwide effort to pass anti-divestment bills that would punish financial institutions that consider the climate crisis in their business deals or try to do something about it by not working with fossil fuel companies.

The effort began last December, when a model bill written by former Texas state Rep. Jason Isaac (R), now director at the Charles Koch-funded think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, was unveiled at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s major gathering of conservative lawmakers. The model legislation, titled the “Energy Discrimination Elimination Act,” calls for states to identify and divest from financial institutions that boycott or otherwise penalize energy companies for falling short of environmental standards.

Since then, several states have introduced bills based on the model language, with two versions already becoming law. The push has also made its way to the national level. A federal bill proposed last month by the U.S. House’s top recipient of coal industry money would prohibit financial advisers from considering ESG — environmental, social, and corporate governance — factors⁠ when making investment decisions.

Now the fight against ESG considerations is spilling out of the halls of Congress and state legislatures. Last week, Utah’s Republican governor and its entire congressional delegation sent a letter to the credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings opposing the company’s plans to add ESG scores to its global credit ratings for state and local governments.

“S&P’s ESG credit indicators politicize what should be a purely financial decision,” the politicians argued in their letter, according to Bloomberg. The letter was celebrated on Twitter by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and by the State Financial Officers Foundation, a conservative nonprofit whose board of directors and advisory committee include ALEC executives.

The timeline illustrates the shadowy, concerted way the fossil fuel industry and its political lackeys are responding to the growing threat of the divestment movement. In recent years, climate activist organizations have been pushing financial institutions to stop financing fossil fuel companies, given fossil fuels’ role as the leading source of carbon dioxide emissions.

While the effort has been slow going, banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have pledged to reduce their fossil fuel financing to align with the emission reduction goals of the Paris Agreement. Now, in response, the oil and gas industry is trying to do everything in its power to actively punish financial institutions and advisors for trying to take reasonable steps to address the climate crisis.

“I Eat Coal For Breakfast”

Isaac’s model legislation was likely inspired by an anti-energy company boycott adopted by his home state last June. According to the new Texas law, which took effect last September, the state’s comptroller must create a list of financial companies that have limited their commercial relationships with energy companies over emissions concerns, and state investment funds would divest from those companies. Last month, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar sent letters to 19 finance companies he believes may be boycotting the fossil fuel industry.

The law had six authors, several of whom have received significant fossil fuel funding. State Sen. Drew Springer (R), for example, has raked in more than $220,000 from the oil and gas industry, making it his top career donor industry. The primary sponsor of the bill in the House, Rep. Ken King (R), has received $378,000 from the oil and gas industry. King’s side jobs include being president of oil well parts supplier Black Gold Pump and Supply and vice president of a family oilfield services business, King Well Service.

In the months after the Texas bill became law, its authors received additional donations from energy companies. State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R) received $1,000 from ExxonMobil PAC and $2,500 from Koch Industries PAC  in the second half of 2021. During that same period, state Sen. Bob Hall (R) received $2,500 from Centerpoint Energy PAC and $10,000 from Farris Wilks, an oil and gas industry billionaire whose recent investments in the industry include stakes in hydraulic fracking company U.S. Well Services and pressure pumping firm ProFrac.

Meanwhile, it didn’t take long for other fossil fuel-funded lawmakers in other parts of the country to follow in Texas’ footsteps.

That included Democrat-turned-Republican Rupie Phillips, a West Virginia state senator, who is not shy about his support for the coal industry. His Twitter handle is @4WVCoal and his bio says: “I eat coal for breakfast.” Phillips abandoned the Democratic party in 2017, citing President Barack Obama’s advancing of regulations to reduce coal emissions as one of his reasons for his decision.

On January 13, 2022, Phillips introduced SB 262, which closely mirrors sections of the model bill Isaac proposed to ALEC the month before. The bill calls on the West Virginia state treasurer to compile a list of financial companies that limit their commercial relationships with energy companies because they “[engage] in the exploration, production, utilization, transportation, sale, or manufacturing of fossil fuel-based energy and [do] not commit or pledge to meet environmental standards beyond applicable federal and state law,” or because they do business with such companies. Companies included on the list would be disqualified from entering into banking contracts with the state.

