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This $9 billion plan could bring Biden’s conservation corps to life

Want to get a job planting trees, restoring wetlands, or stopping wildfires before they start? If a new bill in Congress ends up passing, your job hunt might get a lot easier.

Two Democrats, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, revived the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act last Friday. The act would put $40 billion toward creating jobs in U.S. forests and parks, reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and expanding access to all kinds of parks.

It would also establish a “conservation corps” to put people to work planting trees and restoring public lands and waters, training them for environmentally-friendly careers. The bill could put money behind an executive order President Biden signed in January to create a similar-sounding program called the Civilian Climate Corps. It was inspired by one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous New Deal programs to take on the Great Depression. The original Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, started in 1933 and went on to employ 3 million Americans over the next decade.

One potential problem with Biden’s revived CCC plan is funding. His order stipulated that the corps would have to be created “within existing appropriations.” The thing is, the president can’t just snap his fingers and get funding, because Congress oversees the federal budget. The 21st Century Conservation Corps Act could back up Biden’s plan with $9 billion. 02-23-21

Read more at Grist

What’s Really Behind Corporate Promises on Climate Change?

Many big businesses have not set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Others have weak goals.

Andrea Chronopoulos

For the past several years, BlackRock, the giant investment firm, has cast itself as a champion of the transition to clean energy.

Last month, Laurence D. Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive, wrote that the coronavirus pandemic had “driven us to confront the global threat of climate change more forcefully,” and the company said it wants businesses it invests in to remove as much carbon dioxide from the environment as they emit by 2050 at the latest.

But crucial details were missing from that widely read pledge, including what proportion of the companies BlackRock invests in will be zero-emission businesses in 2050. Setting such a goal and earlier targets would demonstrate the seriousness of the company’s commitment and could force all sorts of industries to step up their efforts. On Saturday, in response to questions from The New York Times, a BlackRock spokesman said for the first time that the company’s “ambition” was to have “net zero emissions across our entire assets under management by 2050.”

As the biggest companies strive to trumpet their environmental activism, the need to match words with deeds is becoming increasingly important.

Household names like Costco and Netflix have not provided emissions reduction targets despite saying they want to reduce their impact on climate change. Others, like the agricultural giant Cargill and the clothing company Levi Strauss, have made commitments but have struggled to cut emissions. Technology companies like Google and Microsoft, which run power-hungry data centers, have slashed emissions, but even they are finding that the technology often doesn’t yet exist to carry out their “moonshot” objectives.

“You can look at a company’s website and see their sustainability report and it will look great,” said Alberto Carrillo Pineda, a founder of Science Based Targets, a global initiative to assess corporate plans to reduce emissions. “But then when you look at what is behind it, you’ll see there is not a lot of substance behind those commitments or the commitments are not comprehensive enough.” 02-22-21

Read more at The New York Times

US rejoins Paris accord with warning: This year’s talks are ‘last, best hope’

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry departs after signing the Paris Agreement For Climate Change while holding his granddaughter at the United Nations on April 22, 2016. Jemal Countess / Getty Images

The U.S. has marked its return to the Paris Agreement by urging countries to do more to confront the climate crisis, with America’s climate envoy, John Kerry, warning that international talks this year are the “last, best hope” of avoiding catastrophic global heating.

On Friday, the U.S. officially returned to the Paris climate accord, 107 days after it left at the behest of former president Donald Trump. Joe Biden moved to reverse this on his first day in office, and Kerry conceded that the U.S. is returning “with a lot of humility, for the agony of the last four years.”

“This is a significant day, a day that never had to happen,” Kerry said to Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, in a conversation filmed on the eve of the re-entry. “It’s so sad that our previous president without any scientific basis or any legitimate economic rationale decided to pull America out. It hurt us and it hurt the world.”

The contrition of the Biden administration is, however, balanced by a desire to resume the mantle of leadership at a time when almost every country is strugglingto undertake the swift emissions cuts required to avert disastrous global heating of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above the pre-industrial era, as outlined in the Paris deal. 02-20-21

Read more at Grist 

The unsung hero who saved a Florida beach

Ericka Lugo

The fact you don’t hear MaVynee Oshun Betsch mentioned alongside conservationists like John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and perhaps Rachel Carson says more about who we enshrine in history books than Betsch’s remarkable contributions to the environmental movement and her valiant campaign to save a landmark of Black history.

Betsch was born in 1935 to wealth, and embarked on an international career as an opera singer before returning to her Florida hometown and donating most of her fortune to a long list of environmental causes. But even that pales alongside her dedication to preserving American Beach, a dune-dappled stretch of sand 40 miles northwest of Jacksonville that was among the most popular vacation spots for African Americans during the Jim Crow era.

American Beach is not unique in serving those who were barred by law or by custom from recreation opportunities others took for granted. Black beach communities sprang up in coastal areas nationwide during the first half of the 20th century, with notable examples in Sag Harbor on Long Island and Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. Yet despite the fact such places are significant to Black history, there’s been little effort to preserve them. 02-19-21

Read more at Grist 

Texas Could Have Kept the Lights On

Republicans are blaming renewable energy, when it’s the state’s powerful utilities that failed to prepare for the worst.

Electric utility trucks in front of an Oncor facility in Fort Worth on Tuesday in preparation for more power outages because of the frigid weather conditions.Credit…Ralph Lauer/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Sunday in San Antonio, April Saenz, a medical worker, went to visit her mother. Because of the terrible road conditions brought on by the ongoing cold snap, she chose to stay the night. Together, they passed 36 hours in the shivering darkness. Food thawed in the freezer, and Ms. Saenz eyed her mother’s insulin in the fridge, worried it would go bad. “It was really upsetting. It was crazy,” she told me. “These were complete man-made failures.”

