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A Poorly Designed Boondoggle 

(CJ) Jonathan A. Lesser, March 7, 2023 

New York State’s scheme to reduce carbon emissions overreaches, removing any theoretical advantages.

Last December, New York’s Climate Action Council released its Final Scoping Plan, an all-encompassing proposal to cut the state’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050. The 400-page regulatory framework would introduce new, sweeping rules across the state, including one scheme that would particularly harm the state’s economy.

New York officials have announced several climate initiatives in recent years. The state already has banned the sale of new internal combustion cars and light trucks beginning in 2035. As governor, Andrew Cuomo mandated construction of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by that same year. New York City already has banned natural gas in new commercial buildings, while Governor Kathy Hochul has urged the legislature to enact a state-wide ban on the sale of residential fossil fuel space- and water-heating equipment beginning in 2025, as well as on the use of gas stoves in new construction.

New York also participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which regulates carbon emissions from electric generators in 12 participating eastern states. The basic idea is that the states establish a ceiling on carbon emissions, called allowances, that they can buy and sell in a marketplace as needed.

A cap-and-trade program theoretically reduces emissions at the lowest possible cost. Those who can reduce emissions cheaply will do so, then sell their “surplus” allowances to those for whom purchasing allowances is cheaper than reducing their own emissions. Several such programs within the Clean Air Act have effectively curtailed emissions of sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen from power plants. Such initiatives have proved much less costly than command-and-control regulations that force individual power plants to reduce emissions of those pollutants, regardless of cost.

But New York’s “cap-and-invest” program, as proposed in the Scoping Plan, will go far beyond any established cap-and-trade scheme, removing these theoretical advantages. First, the governor intends to apply this approach to all sectors of the state’s economy, including, eventually, agriculture. That means that farmers will eventually have to pay for methane emissions from their livestock. The program will ratchet down the available allowances supposedly to zero by 2050, the year when the state is supposed to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Second, how much money will be collected from carbon-emitters—including gas and electric utilities, wholesale sellers of petroleum products, propane distributors, and cement manufacturers—will depend on the caps themselves. The more stringent the caps, the more money will be garnished from businesses that cannot meet them. Given the state’s overall annual carbon emissions of around 200 million metric tons, the amounts to be collected will almost certainly be in the billions of dollars each year.

Where will the money go? For decades, New York leaders have directed money to their political allies, and the temptation toward cronyism has not gone away. The plan states that at least 35 percent of the funds collected will be distributed to “disadvantaged communities,” though the characteristics of such communities remain undefined. It also proposes to direct various subsidies to energy-intensive businesses that might otherwise leave the state because of higher costs for energy and other inputs, but it doesn’t explain how it will demarcate energy-intensive industries.

How will the state treat imports? If a business purchases heating oil from a New York company, the cost of carbon allowances will be embedded in the sale price. But if the business purchases heating oil from a Pennsylvania company, attempting to levy a carbon tax on such imports will raise constitutional issues regarding interstate commerce. And other imports, such as goods manufactured outside the state using fossil-fuel energy, may pose issues as well.

Read More: City Journal

Another dead whale spotted in Far Rockaway, as ‘unusual mortality event’ continues on East Coast

(Gothamist) Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky, February 19, 2023

Another dead whale has washed ashore, this time in Far Rockaway. The 25-foot adult female minke whale was spotted Friday morning on the sand near Beach 29th Street.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say it’s the 12th whale to come ashore on New York and New Jersey beaches since Dec. 1. Another whale was spotted just days ago in New Jersey on Feb. 14.

The whale appears to have died from a vessel strike, said Allison Ferreira of the NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.

“The animal had several broken bones and cut wounds across its body that appear to have occurred prior to death,” she said in a written statement. “There was additional evidence of blunt-force trauma.”

At the beach on Friday, staff from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation were on the scene. The area around the dead whale had been cordoned off with emergency tape. The juvenile was lying on its belly in the surf and had several deep gouges across its body.

“We mourn the loss of this awe-inspiring creature,” said Izzy Verdery, press officer for the parks department. Verdery added that the agency was working with NOAA, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to investigate and dispose of the whale’s corpse.

Read More: Gothamist

Dumping 1M gallons of radioactive water in Hudson is ‘best option,’ per Indian Point nuclear plant owner

Gothamist, Rosemary Misdary, February 19, 2023

The owner of the defunct Indian Point nuclear facility says it’s planning to dump about 1 million gallons of radioactive water into the Hudson River. The move, which the company describes as the “best option” for the waste, could happen as early as August.

A Feb. 2 meeting of the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board heated up when the plant’s owner Holtec International disclosed the plan as part of its lengthy closure process. The contaminated water could just naturally — and safely — decay in storage onsite.