On the same day, Phillips also introduced SB 255, which requires state government entities to divest from any publicly traded securities issued by such financial companies, and requires the state to get written confirmation from its contractors that they will not boycott energy companies during the duration of their state contracts.

While SB 255 has yet to move forward in the legislative process, SB 262 became law last month after it passed overwhelmingly. The law will take effect in June.

The mining industry has been Phillips’ top donor industry over the course of his career. Mining company political action committees (PACs) and employees have given Phillips more than $116,000, with his top industry donor being the PAC of Murray Energy, a coal mining company that is now known as American Consolidated Natural Resources.

According to an email obtained through a public records request by the nonprofit research group InfluenceMap and reported by The New Republic, representatives from American Consolidated Natural Resources co-signed a document that was sent to West Virginia lawmakers in February last year, asking them to pass legislation that would punish finance companies for limiting their fossil fuel industry involvement. Murray Energy’s PAC is also a top donor to the West Virginia Republican Senate Committee, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State.

Last November, West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore (R) led a coalition of financial officers from 15 states that warned in an open letter to the banking industry that they would take collective action against banks that boycott fossil fuels, which they called “woke capitalism.”

After Phillips’ bill passed last month, Moore put out a statement praising the legislation. “This bill is essential to help us push back against the Biden Administration and its extremist allies who are trying to unfairly pressure banks and financial institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industries,” Moore said.

Moore’s top donor sector has been energy and natural resources, according to the National Institute for Money in Politics. His donors have included PACs affiliated with Arch Coal, Murray Energy/American Consolidated Natural Resources, and power company American Electric Power.

Jim Kotcon, conservation chair of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said that the backers of the law are ignoring financial shifts that are naturally unfavorable to the coal industry.

“Treasurer Riley and the sponsors of Senate Bill 262 are ignoring the on-going trends of bankruptcies in the fossil fuel industry,” said Kotcon. “They need to refocus on their fiduciary responsibility. Wishing that the coal industry is coming back will not overturn the obvious market forces telling us that few if any coal companies will have a profitable future, and investing state dollars in those is bad business.”

More States Follow Suit

Since Philips introduced his anti-divestment bill, several other conservative lawmakers have followed suit.

In late January, the Indiana House passed a version of the anti-energy company boycott bill authored by state Rep. Ethan Manning (R). According to the National Institute for Money in Politics, the energy and natural resource industry has been Manning’s top donor sector throughout his career, with the PAC of natural gas and electricity provider NiSource topping the list with $6,500.

In February, Oklahoma state Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R) introduced SB 1572, requiring the state to divest from financial institutions that boycott energy companies and prohibiting contracts with such companies. Bergstrom’s largest corporate donor has been fossil fuel-powered utility company NextEra Energy, according to the National Institute for Money in Politics. The pending principal House author of the bill is state Rep. Mark McBride (R), who has received more than $78,000 from oil and gas, his largest donor industry.

A version of the bill has also been introduced in the Louisiana House of Representatives, which would prohibit the state’s retirement systems from investing in companies that have policies against doing business with energy companies.

The bill was proposed by state Rep. Danny McCormick (R), who has similarly taken more money from oil and gas industry interests than from any other industry.

Taking The Fight To Congress

Attempts to codify anti-divestment rules recently reached the halls of Congress. Last month, Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Rick Allen (R-Ga.) proposed a bill that would codify part of a Trump Labor Department rule that required investment advisors to avoid considering environmental factors when advising clients.

“Our bill protects average Americans saving and building wealth through retirement plans,” wrote Barr in a press release. “It also preserves access to capital for energy producers to ensure costs won’t skyrocket further for Americans at the pump during a time when gas prices are at a historic high.”

In a 2020 regulatory comment, the lobbying group Western Energy Alliance wrote, “We have observed how ESG advocacy has negatively affected the industry’s access to capital over the last few years, and greatly appreciate that DOL is addressing the larger issue through this rule. The rule will help ensure that activism regarding pension plans does not morph into a halt to investment in the sector that provides nearly 70% of American energy, a nonsensical outcome given the impact throughout the entire economy.”

The Western Energy Alliance represents companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production in the West. It does not disclose its members, but information maintained by DeSmog suggests the members include companies like BP, Chevron, and Koch Exploration.

