|Tuesday, June 24, 2014|
CUOMO FAILS TO LEAD, LEGISLATURE FAILS TO ACT
Last week the New York State legislature once again adjourned without having taken any action to protect the public from the worst excesses of the gas industry. The legal loophole that lets the industry unsafely dispose of hazardous wastewater remains open, and New York continues to be a dumping ground for radioactive drilling waste imported from Pennsylvania. Just how dangerous is this waste? Some of it is so dangerous that landfills in Pennsylvania refuse to accept it, and even West Virginia won’t let it in the state.
It’s an open secret that the New York’s compliant legislature is unlikely to enact fracking legislation unless it’s directed to do so by Governor Cuomo, so it’s fair to hold him accountable for the paralysis in Albany. During the final days of the legislative session, the Assembly passed a moratorium bill, but Cuomo remained silent and the bill died in the Senate.
At 5:30 PM on Monday June 30, there will be a Ban Fracking Rally outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. While protestors occupy 42nd Street, Cuomo will be inside the hotel presiding over a fundraiser where the cheapest seats go for $1,000. The rally is free. Get the details here.
AN ANTI-FRACKING CANDIDATE ON THE BALLOT
After losing an insurgent campaign to wrest the Working Families Party nomination away from Andrew Cuomo, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout has declared that she will challenge the governor in this September’s Democratic primary. In announcing her run, Teachout termed Cuomo part of a “broken system” and took him to task for refusing to ban fracking.
CONNECTICUT BARS FRACKING WASTE
On June 14 Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a moratorium bill that bars the importation of toxic fracking waste for three years. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will use that time to develop regulations and is authorized to ban frack waste altogether. The bill was enacted with strong bipartisan support.
PIPELINE APPROVAL DEEMED ILLEGAL
The U.S. Court Of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the agency responsible for licensing pipeline projects, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) broke the law when it licensed a massive pipeline that will cut across eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey. The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that FERC violated the National Environmental Protection Act when it licensed a forty-mile-long pipeline segment without considering other related infrastructure projects. Dividing larger projects into smaller components is frequently used to skirt environmental laws that set limits on environmental impacts. Attorney Aaron Stemplewicz, who argued the case for Delaware Riverkeeper Network and two other environmental organizations, declared: “The D.C. Circuit’s decision today should put other pipeline companies on notice that the practice of segmenting pipeline projects before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will no longer be tolerated.”
The court ordered FERC to review the license application, even though construction of the pipeline is largely completed.
150,000 CALL ON FERC TO SCUTTLE COVE POINT
Dominion Resources’ proposed gas liquefaction plant in Cove Point, Maryland, is an indispensible part of its plan to export one billion cubic feet a day of liquefied natural gas overseas. As such, it threatens millions of Americans who live “on the shale,” and millions more whose lives will be disrupted and endangered by related pipeline projects and the plant itself. So it’s no wonder that more than 150,000 Americans submitted comments on FERC’s draft Environmental Assessment of the project calling on the commission to pull the plug on the project. A central complaint concerned FERC’s stubborn refusal to heed the EPA’s call to consider the “upstream impacts” of the fracking that will supply the gas for foreign countries.
Rally in Baltimore against Cove Point, April 2014 — Courtesy of flickr.comThousands are expected to attend the Rally to Stop Fracked Gas Exports: Cove Point & Beyond in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, July 13th. Details here.
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EPA’S POWER PLANT RULE: A SWEET DEAL FOR FRACKED GAS
The EPA’s recently proposed rule to limit power plant emissions has been heralded by several mainstream environmental groups as a groundbreaking initiative to combat climate change. But is it?
Courtesy of flickr.comIronically, since the rule promotes the construction of gas power plants that rely on fracking, it could be considered literally “groundbreaking.” However, as a strategy for combatting climate change, the rule falls short.
Although claiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, the rule is weaker than advertised, since nearly half of that reduction has already occurred. Meanwhile, methane emissions—which the rule completely ignores—have skyrocketed because of fracking. The main ingredient of natural gas, methane is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a twenty year timeframe.
“Converting to natural gas plants, which is what this latest rule is likely to do, will actually aggravate climate change, not make things better,” said Cornell’s Dr. Robert Howarth. “It’s well enough established to suggest the EPA is on the wrong side of the science.”
New Yorkers—already faced with an onslaught of power plants, pipelines, and storage facilities—are likely to see an even greater assault of gas infrastructure in the near future if the rule is adopted. Oddly, the EPA suggests that with efficiency improvements, accelerating the construction of gas-fired power plants now could lead to the use of less gas in 2030 than without the rule—although overall consumption of gas would still be much greater than today.
“Are we supposed to find that comforting?” asks economist Dr. Jannette Barth. “Such an argument is not only self-defeating; it’s an insult to everyone fighting to protect New York from fracking—and it’s fatally flawed.”
Barth says that advances in technology and falling costs are making wind and solar competitive with traditional energy supplies. However, by promoting natural gas right now, the federal government could tip the scales toward fossil fuels for decades to come. Once new gas-fired plants are operational, there will be less incentive for utilities to reinvest in renewables, since the massive capital outlay for gas infrastructure will have already occurred. Although proponents argue that the new rule will encourage renewables, the EPA’s own Regulatory Impact Analysis predicts that it would result in eight to ten times more new power generation from fracked gas compared to without the rule than from renewable energy in 2020, and have almost no effect on renewable power generation in the country by 2030.
There is no question that energy efficiency is a worthy pursuit and dirty coal plants should be replaced—but not with fracked gas. Rather than promoting the gas industry under the guise of climate policy, President Obama should direct the EPA to develop a rule addressing all greenhouse gas emissions that will swiftly transition America from a nation dependent on fossil fuels to one built on truly clean, renewable energy.
BREAKING NEWS: DOE DISCOVERS EXPORTING FRACKED GAS WON’T SAVE THE PLANET!
Now that the gas industry is preparing to sell almost half of America’s gas to foreign countries, you don’t hear the phrase “Drill a gas well, bring a soldier home” quite as often as you did just a few years ago. Still, the gas industry doesn’t want you to think it’s unpatriotic to frack America and sell cheap energy supplies to competing economies, so it’s got a new pitch—”Gas exports will help prevent climate change.” If the U.S. exports gas to other countries, they’ll stop burning coal and there will be a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Well, that’s the claim.
The Department of Energy has been promoting gas exports for years, so the new study it commissioned, Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas from the United States, was widely expected to support the claim that exporting LNG will reduce emissions— particularly since the study assumed the amount of methane emitted from fracked gas is far lower than it actually is. But even though the study stacked the deck in that favor of exports, in the end the best it could do was make the shaky claim that, “will not increase GHG emissions, on a life cycle perspective, when compared to regional coal extraction and consumption.” In other words, fracked gas is no better than coal.
So tell us again, why fracking America and shipping gas to China is a good idea?
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