Environmental groups and residents are also concerned this could harm their community, as the Hudson River is already a federally designated toxic Superfund site. Rich Burroni, Holtec’s site vice president for Indian Point, agreed to give the community at least a month’s notice before any radioactive discharge into the Hudson River begins.

But Holtec is well within its legal rights and permits to discharge waste at the same rate as it did when operating, and it does not need federal, state or local approval to dump the contaminated water. This practice is standard for nuclear plants.

Nearly two years have passed since Indian Point shut down its third and final reactor in the village of Buchanan, located on the Hudson’s east bank about 30 miles north of Midtown. Toward the end of its 59-year lifespan, the plant had more than a 2,000 megawatt capacity — providing electricity to more than 2 million homes, or 13% of the state’s power demand.

Holtec received about $2.4 billion in funds, shouldered by ratepayers, to decommission the plant. And it wants to do so in 12 years, which is in accordance with town’s wishes to repurpose the site. But Holtec and the surrounding community are still debating what to do with Indian Point’s radioactive remnants.

Read More: Gothamist

Cause found in Keystone Pipeline’s massive oil leak

(ABC) Bill Hutchinson, February 10, 2023

The leak was detected on Dec. 7 in Washington County Kansas.

A spill of more than 500,000-gallons of crude oil from the Keystone Pipeline in December in Kansas was caused by a combination of a faulty weld and “bending stress fatigue” on the pipe, the conduit’s operator announced Thursday.

TC Energy, the pipeline’s Canadian operator, said the cause was determined by an independent lab analysis on the failed section of the 2,687-mile conduit.

“Although welding inspection and testing were conducted within applicable codes and standards, the weld flaw led to a crack that propagated over time as a result of bending stress fatigue, eventually leading to an instantaneous rupture,” TC Energy said in a statement.

The faulty weld in a fitting girth connecting two sections of pipe “was completed at a fabrication facility,” TC Energy said.

Read More: ABC

‘Workers Know the Truth’ About the Derailment Disaster – Why Are They Being Ignored?

(Work-Bites) Bob Hennelly, February 9, 2023

Throughout the recent hazardous chemical freight train derailment in Ohio and the four-day ordeal that followed while the flaming wreck was stabilized, the one perspective that was consistently missing from the reporting was that of the union railroad workers. It didn’t matter if it was the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Associated Press , the reporting relied on interviews with local, state and federal officials as well as statements from the Norfolk Southern, the rail carrier but not the perspective of their union workers.

It was as if robots and AI were already driving the train. The entire narrative of the cataclysm was framed by officials and the corporation whose malfunctioning train was now putting workers and the community in life-threatening jeopardy. The derailment played out in the rural borderland of Ohio and Pennsylvania requiring both states to activate an emergency evacuation response.

On Friday evening, the tranquility of East Palestine, Ohio, with a population of 4,761 people, was upended when a Norfolk Southern train with 150 cars in tow, derailed sparking a conflagration that inundated the area with toxic smoke. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 20 of the cars in train were carrying hazardous materials. 

The U.S. EPA had to start monitoring the air for carbon monoxide, oxygen hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, and hydrogen chloride. Throughout the weekend, firefighters did their best to keep the disabled tanker cars cool as some of the hazardous cargo burned off. The local fire chief told reporters he was concerned about the presence of  vinyl chloride, a colorless, toxic, and flammable gas.

“If you are in this red zone that is on the map and you refuse to evacuate, you are risking death,” Pennsylvania’s Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) warned. “If you are within the orange area on this map, you risk permanent lung damage within a matter of hours or days.”           

Read More: Work-bites

Air pollution cancer breakthrough will rewrite the rules

(CNN) James Gallagher, September 11, 2022

Researchers say they have cracked how air pollution leads to cancer, in a discovery that completely transforms our understanding of how tumours arise.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute in London showed that rather than causing damage, air pollution was waking up old damaged cells.

One of the world’s leading experts, Prof Charles Swanton, said the breakthrough marked a “new era”.

And it may now be possible to develop drugs that stop cancers forming.

The findings could explain how hundreds of cancer-causing substances act on the body.

The classical view of cancer starts with a healthy cell. It acquires more and more mutations in its genetic code, or DNA, until it reaches a tipping point. Then it becomes a cancer and grows uncontrollably.

But there are problems with this idea: cancerous mutations are found in seemingly healthy tissue, and many substances known to cause cancer – including air pollution – don’t seem to damage people’s DNA.

So what is going on?

The researchers have produced evidence of a different idea. The damage is already there in our cell’s DNA, picked up as we grow and age, but something needs to pull the trigger that actually makes it cancerous.

The discovery came from exploring why non-smokers get lung cancer. The overwhelming majority of lung cancers are caused by smoking but still, one in 10 cases in the UK is down to air pollution.