Barr has received $628,000 from the coal mining industry during his congressional career, more money than any other current House member, according to OpenSecrets. His top career donor is Alliance Resource Partners, which has provided him with $312,600 in donations from its PAC and employees. Alliance Resource Partners, an energy company that primarily produces coal, was a co-signer of the February 2021 letter calling for new laws to protect the industry against ESG initiatives.

Barr’s colleague Allen, meanwhile, has received more than $90,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.

Our news organization relies on readers pitching in to support our journalism. If you like this story, please support our work.

‘Unprecedented’ Water Restrictions Ordered in Drought-Ravaged California

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 8:25pm in

Severe drought in California has forced water officials to impose restrictions on outdoor watering in three southern California counties. 

Climate Migration: What Do We Really Know?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 6:55pm in

Overall, the literature on climate-induced migration suggests that people are moving already because of climate change and that increasing numbers will do so in the future, either voluntarily or not.

‘Climate Crisis Isn’t a Separate Issue – It Will Affect Everything’: How a Lack of Education is Risking Our Planet’s Future

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 9:49pm in

From classrooms to the corridors of Government, campaigners believe that a lack of climate education is failing our Earth, reports Sophia Alexandra Hall

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES NOW

In the early April sunshine of Downtown LA, respected NASA climate scientist Dr Peter Kalmus was arrested and charged with trespassing after he chained himself to the JP Morgan Chase building. 

Dr Kalmus was one of more than 1,000 scientists who engaged in civil disobedience this month, as part of a “loose-knit international group” called Scientist Rebellion.

The movement, he told Byline Times, was forged in a shared feeling of desperation within the scientific community “by the inaction of world leaders in the face of our overwhelming evidence”.

“We feel compelled to speak in the strong language of civil disobedience," Dr Kalmus said. “To wake up the world and create social transformation, for the sake of all life on Earth”.

A video of him speaking outside the bank has since gone viral on TikTok.

“We chose JPMorgan Chase because, out of all the banks in the world, it does the most to fund fossil fuel infrastructure,” he added. “This means it does the most to fund the destruction of our planet.”

Dr Kalmus is an established scientist with world-leading knowledge on the climate emergency. But he believes that if we are to create a better future for our planet, more must be done to educate young people – starting in schools. While his teenage sons learn about Earth science and climate science in the classroom, he argues that this is “not nearly enough”.

“Education needs to do more than just teach climate science,” Dr Kalmus told Byline Times. “It also has to teach the history of the lies from the fossil fuel industry, as well as real solutions.

"My sons don’t learn about the history of climate denial and how the fossil fuel industry very deliberately worked to misinform the public, bribe politicians, and prevent action. This is extremely important to teach. We can’t fix our democracy and corporations if people don’t even learn that they are broken.”

FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES. CLICK HERE TO FUND MORE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

Help to expose the big scandals of our era.

5,500 miles away in London, 15-year-old student and Youth Parliament member Ellie Whitwam agrees that schools must do more to educate people about the climate emergency. Her initial exposure to the climate crisis came four years ago – but via TV, not a teacher. 

“It was actually because of a David Attenborough programme,” she said. “Afterwards I found out some more details in the news and on social media.”

Ellie is concerned that young people are not getting taught about the climate crisis in schools and are instead forced to discover information for themselves – meaning that only those with an existing interest will know what’s going on in the world around them.

“It’s worrying that I had to teach myself about the climate crisis in Year 7 when many others might not have chosen to do so,” she told Byline Times. “I couldn’t believe that some people weren’t being taught about something that was already impacting us everyday.”

She said that, although the climate crisis was occasionally mentioned in assemblies or geography lessons, most of the information she learned was from media she chose to consume outside of school. 

This is despite the fact that environmental issues are something young people care about. Natural England found that 78% of 8-15 year olds agreed that looking after the environment was important to them, and 81% of those surveyed said that they wanted to do more to look after the environment.

Understanding the Science

Dr Peter Kalmus’ protest took place two days after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group Three report.

The report was clear that all new fossil fuel builds must now end, and that businesses and governments must immediately begin to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Kalmus said that the problem is that "world leaders are doing the opposite – they are increasing fossil fuels".

