Why We Must Fight Gas-fired Power Plants

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

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The Ban Ki Moon U.N. Climate Summit is shortly coming to New York City. As we march and teach workshops at climate convergences, the media is likely to focus on the story of the Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” moving us away from coal in order to mitigate climate change. The story won’t be told that this plan will do more harm than good, mainly by ignoring methane and enabling a huge move from coal to gas-fired power plants.

The plan also does more harm than good by not regulating CO2 from trash incineration (2.5 times as bad as coal for the climate) and biomass incineration (50% worse), thus encouraging a large-scale conversion to burning everything from trash to trees. Other EPA deregulation efforts allowing waste burning to escape regulation by calling waste a “fuel” are also clearing the way for this toxic, climate-cooking disaster.

A leading researcher for a major fracking corporation recently confided in me that this move from coal to gas will spell disaster for climate change, confirming that if only about 3% of the gas escapes, it’s as bad as burning coal. Actual leakage rates are far higher (4-9% just at the fracking fields and more in pipelines and distribution systems), but it was most interesting to hear this person admit that the industry will never get below that level of leakage to become less harmful than coal.

We now know that methane is 86 to 105 times as potent as CO2 over a 20-year time-frame -- we’re in real trouble if we keep using the outdated “20 times over 100 years” figure EPA maintains, and permit this new generation of gas-burning to be built.

Why is it strategic to focus on the power plants?  Read on…

1) Gas burned for electricity is the largest source of gas demand since 2007. From 1997 to 2013, it more than doubled and is poised to keep growing.

2) Stopping power plants is more winnable than fighting fracking, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, pipelines or compressor stations. Stopping fracking one community at a time isn't a winning strategy when the industry has thousands of communities targeted, and rural neighbors pit against neighboring landowners desperate for lease money. State and regional bans and moratoria have been effective so far, but LNG terminals, pipelines and compressor stations have federal preemption aspects that make them hard to fight through local or state government.

Fighting proposed LNG export terminals also has the "weak link" problem.  Ten years ago, when we were fighting LNG import terminals, there were 40 proposals throughout the U.S., but the industry and government officials admitted they only needed six – two each on the east, west and gulf coasts. Now that they're planning export terminals, there are nearly 30 proposals, and the same dynamic is at play, where the industry has stated in their conferences that they only need two on each coast, after which they'll toss out the rest of their proposals and "let environmentalists take the credit." Cynical as that is, it's not a strategy we can defeat if we're trying to attack gas demand, since it's unlikely we can beat enough to prevent the planned export volumes -- especially due to federal preemption and the clustering of most proposals on the oil- and gas-dominated Gulf Coast, where it's far harder to stop them.

Each gas-fired power plant blocked is a certain amount of gas burning and fracking prevented, while we can stop over 20 LNG terminals without putting a dent in planned export volumes. While work against the LNG export terminals is commendable, it should not be prioritized over stopping the rush to build hundreds of gas-burning power plants.

3) Attacking proposals can only be done in a certain time window, or we're doomed to roughly 30 years of power plant operation and gas demand. Although coal power plants are dirtier to live near, all of the funding and resources being put into closing coal plants while ignoring (or endorsing) new gas power plants, is misguided. Existing power plants can be tackled at any time, but proposals have to be fought when they're proposed, or it's too late. Also, coal production has peaked in the U.S., prices are going up, and gas is undercutting coal. It's effectively illegal to build new coal power plants and the industry is already moving quickly to shut and replace coal. The question is:  will we allow a switch from coal to gas, or force a change to conservation, efficiency, wind and solar?

So, if there are plans for gas-burning power plants in your area, whether it’s a new plant, an expansion or conversion of an existing plant, or reopening of a closed plant, please be in touch so we can plug you in with others who are fighting these. There is strength in numbers!

What the Frack? Scraping the Bottom of the Oil Barrel is Not Good to the Last Drop

- by Mark Robinowitz, PeakChoice.org

The toxic impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas have been subject to public debates, protests, and lawsuits, among other tactics to stop these dangers. But the other half of the fracking story, which has had much less attention, is the exaggeration of recoverable reserves.

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The fracking industry claims shale gas will fuel 100 years worth of USA consumption of “natural” gas. Massive amounts of drilling in the past several years have increased gas production above the 1973 natural gas peak. Gas has significantly increased its share of the electric power grids, lowering coal combustion and helping damper plans for new nuclear reactors.  

One of fracking’s dirty secrets is fracked wells decline far faster than conventional wells. Fracking a well also requires more money, technical talent and resources than conventional wells.  

Two of the three top gas fracking regions in the USA have peaked. Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas has peaked and plateaued. Haynesville in Louisiana and Arkansas has peaked and declined sharply. The largest fracking region -- Marcellus in Pennsylvania -- has not yet peaked and provides nearly a fifth of all USA natural gas. Nationally, about forty percent of natural gas is from fracking.  