A cold, sharp dagger has slashed through Texas, America’s largest and proudest producer of fossil fuels, while stranding millions without heat or light. The frigid disaster has also laid bare the fallacy, still prominent in the Lone Star State, that oil and gas are more important than impending climate catastrophe, embarrassing a political class that just weeks ago pledged to defend the oil and gas industry — its own Alamo — from the Biden administration.

The fallacy is hard to unwind even as people are dying. But some Texans are also furious about how their state’s ruinous laissez-faire governance led to a cascade of human-caused disasters of epic proportions. Indeed, this was no act of God.

Last week, 29 million Texans learned that the weather would turn unseasonably cold. It would be no ordinary blue norther: As the planet warms, so does the Arctic, disrupting the jet stream, which usually keeps the polar vortex of frigid air in place there. Now there is an emerging, if not unanimous, view among climatologiststhat the vortex is wobbling and dipping south, paralyzing Madrid, freezing the American Midwest and blanketing the Sierra Nevada, all since the start of this year. 02-17-21

Read more at The New York Times

Texas Blackouts Hit Minority Neighborhoods Especially Hard

A makeshift warming shelter at the Travis Park Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday.Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

When the lights went out Monday night in the Alazán-Apache housing project in San Antonio — which stands in one of the city’s poorest ZIP codes — the traffic signals in the neighborhood flickered off and storekeepers pulled down their shutters.

For residents, there was little left to do but huddle under blankets and hope that their children wouldn’t fall ill.

“I need to take my kids somewhere to keep them warm. I don’t know where,” said Ricardo Cruz, 42, who lives at the Alazán-Apache Courts with his wife and five children, between 5 and 13 years old, and who has been without electricity since 7 p.m. Monday.

While the rolling blackouts in Texas have left some 4 million residents without power in brutally cold weather, experts and community groups say that many marginalized communities were the first to be hit with power outages, and if history serves as a guide, could be among the last to be reconnected. This is particularly perilous, they say, given that low-income households can lack the financial resources to flee to safety or to rebound after the disruption.

Experts worry, in particular, that rising energy prices amid surging demand will leave many families in the lurch, unable to pay their utility bills next month and triggering utility cutoffs at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. In Texas’ deregulated electricity market, prices can fluctuate with demand, leading to a potential jump in electric bills for poorer households that already spend a disproportionate amount of income on utilities.

Read more at The New York Times

Yellen to Appoint Obama Veteran To Lead Treasury “Climate Hub”

Janet Yellen, who was recently confirmed by the Senate as Treasury Secretary, plans to appoint former deputy Treasury secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin to head up a new Treasury “climate hub.” The hub would focus on assessing and combatting financial risks associated with climate change. Experts say the move is one more step in President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government climate strategy.

Why This Matters: The dual crises of climate change and COVID-19 are putting immense strain on our economy. At the same time, we have an opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that moves us away from fossil fuel dependency. As Evergreen Action explained, “the Treasury Department has the power to disentangle our financial system from fossil fuel investments which put us all at risk, make substantive green investments, and stabilize our financial system. To engage in a national mobilization to defeat the climate crisis, and to build a just and thriving clean energy economy, every agency in the federal government must do its part.”

Secretary Yellen has made it clear that the Treasury Department under her leadership will play a significant role in President Biden’s climate action agenda.

The Biden Cabinet Gets to Work: The whole-of-government approach to fighting climate change began being implemented shortly after President Biden was sworn into office. The first meeting of the Biden climate task force occurred last week and focused on the acceleration of a clean energy revolution as well as job creation. 02-16-21

Read more at Our Daily Planet 

The Presidential Power of Marine National Monuments

Coral and Ulua found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Image: NOAA

Much as our national parks on land are some of our greatest natural treasures, marine national monuments safeguard precious ecosystems and protect them now and for future generations.

  • The National Marine Sanctuary System encompasses more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters, and contains amazing cultural and historical resources, as well as vibrant ecosystems as diverse as coral reefs and kelp forests.

Marine national monuments are designated by presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes the president to establish national monuments on federal lands that contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

  • In 2000, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were designated as an ecosystem reserve by President Bill Clinton.
  • In 2006, the area was renamed Papahānaumokuākea and was designated as the nation’s first marine national monument by President George W. Bush.
  • President Bush protected nearly 200,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as conservation areas before leaving office: the Marianas Marine National Monument, the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument.
  • Subsequently, President Barack Obama supersized Papahānaumokuākea as well as created Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. 02-14-21

Read more at Our Daily Planet

Money invested in ESG funds more than doubles in a year

Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Investors poured record amounts of money last year into funds that aim to help the environment and promote social good, more than doubling the prior’s year’s take.

Funds that use so-called ESG principles may, for example, invest in energy firms that aren’t reliant on fossil fuels or in companies that promote racial and gender diversity.

They captured $51.1 billion of net new money from investors in 2020 — the fifth consecutive annual record, according to Morningstar. In 2019, investors funneled roughly $21 billion into funds that apply environmental, social and governance principles.

At the same time, ESG funds (also known as sustainable funds) accounted for about a fourth of the money that flowed into all U.S. stock and bond mutual funds last year, according to Morningstar.

That’s a record and a big leap from the 1% share around 2014, according to Jon Hale, director of sustainable investing research at Morningstar. 02-11-21

Read more at CNBC 

How the Fossil Fuel Industry Convinced Americans to Love Gas Stoves

In early 2020, Wilson Truong posted on the NextDoor social media platform—where users can send messages to a group in their neighborhood—in a Culver City, California, community. Writing as if he were a resident of the Fox Hills neighborhood, Truong warned the group members that their city leaders were considering stronger building codes that would discourage natural gas lines in newly built homes and businesses. In a message with the subject line “Culver City banning gas stoves?” Truong wrote: “First time I heard about it I thought it was bogus, but I received a newsletter from the city about public hearings to discuss it…Will it pass???!!! I used an electric stove but it never cooked as well as a gas stove so I ended up switching back.”

