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Majority of Americans Unwilling to Pay $10 a Month to Address Climate Change

By Daniel Moritz-Rabson On 1/24/19 at 3:21 PM

A significant majority of Americans are unwilling to contribute $10 each month to address climate change, an AP-NORC survey found.

While 57 percent of those surveyed would contribute $1 a month to combat global warming, thatat number drops significantly when the monetary contribution increases. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they would pay $10 each month, 30 percent said they would pay $20 a month, and 16 percent said they would contribute $100 each month.

The survey found that individuals living in households with an annual income of at least $100,000 were more supportive of a monthly utility fee to address climate change. It also found that 72 percent of Democrats who said climate change is real attributed its existence primarily to anthropogenic causes, a figure far higher than the 33 percent of Republicans who believed in climate change and thought it was caused by humans.

Extreme weather events played a significant role in altering respondents' views on climate change, the AP-NORC report said. For those who increasingly believed climate science in the previous five years, 76 percent said that extreme weather events changed their perception.

. Only 28 percent of Americans surveyed said they would pay $10 each month to combat climate change.

On Tuesday, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication released a poll that found that 73 percent of Americans said global warming is taking place.

The research, which was conducted at the end of 2018, indicated record recognition of climate change.

The poll from Yale and George Mason showed a significant rise in the amount of people who said climate change is "extremely," "very," or "somewhat" important to them, according to The New York Times. By the end of the year, 72 percent of individuals surveyed said climate change was important to them, a nine percent increase from March.

"The thing that is most encouraging in these polls is that they show the public has now become aware that climate change is here and now," Bob Inglis, executive director of RepublicEN, an organization encouraging conservatives to respond to climate change, told NBC News. "They understand it’s not decades away and it’s not in some other place. That is a huge change."

As prominent figures around the world, like Sir David Attenborough, raise concern about the pace of the global response to climate change, the Trump administration has regularly dismissed concerns and denied climate science.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary dismissed statements made Monday by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about climate change, which fact-checkers have said were hyperbolic.

"Look, I don’t think we’re going to listen to her on much of anything, particularly not on matters we’re gonna leave in the hands of a much, much higher authority, and certainly not listen to the freshman congresswoman on when the world may end," Sanders said when on Fox News about Ocasio-Cortez's comments.

Environmental Laws Won’t Fix Climate Change Unless We Enforce Them, New UN Report Says

Jan 24 2019, 7:00am

by Kaleigh Rogers

The number of environmental protection laws around the world has increased 38-fold since 1972, but a lack of sufficient enforcement has rendered many of them useless, a new United Nations report has found.

In 1972, the year of the first UN environmental agreement, only three countries had national environmental framework laws: Norway, Sweden, and the United States. By 2017, 176 nations had these laws. In addition, 150 countries enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions, and 164 countries had cabinet-level bodies responsible for environmental protection.


But the UN report found that few of these laws have been implemented and enforced effectively.

“It really is something that all countries share,” Carl Bruch, the director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute and one of the authors of the report, said in a phone interview. “We do have a lot of environmental laws that are on that books that could be so much more effective if they were actually fully implemented.”

The report broke down the shortcomings of environmental policies into four categories: institutions responsible for the laws, civic engagement, environmental rights, and justice for those who break the law. Not every country has a problem in each category, but every country has challenges in at least one sector that has reduced the effectiveness of its environmental laws, Bruch said.

With regards to institutions, a member state might, say, have a law, and an agency responsible for enforcing that law, but that agency doesn’t actually have the authority necessary to do so. This was a barrier uncovered in some Asian countries in the mid-2000s, according to the report, when an assessment found that many nations’ regulatory agencies had the responsibility of enforcing environmental laws, but “lacked clear or sufficiently comprehensive mechanisms to limit and require monitoring of pollution discharges, file criminal or civil cases, take emergency response actions (such as closing a facility), impose penalties, or order corrective measures,” the report said.

"What we really need to do is focus on implementing the laws that we already have.”

Other times, the institutions have the authority but still don’t act, an issue that could be remedied through greated civic engagement and the ability of citizens to hold agencies accountable. Take the ongoing lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is listed as one of the 35 case studies in the report. The UN report noted that local, state, and federal agencies all failed to properly enforce laws that could have caught the crisis earlier.

In contrast, Costa Rica, has doubled its forest cover to more than 50 percent, and is on track to be climate neutral by 2021—bolstered by civic engagement and access to the courts, the report notes. Costa Rica’s constitution allows any individual to bring a suit to defend a constitutional right, which includes the right to “a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.” A 1994 ruling also allows citizens to sue on behalf of the public good, including on environmental issues.

On the justice front, sometimes a lack of proper training and education for judges can disrupt the systems in place to enforce environmental law. In Ecuador, for example, a non-government organization sued to prevent a pine tree plantation from being erected in a native grassland ecosystem. But the judge, unaware of Ecuador’s constitutional provisions that allow anybody to bring forward a suit in protection of the environment, dismissed the case and allowed the plantation to be built, the UN report noted.

“Due to the complexity and technical nature of many environmental matters, it is particularly important that judges be knowledgeable and competent regarding environmental law,” the report read.

Bruch said it’s time we focus on the structures around the laws to make sure they’re effective. He hopes this will be the first in a series of reports so people can track the progress—or regression—that governments make in shoring up their environmental laws.

“If we have laws in place and we still see the problems, whether it’s climate change or biodiversity loss, is it because the policies are not appropriate or is it because the policies aren’t being implemented and enforced?” Bruch said. “There’s often an instinct to ‘fix the laws,’ and what we really need to do is focus on implementing the laws that we already have.”

Sea level rise could cost Virginia Beach billions of dollars, study says

By Peter Coutu

Jan 24, 2019

Faced with the threat of more rainfall, increased flooding and sea levels rising at twice the global rate, a consultant's study warned that climate change's future impacts on Virginia's largest city could cost billions of dollars.

A new policy document lays out various adaptation options for Virginia Beach to consider, including a voluntary program to buy frequently flooded properties and a change in building codes and development standards. Initial estimates for citywide infrastructure plans range from $1.7 billion to $3.8 billion.

"It was an eye-opener," said Mayor Bobby Dyer. "And it shows a clear direction that we have to take."

The city hired Dewberry, an engineering consultant, in 2015 to conduct the $3.8 million study, which is still in progress. The first piece was rolled out last week. The firm uses two sea level rise estimates — 1½ feet in the short term (between 2035 and 2055) and 3 feet in the future (between 2065 and 2085).

And, according to its projections, the cost of doing nothing to combat the problem would be sky high.

If Virginia Beach takes no action, then a foot and a half of sea level rise would cost the city $50 million in yearly losses, the study projects. With 3 feet, that figure jumps to more than a quarter of a billion dollars — a year. The impending danger doesn't impact the entire city. Several areas — including Sandbridge, Pungo, the Oceanfront and around the Lynnhaven Inlet — face most of the future risk associated with sea level rise.

Because of this, there is a need for both long- and short-term plans, Dyer said.

"The genesis of the study was both in recognition of increased flooding and the need for a strategic plan to protect the city," read the executive summary of the city's working policy document. "The goal was to produce the needed information and strategies to enable the city to establish long-term resilience to sea level rise and associated recurrent flooding."

Councilwoman Barbara Henley, who for years has represented the rural, southern portion that includes some of the most vulnerable areas, said it was key to have solid data about the specific impacts throughout the city to help make decisions moving forward.

"The policies are something we can start right away," Henley said. "We don't have to wait until we have millions and billions of dollars."

She also said she was supportive of a voluntary buy-back program for frequently flooded homes, similar to how Open Space and Agriculture Preservation Programs have been run. And, she said, the city needs to protect vulnerable areas from more development while respecting property rights.

"The first thing we have to do is stop the bleeding," she said. "We have to stop building things where we know it's not a good idea."

Possible infrastructure-related projects that could help mitigate sea level rise citywide will cost billions of dollars and unfold over decades, according to current study estimates. Those figures are still being refined.

"It's going to be a huge cost," Dyer said.

He said the city will have to figure out how to strike a balance between its "overwhelming obligation" to get stormwater management under control, which he called his number one priority, and limiting the burden on taxpayers. He said Virginia Beach will need to look for innovate ways to raise more money for some of those costly flooding fixes.

Another problem: New infrastructure in Virginia Beach could adversely impact surrounding areas, both in Hampton Roads and across state lines — making collaboration crucial, officials said.

One component of an infrastructure plan — raising Muddy Creek Road and the bridge on it — could increase flooding in nearby Pungo, for example. This would all be weighed by city officials as the study continues.

Dyer said he's not sure when the next piece of the Dewberry study will be revealed or when it will wrap up. He said he's looking forward to an upcoming City Council retreat when all members will be able to hammer out a more specific strategy.

Resident Tim Worst, who ran for Henley's seat in November, said he welcomed the results of the study, especially after seeing the impacts of extreme weather, like Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and two major floods in the southern part of the city last summer.

"We've been waiting for that (study) like you've been waiting for Jesus' resurrection," he said. "I couldn't wait for that to finally come."

Pallone: Ban of fossil fuel donations 'wrong way to go'

By ANTHONY ADRAGNA 01/08/2019 03:18 PM EST

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) on Tuesday rejected the call for Democratic energy committee members to shun contributions from fossil fuel companies and other industries as too extreme.

"If you start going down that road, then nobody can contribute to you," Pallone told WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show" in an interview. “Ultimately you have to finance your campaign, and if you start saying that just because you’re on a committee, that nobody associated with any of the issues that the committee faces can contribute, I just think that’s the wrong way to go and too limiting.”

He added: "Where do you draw the line? Does that mean that somebody who works for the utility can’t contribute to me?"

The comments are sure to draw the ire of progressive groups and others like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who have pushed Pallone and other House Democrats to reject contributions from fossil fuel companies as they formulate their strategy to combat climate change.

Pallone also promised his committee would examine the Green New Deal, but cast doubt on whether a core component of it — decarbonizing the U.S. within 10 years — is achievable.

"Some of the countries that have been a lot more progressive on this, like in Western Europe for example, they’re moving towards carbon free or carbon neutral but it’s going to take more than ten years," he said. "This is something that we should take a look at, but some of it may not be technologically or politically feasible.”

Pallone said his panel expected to hold its first hearing, which will address climate change, by the end of the month and he vowed to conduct aggressive oversight of the Trump administration’s actions on the issue.

Question for Democrats: What is a 'Green New Deal'?

Ambitious proposals for tackling climate change and transforming the economy are setting up one of the party's most crucial debates heading into 2020.

By ZACK COLMAN 01/12/2019 06:42 AM EST Updated 01/12/2019 05:03 PM EST

Democrats are rallying to turn the “Green New Deal” into a centerpiece of their Capitol Hill agenda and the party’s 2020 platform — as soon as they decide what exactly it is.

The term has become a potent brand name for a slate of ideas for transforming the economy and fighting climate change, championed by progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and embraced, at least cautiously, by potential presidential nominees including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Beto O’Rourke.

But not all Democrats have signed onto the full agenda that Ocasio-Cortez and her activist allies have rolled into their Green New Deal platforms — which encompasses proposals such as a complete switch to clean energy by 2030, big tax increases on the wealthy, retrofits of every building in the U.S. and a federal guarantee of a well-paying job to everyone who wants one. And some leading Democrats on the Hill already are criticizing some of those planks as unrealistically ambitious and politically polarizing.

That means one of the Democrats’ most crucial debates of 2019 will be defining what their Green New Deal entails. Dozens of suggestions are already emerging, including smaller-bore, middle-of-the-road ideas such as cleaning up polluted sites or offering new tax breaks for electric cars.

Liberal activists contend that Democrats need bold ideas — both to tackle the urgency of the climate crisis and to drum up the voter excitement to oust President Donald Trump.

"I think it is a fantastic idea and I think it is the secret, or one of the secrets, to winning 2020," Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has worked with progressives like Ocasio-Cortez, said of the Green New Deal. "It combines an issue that Democrats are way ahead on — the environment — and an issue they need to desperately get ahead on — the economy."

But Republicans says the leftward push on climate change and the economy benefits them by moving Democrats away from centrist policies.

"There are certainly places in America, like where I come from, where those ideas further isolate Democrats from political success," said North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer.

Progressives and environmental groups are working to line up a suite a bills that could serve as an environmental policy road map for Democrats, breaking the agenda into pieces that they see defining the Green New Deal over time.

"I don't even think it’s possible to reach the full scale of what we’re talking about with one piece of legislation," said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of Sunrise Movement, which organized protests at Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office to push for aggressive green policies. "It’s not going to be necessarily one bill or one piece of legislation or one level of government that makes this possible."

Environmental organizations like Sunrise, and Data for Progress are working to bring “standard setting marker bills” to the floor and to draw out more details from the potential Democratic presidential candidates, said Julian NoiseCat, policy analyst at, which is already discussing legislation with lawmakers.

“The term Green New Deal entered into the public discourse before a lot of the white papers, and think pieces of how you would achieve that were really out in the mainstream,” NoiseCat said. “The same could be said of the original New Deal, of Medicare for All. The same was obviously true of [President Donald] Trump’s border wall.”

Many of the ideas that could comprise an eventual Green New Deal have been circulating for years, and while there's little chance that the Republican Senate or Trump will take up any environmental measures, the groups are hoping the ideas will germinate over the next two years and provide some ready-made policies Democrats can act on if they win White House in 2020.

Liberal research group Data for Progress has identified 31 bills introduced last Congress that could be part of the Green New Deal, including Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas)'s bill, H.R. 2830, to eliminate methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure, as well as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)'s measure, H.R. 3671, to electrify transportation and shift to renewable sources by 2035, end subsidies and exports of fossil fuels and permanently extend renewable energy incentives.

And it could even include Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe's (R-Okla.) plan, S. 822 (115), to expand grants for cleaning up and reusing brownfield sites, as well as various carbon pricing proposals. State-level policies in Washington state, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Maine may also be considered.

Data for Progress expects lawmakers to float bills with national targets for generating electricity from renewable sources, infrastructure packages that include climate change provisions and new tax credits for electric vehicles and renewable energy. Some measures might hitch a ride on spending bills or must-pass items, while others will be seen as “marquee bills" that try to advance the Green New Deal's most ambitious elements, like job guarantees or nationwide building upgrades.

The most prominent bill from last Congress came from Green New Deal supporters Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sanders, which called for getting 100 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable sources by 2050. All three are considering a presidential runs.

But Sunrise's Prakash said the statements from the likely presidential candidates have "been real fuzzy," mostly consisting of support for the general concept or idea of a Green New Deal. Her group will be meeting with staff for Merkley, Booker, Sanders and Warren to draw them out on what Prakash sees as the three core principles: ending emissions-generating energy by 2030, guaranteeing good-paying jobs for everyone and providing economic and racial justice for all.

The green activists are hoping their policies will play a prominent role in the 2020 contest, when they want Democrats to rally around the progressive cause.

“Policy details are going to matter and be very important,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress. “But the actual meta politics question is how do we make sure, in a roughly two-year period, ... Democrats create an agenda? How do we make sure that the Green New Deal and the environment take up a substantial share of that floor time when we have a bunch of competing interests?”

The newly formed think tank New Consensus will be tasked with doing some of that legislative legwork. The policy operations are being run by Rhiana Gunn-Wright, who was policy director for Abdul El-Sayed, the progressive activist and physician who last year lost the Michigan Democratic primary to now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The group plans to meet with various constituencies to discuss elements of the Green New Deal and help shape it into a platform.

Historians say there are some parallels between what activists are doing with the Green New Deal and how President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was formed. FDR merely mentioned giving Americans a “new deal” on the campaign trail and came into office working on “mostly good intentions and to be active ... without much in the way of specifics,” Robert McElvaine, a history professor at Millsaps College and Great Depression expert, said in an email.

Many of the policies that became the New Deal were bouncing around Democratic circles for decades, said David M. Kennedy, a history professor emeritus at Stanford University. Correspondence between FDR and lawmakers in the 1920s showed them planting the seedlings that eventually grew into Social Security, unemployment insurance, farm relief and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“The level of concept, of high-altitude level definition of what the landscape looks like, the Green New Deal has some generic resemblance to the way Democrats — and believe it or not there were some progressive Republicans — were thinking,” Kennedy said.