“This is why over a thousand scientists around the world, including us, decided to take action like this," he told this newspaper. "We are literally fighting to protect life on Earth and humanity’s collective future. It sounds dramatic to phrase it like that, but it’s accurate.”

In response to the report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But, the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels”.

As the report was published, a second climate protest continued in London, where software engineer Angus Rose went on hunger strike outside Westminster.

His demand focused on better education – starting with MPs and then the wider public. He committed to strike until the Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, Greg Hands, organised a briefing for MPs and the Cabinet so that they could better understand the science behind the climate emergency.

His protest was backed by more than 75 scientists – including former Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir David King. After 37 days without food, Rose’ demands were finally met. 

He recognises the power of education to change politicians’ and the public’s minds when it comes to the climate emergency.

“We know from a Freedom of Information request that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a briefing by the UK’s current Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on 20 January 2020,” Rose told Byline Times. “This led to a radical improvement in Johnson’s understanding of climate change. He even called it his ‘Road to Damascus’ moment.”

Rose wanted to replicate this experience and ensure that every MP could have their own ‘Road to Damascus’ moment.

“A lot of decision-makers have no background in science, so important reports sometimes end up as a pile of papers on a desk, and decision makers may choose to pick up and read those papers or not,” Rose said. “What we need them to do is study those papers and really try to understand how to analyse the UK.”

That goes for the public too. Rose has requested that the briefings be broadcast for everyone to see.

As Dr Kalmus and Ellie Whitwam argue, public education can’t start early enough.

The UK’s Department for Education has now approved plans to introduce a GCSE in Natural History in 2025 which will enable students to develop a “rich understanding of the natural world”.

For Ellie, this is a step in the right direction – but is clear that one optional GCSE subject is not accessible to everyone and that more needs to be done.

“It cannot stop there," she said. "The education system must be rapidly reformed to put the climate crisis at the forefront of every curriculum. 

“The climate crisis isn’t a singular separate issue, it is something which will affect everything and everyone, worsening issues like misogyny, racism, classism and poverty. If we bring the next generation up with an awareness of the climate crisis issues affecting our planet, the people leading our country in the future will have the tools to put the climate at the forefront of policies. School is an incredible vehicle for change and we must use it.”

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.50 A MONTH

LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

BECOME A PATRON OF BYLINE TV

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

The $287 Million Pipeline No One Needed? How Spire’s Ambitions Almost Left St. Louis Without Heat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 9:00pm in

Tags 

Environment

Deep into Missouri’s feverish summer, a St. Louis hardware store owner found his customers clamoring for something surprising: electric space heaters.

“The weather was warm, and it was strange that people were worried about it,” said Don Heberer, owner of Rathbone Hardware. He estimates that he sold about 20 percent more space heaters than normal for that time of year.

The reason? The local gas utility company was warning people that come winter, they might not have heat.

Spire Inc., an investor-owned gas conglomerate, issued the warnings last year after a court ordered it to shut down its new 65-mile STL pipeline. The court ruled that the company hadn’t proved to federal regulators that the customer-funded $287 million project was even needed.

Spire’s only buyer for the gas from the pipeline was the utility it owns, Spire Missouri Inc. Critics said Spire was self-dealing at the expense of captive gas customers.

The court decision left Spire — and St. Louis — with a problem. The company had spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars disconnecting its customers from the region’s existing pipelines and routing them to its own. Without the new pipeline, Spire warned that a winter storm could leave up to 400,000 customers without heat in the depths of winter.

The energy company quickly undertook a bare-knuckle marketing campaign to warn the public of the threat — and try to convince them of the need for the pipeline.

In radio spots, social media ads, and press releases to reporters, the utility warned that people risked freezing. Missouri regulators at the Public Service Commission have said that Spire “created unnecessary panic and confusion.”

Behind the scenes, documents show the utility also got high-ranking politicians, including Missouri’s governor, to intervene on its behalf.

At the same time, Spire was working on another strategic interest: undercutting its biggest threat, the transition to renewable energy. Spire has worked closely with other gas utilities that are waging a national campaign against climate action, records show.

Spire and other members of the American Public Gas Association fought federal rules to phase out gas appliances in buildings. They lobbied against proposals to make boilers and furnaces more efficient, according to an internal industry message board obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute and reviewed by Floodlight in partnership with The Intercept and the Missouri Independent.