Truong’s post ignited a debate. One neighbor, Chris, defended electric induction stoves. “Easy to clean,” he wrote about the glass stovetop, which uses a magnetic field to heat pans. Another user, Laura, was nearly incoherent in her outrage. “No way,” she wrote, “I am staying with gas. I hope you can too.”

What these commenters didn’t know was that Truong wasn’t their neighbor at all. He was writing in his role as account manager for the public relations firm Imprenta Communications Group. Imprenta’s client was Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES), a front group for SoCalGas, the nation’s largest gas-powered utility, working to fend off state initiatives to limit the future use of gas in buildings. C4BES had tasked Imprenta with exploring how social media platforms, including NextDoor, could be used to foment community opposition to electrification. Though Imprenta assured me this NextDoor post was an isolated incident, the C4BES website displays Truong’s comment next to two other anonymous NextDoor comments as evidence of their advocacy work in action. 02-11-21

Read more at Mother Jones

Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps comes straight out of the New Deal

FPG / Getty Images

One of the most popular programs from the New Deal is making a comeback, nearly 90 years later.

President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order to create a Civilian Climate Corps. The initiative, he wrote, will provide “good jobs” for young people and train them for environmentally friendly careers, putting them to work restoring public lands and waters, planting trees, improving access to parks, and of course, tackling climate change.

It’s inspired by the original Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signature New Deal programs launched to take on the Great Depression.

Climate advocates celebrated Biden’s move. Naomi Klein, the activist and author of This Changes Everything, said Biden’s announcement was a “hard won victory.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York had reportedly sold Secretary of State John Kerry on the idea of a climate corps. The resemblance to the New Deal program — it even has the same acronym, CCC — may explain why the proposal sounds like part of a Green New Deal.

“The Green New Deal is all about a jobs and justice approach to climate policies, so I think that the new climate corps proposal really encapsulates that,” said Danielle Deiseroth, a climate analyst at Data for Progress, a progressive think tank. Not that you’ll hear Biden saying much about a Green New Deal, since commentators on Fox News have turned the slogan into a synonym for “socialist plot that’ll take away your hamburgers.” 02-08-21

Read more at Grist

Deaths from fossil fuel emissions higher than previously thought

Fossil fuel air pollution responsible for more than 8 million people worldwide in 2018

More than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution, significantly higher than previous research suggested, according to new research from Harvard University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London. Researchers estimated that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 18 percent of total global deaths in 2018  — a little less than 1 out of 5.

Regions with the highest concentrations of fossil fuel-related air pollution — including Eastern North America, Europe, and South-East Asia — have the highest rates of mortality, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Research.

The study greatly increases estimates of the numbers killed by air pollution. The most recent Global Burden of Disease Study, the largest and most comprehensive study on the causes of global mortality, put the total number of global deaths from all outdoor airborne particulate matter — including dust and smoke from wildfires and agricultural burns — at 4.2 million.

The findings underscore the detrimental impact of fossil fuels on global health.

How did the researchers arrive at such a high number of fossil-fuel-caused deaths? 02-09-21

Read more at Harvard School of Engineering 

Hawaii’s Beaches Are Disappearing. New Legislation Could Help … if It’s Enforced.

A burrito system in front of a home on Sunset Beach, Hawaii. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star Advertiser)

A legal loophole allowed wealthy property owners to protect their real estate at the expense of Hawaii’s coastlines. Now, the state Legislature is considering bills to crack down on the destructive practices, but questions around enforcement remain.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering bills this legislative session that could force oceanfront property owners to remove sandbags and draped heavy tarps that can significantly contribute to coastal erosion. Dozens of owners along Hawaii beaches have used loopholes in current environmental laws to leave emergency armoring in place for extended periods in order to protect homes, hotels and condos. Under the new legislation, they would face strict deadlines for removing them and higher penalties for installing them without permission.

Property owners are legally only allowed to keep the emergency protections in place temporarily, but officials with Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources have liberally interpreted the term “temporary,” allowing walls of sandbags to remain in front of some properties for years, and even decades, after issuing repeated approvals or losing track of them, an investigation in December by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica found. 02-07-21

Read more at Propublica

The avocado in your Super Bowl guacamole is bad for the environment. You can make it better.

A farmer harvests avocados at an orchard in Michoacán. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

This Super Bowl Sunday will be different. Instead of at a party, I’ll be at home alone with my husband. And we’ll be paying more than four times as much for our guacamole.

You can’t watch the Super Bowl, the No. 1 at-home party event of the year, without guacamole. In fact, according to the Hass Avocado Board, almost 220 million pounds (equivalent to about 1,400 space shuttles) of avocados (Persea americana) were shipped here last month from Michoacán, the only Mexican state allowed to export avocados to the United States.

Michoacán is three times larger than New Jersey. To find it on a map, look west of Mexico City and east of the Pacific Ocean. It’s rugged, mountainous terrain that harbors rich biodiversity. With more than 12,000 feet of elevation, the different microclimates allow avocados to be harvested all year.

But there are four major problems with consuming most Michoacán avocados:

Poverty. The people who grow avocados are poor and don’t benefit from our delight in the sweet, complicated, creamy taste of the fruit. According to Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, 46 percent of people in Michoacán live in poverty. In 2014, the poverty line was defined as living on less than 2,542 pesos ($157.70) a month in urban areas and 1,615 pesos ($100.20) a month in rural areas. 02-04-21

Read more at The Washington Post 

Biden Finally Pushes Vineyard Wind Project Forward After Years of Delays

Block Island wind project off the coast of Rhode Island. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 2018, Vineyard Wind planned to build the first utility-scale offshore wind project near Martha’s Vineyard — a project that could create thousands of jobs and generated enough energy to serve 400,000 households and businesses. However, this project has been riddled with delays, as the project met regulatory hurdles at the hand of the Trump administration.

But now, with a new administration, it looks as if the project is finally getting back on track: a press release from Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey announced that the Department of Interior intends to review Vineyard Wind’s proposed offshore wind project, a huge step forward for sustainable energy in the United States.