The green groups say they are wary of bills that would dilute the aggressive agenda at the center of the Green New Deal — a real possibility given the somewhat skeptical reception some top House Democrats have given it. Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who is planning to make climate change the first item on his agenda, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that the goal to "decarbonize" the U.S. economy by 2030 is unrealistic.

"Some of the countries that have been a lot more progressive on this, like in Western Europe for example, they’re moving towards carbon-free or carbon-neutral, but it’s going to take more than 10 years," he told WNYC. "This is something that we should take a look at, but some of it may not be technologically or politically feasible.”

That type of lukewarm support makes Green New Deal advocates nervous.


"There’s a million and one ways that this could get watered down," Prakash said. "I could totally see a lot of Democrats not pushing for the scale of ambition that we need. The fossil fuel industry hasn't even gotten all of its firepower behind fighting a Green New Deal."

One of Congress' most conservative Democrats, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, expressed even more skepticism about the push to advance a national strategy to fight climate change. The issue does not appear on a list of priorities for House Agriculture Democrats this year, according to a committee document obtained by POLITICO.

“What is our goal? Planting all those trees? I’m actually cutting down the forest,” Peterson told reporters recently, shortly after he began logging his own land to spur regrowth.

Still, some industry voices are already seeking to claim to a slice of a Green New Deal. Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry group, noted in a press release this week that switching from coal to natural gas in power generation has driven carbon emissions 14 percent lower since 2005, citing figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“When it comes to climate change, do we care about actual results, or do we just care about virtue signaling?” Kathleen Sgamma, the organization’s president, said in a statement that slammed Green New Deal proponents for criticizing natural gas.

Catherine Boudreau contributed to this report.

Defeated twice, a top climate change crusader has a wake-up call some Democrats won't want to hear

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is weighing a 2020 run, is rethinking the carbon tax approach to saving the planet. He believes his party should, too.

Governor Jay Inslee speaks at the Battle Born Progress Progressive Summit in Las Vegas on Jan. 12, 2019.John Locher / AP

Jan. 13, 2019, 8:13 AM ‎EST

By Benjy Sarlin

WASHINGTON — Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington staked the future of his environmental policy on something activists had advocated for decades: a first-of-its-kind statewide fee on carbon pollution.

But in one of the greenest states in the country, in a historic midterm year for Democrats and amid a spate of new reports warning of climate catastrophe, his efforts to put a price on carbon failed badly.

Undaunted, Inslee is looking to carry the lessons learned from a long career of incremental wins and heartbreaking losses on climate policy to the national stage as a possible presidential contender.

"I learned one of the key talents is persistence," he told NBC News in an interview. "Climate change is not going away, and neither are we."

Could climate change separate Gov. Jay Inslee from pack of Democratic presidential candidates?

As a generation of young activists, led by new voices like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., rise to the forefront, they may want to pull up a seat next to the 67-year-old governor and hear his stories. More than a decade before this year's rallies for a Green New Deal — a plan to spend big on a rapid transition to renewable energy — Inslee, in speeches, op-eds and a book, was calling for a "moonshot" federal project modeled on the Apollo space program to slash emissions.

As a member of Congress, he helped advance a landmark cap-and-trade bill, which failed in the Senate, and he loaded President Barack Obama's stimulus with $90 billion in green initiatives, which passed. As governor, he's led a multipronged effort to boost electric vehicles and support research into clean technology.

His potential entry into the wide-open 2020 Democratic primary contest with a climate-focused campaign comes amid an intense debate over how to marry environmental sustainability with political sustainability, a question he's grappled with like few others. He believes the fate of the world depends on getting the answer right.

"That's what's at stake here," Inslee said. "A fundamental continuation of life and civilization as we've become accustomed to."

The fight for a carbon fee

Over a period of several years, Inslee and activists tried repeatedly to enact a fee on carbon emissions via legislation and ballot initiatives, an idea long backed by economists as a way to nudge consumers toward clean energy.

In interviews, participants in the efforts described a series of well-intentioned plans brought down by opposition from industry groups that spent tens of millions of dollars, infighting among activists and skepticism among voters.

The initial attempt began outside the Inslee administration in 2016, when a group called Carbon WA led a campaign for a ballot measure, Initiative 732, that would have taxed carbon emissions and use the revenue to cut taxes elsewhere.

Supporters emphasized its political appeal. There is at least some support for the concept of a revenue-neutral carbon tax in conservative circles, since it doesn't entail an overall tax hike, and Carbon WA earned backing from three Republican state senators.

But the proposal also failed to garner support on the left, where activists favored using the additional revenue on investments to cut further emissions and to finance related "green jobs" in low-income communities. The national Sierra Club opposed 732 even as it acknowledged dissension among its members over the decision.

Inslee opposed it, too, in part over concerns that the revenue projections were off.

With the environmental community split, the measure garnered just 40 percent of the vote and lost every county outside of Seattle.

"Politically, both approaches are challenging," said Yoram Bauman, an economist who led the Carbon WA campaign and now works on energy policy in Utah, referring to courting Republicans with new tax cuts and uniting the left by putting the money into its priorities. "It's very difficult to tell a story about how the Democrats take over the world. But it's also difficult to tell a story about how you get enough Republicans and Democrats on board with some kind of centrist climate policy."

In 2018, Inslee and his allies looked to improve on the idea with a new plan to enact a carbon fee and use it to fund a variety of clean energy projects. They built a coalition of labor unions, environmentalists, racial justice groups, faith organizations and businesses to promote it.

The investment side was especially important, Inslee said, because his administration estimated about 90 percent of his proposal's carbon reductions came from its various green programs, rather than changes in consumer behavior due to higher energy prices. But he still saw the carbon fee as a "signal to inspire businesses and consumers to move to a less carbon intensive product" that could provide a foundation for future policy.

Despite Inslee's support, a bill to enact his plan stalled in the narrowly Democratic-controlled state Senate. That left a direct appeal to voters as a last resort. Another ballot measure, Initiative 1631, which would create a carbon fee, was born.

Inslee backs down

With a larger coalition, however, came a larger response from affected industries. Led by oil companies, opponents spent a state-record $31 million to defeat Initiative 1631 last year, about double the amount spent by supporters, who had their own backup from billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.

The "no" campaign pointed to higher energy costs for consumers. But in a move that could be a preview of future fights on the national level, the opponents' message focused heavily on splitting the left with accusations that 1631 exempted too many polluters and would not fund effective programs.

"Voters rejected I-1631 because they understood it was a flawed initiative that would have significant economic impacts on the state's economy while doing very little to meet carbon reduction goals in the state," said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, which helped spearhead opposition to the plan.

A supporter of Initiative 1631 holds a sign referencing the Nisqually Indian Tribe on Oct. 17, 2018, during a rally supporting I-1631, a November ballot measure in Washington state that would charge a fee on carbon emissions from fossil fuels.Ted S. Warren / AP file

The attacks were effective. Even as Democrats made gains in the legislature with environmentalist candidates, the initiative failed and improved only modestly on its 2016 predecessor with 43 percent of the vote.

Inslee has since backed off a carbon fee for now at the state level, instead focusing on a package of renewable energy investments financed by other means. And he's grown skeptical as to whether Democrats should pursue a similar policy nationally if it distracts from other green priorities.

"You can get enormous benefit without, perhaps, a carbon-pricing system," he said. "That should not totally take it out of consideration, but there's many, many ways to skin this cat."

State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat who has quarterbacked Inslee's climate agenda in the legislature, said he still believes lawmakers need to put a price on carbon someday. But with voters unconvinced, it's better to bring emissions down elsewhere, Carlyle said.

"We need to go back to the drawing board and respect the will of the voters," he said.

Democrats, listen up

In many ways, the emerging national picture on climate policy looks similar to what Inslee has faced.

Heading into the presidential campaign, there’s a burst of grassroots energy around the Green New Deal, but it faces competition from similarly ambitious Democratic proposals on health care, education, taxes and more.

Inslee hasn't ignored those items (he just proposed a new public health care option in his state), but he has a message Democratic voters might not hear from the party's presidential candidates: If you're going to tackle climate change, the rest may have to wait.

"When you want college education for your kids, when you want better health care, when you want net neutrality, when you want all of those things, but your house is on fire and it's burning down, you've got to put the fire out first and get your family out of the house," he said.

"That's the type of prioritization we have to make if we are going to succeed in rescuing our country from this existential threat," he added.

Diver Kim Thomas holds a "Yes on 1631" sign as she dives in a large aquarium display at the Seattle Aquarium during an event to announce the endorsement of Initiative 1631 by the aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo on Oct. 25, 2018, in Seattle.Ted S. Warren / AP

With an uncertain policy path forward, national Democrats are facing debates much like the ones environmentalists faced in Washington state.

Young activists in groups like the Sunrise Movement are focused on a massive jobs program to help transition the economy away from fossil fuels. But some Democrats are also pursuing a revenue-neutral carbon tax with GOP support. Before he left the Senate this month, Jeff Flake of Arizona signed onto a carbon tax with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

Having just faced a voter backlash of his own, though, Inslee has grown wary of a national plan that leans strongly on a carbon tax to slash emissions.

"To actually get carbon savings, you need to jack up the price so high that it becomes politically untenable," he said.

The better option, in his eyes, is to look to taxes on the wealthy to fund a Green New Deal. Reversing portions of the Trump tax cuts could provide an easier source of financing, he said.

But if that doesn't fly either, then it's on to the next plan and the one after that. If there's one message the battle-scarred governor has for young voters and Democratic presidential hopefuls, it's not to give up when things go sour.

"As Churchill said, victory is the only option, because without victory there is no survival," Inslee said.

The Pros and Cons of New York’s Fledgling Compost Program

If successful, it could reduce landfill use and save the city millions. There are a few obstacles to work through first, though.

By Lisa M. Collins

Nov. 9, 2018

Composting has such potential. It can reduce the garbage sent to landfills and save money at the same time. San Francisco claims to have reduced landfill usage by 80 percent, and Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million, claims that it saves $600,000 daily by charging residents and businesses fees for discarded food scraps.

But for New York City, where food scraps account for an estimated one-third of all garbage, composting is hardly making rapid or dramatic progress.

In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced the “Zero Waste” initiative, aiming for a 90 percent reduction in landfill use by 2030. A cornerstone of the plan was a robust compost program, where organic matter would be placed in brown bins provided by the city, picked up by the Sanitation Department, and then sold or delivered to places that turn the food into compost for gardening or convert it to energy. It is the largest compost program in the country, with brown bins for 3.5 million residents across the five boroughs, said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.

But the program picked up only 43,000 tons of food scraps last year.

That’s about five percent of the city’s total food waste sent to landfills. For those following the Zero Waste target: We only have 85 percent more to go.

The brown bin compost program, which started as a small pilot program on Staten Island in 2013, was expected to expand citywide by the end of this year. But the pickup service in some of the 24 neighborhoods where it is offered has been reduced and expansion plans have been delayed.

This leaves many New Yorkers wondering whether a composting program across the city will work. Here is an explanation of where things stand.


How does composting save money?

The less we export to landfills, the more money we save.

The city will spend $411 million in 2019 to export about 2.5 million tons of residential, school and governmental trash to landfills located as far away as South Carolina. In 2014 the city spent $300 million. The export cost is expected to increase to $421 million by 2021.

“At this rate, we will be spending half a billion dollars,” said Antonio Reynoso, chairman of the City Council’s sanitation committee.

Is composting lucrative for the city?

Not yet. The compost program cost the city $15.7 million this year, and unlike recycling (which costs less to process than landfill waste, according to Mr. Reynoso), so far it doesn’t bring in much money. Last year, the city earned $58,000 from selling compost, according to the Sanitation Department. So there’s room for growth.

Who currently gets the brown bins?

Buildings with nine or fewer units in the community districts where there is curbside service automatically receive brown bins, along with information on what can go in them (yes to meat and bones and coffee grounds and food-soiled paper; no to cat litter, diapers and plastic bottles). Buildings with more than nine units must apply for the program.

Is the compost program in jeopardy?

It’s certainly not a raging success. At this moment, the Sanitation Department is not on track to expand the program on time and has cut brown-bin pickup service from twice a week in some areas to once weekly, on recycling days. Service and pickup schedules have been experimental as the Sanitation Department tested behaviors, types of garbage trucks and routes, a Department spokeswoman said.

What was the problem with composting?

Low participation in the neighborhoods that took part in the pilot program led to inefficiencies and high costs, Ms. Garcia said. “We love composting,” said Kristin Brady, of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, who uses the service every week. “But most of the people we know don’t compost because of cleaning the honestly somewhat gross outdoor brown bin.” A Department spokeswoman said that residents put only about 10 percent of their food scraps in the brown bins, throwing the rest in the garbage. Thus, garbage trucks with special compost compartments were running around with little to carry.

Why is participation so low?

Mr. Reynoso, who represents parts of Brooklyn, said he thinks the problem is a lack of advertising and education, and the fact that the program is voluntary. His efforts to increase the compost advertising budget have been unsuccessful, he said.

“Survey 10 people in New York City, and you would be hard-pressed to find a single person who knows how recycling works and how to make it work right, and what it means to the city financially,” Mr. Reynoso said. “In my building, we received the brown bins, and some fliers. I guarantee I’m the only person in my building who knows how to use them.”

What are the major hurdles?

“The biggest challenge is asking New Yorkers to do something different,” Ms. Garcia said. She told a story about how the department was handing out brown bins and an older man said that he didn’t want one.

“But we were handing out compost at the same time, and he definitely wanted the compost,” Ms. Garcia said. “We said, ‘We really need your banana peels in order to make this in the future.’ He took the brown bin.

Is there any good news?

New Yorkers are throwing out less trash. In 2017, the Sanitation Department collected 2.5 million tons of garbage destined for landfill, down from 2.8 million tons in 2005, even as the population grew.

While our residential recycling rate is quite low at 17 percent, New Yorkers are good recyclers of corrugated cardboard, for example (79 percent).

What about waste from businesses?

Businesses in New York City must pay to haul away their trash (an estimated 11 million tons of it every year). In 2017, large food service establishments and arenas were required to separate their food waste or face fines. In August of this year, the New York City Council passed an ordinance to require large restaurants and hotels and large food manufacturers to separate out their food waste. Fines will begin in February.

Just this week, the city announced a new plan that will require all private haulers picking up commercial waste to provide recycling and organics collection. Businesses will be incentivized. They will pay lower rates for food scrap and recycling pickups than they will for garbage, a spokeswoman for the Sanitation Dept. said.

Will composting come to high-rise apartment buildings?

It’s a work in progress. The Department of Sanitation says that 2,000 high rises throughout the five boroughs currently have brown bin service. An effort is underway to sign up more high rises in Manhattan and the South Bronx.

Council Member Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The 168,000 residents in his district, the second largest in the city, mostly live in high rises. Mr. Kallos has proposed a measure that would mandate the mayor’s Zero Waste initiative to include targets and updates. The measure failed, and the effort to bring residential composting to his district has been frustrating, he said.

“We’ve worked with a number of residents and buildings to get composting,” Mr. Kallos said. “But I’ve yet to hear of any successes. I’ve never seen any brown bins in my district and I’d be surprised if there are any.”

(A spokeswoman for the Department of Sanitation said that curbside service is available in all of Manhattan, including the Upper East Side, where 33 high-rise buildings have signed up for it.)

Is there a future for composting in New York City?

Experts are cautiously optimistic. Ms. Garcia said the city’s compost program is a priority, and the city remains dedicated to its Zero Waste goal. Ms. Garcia pointed out that residential compost collection is increasing. In 2017, the city collected 13,000 tons. In 2018, that amount grew to 43,000 tons (31,000 from brown bin pickups and another 12,000 from fall leaves, Greenmarket pickups and the Christmas tree recycling program).

“We’ve seen a lot of growth,” said Ms. Garcia, aided in large part by the work of nonprofits like the NYC Compost Project ( and GrowNYC, which provide food scrap drop-off sites at subway stops and at green markets.