“The reality is that the gas industry gets a ton of its money — the vast majority of its profit — from residential gas sales.”

Spire’s story is an inside look at how American energy giants are endeavoring to remain relevant in a world questioning the usefulness of gas as compared with an all-electric system powered by renewable energy. For the gas industry, it’s a war on two fronts: Get pipelines into the ground, and resist the shift away from fossil fuels in people’s homes.

“The reality is that the gas industry gets a ton of its money — the vast majority of its profit — from residential gas sales,” said Panama Bartholomy, executive director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for electrification. “So if electrification starts eating into the market share, particularly on the residential side — that’s an existential threat.”

And Spire’s campaign to keep its pipeline open ultimately worked. It’s currently operating the line with a temporary permit while federal regulators review the case. In the meantime, Spire is allowed to charge Missouri customers $2.4 million a month, according to regulatory filings made by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Spire has defended the project, saying that last year’s Winter Storm Uri proved the STL pipeline was needed as a hedge against severe weather “to improve reliability, supply diversity, and provide the St. Louis region with access to lower cost natural gas supply from the Appalachian basin,” according to a statement from Spire corporate communications director Jason Merrill. Spire claims that the pipeline saved customers $150 million in gas prices during the storm because it gave them access to gas from areas unaffected by the freeze.

The savings have not necessarily translated into smaller gas bills, said Gentry Trotter, founder of Heat Up St. Louis, a nonprofit that helps residents with their utility bills.

“The demand for Heat Up St. Louis is up by 65 percent; it is off the charts,” Trotter said. “I know I have a high gas bill. My gas bill is $1,000.”

A Run on Electric Heaters

An announcer blared over the St. Louis airwaves in November 2021: “Federal issues in D.C. could cause the Spire STL pipeline to shut down in mid-December.”

Spire didn’t restrict its alerts to radio ads. It sent its customers emails with similar alarms. And it took to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter with messaging about the pipeline.

“I went to barber shops and hair salons, and they were talking about the pipeline,” said Trotter. “Call the hardware stores. I ain’t ever seen more heaters [for sale] in my life.”

The panic after Spire’s announcements served a purpose: to make sure the company got a temporary operating permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, even though a court had said that it wasn’t clear if the pipeline was necessary.

“I went to barber shops and hair salons, and they were talking about the pipeline.”

Alongside the public messaging campaign was a private one directed at powerful officials who could advocate on Spire’s behalf, public records show. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was one successful target.

“As you can imagine, a letter of support from Governor Parson to FERC would be extremely valuable,” read a July 27 email from Spire Missouri’s director of government relations to an aide for the governor.

The email contained a draft letter urging FERC to issue the temporary permit. Parson submitted a letter to the commission three days later in support of the permit.

Spire started making moves toward its first interstate pipeline in 2016, with the expectation that federal regulators would approve a guaranteed profit from customers. Interstate pipeline builders must secure a permit from FERC after showing that there is an economic need for the line and no unreasonable environmental impact. Spire’s permit was approved, even though two FERC commissioners opposed it.

“Spire is not an outlier, it’s an extreme example of a pattern,” said Gillian Giannetti, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who focuses on the regulatory agency.

Since 1999, FERC has approved 487 gas pipelines and rejected only two, according to congressional testimony.

The pipeline looked like an effort “to enrich Spire’s corporate parent rather than a needed piece of energy infrastructure.”

But during Spire’s application process, then-Commissioner Richard Glick wrote that the pipeline looked like an effort “to enrich Spire’s corporate parent rather than a needed piece of energy infrastructure.”

Glick, who was appointed to FERC by former President Donald Trump and made chair by President Joe Biden, pointed out the obvious: Demand for gas in the region was flat or declining. St. Louis was already getting all the gas it needed from other pipelines. And Spire planned to sell the gas from the pipeline to its own subsidiary — meaning that it would be able to cut out any middlemen and make more money on both sides of the deal.

Despite Glick’s reservations, FERC issued the permit in 2018, allowing Spire to earn up to a 14 percent return on equity on the cost of the pipeline. (Under its temporary permit, Spire says it is making 8 percent.)