Why This Matters: 
This decision hopefully signals a turning point and is just the beginning of the greenlighting of offshore wind projects. According to statistics from the American Wind Energy Associationif the 15 wind farms with active commercial leases were constructed, they could generate 30 gigawatts of electricity, create 83,000 jobs, and bring in 25 billion dollars in annual economic output over the next ten years. 02-04-21

Read more at Our Daily Planet

Tap Lines: Maine breweries aim to reduce their impact on the environment

Their efforts include recycling programs, solar installations and capturing carbon dioxide.

Kyle DePietro, owner and brewer at Sasanoa Brewing on Westport Island, which composts it spent grain and yeast slurry for use on its farm. Photo by Catie Joyce-Bulay

The governor recently released “Maine Won’t Wait: A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action” outlining the steps Maine will take to fight climate change, beginning this year. Maine’s brewing industry had a voice at the table in Dan Kleban, co-owner of Maine Beer Co.

“We’re proud to live in a state that is taking the lead in terms of Climate Action,” Kleban said in an email. “It was an honor to be asked to be a small business representative for the governor’s Climate Action team because we understand the importance of having the private sector actively involved in the effort to combat climate change. By bringing together voices and perspectives from across our state, this team hopes to take actions that will work for the environment and all Mainers.”

Some breweries, including Maine Beer Co., are already fighting climate change. The Freeport-based brewery last August completed a solar installation that will replace 51% of the brewery’s energy use and signed up for community solar. In 2019, they set a goal of producing more clean energy than they consume by 2030. They’ve also donated solar installations to their nonprofit partners, Wolfe’s Neck and the Center for Wildlife.

Maine Beer Co., whose motto is “Do what’s right” and has always donated 1 percent of sales to environmental groups, continues to look for ways to reduce environmental impact, large and small. Its Blue Crew evaluates the facility’s daily practices to see where they can become more energy efficient, like figuring out what to do with hard-to-recycle items like bottle caps. Turns out, by filling pizza sauce tins used in their restaurant with the bottle caps, they can crimp them shut and then recycle the whole thing more easily. 02-01-21

Read more at Press Herald

Black Women Aren’t Saving America For You. They’re Protecting Themselves

Not many forces work harder than Black women leading a movement. From the fight for suffrage to today’s battle against voter suppression, Black women have been the backbone of political progression, even when they don’t get the return on investment they deserve.

The tide is beginning to turn in their favor, however. In 2020, America elected Kamala Harris, the first female vice president, and sent more Black women to Congress than ever before. The most recent elections also confirmed Georgia as the battleground state that local organizers knew it was, resulting in a 50-50 split in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans.

A chorus of “Black women saved us again” tweets dominated Twitter timelines the morning after the Georgia runoffs. But here’s the truth: Black women aren’t showing up to save America. They’re showing up to save themselves.

“Black women are the architects of our democracy, and they’ve been doing that since the suffrage movement,” said Glynda Carr, CEO and co-founder of Higher Heights, a political action committee dedicated to electing more Black women. “At that movement-building table, knowing they weren’t going to reap the benefits of the 19th Amendment, they knew that they were building the foundation literally for the modern-day Black women activists of 2020.”

The road to attaining political power has been long for Black women. In 1913, the founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. marched in the back of the Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., behind a sea of white women who spat at them and called them racist slurs. In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi Delta woman who had been given a hysterectomy without her consent the previous year, was fined by the police and fired from her job for leading a group of 17 people to register to vote. Two years later, she co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to fight the efforts of white Democrats to block Black voter participation. She also launched Freedom Summer, which brought college students to the South to help get Black people registered to vote. In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress and four years later she became the first woman and the first Black person to seek a major party’s nomination for president. 02-01-21

Read more at Huff Post

A Thin Green Line

During a decade when Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia flouted carbon emissions goals, activists fighting fossil fuel exports made global impact.

Joshua Trujillo

SEATTLE — At the corner of Third and Union, amid a sea of downtown high-rises and just across from Macy’s, members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe in native regalia walked alongside Montana ranchers in cowboy hats. The ranchers’ forerunners occupied the same stretch of the Little Bighorn River where Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors crushed the infamous U.S. Army General George Custer. On this December morning in 2012, however, they made common cause.

First the Cheyenne and ranchers set out together to find breakfast. Then they walked to Seattle’s Convention Center to square off against a modern-day enemy with global reach: coal firms proposing to move mile-long-plus trains through the Pacific Northwest to be loaded on ships bound for Asia.

Their partnership went the distance. Three years after that hearing, the proposed Washington coal terminal was dead. Those trains bearing Montana and Wyoming coal never rolled.

Opponents’ victory in that case was emblematic of how environmentalists, Native American tribes, ranchers, politicians, doctors, fishermen, and even windsurfers worked for a decade to fend off more than 20 proposals to ship fossil fuels across the Pacific Ocean, from near Prince Rupert, British Columbia, clear south to San Luis Obispo, California. 01-31-21

Read more at Grist

Investors see green returns as renewable energy rises

This March 9, 2016 file photo shows the latest generation of SunPower solar panels that are stacked in Positive Energy Solar’s warehouse in Albuquerque, N.M. (Susan Montoya Bryan, File/Associated Press)

The future looks bright for solar and other renewable energy technology.

FirstSolar, Enphase and SunPower are among the renewable energy stocks that are benefiting from a much friendlier administration in the White House, whose agenda includes tackling climate change and bolstering green energy. Their stocks soared last year, far outpacing the wider market’s gains.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris climate agreement, revoked a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and halted oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Part of what drove that move last year was the idea there would be a bit more policy support for these initiatives going forward,” said David Lebovitz, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Renewable power sources such as wind and solar now make up 12% of all energy generation, up from 4% in 2011. During the same period, energy generated from hydroelectric sources remained at 8%, while coal fell to 24% from 44%.