Spain plans switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2050

Ambitious scheme also aims to fully decarbonise country’s economy shortly after

Arthur Neslen

Tue 13 Nov 2018 10.13 EST Last modified on Tue 13 Nov 2018 11.46 EST

El Bonillo solar plant, Albacete. The Spanish government aims to install at least 3,000MW of wind and solar power capacity yearly in the next decade. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Spain has launched an ambitious plan to switch its electricity system entirely to renewable sources by 2050 and completely decarbonise its economy soon after.

By mid-century greenhouse gas emissions would be slashed by 90% from 1990 levels under Spain’s draft climate change and energy transition law.

To do this, the country’s social democratic government is committing to installing at least 3,000MW of wind and solar power capacity every year in the next 10 years ahead.

New licences for fossil fuel drills, hydrocarbon exploitation and fracking wells, will be banned, and a fifth of the state budget will be reserved for measures that can mitigate climate change. This money will ratchet upwards from 2025.

Christiana Figueres, a former executive secretary of the UN’s framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), hailed the draft Spanish law as “an excellent example of the Paris agreement”. She added: “It sets a long-term goal, provides incentives on scaling up emissions technologies and cares about a good transition for the workforce.”

Under the plan, “just transition” contracts will be drawn up, similar to the £220m package announced in October, that will shut most Spanish coalmines in return for a suite of early retirement schemes, re-skilling in clean energy jobs, and environmental restoration. These deals will be partly financed by auction returns from the sale of emissions rights.

The government has already scrapped a controversial “sun tax” that halted Spain’s booming renewables sector earlier this decade, and the new law will also mandate a 35% electricity share for green energy by 2030.

James Watson, chief executive of the SolarPower Europe trade association, said the law was “a wake-up call to the rest of the world”.

Energy efficiency will also be improved by 35% within 11 years, and government and public sector authorities will be able to lease only buildings that have almost zero energy consumption.

Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, and former French climate envoy who helped draft the Paris accord, described the agreement as groundbreaking and inspirational. “By planning on going carbon neutral, Spain shows that the battle against climate change is deadly serious, that they are ready to step up and plan to reap the rewards of decarbonisation,” she said.

However, the government’s hold on power is fragile. With just a quarter of parliamentary seats it will depend on the more leftwing Podemos and liberal Ciudadanos parties to pass the climate plan.

No dates were included in the legislation for phaseouts of coal or nuclear energy, and a ban on new cars with petrol or diesel engines was delayed until 2040.

Lyme disease is thriving thanks to climate change

Rising temperatures are creating new habitats for ticks.

By Marlene Cimons Nexus Media November 12, 2018

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by black-legged ticks, pictured above. Rising temperatures are providing new habitats for these insects.

German physician Alfred Buchwald had no clue that the chronic skin inflammation he described in 1883 was the first recorded case of a serious tick-carrying disease, one that would take hold in a small Connecticut town almost a century later and go on to afflict people across the United States.

Today we know a lot more than Buchwald did about Lyme disease — that it is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and it is transmitted to humans by blacklegged ticks, and that it can cause untold misery for those infected. U.S. scientists first recognized the disease in the 1970s in Old Lyme, Connecticut — hence the name. The condition starts with fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic bullseye rash. Untreated, it can spread to the joints, the heart, and nervous system producing long-lasting, debilitating symptoms. Early use of antibiotics is crucial.

About 300,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with Lyme, with cases concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of the disease has doubled in the United States since 1991, according to the EPA. And it’s about to get much worse, thanks to climate change.

“Warmer temperatures are making cold places suitable habitats for ticks, so new places are having Lyme disease cases, and endemic areas are having more cases than the average,” said Edson Severnini, assistant professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, and co-author of a new study that predicts the incidence Lyme disease will rise around 21 percent by mid-century.

Climate change already has amplified the range of invasive insects that devour crops, destroy homes, and spread disease. “Tick-borne diseases are an important public health concern and the incidence of these infections is increasing in the United States and worldwide,” said Igor Dumic, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science who has treated numerous Lyme patients. “Lyme disease is a classic example of the link between environmental factors and the occurrence and spread of disease.”

Ticks spend most of their lives in environments where temperature and humidity directly affect their survival. For this reason, the EPA uses Lyme disease as an indicator of climate change. Higher temperatures spur ticks to venture farther in search of hosts, such as deer, which are more plentiful after warmer winters. “The Lyme disease vector tick needs deer to complete its life cycle, so this means that more ticks will be completing their life cycle, and consequently the tick population will increase,” Severnini said. “Also, as temperature rises, people may engage in more outdoor activities, increasing exposure to ticks.”

The research, which appears in the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology, examined the relationship between weather conditions and Lyme disease in 15 U.S. states. These states, located primarily in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, make up 95 percent of all U.S. reported cases. The scientists used epidemiological data from the CDC and at meteorological data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Warmer winters mean more deer, which host ticks.

Assuming the temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century — the forecast of the U.S. National Climate Assessment—the United States will see 8.6 more cases of Lyme disease per 100,000 people annually. That is bad news, but governments can take steps to keep the disease in check, Severnini said.

“We need to educate people about how to look for ticks after going to wooded areas where ticks are abundant,” he said. “Secondly, people and clinicians should be aware that just because ticks are not present in certain areas it doesn’t mean that people aren’t traveling to areas where ticks are present. For example, a resident of Arizona, where Lyme disease is rare, can acquire it while camping in Wisconsin and get symptoms upon returning to [his or her] home state of Arizona.”

It’s not just education, Severnini said. “We can also invest in the development of a Lyme vaccine, use insecticide and acaricidal to decrease the tick population,” he added. “Finally, we can prevent severe global warming.”

New York’s Sewer Overflows Could be Contributing to Climate Change

By Avery Miles | January 28, 2019


After a rainy summer and an even wetter fall, New Yorkers are becoming familiar with showery forecasts. With droughts and wildfires in the West and Southwest, rain might seem like a welcome reprieve—but not in New York City, where the rain washes pet waste, plastic utensils and other street grime into an aging sewer system that often can’t handle it.

Every year the city releases 100 billion liters of untreated water sewage and stormwater runoff into its waterways. Whenever it rains heavily, the surge of stormwater forces the sewers to hit maximum capacity, causing wastewater to flow from the 100-year-old system into nearby rivers.

The city is working on various ways to improve water quality but those efforts might not be enough. Recently, researchers at Queens College found that pollution from the overflow might actually be contributing to greenhouse gases in nearby marshes.

“The take home message [was] carbon additions increased both carbon dioxide and methane production in wetland soils,” said lead study author, Dr. Brian Brigham.

Typically wetlands serve as carbon sinks, areas that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They trap and store the carbon through a process called biological carbon sequestration. Wetland vegetation and soil accumulate organic matter, which is anything that includes carbon, before decomposing and sometimes emitting it through natural respiration. This is all part of the carbon cycle, a set of processes by which natural systems absorb and emit carbon. It’s estimated that wetlands store about 35 percent of all land-based carbon.

But the U.S has lost more than half of its original wetland areas because of agricultural and urban developments. When wetlands are drained or otherwise disturbed, that stored carbon can be released back into the atmosphere. Every time it rains a lot, and human pollutants are carried by the excess stormwater into surrounding waterways, wetlands lose their ability to contain the carbon, allowing more greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere.

In order to show this, Brigham and his team added certain types of carbon and nitrogen commonly found in sewage-polluted environments to three different marshes along the Hudson River. In each sample, they took mud, soil and microbes and simulated in the lab what would happen if sewage had been added. They found that the added carbon increased carbon dioxide production rates 1.4 to 2 times more in the treated soils than in the controls. The added carbon also increased methane production rates in all three sites, depending on their salinity.

Salty environments inhibit methane production. The less salinity a marsh has—like the brackish waters of the Piermont and Iona Island Marshes—the more methane is produced. Extra carbon caused significantly greater methane production in Piermont and Iona Island compared to the saltier waters of Staten Island’s Saw Mill Creek Marsh. Every influx of stormwater carrying human pollutants from the sewers brings along excess carbon, which fuels microbial respiration, producing more methane.

The researchers concluded that inorganic nitrogen was not a major driver in carbon dioxide and methane production rates.

“The most important thing about this study is that it points to the fact that there are a lot of underappreciated impacts from water pollution,” said Dan Shapley, New York Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program Director, who said it could shake the ground for managing greenhouse gases and preventing climate change.

Other environmental scientists have also been studying this area and have found similar results.

Siobhan Fennessy is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Kenyon College and she thought the Queens College researchers’ results were generally consistent with how carbon cycles function in wetlands. One difference, she noted, between what happens in natural sites compared to the lab study is that they added acetate as a carbon source. Acetate is a chemical compound that Brigham’s team used because it’s likely to exist in sewage-polluted environments.

“So the huge response they got in the lab study may be more,” Fennessey said, “than what they would’ve gotten if they had used the same sort of carbon sources that are in the CSO.”

Climate change is leading to more intense rainstorms and as a result there’s a peak load problem. The NYC Panel on Climate Change expects up to an 11 percent increase in precipitation by the 2050s.

This excess amount of water is predicted to stress the city’s sewer system even further, causing wastewater that is normally treated by treatment plants to flow into nearby rivers and wetlands.

Under a 2012 Consent Order, the city committed to spend a total of $4.2 billion to mitigate combined sewer overflows. It promised to invest in improvements like wastewater treatment plant upgrades, storage tanks and sewer separation as well as allot $1.5 billion to green infrastructure projects like rain gardens and green roofs.

The city’s green infrastructure addresses 90 percent of rain events for the year but it’s not designed for very large storms, said DEP Managing Director of the Office of Ecosystem Services, Green Infrastructure and Research, John McLaughlin.

“It’s all very storm-specific,” he said, if it rains three inches in four hours, the rain gardens and green roofs probably won’t be able to handle that volume of water but they probably can take on three inches over the course of a day. If the rainfall is spaced out enough and the subsurface infiltration is great enough, green infrastructure is equipped to handle stormwater catchment, he explained.

Some still think the city could be a lot more ambitious about how they’re reducing CSOs. Korin Tangtrakul, a Soil and Water Conservation Stormwater Technician with New York SWIM Coalition, believes having a more robust and effective green infrastructure plan will help reduce the overflow.

“To think that sewage is causing more greenhouse gas emissions in wetlands—it’s a pretty terrifying prospect,” she said.

As the city’s population increases, the amount of sanitary waste pouring into the system also skyrockets, potentially adding to the greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy and Programs, the city is leading in the fight against climate change with a commitment to reduce these emissions 80 percent by 2050.

But Dr. Greg O’Mullan believes the problem is a lack of understanding of how CSOs and greenhouse gas emissions relate to one another. An environmental microbiologist who worked on the study with Brigham, O’Mullan has been studying bacteria indicators in the city’s surrounding waterways for the past 15 years.

“The CSOs are a design feature that has very negative consequences,” said O’Mullan. When city planners discuss CSOs, he said they should look beyond just the health factors like reducing pathogens and infection risk.

“We don’t account for what’s released into the environment and turned into greenhouse gases,” he said, because carbon can be delivered in one form but there are alterations that happen in the environment, which turn it into carbon dioxide and methane.

“New York City has reduced sewer overflows by 80 percent and the Harbor is cleaner today than it has been since the Civil War,” according to a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, and the city “continues to invest billions of dollars to reduce overflows and clean up all of the waterways.”

But Tangtrakul said the study’s findings further demonstrate the need to take action to reduce combined sewer overflows. New Yorkers should start conserving water during rainstorms to help reduce the amount of sewage contributing to a CSO, she said. That means waiting to do laundry or dishes until after the storm passes, she said.

“If every resident in New York did that,” she said, “we would significantly reduce how much sewage ended up in the waterways.”

600 groups present 'Green New Deal' demands

Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter

E&E Daily: Thursday, January 10, 2019

Climate activists protesting on Capitol Hill. @sunrisemvmt/Twitter

Progressive organizers today presented lawmakers with a formal wish list for "Green New Deal" legislation, asking for a sweeping plan to address climate change and move to 100 percent renewable energy.

In a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, more than 600 advocacy groups, including Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sunrise Movement, laid down a set of principles, fleshing out the "Green New Deal" proposal floated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

At the top of the list is an end to all fossil fuel leasing and subsidies and a transition to all renewables "by 2035 or earlier."

"Congress must bring the outdated regulation of electricity into the twenty-first century, encouraging public and community ownership over power infrastructure and electricity choice, as well as permitting distributed energy sources, including rooftop and community solar programs to supply the grid," they wrote.

The letter is the most detailed look yet at what progressives mean when they say "Green New Deal." To this point, conservatives and energy industry groups have criticized the platform for being too vague and overly ambitious given current technology.

But the letter is still largely goals, rather than policies, and some of its more specific proposals won't sit well with even some Democrats.

For instance, the groups write that any climate legislation should reinstate the 40-year ban on fossil fuel exports, which ended during the Obama administration.

They also said they would oppose any bill to promote "corporate schemes," including carbon capture and storage, emissions trading, and nuclear energy, all seen in some parts of the climate policy world as viable, if incomplete, solutions to global warming.

Other ideas are unsurprising, such as an effort to update the U.S. electric grid and promote battery storage as part of the effort to get to 100 percent renewables.

"In addition, Congress must bring the outdated regulation of electricity into the twenty-first century, encouraging public and community ownership over power infrastructure and electricity choice, as well as permitting distributed energy sources, including rooftop and community solar programs to supply the grid," they wrote.

Progressives also want an economic plan to ensure a just transition for fossil fuel workers and statutory requirements and timelines for EPA greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act.

For now, the closest thing to the progressive plan is the "Climate Solutions Act," introduced this week by California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu (Greenwire, Jan. 9).

And while that won't pass the Senate or be signed by President Trump, progressives are looking to influence Democratic debates in the House headed into the 2020 presidential race.

"As the world teeters on the brink of climate catastrophe, we're calling on Congress to take large-scale action," Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "Americans want a livable future for their children, and that requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground while greening the economy on a wartime footing."

Re: Legislation to Address the Urgent Threat of Climate Change

January 10, 2019

Dear Representative:

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we are writing today to urge you to consider the following principles as the 116th Congress debates climate change legislation and momentum around the country builds for a Green New Deal. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned, if we are to keep global warming below 1.5°C, we must act aggressively and quickly. At a minimum, reaching that target requires visionary and affirmative legislative action in the following areas:

Halt all fossil fuel leasing, phase out all fossil fuel extraction, and end fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies.

The science is clear that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. Pursuing new fossil fuel projects at this moment in history is folly. Most immediately, the federal government must stop selling off or leasing publicly owned lands, water, and mineral rights for development to fossil fuel producers. The government must also stop approving fossil fuel power plants and infrastructure projects. We must reverse recent legislation that ended the 40-year ban on the export of crude oil, end the export of all other fossil fuels, and overhaul relevant statutes that govern fossil fuel extraction in order to pursue a managed decline of fossil fuel production. Further, the federal government must immediately end the massive, irrational subsidies and other financial support that fossil fuel, and other dirty energy companies (such as nuclear, waste incineration and biomass energy) continue to receive both domestically and overseas.

Transition power generation to 100% renewable energy.

As the United States shifts away from fossil fuels, we must simultaneously ramp up energy efficiency and transition to clean, renewable energy to power the nation’s economy where, in addition to excluding fossil fuels, any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies. To achieve this, the United States must shift to 100 percent renewable power generation by 2035 or earlier. This shift will necessitate upgrading our electricity grid to be smart, efficient, and decentralized, with the ability to incorporate battery storage and distributed energy systems that are democratically governed. In addition, Congress must bring the outdated regulation of

electricity into the twenty-first century, encouraging public and community ownership over power infrastructure and electricity choice, as well as permitting distributed energy sources, including rooftop and community solar programs to supply the grid.

Expand public transportation and phase out fossil fuel vehicles.

As the transition away from fossil fuels occurs, our transportation system must also undergo 100 percent decarbonization. To accomplish a fossil-fuel-free reality, Congress must require and fund greater investment in renewable-energy-powered public transportation that serves the people who need it most. The United States must also phase out the sale of automobiles and trucks with internal fossil fuel combustion engines as quickly as possible and phase out all existing fossil fuel mobile sources by 2040 or earlier. Federal credits for electric vehicles must be expanded.