Fracking for oil has reversed the decline of USA oil extraction since the 1970 peak. The Bakken shale in North Dakota has fueled wild claims of alleged energy independence and even proposals to export oil to Asia. However, Bakken has not even offset the decline of the Alaska Pipeline, which has dropped three fourths from its 1988 peak and is approaching “low flow” shutdown. Fracking in south Texas has also raised Texan oil production but the state’s peak was still back in 1972 -- a reason huge efforts have been made for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Post Carbon Institute has published reports documenting how fracking estimates have been exaggerated. They were vindicated in May of this year when the Department of Energy admitted plans for oil fracking in the Monterey Shale in California had been exaggerated and downsized the estimated resource by ninety-six percent (96%). Post Carbon’s montereyoil.org website has details.  

We are in a paradox at this time of Peak Everything and Climate Chaos. If we keep burning fossil fuels we will continue to wreck the biosphere, but if we suddenly stopped that would wreck civilization, which could accelerate ecological destruction (how many forests would be burned for electricity, for example). Fossil fuels allowed our population to zoom from under a billion to over seven billion today.

Fracking, deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and tar sands extraction in Canada have delayed gasoline rationing. We are in the eye of the energy crisis hurricane, perhaps for a few more years.

The Limits to Growth study in 1972 predicted peak resources around the turn of the century, followed by peak pollution as dirtier resources were used as higher quality resources were depleted. Fracking, tar sands, mountaintop removal and other desperate destructions seek to maintain the exponential growth economy now that the easier to extract fossil fuels are in decline.  

Using solar energy for two decades taught me that renewable energy could only run a smaller, steady state economy. Our exponential growth economy requires ever increasing consumption of concentrated resources (fossil fuels are more energy dense than renewables). A solar energy society would require moving beyond growth-and-debt based money.

After fossil fuel we will only have solar power, but that won't replace what we use now. We need to abandon the myth of endless growth on a round, and therefore, finite planet to have a planet on which to live.

Humanity does not face the question of whether to use less fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases, since we have reached the limits to energy growth due to geological factors. How we use the remaining fossil fuels as they deplete determines how future generations will live after the fossil fuels are gone. Will we use the second half of the fossil fuels for bigger highways or better trains? Relocalization of food production or more globalization? Resource wars or global cooperation?

Mark Robinowitz is author of “Peak Choice: cooperation or collapse” at PeakChoice.org

Amid Oil and Gas Boom, Colorado Continues Role as Earthquake Lab

- by Kevin Simpson, August  31, 2014,  The Denver Post

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He stepped out the back door and aimed a flashlight at the thick, ancient cottonwood that leans over the roof, expecting to reveal a snapped limb as the culprit. But he circled the house and found nothing amiss.

About a half-mile down the county road, Judy Dunn had been sitting in bed watching TV when she felt her brick ranch house shake and heard the windows rattle, making her wonder if an oil or gas well had blown.

A few miles away in the city, Gail Jackson joined neighbors spilling out into the street, wondering if a plane crash had triggered the big bang and sudden vibration that dissipated as quickly as it arrived.

Marcellus Shale Drillers Under-Reported Waste

- by Anya Litvak and Maxwell Radwin, August 31, 2014, The Post-Gazette

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"252","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"line-height: 20.6719989776611px; width: 333px; height: 287px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]EQT Corp. told the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that it sent 21 tons of drill cuttings from its Marcellus Shale wells to area landfills in 2013.

But landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania told a different story.

Six facilities in this part of the state reported receiving nearly 95,000 tons of drill cuttings and fracking fluid from the Downtown-based oil and gas operator last year.

The landfills' records are the correct ones, said Mike Forbeck, waste management director with the DEP. He said the agency has opened an investigation into drillers' under-reporting of landfill waste.

The EQT case — 21 tons vs. 95,000 tons — may be the most dramatic example of how data submitted by oil and gas operators don't match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP said it has been aware of the problem for "a number of months" and is looking into why the different reporting channels aren't yielding the same results.

Energy Justice Summer: Standing With Communities in the Shalefields

 
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"245","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 310px; height: 242px; margin: 1px 10px; float: left;"}}]]This summer youth have gathered in the shale gas region of Northeastern Pennsylvania to facilitate trainings, compile reports, and to fight for the safety of landowners, workers, and the environment.
 
Energy Justice Summer is based in Susquehanna County in order to directly connect with the community members impacted by shale gas development. The program consists of three working teams: research, education and outreach, and community organizing.
 
Charlotte Lewis, a research team member, Scranton native and student at Lackawanna College said, “Rural communities in Pennsylvania are changing from farmland to gas land. When this source of energy is depleted, what industry will we have left to sustain us?”
 