Shares of Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar jumped nearly 80% last year, and another 7% so far in 2021. Fremont, California’s Enphase, which makes technology to manage solar power, surged by more than six times last year. 01-28-21

Read more at The Washington Post

‘A sacrifice zone’: Why did a Chicago community of color get saddled with a polluting scrapyard?

Grist / benkrut / Getty Images

After a polluting scrapyard closed in a predominantly white and wealthy neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side last year, the very same company got approval to open a new scrapyard on the city’s predominantly low-income and Latino Southeast Side. Now, the state of Illinois’ decision to approve the new venture is the target of a federal civil rights investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

The EPA’s investigation, which was launched on Monday, stems from complaints brought by two Chicago-based environmental justice groups, the Southeast Environmental Task Force, or SETF, and the Chicago Southeast Coalition to Ban Petcoke.

The complaint alleges that the state discriminated against the Latino and Black communities in southeast Chicago when it approved new permits allowing the scrapyard to move into the community without proper public participation and meetings. The complaint also says that the state-level Illinois EPA colluded with city agencies and developers to settle new polluting industries in corners of the city where heavy industries have already contaminated residential yards with oil byproducts, lead, and arsenic, among other pollutants. Since 2014, the Illinois EPA has conducted more than 75 special inspections of Southeast Side industries for failing to meet pollution standards. The neighborhood is also home to Chicago’s latest federal Superfund site.

“With our complaint, we wanted [the Illinois EPA] to understand how we see the situation as residents and how we know the operation is going to negatively impact our community,” said Peggy Salazar, a lifelong Southeast Side resident and director of SETF. 01-27-21

Read more at Grist

Biden to place environmental justice at center of sweeping climate plan

Click image to enlarge

The president plans far-reaching actions to cut carbon emissions, aid polluted communities and shift the nation away from fossil fuels. The administration will treat climate change ‘as the emergency that it is,’ one top adviser says.

President Biden will make tackling America’s persistent racial and economic disparities a central part of his plan to combat climate change, prioritizing environmental justice for the first time in a generation.

As part of an unprecedented push to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs as the United States shifts toward cleaner energy, Biden will direct agencies across the federal government to invest in low-income and minority communities that have traditionally borne the brunt of pollution, according to the White House.

Biden will sign an executive order establishing a White House interagency council on environmental justice, create an office of health and climate equity at the Health and Human Services Department, and form a separate environmental justice office at the Justice Department. The order also directs the government to spend 40 percent of its sustainability investments on disadvantaged communities. 01-27-21

Read more at The Washington Post

Coal Communities Across the Nation Want Biden to Fund an Economic Transition to Clean Power

Coal is loaded onto a truck at a mine on Aug. 26, 2019 near Cumberland, Kentucky. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The president promised to create a task force on how best to help the communities. Advocates want that and new jobs, broadband internet and funding for health and education.

Hometown pollution shaped the next EPA chief

The H.F. Lee Energy Complex near Goldsboro, N.C. Constructed in the 1950s, the plant was part of Duke Energy Corp.’s coal-fired fleet until 2012 when the coal units were shuttered. Daniel Cusick/E&E News

It’s 6 miles as the crow flies from the childhood home of Michael Regan to the shuttered coal plant that helped light up this city of 35,000 people.

During the 1980s, the plant’s three coal-fired generators were industrial monoliths on the edge of town, pulsing out nearly 400 megawatts of electric power to Wayne County and east-central North Carolina.

It was also when Regan, the first Black man nominated to lead EPA, had his first asthma attacks, a condition triggered by heat, allergens and air pollution.

Regan, now 44, still harbors memories of a constricted airway and shallow breathing, followed by the reflexive gasp from a bronchial inhaler, as he recalled last month when introduced as a member of President Biden’s climate team.

“Growing up as a child, hunting and fishing with my father and grandfather in eastern North Carolina, I developed a deep love for the outdoors and our natural resources, but I also experienced respiratory issues that required me to use an inhaler on days when pollutants and allergens were especially bad,” he said (Climatewire, Dec. 21, 2020).

 Regan grew up in what Biden has called a “fence-line” community — a city, town, neighborhood or rural area where residents live close enough to a pollution source to feel its effects but have little or no voice about its impacts. Fence-line communities exist in every state, experts say, and most share one or more common traits: social, economic or racial disadvantage. 01-22-21

Here Are Biden’s Day One Actions on the Climate and Environment

President Joe Biden officially took office Wednesday, and immediately set to work reversing some of former President Donald Trump‘s environmental policies.

As he did on his campaign and transition website, Biden emphasized the climate crisis as one of the major challenges facing his administration, along with the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism.

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear.”

Hours after his inauguration, Biden signed a total of 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations, The New York Times reported. Some of these orders had important implications for the climate and environment.

1. Rejoining the Paris Agreement

Biden honored a campaign promise by rejoining the Paris Agreement on his first day in office.

The agreement recommits the U.S. to reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Under Trump, the U.S. officially exited in November 2020.

Biden’s reversal means the U.S. will now rejoin the agreement 30 days from Jan. 20. 01-21-21

Read more at EcoWatch

Biden just put the US back in the Paris Agreement. Now the pressure is on.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The United States is rejoining the Paris climate agreement, fulfilling one of President Joe Biden’s earliest campaign promises and generating sighs of relief around the world as governments struggle to keep the planet’s temperature from surging to even more dangerous levels.

On Wednesday, just five hours after his inauguration and amid a flurry of other presidential actions, President Joe Biden signed an executive order returning the U.S. to the landmark accord to slash carbon emissions. The move will be official in 30 days.

