Chesapeake Region Businesses Oppose Fracked Gas Exports & Call for Clean Energy

It’s particularly difficult for me to understand the denial that fracking has devastating consequences. It’s all about fast money for corporations. — Michael Penny, Savvy Rest, Inc.

This terminal will expand and lock-in unsustainable fracking for a generation, permanently damaging communities and causing a vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, most importantly for FERC and in direct opposition to their mission, Cove Point will raise prices for American electric consumers, while reducing reliability through lower fuel availability – which after the Polar Vortex – should be reason enough to deny this project. — Richard Graves, Ethical Electric

Dozens of small business leaders in Maryland; Washington, DC; and Virginia are speaking out against the proposed export of fracked gas from Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay. As business leaders, they know they need to monitor and weigh-in on energy issues that will define energy policy locally and nationally for years to come. These businesses have come to recognize that a Cove Point gas export facility will ultimately only enrich the gas industry – while local communities will face the many dangers inherent in “fracking” gas, transporting it through pipelines, liquefying the gas, and shipping it overseas.

This past week, business leaders in the Chesapeake region delivered a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expressing their concerns about the Cove Point gas export project proposed by Dominion Resources. First off, the businesses are concerned about the lack of due diligence on the part of FERC, noting that a full Environmental Impact Statement has not been conducted for this project—despite the many dangers to human and environmental health associated with this project. The facility would harm regional air and water quality, further incentivize fracking for natural gas, and worsen the climate crisis. Businesses also understand that exporting gas will also drive up energy costs here in the United States. As business leaders, they realize that their long-term economic success will best be achieved through a transition to renewable energy, not through increased reliance on fossil fuels.

Their conclusion? The Cove Point liquefied natural gas plant needs to be rejected.

If, however, FERC fist wishes to conduct a solid Environmental Impact Statement, businesses believe the Statement would need to:

• Assess the broader consequences of the Cove Point plant on expansion of fracking and of the gas industry;

• Evaluate the cumulative, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that Cove Point would cause, from fracking wells to pipelines to tanker ships to smoke stacks;

• Include an independent, quantitative risk assessment of explosions that could affect neighborhoods in the plant’s vicinity. It is not credible for FERC to rely solely on data from Dominion.

Stop Gas ExportsSmall businesses, community organizations, environmental groups, health professionals, and others are stepping forward to oppose gas exports. What do they want instead? Increased investment in our nation’s renewable energy sectors and in energy efficiency. Smart businesses and smart policy makers know that building a clean energy economy is our best course of action. Thousands will be gathering on July 13 in Washington, DC to deliver this message to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the President. Join us!

“The Carbon Underground Report” Adds Urgency to Fossil Fuel Company Divestment and Strategies to Cut Carbon Pollution

burning-coalYesterday, Fossil Free Indexes, LLC released The Carbon Underground, a report identifying the top 100 public coal companies and the top 100 public oil and gas companies globally, ranked by the potential amount of carbon pollution represented by their fuel reserves. The report provides a much-needed update to the 2011 Unburnable Carbon report produced by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The Carbon Underground frighteningly concludes that the carbon pollution of these fossil fuel reserves surpasses their “carbon budget” by a whopping 400%.

“Carbon budget” refers to the amount of carbon pollution that a sector must remain within in order to avoid the most dangerous consequences of global warming that would occur with a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature. The report states that the energy sector’s carbon budget, based on data from the International Energy Association and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will be spent within 22 years — even with emissions reductions of 10%. Moreover, at this level, three-fourths of the reserves will still be in the ground.

The report observes the astounding fact that despite the threats to the planet: “exploration and development of fossil fuel resources continue unabated.”

Investors have an increasingly important role to play in the tremendous shift needed to switch the economies of the world to reliance on renewable energy. The planet cannot sustain the continued burning of fossil fuels and the necessary decline of the fossil fuel industry means investors and the marketplace will face staggering “stranded assets” – assets that have become de-valued and become a loss. The New Abolitionism article in the already-released May 12, 2014 issue of The Nation magazine estimates that stranded assets could equate to as much as $20 trillion globally.

There is no time to waste in terms of profoundly cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. By divesting from fossil fuel companies and re-investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, investors can play an important role in pushing our economy in the direction required. Building on The Carbon Underground, Fossil Free Indexes, LLC will soon release broad market indexes that the average investor can use to divest from fossil fuel companies — for the sake of the planet and to help safeguard one’s personal assets.