Lewis and her team members have drafted a socioeconomic impact report focusing on poverty indicators and the decline of farm-related income in rural counties with high-volume drilling.
 
The preliminary findings, based on data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, show that counties free of shale gas wells that use at least 15 percent of their acreage as operating farms earned 13.5 percent more from their commodity sales per farm than those in counties with over 100 wells drilled.
 
The report also explores the rise of free and reduced school lunch eligibility in school districts with high density drilling. For example, according to the PA Department of Education, 5 out of 6 school districts in Susquehanna County have seen an increase in eligibility in the past five years; at the same time, over 950 shale gas wells have been drilled.
 
Another series of reports created by the research team includes the history of environmental violations committed by Shell, a international crude oil & gas company. This will be followed by two more reports focusing on Cabot Oil & Gas, and Chesapeake Energy.
 
Sarita Farnelli, education and outreach team member, and a student who grew up in Dimock, PA said, “Fracking made my family's water undrinkable. I'm still afraid to drink our tap water.”
 
Events hosted by the education and outreach team have included a free water quality monitoring workshop in collaboration with the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring at Dickinson College at Salt Springs State Park. In addition, trainings on environmental violations analysis, regulatory appeals, and community organizing.
 
On top of scheduling workshops in Susquehanna County, the community organizing team has worked with residents of Milford Township, PA to halt the compressor station planned for NiSource's East Side Expansion Project. The 9,400 horsepower compressor would connect the Tennessee and Columbia pipelines and is proposed to be built in the vicinity of local homes, schools, and senior centers—despite the threat of respiratory diseases or cancer contributed by venting emissions.
 
When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to schedule a hearing to answer questions and concerns of local community members, Energy Justice Summer and Clean Air Council teamed up to hold a public hearing on July 9th at the Pike County Public Library in Milford. As a result of this successful meeting, the DEP planned a hearing at 7 pm. on August 18th, at the Delaware Valley High School in Westfall Township.
 
The organizing team has also directed their energy to the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. The Williams Company Inc. extension would connect to the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas export terminal and will cross new territory in Susquehanna, Wyoming, Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon, Lancaster, Clinton and Luzerne counties.
 
Energy Justice Summer Fellows have met with landowners on the pipeline route to distribute information about the FERC regulatory process and landowner rights. The team is scheduling follow-up landowners' meetings in September with residents who may lose building lots, fruit trees, sugar maple groves, timber sales, and pasture land if the pipeline is approved.
 
Spencer Johnson, from Lancaster, PA, writer, and graduate of Franklin and Marshall College said, “There are a lot of stories and articles about fracking, but to be here on the frontlines, to be in it...the people we are working with are our friends, we want our friends to be protected.”
 
Johnson has written a series of stories based on the testimonials from residents whose health and livelihood have been effected by unconventional shale gas infrastructure, in collaboration with a professional photographer and videographer, Max Grudzinski and Crystal Vander Weit. An interactive web project featuring the stories, photos, and videos of Johnson's team is currently being designed.
 
The team of Energy Justice Summer also includes: Adam Hasz, Alex Lotorto, Allison Petryk, Collin Rees, and Maria Langholz. Energy Justice Summer is a joint project between Energy Justice Network and SustainUs. Energy Justice Network is a non-profit organization committed to providing resources to grassroots organizing groups battling environmental degradation throughout the nation. SustainUS is an internationally-networked nonprofit organization dedicated to offering tools of social and environmental justice to further young peoples' goals toward sustainable development.

Behind the Colorado Fracking Betrayal

- by Joel Dyer, August 7, 2014, Boulder Weekly
 
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"233","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 355px; height: 266px; float: left; margin: 3px 10px;","title":"Photo: OccupyCorporatism.com"}}]]So what went wrong with ballot measures 88 and 89? How could these popular citizen’s initiatives written to give local communities more control over drilling and fracking in their neighborhoods have failed to get on the ballot?
 
Well, the first mistake Colorado citizens made was they trusted a politician, Congressman Jared Polis, to help them with their cause. Polis formed a green-sounding organization, which wrote ballot initiatives 88 and 89 and paid the signature gatherers for their amazing efforts, which culminated in more than 260,000 signatures being gathered, more than enough to put both measures before the voters in November.
 
In fact, Polis was so effective in his efforts that his organization sucked up all the anti-fracking energy in the state, causing other local-control ballot measures which were written and put forward by actual grassroots activists to be withdrawn. They couldn’t compete with Polis’ money or his organization. And why should they compete, they all wanted the same thing, right?
 
And so began the Polis show. And what a show it turned out to be.

2014: The Year of the Smokestack Smackdown [Energy Justice Now, August 2014]

Prepare yourself for the August issue of Energy Justice Network's new publication, Energy Justice Now!