It’s been three and a half years since President Donald Trump first announced plans to pull the U.S. out of the Paris deal, and in some ways the rest of the world has moved on. Despite fears that it would set off a mass exodus, no other countries have exited the agreement, and many have even ratcheted up their carbon-cutting targets. China, once seen as the biggest obstacle to climate progress, has vowed tozero out its emissions by 2060; the United Kingdom, European Union, Japan, and Korea are aiming to cut emissions to zero even earlier, by 2050. 01-20-21

Read more at Grist

With unshakable faith in government, Biden prepares to be sworn in as the 46th president

President-elect Joe Biden, joined by his wife Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, paid tribute to the country’s COVID-19 victims in a ceremony Tuesday night at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool.EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Joe Biden first arrived in Washington, he was deeply worried America was reaching a breaking point amid a failed presidency, and he believed the country already had the tools it needed to fix the mess.

“What ties us together,” he said, “are the political institutions that have made this country great.”

That was 1973, shortly after Biden was elected to the Senate as the Watergate scandal eroded Americans’ trust in government and deepened the country’s partisan divides. It marked the beginning of a long career in politics that rewarded his faith in institutions and the nuts and bolts of governance.

Forty-eight years later, he is set to be inaugurated Wednesday as president of a nation staring down a confluence of crises: A pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans, a devastated economy, and a misinformation-fueled political divide that drove a failed insurrection at the Capitol and has large swaths of the country baselessly doubting his legitimacy.

To tackle these challenges, Biden is likely to reach for the same tools he did back then, meeting this new moment of upheaval with the basics of governance, expertise, and a sense of comity that sometimes seems like it’s from a bygone era.

His presidency will be the ultimate test of whether they are the right tools for the moment.

“Joe Biden has inherited the worst set of crises since any president since Franklin Roosevelt in 1933,” said David Gergen, who advised four different presidents, including Ronald Reagan. “He hasn’t overpromised. He’s modest. . . . The question now, is, can he gather up the votes to get the big things done?”

Biden comes to the presidency with a long view of government, honed over more than 30 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president. He watched Richard Nixon’s fall, governed through multiple economic and foreign policy crises, and joined Barack Obama’s history-making ticket. As a presidential candidate, Biden stuck to a message about restoring the soul of the nation and the country’s world standing, even when he trailed his rivals. 01-19-21

Read more at The Boston Globe

The pipeline fights are only beginning for Biden

A sign in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline near Bradshaw, Neb. (Nati Harnik/AP)

Joe Biden is about to cancel a big oil pipeline project. It won’t be the last hard choice he has to make about whether to let one be built. 

One of the president-elect’s first actions in office will be to kill a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, as our colleagues Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin report, fulfilling a campaign promise made in May. The move amounts to a major victory for tribal and environmental group who fought for years to draw attention to the project.

Now some of those same activists are preparing to mount more fights to stop more fossil-fuel infrastructure. At the same time, several labor unions with Biden’s ear are pushing back against the end of projects that provide their members with high-paying construction jobs.

All that puts Biden at the center of future political fights over pipelines.

Attention is already turning east to another cross-border pipeline. Since 2014, the Canadian firm Enbridge has been aiming to replace a nearly 2,000-mile pipe between Alberta and Wisconsin called Line 3 with a higher-capacity tube. 01-19-21

Read more at The Washington Post

Martin Luther King and the Long Arc of Racism

A man flew a Confederate flag as President Trump spoke on Jan. 6 in view of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, before his supporters stormed the Capitol.Jason Andrew for The New York Times

On Jan. 5, exactly 10 days before what would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 92nd birthday, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of King’s former church, won election to become Georgia’s first Black senator.

As The Associated Press officially called the race in the wee hours of the next morning, pundits on TV hailed the moment as a long-awaited milestone, half a century after Jim Crow had been evicted from the Deep South.

But then, just 12 hours later, those channels were flooded with images of Trump supporters smashing their way into the Capitol building. It was hard to miss the stark symbolism of the push-and-pull: President Trump’s high-profile attempt to overturn his loss in Georgia and other states had helped bring these rioters to the Capitol — and Warnock’s victory only seemed to add fuel to their fire.

“It’s something people of color are fairly accustomed to in the United States: these moments of progress, moments of advance, that always seem to be tempered by these moments of backlash,” Hakeem Jefferson, a political scientist at Stanford University who studies race and democracy, said in an interview.

In a sense, the Capitol riot can be seen as a collision of two main pillars of Trump’s political messaging: disinformation and racial resentment. And in fact, history suggests that they go hand in hand. 01-18-21

Read more at The New York Times

Democrats flipped the Senate. So why is a Green New Deal still unlikely?


Last Friday morning, Representative Sean Casten, a Democrat from Illinois, appeared on a Chicago local news channel to talk about the mob of Trump-supporting rioters who had invaded the Capitol building and interrupted congressional proceedings two days earlier. Before going live, the anchor asked Casten if there was anything in particular he wanted to touch on. “I said, ‘Honestly, I want to talk about energy and climate policy,’” Casten told Grist.

Last week’s events overshadowed a major milestone in the effort to accomplish climate policy in the U.S.: Political newcomers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won their Senate runoff elections in Georgia, handing Democrats a de facto majority in the Senate and a political trifecta (control of the presidency and both houses of Congress). In the short term, Senate Democrats will have their hands full with the push to convict President Trump following his impeachment for inciting the riot at the Capitol. But after that’s done — or possibly simultaneously — they’ll turn to President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and one of his top priorities, climate change.

The narrow margin of victory in the Senate — Democrats hold 50 seats, including two independents, and will need Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to serve as tiebreaker if they can convince conservative Democrats to toe the party line — means that climate action will not look quite the way Biden intended. His $2 trillion climate plan is likely off the table; there probably won’t be huge sweeping bills that satisfy progressive visions of a Green New Deal. Instead, the Biden administration will have to work creatively, leveraging esoteric congressional rules and using all the powers of government to accomplish its goals. 01-15-21

Read more at Grist 

Even With a 50-50 Split, a Biden Administration Senate Could Make Big Strides on Climate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (right) (R-Ky.) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) shake hands after Schumer delivered a speech and answered questions at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center Feb. 12, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Democrats’ new edge opens the door to policy tools that can push through legislation. And bipartisan action is not out of reach.