Harness the full power of the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act provides powerful tools that have proven successful in protecting the air we breathe and reducing greenhouse pollution. It can also serve as an important backstop to ensure climate targets are met. Congress should harness the full power of the statute by setting strict deadlines and providing adequate funding for EPA to carry out all its duties under all applicable sections of the Act, including implementing greenhouse pollution reduction requirements for cars, trucks, aircraft, ships, smokestacks and other sources, as well as a science-based national pollution cap. The Act has successfully reduced many air pollutants and can do the same for greenhouse pollution.

Ensure a Just Transition led by impacted communities and workers.

In effectuating this energy transformation, it is critical to prioritize support for communities who have historically been harmed first and most by the dirty energy economy and workers in the energy sector and related industries. We support a comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and invest in a new green economy that is designed, built and governed by communities and workers. Building new energy, waste, transportation and housing infrastructure, designed to serve climate resilience and human needs; retrofitting millions of buildings to conserve energy and other resources; and, actively restoring natural ecosystems to protect communities from climate change, are but a few ways to build a sustainable, low carbon economy where no one is left behind during this change.

Uphold Indigenous Rights

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) must be upheld and implemented, along with treaties, instruments and decisions of international law that recognize that Indigenous Peoples have the right to give or withhold “free, prior and informed consent” to legislation and development of their lands, territories and/or natural resources, cultural properties and heritage, and other interests, and to receive remedies of losses and damages of property taken without consent.

Further, we will vigorously oppose any legislation that: (1) rolls back existing environmental, health, and other protections, (2) protects fossil fuel and other dirty energy polluters from liability, or (3) promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy. Fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share for damages caused by climate change, rather than shifting those costs to taxpayers.

We look forward to working with you to address the gravest environmental crisis humanity has ever faced, to protect all present and future generations around the world, while centering the rights of those communities and workers most impacted.

Oil Firms, Wind Farms Set to Gain From New Rule on Killing Birds

January 25, 2019

From Environment & Energy Report

.By Stephen Lee

The Interior Department is soon expected to release a proposal that would sweep away possible criminal prosecutions for oil and gas companies, wind and solar energy firms, ranchers, farmers, and developers who harm migratory birds.

If eventually finalized, as expected, the proposal would undo decades of established practice. For at least the last 50 years, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has been interpreted as forbidding the killing, injuring, or capture of any covered bird species or their eggs or nests, even if done by accident.

That strict liability approach would come to an end under the expected changes: Only intentional migratory bird killings would count as violations of the statute.

That could mean the roughly 1,000 species covered under the statute would essentially lose their protections, according to Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president of conservation policy at the National Audubon Society.

“When you build a wind tower, your purpose is not to kill a bird,” Greenberger said. “Your intent is to create energy. When you build an oil waste pit, your intent is to get rid of oil waste, not to trap birds.”

The statute helped the federal government secure a $100 million settlement from Exxon Mobil Corp. for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, according to Greenberger. She said that settlement wouldn’t have been possible under the expected changes from the Trump administration.

The oil and gas industry backs the move.

“The U.S. oil and natural gas industry supports protection of migratory birds, and it is clear that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act should not be used for overzealous enforcement of criminal penalties on those engaging in otherwise lawful activities,” the American Petroleum Institute told Bloomberg Environment in a statement.

In December 2017, the Interior Department said in a memo that bird deaths prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act should apply “only to affirmative actions that have as their purpose the taking or killing of migratory birds, their nests, or their eggs.”

As previously formulated, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act “hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions, threatening up to six months in jail and a $15,000 penalty for each and every bird injured or killed,” the memo said.

Action Expected Post-Shutdown

The rulemaking is significant because the memo could be undone by a future administration. Once a new approach is formally issued as a regulation, it could only be reversed by another rulemaking, which would likely encounter opposition and court challenges.

Bird species that could be affected include the western meadowlark and great blue heron, which are vulnerable to oil waste pits; the brown pelican, common loon, and tufted puffin, which have been killed or injured in large numbers by oil spills in recent decades; and the red-tailed hawk and great horned owl, which are at high risk of electrocution from transmission lines, according to the National Audubon Society.

The proposal hasn’t been published yet, but the Trump administration has given signs that it’s coming. Following the December 2017 memo, Interior listed a proposal to “define the scope” of the law in its fall 2018 regulatory agenda. At the time, the department said it would publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in November.

Since then, environmental groups that oppose the proposal say they have been expecting it any time and now think it will be released shortly after the government shutdown ends.

“It could be days after the shutdown ends,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “We just don’t know.”

The Interior Department didn’t respond to a query about its plans.

‘Example of Astute Governance’

Interior’s approach is “an example of astute governance that provides certainty for responsible owners and operators of oil and natural gas facilities,” API said in its statement. “The opinion reinforces the original intent and text of this law and provides assurance to many others who engage in everyday and commercial activities like farming, mining, and operating wind turbines and solar facilities.”

Mike Speerschneider, senior director of permitting policy and environmental affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, said, “We haven’t seen any specifics, but would be interested to review a proposal from the administration that clarifies MBTA liability risk.”

“Whatever the proposal, our industry will continue to take actions, such as following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wind Energy Guidelines and focusing on ongoing research and conservation efforts, to minimize our already small impacts to birds,” Speerschneider said.

Attorneys general from California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon filed a lawsuit last May to challenge Interior’s 2017 memo.

The National Audubon Society, joined by three other groups, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined by one other group, filed lawsuits May 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York arguing that the policy violates federal laws.

Wisconsin Case Shows How Sewage Plants Spread PFAS Across Landscape

"Detection of a toxic chemical in a northeastern Wisconsin wastewater treatment plant’s sludge has prompted a halt to application of the material on nearby farms and raised broader concerns about how public sewer systems across the state may be spreading the chemical across the landscape.

The contaminated sludge in Marinette also highlights unease and confusion in local communities over the absence of enforceable federal or Wisconsin environmental standards for the chemicals — often referred to by the acronym PFAS — despite at least two decades of research linking them to serious health problems.

Marinette has the worst PFAS contamination of drinking water that has been detected in the state. Private wells serving dozens of homes in the neighboring town of Peshtigo are affected, many with PFAS levels exceeding a federal health advisory. Tyco Fire Products, the local company blamed for the pollution, has installed water treatment systems and distributed bottled water in dozens of homes."

At many river deltas, scientists are missing a major source of sea level rise

A surface elevation table is used to measure subsidence in a tropical swamp in Indonesia.

By Paul VoosenJan. 30, 2019 , 12:10 PM

For coastal communities, the sea level rise propelled by melting ice and warming oceans is bad enough. But people living on the soft, compressible sediments of river deltas have another factor to contend with: sinking land. Scientists have traditionally inferred the sinking from tide gauge readings or measured it directly at GPS stations. But a team of scientists now says these methods significantly underestimate subsidence at many deltas and low-lying coastlines worldwide.

In recent years, scientists at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, have shown that in the Mississippi River delta, fluffy, young sediments within a few meters of the surface are compacting rapidly. They estimate the effect more than doubles the region's rate of sea-level rise to a total of 13 millimeters a year. Tide gauges and GPS stations miss that subsidence because they are anchored to deeper layers, which are less susceptible to compaction.

The same mechanism is likely at play in many low-lying coastal areas worldwide, which host some 10% of the global population, the team argues in a paper published this week in Ocean Science. "Tide gauges are not measuring what we need," says Torbjörn Törnqvist, a geologist at Tulane and co-author on the study. "We need to really rethink how we monitor these areas."

Satellites are the main tools for monitoring the absolute changes in ocean height, which reflect the biggest drivers of sea level rise: melting ice and the expansion of warming water. But for people and ecosystems, the relative impact of rising or falling land is just as important. Some regions are still rebounding thousands of years after ancient ice sheets melted, lifting a colossal weight off Earth's elastic mantle. Many more are subsiding. "It's something we've been overlooking too long in sea level projections," says Aimée Slangen, a climate scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Yerseke and a lead author of the sea level chapter of the next United Nations climate report.

Louisiana, for example, is sinking fast. Although compaction is the primary culprit, the extraction of groundwater, oil, and gas also play a role. Sediment washed down the Mississippi River once compensated for the subsidence, but levees and other engineered structures now shunt it out into the Gulf of Mexico. To monitor the sediment loss, the state over the past few decades has deployed a network of some 400 simple wetland-monitoring instruments, called surface elevation tables.

The table, a metal arm that juts out parallel to the swamp's surface, is anchored to a pole driven deep below. Twice a year, a series of pins are lowered from the table until they just touch the marsh surface—giving a regular measure of how fast the surface is sinking relative to deeper layers. Five years ago, when Törnqvist's group began to use this network to divine the source of Louisiana's subsidence, researchers realized the problem is not just sediment loss. Shallow soils, deposited in earlier centuries when the river ran free, are simply compressing. "Tide gauges were not capturing that," says Molly Keogh, the Tulane graduate student who led the new work.

The new paper lays out why. The region's 131 tide gauges measure the tide in comparison with benchmarks anchored in deep sediments, often tens of meters down—"as close as we get to bedrock in Louisiana," Keogh says. The region's 10 GPS stations with known benchmarks were also anchored, on average, 14 meters deep in the mud. To both devices, the zone of the most compaction—a source of half the sea level rise—was invisible. The scenario could be true in other delta regions that also rely on tide gauges, casting doubt on estimates of regional sea level rise, says Mark Schuerch, a physical geographer at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom. "It's quite innovative and quite exciting—or scary, really."

Figuring out the anchor depths of tide gauges elsewhere in the world will be a herculean task, warns Philip Woodworth, former director of the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level in Liverpool, U.K., who reviewed the paper. Tide gauge records do not typically include the depth of their benchmarks; that knowledge, if it exists, is buried in country bureaucracies.

Moreover, the rate of shallow compaction probably varies greatly from wetland to wetland. In some marshes, plants compensate for compaction by capturing new sediment with their roots. And in some regions, such as Bangladesh, compaction occurs more uniformly across shallow and deep layers, says Céline Grall, a marine geologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. "These assumptions are not true there."

Deploying elevation tables in deltas around the world could resolve those uncertainties, creating a global database, Törnqvist says. The tool is simple, cheap, and effective, and has already been used in more than 30 countries. For an area the size of coastal Louisiana, only 40 would be needed to keep track of subsidence—and determine how fast seas are truly rising. The millions of people living in the world's deltas need to know the answer, Grall says. "That's a legacy we should work on."

United Nations, World Economic Forum and partners unite to address e-waste

Public Release: 24-Jan-2019

Joint report: Technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution show huge potential and could lead to "dematerialization", better product tracking, take-back and recycling, and products sold as services

United Nations University

In brief:

Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to address e-waste

A new joint report shows that the world now discards approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) per year, greater in weight than all of the commercial airliners ever made, or enough Eiffel towers to fill Manhattan. Only 20% is formally recycled. If nothing changes, the United Nations University predicts e-waste could nearly triple to 120 million tonnes by 2050

In terms of material value, this presents an opportunity worth over 62.5 billion dollars per year, more than the GDP of most countries and three times the output of the world's silver mines. There is 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than a tonne of gold ore

The joint report calls for a new vision for electronics based on the circular economy and the need for collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to change the system

The report points to the importance of new technologies; although e-waste is growing, technologies from Internet of things to cloud computing show a huge potential and could lead to "dematerialization" and better product tracking, take-back and recycling

Major global brands, governments and other organizations support the initiative with commitments and projects to address e-waste and build a circular economy.

Davos, Switzerland, 24 January 2019 -- Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges.

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries.

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded -- the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars-- more than the GDP of most countries.

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment.

The report, "A New Circular Vision for Electronics - Time for a Global Reboot," launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT), support gradual "dematerialization" of the electronics industry.

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide.

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions.

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes:

International Labour Organization (ILO);

International Telecommunication Union (ITU);

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment);

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO);

United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR);

United Nations University (UNU), and

Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm conventions.

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria's 500,000 tonnes of e-waste.

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation.

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an 'internet of materials.' PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy.


United Nations University (UNU)

"UNU's and its world-wide partners' research and advocacy of sustainable e-waste practices have substantially contributed to placing the issue of electronic waste on the political agenda. But current efforts are insufficient to address this fast-growing problem. We need to develop innovative policies. We need to establish and monitor targets so we can measure whether our policies have any impact. We need new multi-stakeholder alliances, because reducing e-waste will require the cooperation of many actors, including the private sector. We hope that the E-Waste Coalition and this report will instigate the important innovation required." David Malone, Rector, UNU & UN Under-Secretary General

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

"ITU has been raising awareness and guiding efforts to reduce and rethink e-waste since 2011. So I am delighted to see that a movement to promote a circular economy for electronics is now gaining ground. Together, with newly created partnerships such as the United Nations E-waste Coalition, we can transform waste into wealth, and deliver development benefits to all." Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, ITU

United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment)

"A circular economy brings with it tremendous environmental and economic benefits for us all. UN Environment is proud to support this innovative partnership with the Government of Nigeria and the Global Environment Facility and support the country's efforts to kick start a circular electronics system. Our planet's survival will depend on how well we retain the value of products within the system by extending their life." Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director, UN

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

"Global e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream and presents societal and environmental risk. This summary clearly lays out why we must act at scale, now, and collaborate between business, international organizations, governments and NGOs. WBCSD is committed, through Factor10 and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, to achieving a world where waste has no place." Peter Bakker, President and CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

International Labour Organization (ILO)

"Thousands of tonnes of e-waste is disposed of by the world's poorest workers in the worst of conditions, putting their health and lives at risk. We need better e-waste strategies and green standards as well as closer collaboration between governments, employers and unions to make the circular economy work for both people and planet."' Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

"E-waste is a growing global challenge that poses a serious threat to the environment and human health worldwide. To minimize this threat, UNIDO works with various UN agencies and other partners on a range of e-waste projects, all of which are underpinned by a circular economy approach. This UN coalition is taking steps towards a cleaner, more sustainable and safer future, and in doing so, demonstrating how such cooperation can lead to transformational results where the total is greater than the sum of its parts." Stephan Sicars, Director, Department of Environment, UNIDO

United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)

"Working together with the UN coalition on E-waste presents a new paradigm shift and a new dispensation with tremendous opportunities to support countries march towards a cleaner and more sustainable way of managing e-waste. UNITAR recognizes urgent needs in training and capacity building in the e-waste management value chain based on the national training needs assessment, and we are pleased to support this partnership and countries through our programmes." Nikhil Seth, Executive Director, UNITAR

Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

"The global e-waste problem is one of the most pressing environmental issues we face, with significant threats to human health, especially for women, children, and other vulnerable groups such as the poor, often working in the informal recycling sector in developing countries without proper protective equipment and without following established norms. That is why 187 Parties to the Basel Convention have worked together to develop technical guidelines to ensure the environmentally sound management of e-waste, including concerning recycling and recovery of materials from mobile phones and computing equipment, and transboundary movements of waste and its proper disposal." Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

World Economic Forum

"The circular economy offer incredible benefits, but it does require us to be less transactional with our resources, stewarding them through the economy rather than throwing them out after one use. The Fourth Industrial Revolution offers us the ability to rethink resource flows, while also providing better services to consumers. It's time to unlock that innovation potential. The innovative capacity of the electronics sector and the value inside the materials in electronics makes it the best place to start " Dominic Waughray, Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum

Executive Summary

Joint report, "A New Circular Vision for Electronics - Time for a Global Reboot"

Rapid innovation and lowering costs have dramatically increased access to electronic products and digital technology, with many benefits. This has led to an increase in the use of electronic devices and equipment. The unintended consequence of this is a ballooning of electronic and electrical waste: e-waste.

It is difficult to gauge how many electrical goods are produced annually, but just taking account of devices connected to the internet, they now number many more than humans. By 2020, this is projected to be between 25-50 billion, reflecting plummeting costs and rising demand.

E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. Some forms of it have been growing exponentially.

The UN has called it a tsunami of e-waste. It is estimated this waste stream reached 50 million tonnes in 2018.

This figure is expected to double if nothing changes.

Globally, society only deals with 20% of e-waste appropriately and there is little data on what happens to the rest, which for the most part ends up in landfill, or is disposed of by informal workers in poor conditions.