Obama Delays Keystone XL Decision; Cowboys & Indians Rally

The Cowboy and Indian Alliance Opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline
The Cowboy and Indian Alliance Opposes the keystone XL Pipeline
The Cowboy and Indian Alliance has five days of actions now underway in Washington, DC, culminating on April 26, 2014, to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and to educate the public on the pipeline’s dangers. The Cowboy and Indian Alliance is a coalition of tribal communities, ranchers and farmers living along the proposed route for the KXL pipeline. Their goal is to “Reject & Defend” — that is — to reject this dirty and dangerous fossil fuel project and to defend the earth’s resources (land, water, and climate) for future generations. On April 26th, thousands will gather on the National Mall for a tipi ceremony and procession. A tipi will be decorated with the Indian names bestowed on President Obama by Montana’s Crow Nation and the Lakota tribe and with symbols for protection of land and water.

In a move embraced by those opposed to the pipeline, just as activists were preparing for this week of actions, the Obama administration decided to extend the review period on the Keystone XL pipeline. It now seems likely that a final decision on whether or not the KXL will be constructed will be made after the November 4 Congressional elections. On April 18, the Administration announced that more time was needed for federal agencies to review the 2.5 million public comments made on the KXL and also to see the outcome of a lawsuit in Nebraska concerning the pipeline’s route. In February, a Nebraskan district court overturned a law that permitted the pipeline and there is no set date for Nebraska’s Supreme Court to address the issue.

The pipeline has been in review by the State Department since 2008. There is more than sufficient evidence to conclude that this pipeline, for the export of tar sands oil, is not in the interest of the American people, nor in the interest of our planet. For those who can come to Washington, DC this Saturday, help us send the “reject and defend” message to the White House. Sign up today here.

New UN Climate Report: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

IPCC vol 1Yesterday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report that builds an ever more sobering case for drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions and ascertaining how to survive on a warming planet. This latest, authoritative report, with 243 primary authors from 70 countries, discusses (yet again) the dire outcomes we can likely expect over time if we fail to cap carbon pollution.

For anyone needing an additional wake-up call, read this report.

Like me, you may well ask yourself (yet again) – What will it take to slash our climate-warming emissions? How can we allow terrible, climate-induced tragedies to destroy whole communities? What right do we have to cause further species extinction? What kind of world are we bequeathing to our children?

 

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said at a news conference.

Key themes in the report include the following excerpts from the Summary for Policymakers:

  •  Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.
  • People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change and also to some adaptation and mitigation responses.
  • Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.
  • Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors , often with negative outcomes for livelihoods , especially for people living in poverty.
  • Adaptation and mitigation choices in the near -term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century.
  • Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.
  • A large fraction of both terrestrial and freshwater species faces increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors, such as habitat modification, over -exploitation, pollution, and invasive species.
  •  All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability.
  • Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economics.
  • Transformations in economic, social, technological, and political decisions and actions can enable climate-resilient pathways.

There are many actions we can take to pressure elected officials for policies that cut carbon pollution and that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Green America’s current action in support of regulating carbon pollution from new power plants is a start. If we take action today, and every day, there is hope.

Looking Forward to Next Steps by New Senate Climate Caucus

burning-coalThis morning, 28 senators concluded their all-nighter – an around-the-clock event to draw urgency to the need to address the climate crisis. Green America welcomes this visibility action by the Senate’s new “climate caucus” and we look forward to big steps to come, joined by members of the House.

For years now the US Congress has been stuck in a partisan impasse that has not only prevented enactment of comprehensive climate legislation, but has also stymied more moderate efforts to advance energy efficiency and other measures to build a clean energy economy. Creating good domestic jobs, cutting carbon pollution, and securing our energy future through renewable sources should all be bi-partisan issues. But even among Democrats, too many have been quiet on climate for too long. Perhaps now the tide will turn and we’ll see the leadership that’s required to cut greenhouse gas pollution and build our renewable energy sectors.

The senators used an all-night session, a rarely used strategy, to build positive momentum for addressing climate change, to attract media attention, and to go on record more forcefully as legislators committed to creating the conditions necessary for meaningful action on climate to take place. That is, all the senators except for Senator Jim Inhofe, a long-standing climate change denier. Understanding the current political constraints, the caucus wants to lay the foundation now for future success.

This Senate climate “talk-a-thon” could be an important step toward something important – but we’ll need ongoing public pressure to make that happen. Constituents can urge your Senators and Representatives to take action, urge the Obama Administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, and support the EPA’s proposed regulations to cut carbon pollution from new power plants. To support strong power plant standards, you can use Green America’s action through May 9th.