The Georgia victories have given Democrats control of the Senate. But some ardent advocates of climate action are still pessimistic about how much progress can be made with a 50-50 split, in a chamber that has been inert on climate policy for more than a decade.

Yet even the narrow majority the Democrats now have gives them extraordinary power to elevate climate change as a major priority and to take up the more than 120 pieces of legislation that House Democrats have included in a roadmap for a transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Democrats’ new majority also offers Biden a smoother ride for his nominees and a chance to use Congress to quickly overturn some of the Trump administration’s last-ditch gifts to the fossil fuel industry.

Biden will have an opportunity to use a budget maneuver requiring just 51 votes for passage that presidents have turned to repeatedly over the last four decades to enact major policies favored primarily by one party. The same legislative vehicle that Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump used to ram through massive tax cuts, could help enact large portions of Biden’s $2 trillion “Build Back Better” vision for clean energy and jobs.

Perhaps most significant, Democrats now can test the possibilities for bipartisan action on the world’s most important environmental crisis. There was no prospect for bipartisan agreement on climate when President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held sway. 01-13-21

Read more at Inside Climate News

U.S. cities consider treating fossil fuels like nuclear weapons

Grist / Paul Campbell / Floortje / Getty Images

For decades, the potential for a nuclear catastrophe felt like a waking threat, just around the corner. Then, in 1968, many of the nations once responsible for pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war collectively agreed to reverse course, signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Member nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, agreed to end the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and eventually move toward full disarmament. While it didn’t end the threat of nuclear weapons overnight, this framework helped set in motion a new era. Today, the global arsenal of nuclear weapons is a fifth of what it was during the height of the nuclear arms race in the 1980s.

Half a century later, the nations once stockpiling nuclear weapons are now stockpiling fossil fuels, which are already upending life on earth as we know it. That’s why a group of activists, policy experts, and academics are beginning to push for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, modeled off its predecessor on nuclear weapons. Both treaties are rooted in the idea that “there are certain technologies and certain substances that pose such a global risk to humanity that we have an obligation to address that risk together,” explained Carroll Muffett, the president of the Center for International Environmental Law. Muffett is on the steering committee of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty initiative, which officially launched last September. 01-12-21

Read more at Grist 

Covid-19 Took a Bite From U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2020

Transportation emissions dropped sharply in 2020 as millions of workers stopped driving to work.Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Emissions plunged more than 10 percent. If the trend can be sustained, it would put the United States within striking distance of one of its major goals under the Paris climate agreement.

America’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry plummeted more than 10 percent in 2020, reaching their lowest levels in at least three decades as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on the nation’s economy, according to an estimate published Tuesday by the Rhodium Group.

The steep drop, however, was the result of extraordinary circumstances and experts warned that the country still faced enormous challenges in getting its planet-warming pollution under control. In the years ahead, United States emissions are widely expected to bounce back once the pandemic recedes and the economy rumbles back to life — unless policymakers take stronger action to clean up the country’s power plants, factories, cars and trucks.

“The most significant reductions last year were around transportation, which remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels,” said Kate Larsen, a director at Rhodium Group, a research and consulting firm. “But as vaccines become more prevalent, and depending on how quickly people feel comfortable enough to drive and fly again, we’d expect emissions to rebound unless there are major policy changes put in place.” 01-12-21

Read more at The New York Times

Impeach and Convict Trump. Congress Must Defend Itself.

Trump’s incitement of a riot is a violation of the separation of powers that threatens the foundation of the Republic

It is tempting to try to run out the clock on the Trump presidency. President Trump has already been impeached once and congressional leaders may assume they still lack the necessary Republican votes to convict and remove him in the Senate. Lawmakers concerned about the possibility for new abuses of power before Jan. 20 have been tempted to settle for urging the president to resign. But more is at stake than what the president might do in the next few days. If Congress declines to impeach and convict the president for his actions on Wednesday, its failure to act will weaken the basic structure of the Constitution.

The key issue is this: One of the three branches of the federal government has just incited an armed attack against another branch. Beyond the threat to a peaceful transition, the incident was a fundamental violation of the separation of powers. Prompted by the chief executive, supporters laid siege to, invaded, and occupied the Capitol building, deploying weapons and subjecting members of both chambers of Congress to intimidation and violence in an effort to produce a particular decision by force. 01-10-21

Read more at The New York Times

Read the draft of the Democrats’ new article of impeachment against Trump

Democrats in Congress plan to move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Trump on Monday.

If agreed to by a majority in the House of Representatives, Trump would become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. The Senate could then vote to remove him from office before Jan. 20, the final day of his term.

A draft of the article, which will be introduced in the House by Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Ted Lieu of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island, shows that Trump will be charged with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters he called to Washington to protest what he claimed was a “stolen election.”

Here is a draft of the article that will be presented. 01-08-21

Read more at Yahoo News

BREAKING: RCC Calls for Removal of President Trump

On January 6, 2021, at a demonstration called by President Donald J. Trump to oppose the legitimate results of the November 3, 2020 election, and urged on by the president, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol interrupting Congress’ certification of the presidential election results. At the rally on the National Mall, Donald Trump Jr. gave a profanity-laced speech and said, “We’re coming for you and we’re going to have a good time doing it!” Meanwhile, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat.”

The president’s actions amount to the incitement of violence against the elected government of the United States and are treasonous. The Rachel Carson Council calls for the Vice President and Cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment to remove the president from office. If the 25th Amendment is not invoked, we call for the Congress of the United States to reconvene and once again impeach President Trump.