Yet e-waste is worth at least $62.5 billion annually, which is more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of most countries. In fact, if e-waste was a single nation, it's GDP would be on a par with that of Kenya. Furthermore, 123 countries have less GDP than the global pile of electronic waste.

In the right hands, however, it could be worth considerably more.

Changes in technology such as cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT) could hold the potential to "dematerialize" the electronics industry. The rise of service business models and better product tracking and take-back could lead to global circular value chains. Material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential. If the sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide.

A new vision for the production and consumption of electronic and electrical goods is needed. It is easy for e-waste to be framed as a post-consumer problem, but the issue encompasses the lifecycle of the devices everyone uses. Designers, manufacturers, investors, traders, miners, raw material producers, consumers, policy-makers and others have a crucial role to play in reducing waste, retaining value within the system, extending the economic and physical life of an item, as well as its ability to be repaired, recycled and reused. The possibilities are endless.

This is an inflection point in history and represents an unparalleled opportunity for global businesses, policymakers and workers worldwide. Those who can rethink the value chain for electronic goods and prioritize dematerialization and closed loop systems (which means reducing reliance on primary resources), could have an incredible advantage. Innovative products and services do not have to mean more e-waste; they can mean a lot less.

The prevailing "take, make and dispose" model has consequences for society, a negative impact on health and contributes to climate change.12 It is time for a system update. We need a system that functions properly - in which the circular economy replaces the linear.

In the short-term, electronic waste remains a largely unused, yet growing, valuable resource. Nearly all of it could be recycled. Urban mining, where resources are extracted from complex waste streams, can now be more economically viable than extracting metal ores from the ground. It is largely less energy intensive. E-waste can be toxic, is not biodegradable and accumulates in the environment, in the soil, air, water and living things. It can also have an adverse impact on health. Children and women are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of e-waste exposure.

It is time to reconsider e-waste, re-evaluate the electronics industry and reboot the system for the benefit of industry, consumer, worker, health of humankind and the environment. The incredible opportunities here are also aligned to the globe's "just transition" to environmental sustainability and to shaping a future that works for all in the circular economy.

The report in full is available at

2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Tue, Jan 22 - Fri, Jan 25, 2019

Davos, Switzerland

Study: Natural disaster affects children's schooling years later

Public Release: 24-Jan-2019

Society for Research in Child Development

The social disruption that results from natural disasters often interrupts children's schooling. However, we know little about how children's learning is affected in the years after a disaster. A new study looked at changes in children's academic performance after major bushfires in Australia. The study concluded that children in regions affected significantly by bushfires demonstrated poorer academic outcomes in some subjects than children in regions that were less severely affected by the fires.

The findings come from researchers at the University of Melbourne, Smouldering Stump (a charity to support children affected by natural disasters), Swinburne University of Technology, and the University of New South Wales. They are published in Child Development, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.

"Our study is the first in Australia to track the academic performance of elementary-school children affected by a natural disaster over a four-year period," explains Lisa Gibbs, director of the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program at the University of Melbourne, who led the study. "The findings highlight the extended nature of academic impact and identify important opportunities for intervention in the education system so children can achieve their full potential."

The study looked at 24,642 children who attended primary schools in Victoria, Australia, that were affected by the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia in February 2009. Researchers compared students in schools that had high or medium impact from the fire (based on the effects of the fire on lives and property) to peers in schools with low or no impact. They examined students' academic scores on tests of reading, writing, spelling, numeracy, and grammar two and four years after the fires (when students were in grades 3 and 5). The tests were standardized assessments given as part of the National Assessment Program to evaluate literacy and numeracy skills across time through the school curriculum.

The researchers also took into account the different family circumstances of the children, such as level of parents' education, language, cultural and health factors, and whether they came from single- or two-parent families, as well as the potential influence of schools.

The study found that students' expected gains from 3rd to 5th grade in reading and numeracy were reduced in schools that had higher levels of impact from the fire. There were no significant impacts of exposure on trends in academic scores for the writing, spelling, and grammar parts of the academic assessment, and no gender differences in any of the scores.

The authors note that cognitive skills related to types of learning may be affected by early experiences of trauma. After a disaster, ongoing disruptions in the home, school, and community may also affect learning opportunities. The study didn't include students who moved to different schools between grades 3 and 5 but given that relocation was more common among families who were affected by loss of property, these children are also likely to be at risk of impacts on learning.

"Our study extends the evidence base by examining the period up to four years after a disaster and identifying a subject-specific decline in academic achievement associated with the level of impact of the fire," explains Jane Nursey, senior clinical consultant at Phoenix Australia-Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, who coauthored the study.

"Given the apparent delayed impact of the fires, it will be important for future studies on the impacts of disasters on children to extend beyond three years, and to consider academic and cognitive impacts alongside factors related to health and social and emotional well-being," Nursey continues. "In this way, we can be more confident of capturing the longer-term impact of disasters on children's academic performance, impacts that might not be apparent the first few years after an event, and we can ensure that interventions target appropriate areas to help children succeed at school and in life."

Such interventions might include extended social and emotional support for students, as well as additional academic support to address the developmental factors that likely influence academic achievement, especially those that relate to reading and numeracy, the authors note.

The study was funded by the Teachers Health Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Jack Brockoff Foundation. Data were provided by the Department of Education and Training Victoria.

Summarized from Child Development, Delayed Disaster Impacts on Academic Performance of Primary School Children by Gibbs, L (University of Melbourne), Nursey, J (University of Melbourne), Cook, J (Smouldering Stump), Ireton, G (University of Melbourne), Alkemade, N (University of Melbourne), Roberts, M (Department of Education and Training Victoria), Gallagher, HC (Swinburne University of Technology, University of Melbourne), Bryant, R (University of New South Wales), Block K (University of Melbourne), Molyneaux, R (University of Melbourne), and Forbes, D (University of Melbourne). Copyright 2019 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.

A landscape unseen in over 40,000 years

Public Release: 25-Jan-2019

Rapidly receding glaciers on Baffin Island reveal long-covered Arctic landscapes

University of Colorado at Boulder

Glacial retreat in the Canadian Arctic has uncovered landscapes that haven't been ice-free in more than 40,000 years and the region may be experiencing its warmest century in 115,000 years, new University of Colorado Boulder research finds.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, uses radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of plants collected at the edges of 30 ice caps on Baffin Island, west of Greenland. The island has experienced significant summertime warming in recent decades.

"The Arctic is currently warming two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, so naturally, glaciers and ice caps are going to react faster," said Simon Pendleton, lead author and a doctoral researcher in CU Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).

Baffin is the world's fifth largest island, dominated by deeply incised fjords separated by high-elevation, low-relief plateaus. The thin, cold plateau ice acts as a kind of natural cold storage, preserving ancient moss and lichens in their original growth position for millennia.

"We travel to the retreating ice margins, sample newly exposed plants preserved on these ancient landscapes and carbon date the plants to get a sense of when the ice last advanced over that location," Pendleton said. "Because dead plants are efficiently removed from the landscape, the radiocarbon age of rooted plants define the last time summers were as warm, on average, as those of the past century"

In August, the researchers collected 48 plant samples from 30 different Baffin ice caps, encompassing a range of elevations and exposures. They also sampled quartz from each site in order to further establish the age and ice cover history of the landscape.

Once the samples were processed and radiocarbon dated back in labs at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at CU Boulder and the University of California Irvine, the researchers found that these ancient plants at all 30 ice caps have likely been continuously covered by ice for at least the past 40,000 years.

"Unlike biology, which has spent the past three billion years developing schemes to avoid being impacted by climate change, glaciers have no strategy for survival," said Gifford Miller, senior author of the research and a professor of geological sciences at CU Boulder. "They're well behaved, responding directly to summer temperature. If summers warm, they immediately recede; if summers cool, they advance. This makes them one of the most reliable proxies for changes in summer temperature."

When compared against temperature data reconstructed from Baffin and Greenland ice cores, the findings suggest that modern temperatures represent the warmest century for the region in 115,000 years and that Baffin could be completely ice-free within the next few centuries.

"You'd normally expect to see different plant ages in different topographical conditions," Pendleton said. "A high elevation location might hold onto its ice longer, for example. But the magnitude of warming is so high that everything is melting everywhere now."

"We haven't seen anything as pronounced as this before," Pendleton said.

Additional co-authors of the study include Scott Lehman, Sarah Crump and Robert Anderson of CU Boulder; Nathaniel Lifton of Purdue University; and John Southon of the University of California Irvine. The National Science Foundation provided funding for the research.

D.C.'s ballyhooed green cabs are a driver's 'nightmare'

Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter Climatewire: Thursday, January 3, 2019

Mekkonen Kassa drives an electric taxi in the District of Columbia. He plans to switch to a gas-powered car because there aren't enough charging stations.

In the long row of bright-red taxis queued up at Washington's Union Station on a recent morning, a cab sporting a bright-green "e" stood out.

That's "e" for electric.

District of Columbia officials and environmentalists have celebrated the city's electric cab fleet as a weapon against climate change. But a largely immigrant corps of taxi drivers who are struggling to compete against ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft say the program has stuck them with a hefty tab for environmental progress.

"We are suffering because of this car," said Tsegaye Mamo, a cab driver from Ethiopia. "This car is not good for business."

The Department of For-Hire Vehicles, which encouraged cabbies to join the electric taxi effort in 2016, failed to prepare them for the rough road ahead — notably, an acute shortage of charging infrastructure, E&E News found in interviews with 11 electric-cab drivers.

The drivers — most of them immigrants — say they didn't understand the difficulties and expense of owning and operating an electric cab. While the Department of For-Hire Vehicles dangled $10,000 grants to cover the cost of new electric vehicles and lure drivers, many cabbies said they either didn't receive the grant or are still paying off loans for the car.

"I don't know why they forced us to buy this car," said Mesfia Tesfaye, who came to the United States from Ethiopia nine years ago. "It is very hard."

David Do, the department's interim director, maintains that the drivers should have done their homework.

"I understand it's difficult. I feel for them," Do said in an interview. "[But] the grant guidelines were clear from the beginning that, 'Hey, if you do accept this program, you have to be in this vehicle for at least three years.'"

Drivers say they didn't realize that charging an electric vehicle sucked up so much time — which in the cab business is money.

While filling a gasoline tank takes just minutes, charging an electric car takes around half an hour. And drivers say they need to charge two or three times a day.

"Now is my second time charging today," said Asmare Aemiro. "I just went in the morning and now again."

An electric taxi owned by Nuru Shafi had to be towed last year when it ran out of juice. Shafi

It was 1 p.m.

"With gas, you fill up once, you can work all day," he said. "So which one is better?"

Alan Dowdell, vice president of business development at ChargePoint, the country's largest network of EV charging stations, said he thinks the plug-in stops offer cabbies an ideal lunch break.

"You know, there are natural breaks that a taxi driver has to take to eat lunch and stuff," Dowdell said. "You could replace 100 miles of charge pretty easily during a 30-minute lunch break."

But on a recent winter afternoon, just one driver was eating lunch while his battery charged. The rest killed time by looking at their phones or napping as earning opportunities passed them by.

Most District of Columbia cabbies said they earn $80 to $120 a day. The average D.C. taxi driver makes $38,872, according to By contrast, the director of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles makes $177,295 a year, city records show.

Many drivers said they feel pressure to maximize their earnings by working longer hours. Sometimes, they feel compelled to pick up passengers even when their battery is low.

That's a risky move. Five drivers said they've had to call a tow truck after their battery died on a trip.

"The last time I went to Dulles Airport, I had to get towed," said Nuru Shafi, referring to the northern Virginia airport that's about 45 minutes away from downtown Washington.

"The batteries ran out. I could not find a charging station. Finally, I called the tow truck. It was so cold. I was crying," Shafi said. "That was a nightmare for me."

Few charging options

There's just one charging station in the District of Columbia that's available to cabbies at a reasonable price.

Most Americans who own electric vehicles charge them at home, but that's an expensive proposition. Installation of a home charging station can cost $500 to $700, while labor and parts can cost $1,200 to $2,000, according to HomeAdvisor, a digital site for home repair services.

D.C. has 103 charging stations, but most are on hotel property, in private businesses or in parking garages. That means they're reserved for patrons or off-limits to cab drivers unless they pay a parking fee.

'We hear what those drivers are saying'

Companies that supply electric vehicle equipment are looking to invest in more urban charging stations.

In the District of Columbia, Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) recently filed a $15 million request with the D.C. Public Service Commission to expand charging infrastructure in the region.

The request includes a proposal to install two chargers for taxis and ride-hailing services.

"We recognize that Washington, D.C., has the opportunity to be the leader in electric taxicab service in the country," said Rob Stewart, manager of smart grid and technology for the Exelon Corp. subsidiary.

"We hear what those drivers are saying, and we want to help them out."

Pepco hopes the commission will approve its request in time for installation this spring or summer, Stewart added.

Noah Garcia, a transportation policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said cities around the country must commit to building out more charging infrastructure, with an eye toward equity and accessibility.

"If we're going to promote and sustain an EV market that's broader and more diverse," he said, "we're going to have to think more comprehensively about the needs of people who don't have access to charging in their homes."

Compounding the problem, EVgo recently closed down a charging station outside a Giant supermarket where cabbies used to congregate.

Jonathan Levy, EVgo's vice president of strategic initiatives, declined to comment on the record about why the charging station was closed. But Do said he heard EVgo received too many complaints about overuse by cabbies.

Union Station is now the only remaining option. The Department of For-Hire Vehicles subsidizes the two fast chargers in the garage there, and all 11 cabbies interviewed for this story said they primarily charge there.

"It's only here now," said Aemiro, gesturing at the Union Station garage. "Before, when we bought these cars, we could charge at two or three places. But now everywhere is closed."

Another cabbie who requested anonymity said he wished he had known about the lack of charging options before going green.

"There are not enough. That's a big issue for taxis," he said. "So I don't think D.C. is really ready for electric taxis, because the infrastructure is not there."

Grants fall short

When the Department of For-Hire Vehicles rolled out the electric taxi program in 2016, it solicited applications for $5,000 and $10,000 grants to cover the cost of a new vehicle, which has a sticker price of about $30,000.

The department received 56 applications and doled out 45 grants, spokesman Neville Waters said.

But the total number of electric-taxi drivers in the District is 127, he said. That means 82 drivers are operating without grants, either because their applications were denied or because they didn't apply in time.

"They promised, but they did not give," said Mekkonen Kassa, a driver from Eritrea. "They lied. They told us we'd get grants of $10,000. They did not give them to us."

Lemmesa Hunde, another driver from Ethiopia, said it's unclear why his application for a grant was denied.

"They told me the government was going to give us $10,000," Hunde said. "They denied me. I don't know why. It is a problem how some people got it and some people didn't."

Another cabbie who asked to remain anonymous said he received a $5,000 grant, but he nonetheless struggles to support his wife and two children. His wife works in a supermarket.

"It's not enough. Believe me, it's not enough," he said. "This is a $30,000 car. If I knew this would happen, I would never put $30,000 in this car."

Do, the department's interim director, said: "It's a competitive process. With any grant system, not everybody is awarded a grant. But it's more than that, you know? There's limited funds."

He added: "If I could give everybody money to get an electric vehicle, that's something that I want to do. But we're a government agency. We don't have that much money overall. So, you know, we have to do a competitive process, and we have to seek out the best proposals."

Leadership in limbo

David Do, interim director of the D.C. Department of For-Hire Vehicles. Maxine Joselow/E&E News

Do took over as For-Hire Vehicles' interim director in November, taking the helm from Ernest Chrappah, who led the department for more than two years.

Chrappah earned an award for his work on the electric taxi program as well as a promotion from Mayor Muriel Bowser (D). And at a September 2017 conference in Austin, Texas, the International Association of Transportation Regulators gave him its top award.

In a news release, the association credited Chrappah with "creating the first-ever electric taxi program in DC ... that increased awareness of climate change, generated fuel cost savings, and reduced [carbon dioxide] emissions."

At an October 2017 meeting of the D.C. For-Hire Vehicle Advisory Council, Chrappah proclaimed the electric taxi program a runaway success.