Soon after, the Environmental Defense Fund sued. Their objection was simple: FERC hadn’t done its homework. In June 2021, a federal court agreed with the environmental group and told FERC to reassess the need for the pipeline in order to protect the public from possible “self-dealing.”

“FERC historically has done the least policing of whether there was need,” said James Coleman, an energy law professor at Southern Methodist University.

Natural gas arrives from the north along an underground 24-inch pipeline to Spire's Laclede/Lange Delivery Station in north St. Louis County on Thursday, July 8, 2021. The St. Louis-based natural gas company Spire Inc. is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow it to keep operating a pipeline through parts of Illinois and Missouri, warning that a winter shutdown could be devastating to St. Louis-area customers. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

Natural gas arrives at Spire’s Laclede/Lange Delivery Station in north St. Louis County on July 8, 2021.

Photo: Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

An Existential Threat

While Spire was busy building its STL pipeline, it was also fighting for its life against a shift that could make the pipeline useless in the coming years: electrification.

Scientists say the replacement of gas-burning appliances with electric ones is a crucial step to reducing the 20 percent of U.S. carbon emissions that comes from residential buildings and homes.

A collection of 700-plus pages from a gas association group chat obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute reveals an industry fighting for its future.

“Electrification policies jeopardizes [sic] future new gas connections; especially in the South,” Mark Krebs, who was working as an energy policy specialist for Spire at the time, said in the chat. The Deep South is a key region for Spire, which owns gas distribution companies in Alabama and Mississippi.

The group chat shows Spire and American Public Gas Association members lobbying the Energy Department to stall appliance efficiency standards, discussing how to make Trump-era budget cuts to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy permanent, and gathering information on electrification industry conferences.

Krebs was a frequent commenter in the American Public Gas Association’s Direct Use Task Group, a committee that “aims to identify threats and opportunities for natural gas direct use.” In February 2018, Krebs organized members to attend an Electric Power Research Institute conference about electrification to gather intel from the competition. Krebs and the four other task group members who went to the conference are no longer affiliated with the American Public Gas Association, according to Dave Schryver, the association’s president and CEO. He said the group “attended the conference for educational purposes.” Investor-owned utilities like Spire have since been removed from the task force, he added, since he became CEO in January 2020.

Since leaving the task force, Spire has taken its anti-electrification fight to the federal courts, suing the Energy Department to keep it from enforcing rules against installing dirty furnaces and boilers, initially proposed during the Obama administration.

“It’s one thing to share data, info, perspectives,” said Jim Rossi, an energy law professor at Vanderbilt Law School. “It’s another thing to take a consistent self-interested perspective in lobbying for the gas industry and maybe against other uses of energy.”

The future of the Spire STL pipeline remains unclear. FERC is restudying the business and environmental case for the line, and any decision the commission makes may face challenges by environmentalists and scrutiny from the courts.

“The D.C. Circuit and other courts are saying that FERC is not doing enough,” said Alexandra Klass, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. “It puts a lot of pressure on FERC, I think it’s good pressure, to revise how they are doing economic analysis and environmental analysis in an age of climate change and more ample renewable energy resources.”

On April 19, the Supreme Court denied Spire’s appeal of the ruling.

But the temporary permit hasn’t quelled Spire’s issues with at least a half-dozen property owners whose land it seized for its pipeline.

Jacob Gettings is one of them. A scar of disturbed dirt extends across the green acres of his soybean farm — once some of the most productive cropland in the Midwest. The pipeline, he said, has messed up the drainage of his fields.

“Before I retired, I had the second-highest yield on soybeans in the state,” Gettings said. He argued in FERC filings that the company owed him millions in damages, but Spire disagrees.

“Do I feel like the system is broken? Absolutely,” Gettings said. “If FERC would have done their proper footwork, this pipeline would never have been put in and my property would never have been damaged.”

The post The $287 Million Pipeline No One Needed? How Spire’s Ambitions Almost Left St. Louis Without Heat appeared first on The Intercept.

UN Report: Humanity Must Change The Way it Assesses and Responds to Risk, Else We Face a ‘Spiral of Self Destruction’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 8:54pm in

The UNDRR presents a drastic rethink of the approach to diaster risk reduction. Alas, current leaders and elites aren't up to the task.

Pages