Statement by RCC President & CEO Dr. Robert K. Musil

Carrying out the Rachel Carson Council’s mission to promote climate justice, peace and equity requires respect for the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law which is the bedrock of American environmentalism. It is why the RCC called for the impeachment of President Trump in September 2019, called on our supporters to oppose the actions of the President to roll back the nation’s environmental laws and policies, and urged them to engage fully in the election of 2020 and vote for those who support the environment, peace, and racial justice.

We have opposed as well, the President’s opposition to nuclear arms control and disarmament. With his ability to launch nuclear missiles at a moment’s notice, the President’s continuation in office, even during the short time until the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021, constitutes a threat to United States national security, to the global environment, and to the people of the world.

We therefore call upon the Vice President and cabinet to invoke immediately the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and remove Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America. If that action is not taken, we call on the Congress to reconvene and immediately commence the impeachment of President Trump.

Robert K. Musil, Ph.D., M.P.H.
President & CEO
The Rachel Carson Council

Georgia Live Updates: Democrats Capture the Senate as Ossoff Defeats Perdue

Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock campaigning in Atlanta. Both defeated their Republican opponents, assuring that the balance of power in the Senate will shift.

The victories by Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, solidified Georgia’s political transformation and ensured that President-elect Joe Biden will have an easier time enacting his agenda.

Democrats captured control of the Senate on Wednesday with a pair of historic victories in Georgia’s runoff elections, assuring slim majorities in both chambers of Congress for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and delivering an emphatic, final rebuke to President Trump in his last days in office.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler, becoming the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South. And Jon Ossoff, the 33-year-old head of a video production company who has never held public office, defeated David Perdue, who recently completed his first full term as senator.

Both Democrats now lead their defeated Republican opponents by margins that are larger than the threshold required to trigger a recount under Georgia law.

The Democrats’ twin victories will reshape the balance of power in Washington. Though they will have the thinnest of advantages in the House and Senate, where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will break 50-50 ties, Democrats will control the committees and the legislation and nominations brought to the floor. That advantage will pave the way for at least some elements of Mr. Biden’s agenda. 01-06-21

Read more at The New York Times

Democrats inch closer to retaking the U.S. Senate as Warnock declared the winner in Georgia runoff and Ossoff pulls ahead

From left: Raphael Warnock, Jon Ossoff, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images, Paras Griffin/Getty Images, Jessica McGowan/Getty Images, Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Democrats were on the verge of taking control of the U.S. Senate early Wednesday morning after Raphael Warnock was declared the winner in his Georgia runoff election with GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff pulled into the lead in his race with Republican Sen. David Perdue.

An African American pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church — the Atlanta church made famous by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., — Warnock was declared the winner by the Associated Press with just over 97 percent of the votes counted. He delivered a victory speech shortly after 11:30 p.m. in a videotaped message delivered from his home in Atlanta.

“Georgia, I am honored by the faith you have shown in me. And I promise you this tonight, I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia,” Warnock said.

Minutes earlier, Loeffler, who was appointed to her Senate seat in 2019 by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, gave an impromptu speech but did not concede the race despite trailing Warnock by more than 35,000 votes with 97 percent counted.

“It’s going to be another late night,” she told a gathering of her supporters. “There are a lot of votes out there, as you all know. We have a path to victory, and we are going to stay on it.”

The campaign of Ossoff, a Jewish American activist and documentary film producer, also saw victory on the horizon early Wednesday, minutes before the vote count showed him surpassing Perdue. The race remains too close to call. 01-06-21

Read more at Yahoo! News

A Massachusetts city will post climate change warning stickers at gas stations

Miguel Villagran / Getty Images

Cambridge, Massachusetts, has become the first U.S. city to mandate the placing of stickers on fuel pumps to warn drivers of the resulting dangers posed by the climate crisis.

The final design of the bright yellow stickers, shared with the Guardian, includes text that warns drivers the burning of gasoline, diesel, and ethanol has “major consequences on human health and the environment including contributing to climate change.”

The stickers will be placed on all fuel pumps in Cambridge, which is situated near Boston and is home to Harvard University, “fairly soon” once they are received from printers, a city spokesperson confirmed.

“The city of Cambridge is working hard with our community to fight climate change,” the spokesperson added. “The gas pump stickers will remind drivers to think about climate change and hopefully consider non-polluting options.”

The placement of the stickers follows an ordinance passed by Cambridge in January. The city has a target of slashing planet-heating emissions by 80 percent and offsetting the remainder by 2050, making it carbon neutral.

Transportation, primarily the use of cars and trucks, is responsible for more than a quarter of U.S. emissions but there has been scant success in weaning Americans off their predilection for large, energy-intensive vehicles. Indeed, a boom in SUV salesin the U.S. threatens to cause a surge in emissions if national fuel efficiency standards are not tightened further. 01-01-21

Read more at Grist

How activists successfully shut down key pipeline projects in New York

A protestor calls on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to halt work on the Williams pipeline in 2018. SOPA Images / Getty

If all had gone according to plan, the Constitution pipeline would be carrying fracked gas 124 miles from the shale gas fields of Pennsylvania through streams, wetlands, and backyards across the Southern Tier of New York until west of Albany. There it would join two existing pipelines, one that extends into New England and the other to the Ontario border as part of a vast network that moves fracked gas throughout the northeastern United States and Canada.

For a while, everything unfolded as expected. When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in 2014, the U.S. was in the midst of a fracking boom that would make it the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil. Williams Companies, the lead firm developing the project, was awaiting state approval of environmental permits — a largely perfunctory move at the time — and so sure everything would fall into place that it had started clearing hundreds of trees under armed guard along the pipeline’s route.

Yet the developers did not anticipate landowners, neighborhood residents, community leaders, and anti-fracking activists statewide forging a coalition to kill the pipeline. In a landmark defeat, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation denied the project’s water-quality certificate in 2016, leading Williams to abandon it in early 2020. The land slated to be cleared, the communities fated to be disrupted, and the waterways destined to be disturbed were preserved by a movement that was far from done. 01-04-21

Read more at Grist