"No other jurisdiction within striking distance has made this type of commitment to the for-hire vehicle industry," he said, according to a transcript.

But Shafi accused Chrappah of misleading the drivers.

"It's because we are foreigners. That's the reason Mr. Chrappah, he doesn't respond," Shafi said. "He treats us like foreigners, like second-rate citizens. But I'm an American citizen right now."

Chrappah was recently promoted to interim director of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The department declined to make him available for an interview.

"Director Chrappah has been out of the office and will not be able to respond by your deadline," spokesman Timothy Wilson said in an email.

Asked how he would respond to allegations that the Department of For-Hire Vehicles misled drivers, Do said he thinks the cabbies should have done their research on the different types of EVs.

The vast majority of drivers opted to buy the Nissan Leaf, which costs around $30,000 and has a range of roughly 100 miles. But, he said, they could have chosen the Chevrolet Bolt, which costs about $36,000 but has a range of roughly 200 miles.

Newer Tesla Inc. models boast ranges of more than 300 miles, although their prices stretch from $49,000 for the Model 3 to $94,000 for the Model S.

"You know, there's a myriad of options," said Do, who drives a Tesla. "And sometimes, one vehicle might be cheaper than the other. But there are costs and benefits to that."

He added, "These rules and guidelines came before my time, and it's my job to adhere to what was laid out three years ago."

Group pleads for help

A group calling itself the D.C. Electric Taxi Cab Operators Coalition recently sent a letter to Bowser and D.C.'s representative in Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), accusing the District of "unfulfilled promises."

The group wants permission to transfer from electric vehicles to gasoline-powered vehicles, which is prohibited under current rules.

Kassa is one of the cabbies who have had enough.

"I just decided to quit, to sell my car, because this is not the right car to own," he said. "An electric car for a taxi is not right."

A man who identified himself as the coalition chairman declined to be interviewed for this story.

"I don't want to speak about this headache," he said before joining the long red ribbon of cabs outside Union Station, indistinguishable from the other cars save for a small green emblem.

How Volkswagen turned from diesel pariah into electric gorilla

David Ferris, E&E News reporter Energywire: Thursday, January 3, 2019

Volkswagen AG's Electrify America is upending the electric vehicle charging business under a U.S. settlement that requires VW to spend $2 billion over a decade on EV infrastructure. Claudine Hellmuth/E&E News (illustration); Electrify America (chargers) Brands of the World (Volkswagen logo)

Three years ago, Volkswagen AG was in the depths of scandal because it lied about the emissions of its diesel cars. As 2019 begins, it has emerged as the most disruptive player in the business of selling a different kind of fuel: the electrons that move electric cars.

This is a direct result of its diesel cheating. Ordered by U.S. and California officials to build a $2 billion profit-seeking business in electric vehicle fueling stations, it has done so with aplomb. The subsidiary it created, Electrify America LLC, is now the richest and most talked-about company in the making of roadside chargers. Its influence will be profound if millions of Americans switch from gasoline to electric drivetrains.

Electrify America and its money are like a gravitational force. Almost overnight, the Reston, Va.-based VW unit has turned its suppliers into market leaders. It has upended the business plans of longer-established charging companies, and set high and expensive new standards for crucial parts of the EV ecosystem.

The VW subsidiary says it is making charging faster and more accessible, just like regulators asked. But its rivals see something else: a ruthless competitor that is magnanimous in public but can be underhanded in private.

Those firms, with far smaller budgets, say that Electrify America's flood of money is warping the market in ways that might slow down the adoption of EVs and make the fuel more expensive. They say they don't have the resources to compete with a corporate giant that is compelled to spend tens of millions of dollars per quarter. They say Electrify America is using its heft to steal business out from under them, and wonder how much of its charging network is for the common good and how much is tailor-made for VW's future stable of electric cars.

"With their big wallets and big promises, they have actually gone to our customers and pulled our hardware out of the ground and replaced it with theirs," said Michael Farkas, the CEO of Blink Charging Co., a competitor, making an allegation that Electrify America denies. "Doing that is not the most honorable thing, and it doesn't help the marketplace."

At the LA Auto Show in November, leaders of the auto industry leaned forward in their chairs to hear a presentation by Electrify America's CEO, Giovanni Palazzo. He didn't mention the pollution scandal that led to his presence there. He scarcely uttered the word Volkswagen.

"Let me tell you that I hope you got, and the message came through today, what Electrify America is willing to do," he said. "We see we are contributing to a better future — greener, more sustainable, more conscious."

Electrify America, with its parentage and large purse, has become EV-charging royalty with powerful allies. It has the blessing of the Sierra Club and many utilities, which welcome the investment in charging networks that could unseat gasoline, increase demand for electricity and reduce the threat of climate change.

It even gets kind words from its most rigorous regulator, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which uncovered Volkswagen's diesel cheating in the first place.

"I think from the beginning, Electrify America has done in good faith what it said they were going to do, which is spend a lot of money, more money than anyone has ever spent, in all the years we've been trying to get infrastructure developed, to build a network of public charging stations that will enable an electricity market," said Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of CARB, in an interview at the LA Auto Show. "They deserve our thanks and our support for what they're doing, even if it took catching them in a violation to get this commitment done."

In private, Electrify America's competitors speculate about political undercurrents driving California regulators' light handling of Electrify America lately.

The VW consent decree, which President Obama's Justice Department celebrated as a major achievement, is now being enforced by the Trump administration. In theory, some suggest, a White House that champions fossil fuels and takes a dim view of electric cars could agree to renegotiate the terms that dictate VW's $2 billion of spending. And that could wipe out the windfall of dollars to build out EV infrastructure.

The legal settlement that created Electrify America also resolved most of VW's troubles in the United States. But abroad, the diesel scandal and the corporate behavior that enabled it continues to burn.

Volkswagen is fighting lawsuits around the globe, and the company and its current and former executives face multiple civil and criminal investigations in Europe and in its home country of Germany. Volkswagen's management boards, which oversee its executives, still deny they knew about the sophisticated, worldwide effort to cheat on diesel emissions, and most of those board members remain in place. It is unclear whether Volkswagen's top-down, win-at-all-costs culture has really changed.

Since the scandal, a related and equally astonishing turnaround has happened at Volkswagen: The company has abandoned diesel and gasoline and bet the farm on electric cars.

At the LA Auto Show, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh announced the company would spend $38 billion worldwide on electric drivetrains in the next four years, far more than any other global automaker. By 2025, it plans to have 50 fully electric models. By 2026, it expects to launch its last gas-powered car.

A huge hybrid

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, answers questions in June 2016 about a nearly $16 billion consent decree that settled Volkswagen's consumer lawsuits and government allegations after the auto giant's diesel emissions scandal. Eric Risberg/Associated Press

The experts can't recall anything quite like Electrify America, a multibillion-dollar combination of regulatory zeal and corporate ambition.

The seed was sprung from VW's systematic deceit. For seven years, starting in 2009, VW marketed its "clean diesel" vehicles as a zippy alternative to hybrid-electric cars like the Toyota Prius. It achieved that performance by embedding a "defeat device" that helped the cars meet emissions tests in the lab. On the road, however, they would produce up to 40 times the allowed limit of nitrous oxide, which contributes to smog and harms human health. The fraud was uncovered by an investigation by CARB, the California air regulator, in 2015.

The legal dominoes fell through a federal courtroom in San Francisco. Squads of lawyers representing car owners, auto dealers, the Justice Department, EPA and CARB sought to recover damages from the automaker. A special master — a certain former FBI chief named Robert Mueller — oversaw the negotiations. And in late 2016, the parties signed a consent decree that assigned VW almost $16 billion in penalties, most of which was to buy back the polluting cars or compensate for the pollution they'd spewed.

One part of the decree was unusual.

Called Appendix C, it apportioned $2 billion to "Investments in ZEV Market Support." Volkswagen was required to spend that amount over a decade to facilitate zero-emission vehicles. Of that, $800 million would be spent in California, and $1.2 billion in the rest of the country.

Put simply, the consent decree directed the world's largest automaker to create a business around EV charging — spending $500 million of its own money every 2 ½ years, ending in 2027.

Corporate wrongdoers aren't often asked to inject large amounts of money into a market adjacent to their own, like forcing a car company to invest in fueling.

"It's pretty unusual for the regulator to force entry," said Craig Falls, an antitrust attorney at the firm partner in the firm Dechert LLP. "Often they force you to leave."

California has carried out this kind of settlement before on a smaller scale. In 2012, it penalized NRG Energy Inc. for its role in the state's 2001 energy crisis with a requirement to seed $100 million in an EV charging business. That resulted in the company EVgo, which is now independent after NRG spun it off two years ago. (In a twist, EVgo is one of the most vocal opponents of Electrify America's tactics.)

But the VW settlement — larger by a factor of 20 — turned the money tap to a flood.

By point of comparison, the $500 million that VW is compelled to spend every 30 months is almost equal to the $532 million that ChargePoint Inc., one of the industry's giants, has raised in its decade of existence.

VW can't spend however it wants. Strings are attached, especially in California, where CARB retains a veto and oversight has been more muscular than at EPA. Charging investments have to be "brand-neutral," usable by every kind of electric car and not specifically designed to help Volkswagen. CARB sought not scattershot spending, but "transformative outcomes." It required that 35 percent go to infrastructure in poor and disadvantaged communities, while another hefty chunk goes toward advertising to raise EV awareness. Lastly, according to CARB's instructions, VW's spending has to "not interfere with or undermine established and emerging businesses in the market place."

CARB attached other conditions designed to make charging work better — provisos that are now creating headaches for Electrify America's competitors.

Today's EV drivers usually pay for electrons through a company membership; CARB requested that Electrify America offer credit card payment, like gas stations do. Charging stations can take hours to charge a vehicle; CARB asked for faster chargers. In California, some underused stations have been abandoned; CARB asked VW to provide a full decade of maintenance, with live operators standing by.

These changes make fueling an EV more pleasant. But they are also expensive to implement and are hard to afford for builders not backed by VW's deep pockets. CARB is making no apologies.

"We know what we get with Electrify America," said Analisa Bevan, an assistant division chief at CARB who oversees the investment. "We get chargers that consumers can use. It is one of many networks within the state, but knowing that we've got that consistent investment over the 10 years, and we know that it's going to be maintained over those 10 years, because that's required in the consent decree, that it will be open access to all users, all of those elements are critical to demonstrating what we want to see in California."

Marching orders

The employees of VW's Electrify America pose by a bank of its chargers and, in a nod to its "brand-neutral" directive, around a Chevrolet Bolt. Electrify America

With German efficiency, VW did what it was told.

In February 2017, five months after a judge signed a partial consent decree directing $2 billion in EV spending, Volkswagen announced its new subsidiary, Electrify America. It would be led by Mark McNabb, a former chief operating officer of Volkswagen Group of America and veteran executive of other automakers, including Nissan, where he had helped roll out the electric Leaf.

Electrify America, he told Reuters, would be "a very fast and furious project." (Last April, McNabb was abruptly replaced by Palazzo, another VW executive.)

Giovanni Palazzo. Volkswagen Group of America Inc.

Electrify America rented an office in Reston, in the orbit of Washington, D.C., and hired an experienced team at top salaries. "I have BMW. We have Toyota. We have people from different EV infrastructure companies. EVGo, Greenlots. We have government officials. We have people who came from the Department of Energy," McNabb told CARB at a hearing in July 2017.

To negotiate with the utilities that provide the electricity — almost 200 of them — it created a three-person crew of experts. To lobby in Washington, it hired Matthew Nelson, who was chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under President Obama, and Patricia Readinger, a former legislative aide at the U.S. Department of Transportation. It also brought on Sophie Shulman, a former deputy chief of staff at Obama's Domestic Policy Council, as its manager of partnerships.

It would be, in the words of Palazzo, "one of the largest, most technologically advanced and customer-friendly charging networks in the U.S." And with its money, corporate backing and its tight deadlines, it rose to the status of major industry player overnight.

The company inked deals at a scale that were the envy of competitors who had been in the business for years.

It landed a contract to build at 100 Walmarts. It signed on with major real estate investment trusts such as AvalonBay Communities Inc., which is installing 80 stations at apartment buildings it owns. Overall, more than 80 percent of Electrify America's stations are coming through partnerships with big companies, said Brendan Jones, chief operating officer of Electrify America.

Electrify America's money was a magnet for metropolitan areas that wanted to win its investments. "States and metros have been clamoring, come here, come here, come here," said Max Baumhefner, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the end, Electrify America named 17 metros as its focus points across the country, from Los Angeles to D.C. to Boston to Houston.

For struggling makers of EV-fueling equipment, Electrify America became a windfall of dazzling proportions.

It hired four suppliers to build its charging stations, immediately becoming one of last year's biggest buyers of hardware. One was BTCPower, a small Southern California firm.

"We're going from a job shop to a scaled manufacturer," said Terry O'Day, the chief strategy officer at Innogy SE, a German firm that bought BTCPower in July because of its new influx of business. "It is the large Electrify America orders that have propelled that." The jolt of business from Electrify America enabled it to build a factory in the Philippines to supply the U.S. market.

Another is SemaConnect, a Maryland installer that was a minor player until Electrify America tapped it as the master contractor for about 1,500 stations across the country.

"This award has required us to beef up internally, to staff up. Every week it seems we're bringing on new employees to support the different phases of the Electrify America award," said Josh Cohen, the company's director of policy and utility programs.

Electrify America built all of this in about 18 months.

"The amount they were able to do in just one year was herculean," said Quincy Holloway, a former Electrify America project development manager who left the company in mid-2018. "A lot of companies who weren't operating with that capital thought they were operating at a disadvantage. But none of those companies had the Air Resources Board breathing down their necks."

Battle stations

The hardest part has been figuring out where to put the fueling stations. "I cannot say it's a mess, because it's not nice," said Palazzo to the crowd at the LA Auto Show in his heavy Italian accent. "So let's say it's a challenge."

It might seem an easy thing to place a plug. But instead, Electrify America and its competitors are often in hand-to-hand combat over a few coveted locations — raising costs and maybe slowing, rather than accelerating, the growth of charging networks.

Driving the controversy is Electrify America's urgent deadlines. Essentially, it has promised regulators to build not one but two major EV networks by June.

The company, like its rivals, can only make money if it focuses on where the EVs actually are, or soon will be. That means early-adopter cities and on major interstates.

For the first of those, in its 17 big metros, Electrify America is making a web of lower-powered chargers, called Level 2. Electrify America has budgeted $85 million to build 650 of them. Unlike gas stations, which have their own real estate, chargers usually occupy a few parking slots at a parking lot. In addition to a willing parking lot owner, Electrify America needs good lighting and a convenient location, and a local grid strong enough to accommodate the electricity demand. And getting permits takes time.

The amount they were able to do in just one year was herculean.

Quincy Holloway, a former Electrify America project manager who left the company in mid-2018

The obstacles are also daunting on interstate highways, where Electrify America is building a $265 million network of fast-charging stations to rival Tesla's.

Interstates may seem endless, but parking lots with the necessary electrical connections are few. Electrify America is trying to build 300 fast-charging stations in 39 states at intervals of about 70 miles by summer — far faster than anyone has tried to build before.

As a result, when Electrify America picks a site, its competitors are often already there.

At one of its newest locations at an outlet mall in the Northern California city of Livermore, Electrify America's fast-charging plaza joins three fast-charging plazas, one belonging to Tesla and two others belonging to EVgo.

"If you put one where there's already chargers, you're not expanding the usefulness," said Jonathan Levy, the vice president of strategic initiatives at EVgo. "Instead, you're cannibalizing the business of someone else and not making a service available for new drivers."

As Electrify America prepared to unleash its second, $200 million cycle of funding in California, its leading competitors — EVgo and ChargePoint — accused it of a "land grab" (Energywire, Nov. 5, 2018).

EVgo, which is the leading builder of EV fast-fueling stations, told CARB that Electrify America's gold-plated contract for site hosts — free installation, maintenance for 10 years and generous rent — has raised costs for all installers. Because of Electrify America's largesse, it said, parking lot owners now expect rent payments.