We need everyone’s participation to make climate change a top priority – one that moves from words to actions.

2014 Shareholder Season Sets Record!

2014ProxyPreviewThe current proxy season has set a record with the filing of 417 social and environmental shareholder resolutions urging US companies to improve their policies and practices across a wide range of issues. The majority of resolutions this year focus on climate change issues and on corporate political spending. Other key issues being addressed at shareholder meetings nationally in the months ahead include human rights, toxic chemicals, GMOs, responsible banking, deforestation, and recycling. Green America’s Shareholder Resolution Focus List provides a snapshot of a number of the resolutions investors should support this proxy season. And whether you own direct company stock or not – as consumers there are many Green America actions you can take all year long to improve corporate conduct across all of these issues and more.

The Proxy Preview, published today by As You Sow, provides a detailed review of the resolutions filed this season with updates on their status and information on the broader context in which the resolutions were filed. The Proxy Preview is available free of charge and is an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand the present shareholder resolution landscape.

Investor action on climate change fits in perfectly with Green America’s long-standing focus on addressing the climate crisis. Investors are filing increasing numbers of resolutions that call for: company goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; reports on climate risks; reports on natural gas fracking impacts; and even a resolution at PepsiCo on the elimination from its trucking fleet of fuel from the Canadian tar sands via the Keystone XL pipeline if the pipeline is constructed.

Investors are also taking an interesting approach on GMOs – another major Green America issue campaign. Resolutions at Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Mills, and Kraft Food Groups have been filed to ban the companies from making political contributions – these companies were selected because of their significant financial support for efforts to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives at the state level.

As Andy Behar, CEO of As You Sow, stated: Shareholders today are looking  not at these issues in isolation. Instead, they articulate a systemic critique, pointing out the connections between excessive political spending, inadequate energy policy, the dangers of our changing climate and its damaging impact on water and agriculture, toxic hazards, and how these are related to human rights.”

So vote your proxies when they come in! If you need help deciphering the ballot, Green America can help. We need more shareowners asserting their power to help make crucial changes in corporate America.

State Department on Keystone XL Pipeline: Contributes to Climate Change

KXLLate in the day on Friday, January 31, 2014 the State Department released its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project. The new report contains the important statement that “The total direct and indirect emissions associated with the proposed Project would contribute to cumulative global GHG emissions.” This is a crucial, over-due acknowledgement by the State Department and an important one because President Obama has stated that climate impacts will influence his decision-making on the pipeline: “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest, and our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Unfortunately, the report also states that “approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands….” So advocates both for and against the pipeline are finding support for their positions in the latest governmental report. The report is not definitive in its assessment and is flawed in a number of ways:

• The report fails to capture the full scope of the climate, environmental, economic and health consequences of proceeding with the Keystone XL pipeline. For a more comprehensive understanding of the pipeline’s contributions to the climate crisis read Fail: How the Keystone XL Pipeline Fails the Climate Test.  And for a more truthful assessment of the job creation potential of the pipeline, contrasted with the claims touted by the oil industry, read the Cornell report Pipedreams: Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In addition to the Cornell research, the State Department itself has concluded that ultimately the pipeline would only create merely 35 permanent jobs.

• The report has been issued amidst unresolved conflict of interest charges between the State Department’s research contractor and TransCanada, the pipeline company. The very credibility of the report is in question as highlighted and investigated by Friends of the Earth.

The reasons Green America as well as Nobel laureates, environmentalists, small businesses, ranchers, farmers, physicians, indigenous communities, and many others opposed the pipeline several years ago remain the same:

• The pipeline will exacerbate the climate crisis. The dirty tar sands oil production process alone generates three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude oil generates.

• Tar sands extraction and transport will result in leaks and spills that harm human health, especially in indigenous communities and those along the pipeline route.

• Tar sands extraction and transport will pollute and harm the environment including water, land, forests, air, and wildlife.

• Only 35 permanent jobs will result from the project.

• The pipeline will not increase US energy security because the oil is intended for export from the Gulf of Mexico.

• The sustainable business community opposes the Keystone XL pipeline because it takes our nation in the wrong direction economically and is bad for business over the long term.

• We need to move immediately toward mass investment in clean energy and energy efficiency to secure our energy needs, decrease carbon pollution, and create millions of good domestic jobs.

Hundreds of vigils are taking place nationally today, opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and calling for a clean energy future. We need every American to urge President Obama to live up to his words and to take strong action on climate. The President can be the climate leader the times demand by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline now.