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"231","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"274","style":"width: 333px; height: 203px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"450"}}]]- "2014 a Banner Year for Victories"

- "Derailing NYC Trash Train in Chester, PA"

- "Vermont Yankee: Out of the Fission and Into the Fire?"

...and more!!!

Please share the August 2014 issue of Energy Justice Now with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials!

Subscribe to monthly email issues of Energy Justice Now here.

Vermont Yankee: Out of the Fission and Into the Fire?

- by Ann Darling, The Safe and Green Campaign

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"230","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 288px; height: 229px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]The Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in southeastern Vermont will close in December of this year after operating for over 40 years. The owner, Entergy Nuclear, is based in New Orleans and is the second largest nuclear power company in the U.S.

As a member of the Safe and Green Campaign, which is made up of activists who live close to the nuke and whose homeland is the most in harm’s way, I have witnessed some pretty dirty tactics to keep this particular form of dirty energy going. The litany of problems and deceit seemed never to end – a transformer fire, rotted cooling towers flooding the site with water, tritium leaks, lies under oath, multiple lawsuits, regulatory complicity and deafness, the silencing of the Vermont legislature, state inaction on the heating of the Connecticut River, bargaining in back rooms with the Governor to make a deal with an acknowledged devil (Entergy), the challenge to democracy embodied in federal law that says only “experts” can understand or address nuclear safety issues. And that’s not all, by far.

But now Vermont Yankee is closing. Music to my ears? Well, for a few moments we celebrated. We celebrated our role in supporting the State of Vermont to enact legislation to take some control back for the state, and in the ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit between Entergy and Vermont. We celebrated the organizing of many meaningful and fun actions that mobilized thousands. We celebrated not having to go to any more Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearings that just left us angry and incredulous (I have to admit I enjoyed scolding the young NRC staffer about not cleaning up after himself and leaving all the radioactive waste in an incredibly vulnerable pool of water.)

Yankee said it closed because it was no longer profitable to operate due to the cheap cost of natural gas. OK, I can accept that. And I also know that the millions of dollars Entergy had to spend on lawsuits and security, and the bad press they got, also played an important role that we are very proud of.

But now back to reality. Yankee has been a large employer in our rural area, and it has paid very high salaries and supported lots of local non-profits. Its closing will have a major impact on a local economy that is already weak. Entergy has promised $10 million over five years for economic development, and there are a lot of competing ideas for that money. The Safe and Green Campaign, among others, will be here to watchdog the decommissioning process, and two of our members have been nominated to a state panel that will be closely involved in overseeing that.

People are scared. Fear can make it hard to think through things well. They are scared about what’s going to happen with property values and small businesses already hanging on by a very thin thread. They have a fundamental disquiet with developing many small power generating facilities that use solar and wind. They believe they need big facilities to generate enough power. And they don’t seem to really take conservation and efficiency seriously.

Now there’s a proposal to use the VY site for biomass with a tie in to a natural gas pipeline that’s trying to go through just south in Massachusetts. Lots of people are jumping at this like it’s actually the answer to everything. (Remember what I said about what being scared does to us?) After all, there are heavy duty transmission lines there, a railroad running right by the front gates, a well-established lumber industry, a river, an interstate. For four decades we’ve been living with the insanity of boiling water with radioactivity to generate electricity. We don’t think replacing that by burning biomass and emitting particulates and greenhouse gases, pressuring our beautiful forests, and burning more fracked gas makes any more sense than nuclear. As my friend Leslie said, “Bye-bye locally grown, truly green energy development. Hello, huge facility owned by yet another conglomerate of corporate investors.”

The Safe and Green Campaign has always had to emphasize the “safe” part of our work because we have been living under the pall of catastrophe for so long. But our banner doesn’t have a “No Nukes” symbol on it. It has an iconic picture of the sun’s glorious rays, and we need to shift our balance more and more to the “green” part of our work. Now we need to educate ourselves even more about all the ways to produce sustainable energy, and tap into our allies who helped create Vermont’s progressive plan for developing renewable energy. We need to be able to make sense to the people who are scared, with good reason, about our communities’ survival. We have been reaching out to the local 350.org group and others, and that’s good. We need to keep reaching out and take it as far up and across the power “food chain” as we can. This isn’t a “one site at a time” issue. It’s a national and international travesty that will send us to climate catastrophe if we don’t all work together.

July issue of Energy Justice Now: Building Movement Solidarity

Are you ready for the July issue of Energy Justice Network's new publication, Energy Justice Now?!
 
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"185","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"120","style":"width: 355px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; height: 170px;","width":"250"}}]]-"Why Solidarity is Needed More Than Ever between Coal, Gas and Incinerator Fighters"
 
 
 
...and more!!!
 
Please share the July 2014 issue of Energy Justice Now with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials!
 
Subscribe to monthly email issues of Energy Justice Now here.