"One key area has been a marked shift in how, for example, grocery stores have switched from seeing the value of charging as an amenity to increase foot traffic into their stores to now expecting hundreds of dollars of rent per charger for [a] month," the company's director of market development, Sara Rafalson, said in a letter to CARB.

EVgo also accused Electrify America of paying site hosts to break its contracts under a highway charger rollout funded by a sister agency of CARB, the California Energy Commission.

Jones, the chief operating officer of Electrify America, disputes that claim. "There's no example where we've ripped and replaced someone else's charger. We don't do it as policy," he said, allowing the possibility that contractors had made such offers. "Once it gets to my desk, and I find out about it, it's disengagement."

For all the controversy that Electrify America has created, it's only getting started.

For its second phase in California, it wants to install 3,400 new charging stations and spend the bulk of its funds — up to $115 million — on fast charging in cities, where the action is these days. It will spend up to $30 million on new highway routes. It also plans incursions into fresh corners of the EV-fueling world, including homes (up to $12 million), buses and shuttles ($6 million), rural areas ($2 million), automated vehicles ($4 million), and renewable generation alongside its charging stations ($5 million).

CARB, the California regulator, approved Electrify America's plan.

It's all hard to swallow for Electrify America's competitors, who continue to claim their well-heeled rival is swiping customers from under their noses.

Marc Aprea, a contractor arguing ChargePoint's case before CARB a few weeks ago, put it this way. "When you are the world's largest auto manufacturer," he said wearily, "your world looks very different than it does at a startup company."

The secret advantage

Electrify America chargers at San Francisco Premium Outlets. Electrify America

While Electrify America is mandated by regulators to serve all vehicles, some competitors have grown uneasy with the ways in which Electrify America could jigger its network to give an unfair advantage to its parent, Volkswagen.

One involves the sort of chargers that Electrify America is building.

Today, most fast chargers in the United States deliver 50 kilowatts of electrical power. One of the first announcements that Electrify America made was of far more powerful stations, between 150 and 350 kW.

No EV on the road today can accept that much power. Even the supercharging network of Tesla Inc., which makes the fastest EVs, max out at only 135 kW. Electrify America says it is "future-proofing" its stations, and it has a point: An EV can fill its battery almost seven times faster at a 350-kW charger than a 50-kW one. Once cars are built to handle this much juice, an electric car might fill up as quickly as Americans expect at a gas station.

This upgrade comes at great expense to Electrify America. With no such high-powered chargers on the market, it commissioned its suppliers to engineer them, including new liquid-cooled cables to manage their enormous heat.

Why is super-fast charging so important to Electrify America?

"If anyone tried to create a financial model for DC [direct current] fast charging, it doesn't make sense today from a financial perspective," said Farkas, the CEO of rival network Blink. "It doesn't make sense for anyone except someone who's selling a car."

Among established automakers who are developing EVs that can accept super-fast power levels, about half are being built by VW and its brands Audi and Porsche.

One of the words that Electrify America often uses to describe itself is "premium." A critical part of its business model, one to distinguish it from rivals, is that it will partner with automakers and offer drivers special access to its super-fast network. The first such partnership, announced in September, was with Audi. Drivers of the new Audi's e-tron, the first of Volkswagen's new wave of EVs, will get 1,000 free kilowatt-hours of charging on Electrify America's network.

Electrify America says that negotiations with Audi — a sister division of the same company — were as hard-nosed as they come and that other partnerships with outside automakers are coming soon.

"The Audi deal was simply the hardest deal ever," said Jones, laughing at the thought of it. "It was very much a negotiation between a vendor and an OEM [original equipment manufacturer] and the pretenses of having a connection to the company did not give us any favor in any way, shape or form."

Jones says that Electrify America holds itself at arm's-length from the parent that created and funds it. Communication between the two happens mostly through Palazzo, the CEO, he said, though others like Jones occasionally find themselves in the room.

Questions persist about the extent to which Volkswagen is building a network to benefit itself. Doubts also exist about whether VW's statements can be trusted, given that the company's most senior leaders still deny that they knew of the yearslong, sophisticated effort to deceive regulators before the diesel scandal broke.

One worry belongs to General Motors Co., which is developing its own fleet of EVs.

In a letter to CARB, it suggested the bountiful data produced by Electrify America's chargers — which no other automaker has — could give VW an edge in the race toward electric transportation. "We would like to again emphasize the importance of ensuring there is a strict data firewall between Electrify America and VW that protects all automaker and consumer data that is shared with Electrify America," it wrote. (Palazzo has promised CARB it will not share the data.)

Electrify America has catalyzed all of this change and controversy in less than two years, with just the first $500 million required by regulators. It will keep spending through 2027, with another $1.5 billion to go.

If Electrify America can figure out how to make money with thousands of electric chargers in the United States — and its 32 new stations it is building unasked in Canada — executives talk of expanding to Europe. Meanwhile, Volkswagen the automaker is leading a $38 billion global transition to electric cars.

Should it succeed at both, it's possible that a diesel-tainted past will transform Volkswagen into an auto company unlike any the world has ever seen, a major carmaker crossed with a Chevron, a colossus that builds the EVs of the 21st century while also selling the fuel to make them go.

David covers big trends in energy technology and innovation for Energywire. A seasoned reporter who has followed the industry for six years, he often writes about energy storage, solar power, microgrids, smart thermostats, and the growing role of data, as well as the clash between established businesses and up-and-comers. David joined E&E News in 2014. Earlier, he was the editor of an energy news site and a contributor on energy topics to publications including Popular Science, Sierra and The New York Times. He graduated cum laude from the University of California, San Diego, and holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

Plastic in Britain's seals, dolphins and whales

Public Release: 31-Jan-2019

University of Exeter

Microplastics have been found in the guts of every marine mammal examined in a new study of animals washed up on Britain's shores.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) examined 50 animals from 10 species of dolphins, seals and whales - and found microplastics (less than 5mm) in them all.

Most of the particles (84%) were synthetic fibres - which can come from sources including clothes, fishing nets and toothbrushes - while the rest were fragments, whose possible sources include food packaging and plastic bottles.

"It's shocking - but not surprising - that every animal had ingested microplastics," said lead author Sarah Nelms, of the University of Exeter and PML.

"The number of particles in each animal was relatively low (average of 5.5 particles per animal), suggesting they eventually pass through the digestive system, or are regurgitated.

"We don't yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals.

"More research is needed to better understand the potential impacts on animal health."

Though the animals in the study died of a variety of causes, those that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of injuries or other causes.

"We can't draw any firm conclusions on the potential biological significance of this observation," said Professor Brendan Godley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"We are at the very early stages of understanding this ubiquitous pollutant.

"We now have a benchmark that future studies can be compared with.

"Marine mammals are ideal sentinels of our impacts on the marine environment, as they are generally long lived and many feed high up in the food chain. Our findings are not good news."

Dr Penelope Lindeque, Head of the Marine Plastics research group at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: "It is disconcerting that we have found microplastic in the gut of every single animal we have investigated in this study.

"Indeed, from our work over the years we have found microplastic in nearly all the species of marine animals we have looked at; from tiny zooplankton at the base of the marine food web to fish larvae, turtles and now dolphins, seals and whales.

"We don't yet know the effects of these particles on marine mammals. Their small size means they may easily be expelled, but while microplastics are unlikely to be the main threat to these species, we are still concerned by the impact of the bacteria, viruses and contaminants carried on the plastic.

"This study provides more evidence that we all need to help reduce the amount of plastic waste released to our seas and maintain clean, healthy and productive oceans for future generations."

In total, 26 species of marine mammal are known to inhabit or pass through British waters.

The species in this study were: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, grey seal, harbour porpoise, harbour seal, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, striped dolphin and white-beaked dolphin.

The study, supported by Greenpeace Research Laboratories, used samples provided by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Marine Stranding's Network and ZSL's (Zoological Society of London) Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP).

The paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is entitled: "Microplastics in marine mammals stranded around the British coast: ubiquitous but transitory?"

Tackling challenges facing US power grid -- US Department of Energy grant

Public Release: 31-Jan-2019

Virginia Tech

The Department of Energy has awarded four Virginia Tech researchers a $1.8 million grant to reduce the stress renewable energy sources put on the U.S. power grid.

The Virginia Tech Center for Power Electronics Systems (CPES) and the Power and Energy Center (PEC) will partner with Siemens to tackle this challenge.

With the dramatic increase in levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, renewable energy sources, such as concentrating solar power and photovoltaics, have been implemented to reduce these emissions. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the electric power industry sector is the highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

More than a third of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are a result of the burning of fossil fuels for electricity usage. Concentrating solar power and photovoltaics are emissions-free alternatives that can feed electricity directly into the U.S. power grid.

"In the grand scheme, we need more energy. The energy consumption is increasing. The way to handle that in a smarter way is renewable energy sources, which continue to increase," explained Rolando Burgos, associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "About 12 percent of power generation in the U.S. is wind and solar. Ten years ago this number was 1 percent. So, this has been a very rapid growth and it is projected to continue at a similar pace."

However, increased use of these renewable energy alternatives presents a new challenge to the grid. In order for the power grid to function properly, power generated has to be matched to the power consumed, defined as load. Solar and wind energy sources rapidly change or vary throughout the day, thus creating fast imbalances in the generation-to-load consumption. A higher load will reduce the operating voltage and frequency, and a lighter load will inversely affect the grid. Disturbing the grid in such a way can cause the whole grid to collapse, producing blackouts.

Burgos, along with three other co-investigators, Dushan Boroyevich, Chen-Ching Liu, and Virgilio A. Centeno, all electrical and computer engineering professors, will work together for the next three years to develop a modular power converter based on highly efficient wide-bandgap semiconductors to lessen the stress renewable energy sources put on the power grid.

Historically, industries have relied on small generation units, called peaking generators, to keep the generation-to-load consumption in power grids balanced. Due to the increase in renewable energy sources, these units alone are no longer fast enough to respond to the imbalances produced.

Combined heat and power systems are now used to provide services to the grid instead. "The Department of Energy has demonstrated that in small to medium industrial sites with significant electricity and heat generation needs, the use of combined heat and power systems has the potential to increase local energy efficiency to 70-80 percent, while also reducing operational costs," said Burgos. "This is important as combined heat and power systems plants become attractive with a relatively short return of investment period."

According to the Department of Energy, combined heat and power systems are more cost-effective for grid operators and utilities. They improve the resiliency of the U.S. electric grid, reduce the strain on the existing grid infrastructure, and improve overall power quality. While these combined heat and power systems are currently being used in large industrial facilities, the Department of Energy is looking to enable the development of flexible combined heat and power systems for small-to-midsize facilities.

This is where the Virginia Tech research team comes in.

The Center for Power Electronics Systems will develop a modular multilevel converter that will allow for the selling of power, control over the amount of power used, regulation of the voltage and frequency, and a faster response time to grid disturbances. The converter will be more cost-efficient, reliable, and energy efficient, helping to mitigate the stress create by the growth in renewable energy.

Researchers will also add a new grid-stability-monitoring capability to the power converter, allowing the flexible combined heat and power systems to operate safely within the physical limits of the electrical grid.

Additionally, "The Power and Energy Center will work closely with Siemens to integrate the flexible heat and power systems into a microgrid environment, using Siemens' digital control platform to manage the operation of the microgrid that will be able to dispatch the flexible combined heat and power systems' grid-support functions as needed, and fully autonomously," said Burgos.

"This is why we were selected," said Burgos. "Here [at Virginia Tech], we have a strong electronics group and a strong power systems group, so now we can work together, thanks to the College of Engineering that has been instrumental in supporting the collaboration of these two groups over the past several years."

New study sheds light on illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong

A high volume and lucrative black market business

Public Release: 30-Jan-2019

The University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong's illegal wildlife trade is contributing to a global extinction crisis. Every year millions of live animals, plants and their derivatives are illegally trafficked into and through Hong Kong, by transnational companies and organised crime syndicates.

There is an urgent need for the government to enhance its current enforcement strategy against wildlife smuggling. Over the last decade, the diversity of endangered species imported into Hong Kong has increased by 57%. At the same time, the estimated value of the trade has increased by 1,600%. Since 2013, seizures of illegal ivory, pangolin scales and rhino horn have been made by Hong Kong authorities, potentially equating to the deaths of 3,000 elephants, 96,000 pangolins and 51 rhinoceros.

Hong Kong's illegal wildlife trade is increasing in volume, underestimated in value and contributing to the global extinction crisis.

Some members of the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group (HKWTWG) have joined forces to publish a study focusing on the type and volume of seizures relating to illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong over the last 5 years. The findings documented in the 200 page report: Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong's Wildlife Trade, illustrate the city's central role in global wildlife trafficking and the extent and nature of the associated criminality. It identifies clearly, how future policy and enforcement could be improved to provide the urgently required long-term sustainability.

Associate Professor Amanda Whitfort of the Faculty of Law, one of the authors of the report said: "Wildlife crime in Hong Kong remains under-policed and under-investigated. Wildlife smuggling is not regarded as organised and serious crime, under Hong Kong law. Failure to include wildlife smuggling as a crime under the Organised and Serious Crime ordinance, Cap 455, hampers authorities' powers to effectively prosecute those behind the networks and syndicates that take advantage of Hong Kong's position as a major trading port."

"Our research indicates Hong Kong has become a hub for organised wildlife smugglers, with consequences for the international reputation of our city as well as international biodiversity," said Lisa Genasci, CEO of ADMCF, adding that "Extinction of elephants, rhino, pangolin and many other species in our lifetime is on the horizon, unless the illegal trade is stopped."

Shall you have any questions about this conference, please do not hesitate to contact:

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Established in 2015, the Hong Kong Wildlife Trade Working Group is a loose coalition of Non-Government Organisations, academics, legal professionals and experts in Hong Kong, with a specific interest in the wildlife trade. The report Trading in Extinction: The Dark Side of Hong Kong Wildlife Trade is a collaborative effort of some of its members including: ADM Capital Foundation (ADMCF), Animals Asia, Bloom Association (HK), The University of Hong Kong (HKU), Civic Exchange, Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF), Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG), The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Teng Hoi Conservation Organisation, University of St. Andrews, WildAid and WWF-Hong Kong.

Passing aircraft wring extra snow and rain out of clouds

Public Release: 31-Jan-2019

American Geophysical Union

WASHINGTON--Planes flying over rain or snow can intensify the precipitation by as much as 10-fold, according to a new study.

The rain- and snow-bursts are not caused by emissions from the aircraft but are the peculiar consequence of the aircrafts' wings passing though clouds of supercooled water droplets in cloud layers above a layer of active rain or snow.

Under the right conditions, this effect can boost rain and snow storms over airports, where many planes intersect the cloud layer on approach and descent.

"The interesting thing about this feature is that it is caused by aircraft, but it is not caused by pollution," said Dimitri Moisseev, a researcher at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the lead author of the new study in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. "Even if there would be absolutely ecological airplanes, which don't have any combustion, no fuel or anything, it would still happen."

Although the bands of enhanced precipitation are artificially created, the physical process jump-started by the passage of planes can occur naturally, which makes them useful laboratories for studying the formation of precipitation, according to Moisseev. Observing them may help meteorologists "nowcast" natural rain and snow conditions 2 to 6 hours into the future, which is essential for airport operations.

"When you, like myself, look at the radar data every day there is always something interesting going on," Moisseev said. "Surprisingly enough, there's always new things that we cannot explain still."

Moisseev discovered curious streamers of heightened precipitation in scans from the campus radar antenna at the University of Helsinki Kumpula. The unnaturally straight patches of intense precipitation appeared against a background of lighter rain or snow and seemed to bend toward the nearby Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Their shapes looked intriguingly like the inverse of cloud formations known as fallstreaks, hole-punch or canal clouds, phenomena which can occur when aircraft fly through clouds of water droplets that are colder than 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) --but aren't freezing.

The new study demonstrates that a similar phenomenon can enhance or elicit rain or snowfall from cloud layers underlying these supercooled cloud layers.


Both tiny water droplets and ice crystals form clouds. Pure water can stay liquid down to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit) without dust particles or other suitable surfaces present to seed crystallization into ice. So water droplets that condense into clouds can be much colder than the typical freezing point of 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Such supercooled liquid clouds are common in low- to mid-level cloud layers.