The Crick scientists focused on a form of pollution called particulate matter 2.5 (known as PM2.5), which is far smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Source: BBC News

Can an urban agriculture plan cultivate NYC’s community gardens?

(CURBED NEW YORK) Caroline Spivack, January 30, 2022

nOn a recent Saturday afternoon, Iyeshima Harris surveyed the bounty of an urban farm on a Brooklyn block with more greenery than buildings: rows of Swiss chard and collard greens, trellises wrapped with long bean vines, and fig trees drooping with fruit. 

Harris is the project director of East New York Farms, which operates three urban farms and a garden, along with nurturing a network of 40 community gardens in the neighborhood. Several of its growers sell produce at the organization’s market just outside of one of its plots, dubbed UCC Youth Farm (after United Community Centers, the nonprofit that operates ENYF⁠), which is the only place in East New York where residents can find local and organic produce. The half-acre grow space on Schenck Avenue produced 7,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables last year, much of which went back into the farmers market.

“We’re a neighborhood that doesn’t have a lot of access to healthy, fresh food, so the community tries to fend for themselves with the gardens,” Harris says. She grew up in Jamaica, but has lived in New York City for much of her life, and has spent that time teaching her neighbors how to grow produce.

Source: Curbed New York

Biden Subsidies Could Prop Up Liquid Natural Gas Industry

(THE INTERCEPT) Alleen Brown, June 22, 2021

THE LIQUID NATURAL gas industry is angling for cash from the Biden administration to help green its image abroad. The grants and subsidies are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industry infrastructure by helping LNG firms build out and modify planned export hubs using carbon capture technology — a controversial approach among climate experts, many of whom view it as “greenwashing,” putting an environmentally friendly patina on climatically dangerous energy efforts.

Critics say any federal supports that prop up the growing U.S. LNG industry will doom efforts to reach international goals to contain the climate crisis. Even with carbon capture attached, LNG remains a polluting fossil fuel. Recent research suggests that for the goals of the Paris climate agreement to be met, planned LNG terminals either must be canceled or must shut down before the end of the new facilities’ lives, leaving billions of dollars in stranded assets. Adding expensive carbon capture infrastructure would only add new financial and political incentives to allow the industry to continue shipping natural gas — imperiling the possibility of meeting the Paris goals.“There is no amount of money that you can plow into these technologies where they’re actually going to contribute positively to addressing climate change.”

Source: https://theintercept.com/2021/06/21/biden-lng-subsidies-fossil-fuel-climate/

New Record: More than 2 Million Acres of California Burned

(TIME) JASMINE AGUILERA , September 9, 2020

More than 2 million acres of land have been burned by wildfires in California as of Monday, according to state fire agency Cal Fire, surpassing the all-time record of 1.9 million set in 2018. Cal Fire and climate scientists predict that the number of acres burned this year will continue to grow with upcoming weather conditions, including continued heat and offshore winds.

“This is crazy. We haven’t even got into the October and November fire season and we’ve broken the all-time record,” Cal Fire Capt. Richard Cordova told CNN on Sunday.

A Monday statement by Cal Fire said it and fire departments across the state remain prepared for potentially more significant wildfires due to critical fire weather.

In a Friday tweet, climate scientist Daniel Swain of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, predicted Monday’s new record. He tells TIME the prediction was not very impressive “since we were 95% of the way there on Friday.”

Source: https://time.com/5886622/record-wildfires-california-climate-change/

US Corporations a Driving Force Behind ‘Unprecedented Wave’ of Global Land Privatization: Report

(COMMON DREAMS) July 18, 2020

A study released Tuesday by the Oakland Institute details an “unprecedented wave of privatization of natural resources that is underway around the world”—one that is largely being driven by the United States and its allies.

According to the progressive think tank’s report (pdf), “Driving Dispossession: The Global Push to Unlock the Economic Potential of Land,” governments around the world—particularly in developing countries—are often put under pressure by financial institutions and Western agencies to open up land for so-called “productive use” by miners, agribusiness interests, and other corporate entities intent on exploiting natural resources for profit.

The U.S. in particular, the report says, is a “key player in an unfettered offensive to privatize land around the world.”

With deforestation and fossil fuel extraction helping to fuel the climate crisis, governments are being pushed in a direction that’s “just the opposite of the drastic shift we need to win the struggle against climate change,” Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute and lead author of the report, said in a statement.

“Most of the land on our planet, especially in the Global South, is public land or land held under customary tenure systems [and] is seen as an obstacle to exploitation and economic growth,” Mousseau said.

The Oakland Institute included in its report six case studies in Ukraine, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil, finding that global land privatization is often directly driven by U.S. interests.

Source: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/07/14/us-corporations-driving-force-behind-unprecedented-wave-global-land-privatization?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=twitter