Air pressure changes from passing aircraft can trigger these supercooled water droplets to freeze into ice crystals. Air expands abruptly in the wake of wing and propeller tips, causing a dramatic local drop in pressure and temperature. Inside a cloud of water droplets that is already supercooled between -15 to -20 degrees Celsius (5 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit), the passing aircraft can drop the temperature below -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit) and instigate the formation of ice crystals.

The new ice crystals help freeze more supercool water droplets, setting off a chain reaction of crystal formation in a widening circle around the path of the aircraft. When the crystals fall, they create holes or streaks of clear air in the cloud, sometimes opening a window of blue sky if the cloud layer is thin. In most cases, the ice crystals evaporate before they reach the ground.

Meteorologists have known that passing aircraft can freeze water droplets into ice crystals and previous work had suggested that the process could enhance rain and snow in underlying clouds, but the effect had not been captured in detail.

Andrew Heymsfield, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and a researcher unaffiliated with the new study, had noted the potential for inadvertent seeding of supercooled clouds over airports in a previous paper about the formation and spread of aircraft-induced holes in clouds. He observed similar arcs of heightened snowfall in radar data collected near Denver, Colorado's former Stapleton Airport in 1992.

"We know that planes can trigger precipitation. The authors of this study have a lot of cases, with wonderful data from ground-based instruments--radar, lidar--good information about particle size and concentration, and radiosonde data to show the likely temperature for formation," Heymsfield said. "They succeeded in documenting the phenomenon."

To find out if the streamers of heightened precipitation could be caused by aircraft, Moisseev and his colleagues reviewed 11 years of the University of Helsinki's weather radar data and found 17 days with repeat cases of the characteristic linear streamers between December 2008 and January 2018.

They examined flightpaths near the airport to see whether the streamers could be caused by passing aircraft. Flightpaths archived to 2011 confirmed aircraft passed within 2-10 kilometers (1-6 miles) of the intense precipitation streamers in most of the cases observed.

"The intensified precipitation basically follows the track of an airplane above the cloud," Moisseev said. "It could extend over hundreds of kilometers, but the cross-section would be maybe 100 meters. So it's a very narrow, long feature."

Seeding snow

The additional ice crystals raise the rate at which crystals collide to form larger snowflakes, intensifying snowfall, according to the authors.

This could happen if an airplane flies directly through a precipitating cloud, but the authors suspect something more complicated is going on, because their data locates the starting height of rain and snow enhancement far above the layer that is already precipitating.

The new study concludes the airplane-generated ice crystals most likely fall from a supercooled upper cloud layer into a lower layer that is actively raining or snowing, begetting more rain or snow from the lower cloud layer.

Satellite data support this scenario, showing a top layer of clouds composed of supercool droplets or a mix of ice and water, poised at about the right temperature to turn to ice crystals under the influence of aircraft. This upper, supercool layer floats at the typical approach altitude of planes flying into the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Rain and snow artificially enhanced by air traffic has useful clues for natural precipitation and the factors affecting the efficiency of formation, according to Moisseev. The streamers are accidental experiments that allow the researchers to observe the effect along the path of the aircraft, and just outside it, and ask questions the kinds of microphysical processes taking place.

Carbon dioxide emissions from global fisheries larger than previously thought

Public Release: 30-Jan-2019

University of British Columbia

Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel burnt by fishing boats are 30 per cent higher than previously reported, researchers with the Sea Around Us initiative at the University of British Columbia and the Sea Around Us - Indian Ocean at the University of Western Australia have found.

In a study published in Marine Policy, the scientists show that 207-million tonnes of CO2 were released into the atmosphere by marine fishing vessels in 2016 alone. This is almost the same amount of CO2 emitted by 51 coal-fired power plants in the same timeframe.

"The marine fishing industry relies heavily on the use of fossil fuel and its role in global greenhouse gas emissions has been largely ignored from a policy or management perspective," said Krista Greer, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Sea Around Us at UBC. "Until now, the most comprehensive study of carbon dioxide emissions from fishing suggested that in 2011, fisheries released 112-million tonnes of CO2 per year from the combustion of fuel during fishing."

The previous data suggested fisheries contributed to only 0.29 per cent of global CO2 emissions, while the new study indicates that their contribution is almost twice that amount. The higher values are largely due to the UBC-UWA research considering regional differences in fuel use based on fishing effort and the amount of fuel used to catch 30-million tonnes of fish that were not reported in 2016.

Greer and her colleagues used the Sea Around Us' global catch and fishing effort database to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by each boat operating in each country's different fishing sectors and the amount of CO2 emitted per tonne of each fish those boats catch, also known as emissions intensity.

"We found that global emissions intensity for 2016, on average, was 1.88 tonnes of carbon dioxide, compared to 1.5 tonnes in 1950. This is despite the fact that marine catches have been declining since the mid-1990s," said Greer. "The emissions intensity of small-scale, artisanal and subsistence fleets has increased the most over the time period in terms of magnitude, but the industrial sector continues to be the greatest contributor to overall emissions."

In their analysis, the researchers also found that the emissions intensity started to grow in the 1980s.

"Small-scale fisheries caught up with the industrial sector because artisanal and subsistence fishers began installing gasoline-powered engines on their boats," said Dirk Zeller, co-author of the study and leader of the Sea Around Us - Indian Ocean at the University of Western Australia. "This means that there's a need to think of emission reduction strategies, such as switching to small diesel-powered engines in small-scale fisheries."

According to Zeller, industrial fisheries also need to do their part by reducing their fishing effort, which is currently three to four times what it should be in order to be sustainable. This would not only allow for a reduction in CO2 emissions by industrial fleets but would foster the recovery of declining fish populations.

Agrivoltaics: Solar Panels on Farms Could Be a Win-Win

Massachusetts is leading the charge in dual-use solar installations, making it possible to grow some crops and pasture animals while generating clean energy.

By Sarah Shemkus

Posted on: January 22, 2019

The solar panels in the fields at the University of Massachusetts Crop Research and Education Center don’t look like what most of us have come to expect. Instead of hunkering close to the earth, they’re mounted seven feet off the ground, with ample room for farmers or cows to wander underneath. Panels are separated by two- and three-foot gaps, instead of clustering tightly together. Light streams through these spaces and, underneath, rows of leafy kale and Brussels sprouts replace the typical bare earth or grass.

This unusual arrangement is one of the first examples of a dual-use solar installation—sometimes called agrivoltaics. It’s a photovoltaic array that’s raised far enough off the ground and spaced in such a way that some crops can still grow around and beneath the panels. The goal is to help farmers diversify their income through renewable energy generation, while keeping land in agricultural use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This would seem like a great thing—you get to farm and use the same exact space to generate money from solar production,” said Brad Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. “But it’s still in the early stages.”

The idea of producing solar energy and growing crops on the same land has been around for a while. Isolated demonstration and research installations are in place or planned in Arizona, Japan, and France. In recent years, however, the concept has become more attractive, as the price of photovoltaic panels has plummeted, interest in renewable energy has risen, and financial pressures on small farmers have grown. And because solar arrays often displace agriculture, causing tension between the two land uses, agrivoltaics is being seen as a potential win-win.

Massachusetts is at the forefront of the push. The state’s ambitious renewable energy goals—current targets call for 3,600 megawatts of wind and solar capacity by the end of 2020, doubling the state’s current output of 1,800 megawatts—have created a surge of interest in developing solar projects, but the state’s high population density means that available land is scarce.

Furthermore, many local food advocates argue that an inadequate portion of the food consumed in Massachusetts is grown there. The short growing season along with high costs for labor and land can make farming in Massachusetts a financially precarious proposition. Some advocates say that dual-use solar installations have the potential to ease a number of these problems at once.

Traditionally, when solar developers turn to farmland for their projects, the property is leased or sold to the developer, the topsoil is stripped, and the panels are mounted on concrete footings embedded in the land. While the shift boosts renewable energy generation, it weakens the local food supply. Some counties have even started prohibiting large-scale solar developments on agricultural property as a way to preserve the land.

Dual-use developments are particularly suited to Massachusetts’ needs, and the state is seizing the opportunity. The UMass installation, a partnership between private solar company Hyperion Systems and the university, is home to a unique research project aimed at calculating exactly well how different crops fare when grown beneath raised panels. And the state’s new solar incentive program, known as Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), offers extra compensation for dual-use projects.

“To our knowledge, no place else is doing what we’re doing,” said Michael Lehan, an advisor to Hyperion Systems.

Agrivoltaics’ Origin Story

The story of dual-use projects in Massachusetts dates to 2008, when construction company owner Dave Marley installed a solar array on the roof of his headquarters in Amherst and quickly decided he wanted to generate even more energy. As he started considering farmland as a location, Marley became determined to find a way to avoid interrupting the land’s agricultural use.

“He kept emphasizing, ‘I want to keep the land alive and well. I don’t want to cover up the land,’” said Gerald Palano, renewable energy coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

In 2009, Marley connected with researchers at UMass and in 2010 his vision became a reality with the construction of a 70-panel array at a research farm in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. The following year, Marley formed Hyperion Solar to pursue this new approach to renewable energy. Marley died in 2013, and his son James has taken over the business.

Today, the dual-use installation Dave Marley envisioned remains in place, advancing his goals. The lower ends of the panels are raised seven feet off the ground and rise to 15 feet in the air. They’re spaced far enough apart to allow sunlight to pass through to the field below and can be shifted horizontally to adjust the gap. The panels are supported by vertical poles embedded 10 feet into the ground. No concrete is used, so the damage to the soil is limited and completely reversible.

“What farmers really care about is the land,” Lehan said. “And there is minimum soil disruption.”

Since the array came online in 2011, Stephen Herbert, professor of agronomy at UMass, has been studying the impact of the panels on crop growth. His results have been encouraging.

When he cultivated grass and other forage plants to support grazing cows, the land under the panels yielded more than 90 percent as much volume as land that received direct sun. For beef or dairy farmers, agrivoltaic arrays are a “no-brainer,” Hebert said, between bites of a fresh Brussels sprout he plucked from a stalk beneath a panel.

Early results suggest that, when grown under the panels, vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, and Swiss chard can produce about 60 percent of the volume they would in full sun. At the same time, a dual-use system offers about half the power-generation capacity per acre of a conventional installation, and the costs are higher.

However, while these systems offer less energy generation and lower crop productivity than solar panels or agriculture alone, the combination generally pays off.

“Absolutely,” Lehan, Palano, and James Marley said, nearly in unison.

Hyperion estimates that its dual-use installations pay for themselves in about eight years, under average conditions. State and federal grants can shorten that timeline.

To help accelerate the adoption of this new approach, Massachusetts is putting some money on the line. In November, the state launched the SMART program, which pays solar owners a fixed base rate for every kilowatt-hour of energy they generate. The amount they earn is then deducted from the cost of the electricity they draw from the grid when the panels aren’t producing enough power. If an owner produces more energy than they use, they can apply those credits to future bills.

The underside of a dual-use solar array. The hardware used to mount the panels make it easy to reposition each panel to maximize the light needed to grow crops underneath.

Base rates for these solar installations range from 15 cents to 39 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on the size and location of the development. Projects that combine solar panels with farming earn an extra 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. In practical terms, that means that a 1-megawatt system on agricultural land, with solar panels in fixed positions which could produce around 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of energy in a year, would earn an extra $72,000 toward an electric bill.

In the first six weeks of SMART, five applications proposed dual-use projects and another two have submitted pre-determination requests, an earlier step in the process. Several more developers have inquired about potential developments, Palano said. The proposed projects range from 249 kilowatts to 1.6 megawatts.

“We think the level of interest is there from large-scale developers and others but the concept is new, so they are needing to invest more time to better understand,” he said. “We’re happy to see the interest so far.”

Not every agricultural area will benefit from agrivoltaics. The added costs and effort might not make sense in a region that already has plenty of open, non-agricultural space to host solar arrays, for example.

In places like Massachusetts, however, Palano said the technology is only going to get better and more helpful. He’s already seeing interest in panels that move to follow the sun, maximizing their energy generation. He also expects growing interest in storage, essentially large batteries that can collect power and save it for use when the sun isn’t shining. The future may even include translucent panels that would let more light through to plants growing below, he added.

“We’re saying, ‘let’s see if we can get this to the next level,’” said Palano. “We’re looking forward to the innovation.”

Run Faster—Your Treadmill Might Be Generating Electricity

In the rush to go green, exercise equipment powered by you may attract the climate conscious.

By Eric Roston , January 22, 2019

SportsArt treadmill Source: SportsArt

As scientists seek more ways to harness nature’s power to produce renewable energy, there’s one energy source burned naturally every day that isn’t being harnessed: calories.

SportsArt, a 42-year-old Taiwanese athletic equipment maker, is trying to change that by selling exercise treadmills, ellipticals and cycles that turn workouts into electricity, feeding it back into the building through an electrical socket. The company recently showcased the third generation of its treadmill to attendees of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“Think of a hamster wheel,” said Ruben Mejia, chief technology officer of SportsArt. “You’re the hamster and the treadmill is the wheel. As soon as you start turning that wheel, we’ve got a generator inside that starts producing power.”

Physical exertion is powered by combustion reactions—small cellular ones. As SportsArt writes in its patent filings, “it is a pity that the energy is not utilized.”

There is a problem of scale, however. The treadmill’s maximum output is 200 watts an hour. The average American uses about 28,000 watt-hours a day. The maximum treadmill workout, generating 200 watts for an hour, would save 2.4 cents, assuming an electricity cost of $0.12 a kilowatt-hour, plus the power that would have been used by a motorized machine.

The company’s bikes and elliptical trainers can move up to 250 watts. On the treadmill, a 147-pound person running roughly 8-minute, 20-second miles would put out only 24 watts every 30 minutes, or enough for 4 hours of wifi. A 176-pound person lightly jogging for 20 minutes could power a 60-watt lightbulb long enough to light the room while they’re working out.

Factoring in the electricity-use avoided, SportsArt’s “Eco-Powr” equipment with continual use could save almost $900 a year compared with other brands’ treadmills, according to Mejia. Units cost about $10,000 each, and are sold to gyms, assisted-living centers, universities and beyond. Consumer models are in the works.

“There’s a lot of gyms that are going green and they’re going green in a variety of ways.”

Given the small size of the benefit, and a price that’s five times more than a traditional treadmill, why would a gym buy one of these? Being even a little green is increasingly a selling point all by itself, or so the thinking goes.

“There’s a lot of gyms that are going green and they’re going green in a variety of ways, whether it’s like zero waste or being a net zero property,” Mejia said.

Paul Crane owns Eco-Gym, a “sustainable gym” in Brighton, England, that uses SportsArt equipment. In the past, the facility reduced fees based in part on how much power members generate while working out. He said members “definitely feel motivated and committed to improving their own health and that of the planet.” Other clients include boutique gyms that can charge more for amenities like power-generating equipment, where it’s not about saving energy and more about making a statement.

Getting to the gym is difficult enough for busy, working people. Being able to measure one’s own power output may be the added mental incentive, or trigger, people need to get moving, even if it’s “just giving people a sense that they are burning energy and seeing some results,” said Dan Ariely, a psychology and behavioral economics professor at Duke University and an author.

Conventional treadmills have motors that put the belt in motion as soon as the workout begins. That costs electricity, as does the electronic workout display. The SportsArt treadmill has no motor. It’s powered initially by gravity. The workout begins when a brake on the belt is released. The unit is set at a 4-degree angle relative to the floor, just enough for the belt—which is really a mat composed of horizontal slats rolling on ball bearings to reduce friction—to slip backwards under the weight of the runner or walker. As feet pound forward, the belt spins rollers that capture the motion and convert it into electricity.

A micro-inverter, a device that regulates the flow of current, translates it into the form of electricity powering the house or building, and shoots it right back into the electrical socket. The modest additional power flows to whatever needs it first, nearby electronics that share the same outlet, or deeper into the building. For now at least, the current can’t flow through the circuit board, out of the structure, and onto the grid.

Since the machines generate the most energy during more intense workouts, the amount of calories burned doesn’t necessarily translate into power. Mejia said that while you can burn a lot of calories taking a three-hour stroll at three miles per hour, “you’re not going to be producing a lot of electricity.”


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