Monthly Archives: December 2015

California’s gas leak is doing 7 million cars’ worth of climate damage

Natural gas has been pouring into a Los Angeles neighborhood since October 23. It’s considered to be the biggest environmental disaster since the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. It could be months before the methane leak is stopped. An estimate of the impact on climate change (methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, stronger than carbon dioxide) has been equated to driving seven million cars FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS.

David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

Read more.

​Utilities under pressure to fix leaky gas pipes

​This story by Christian M. Wade​,​ Statehouse Reporter​, was printed in the 12/26/15 edition of the Salem News. ​​Representative Lori ​Ehrlich file​d​ ​a ​bill to prevent utilities from passing ​the ​bulk of costs​ of gas leaks​ on to ratepayers​. ​A Harvard University study​ revealed that the cost of these leaks is $90,000,000 a year. Also, the effect of​ natural gas escaping into the atmosphere contributes to climate change, since methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.​

BOSTON — Utilities are under growing pressure from lawmakers and environmental groups to plug tens of thousands of leaks in aging underground gas pipelines, some of which are decades old.
An interactive map of leaks[NOTE: as reported by th​​e​ various​​​ local utilit​ies​ on ​2/26/2015​] throughout the state posted by a Cambridge nonprofit group, the Home Energy Efficiency Team, pinpoints tends of thousands of leaks, some of them major. The map uses data provided by National Grid, Eversource, Columbia Gas and other providers.
A law passed last year requires the utilities to track and grade all gas leaks on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being most serious, and immediately repair the most hazardous. The law also requires utilities to share the information with the public.
Read more.

2-26-15 map of gas leaks in Salem MA

The map of leaks in Salem, as reported by th​​e​ local utilit​y​ on ​2/26/2015​. Go to HEET’s website (Home Energy Efficiency Team) for a more detailed look at Salem’s map, and those of other communities.

ENERGY: Solar’s fate rests with Legislature

[President Obama signed an important bill on Friday that extends federal solar tax credits for five more years. Also, in 2014, Massachusetts ranked fourth of the top 10 solar states in the country. Because solar energy is so popular here, net metering caps have been raised three times so that consumers can count on the utilities having to buy back their excess solar-produced electricity. However, the hurdles still in the way of the net-metering issue still need to be solved; and that solution will open the floodgates on large-scale, freestanding solar projects.]

solar panel

From Salem Gazette correspondent, Shelley A. Sackett:

Solar legislation uncertain
The problem with this seemingly perfect green scenario is the future of the state’s net metering policy is anything but settled, as House and Senate lawmakers toil to update the state’s energy laws.

“The solar industry will have the lobbying muscle to protect itself,” said Sanborn in any upcoming legislative debate.

Last August, the House passed Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed H.B. 3724 (“An Act Relative to a Long-term, Sustainable Solar Industry”), which looks to lift and expand the cap on solar net metering and protect ratepayers, and provide long-term stability to the solar industry.

The bill would immediately expand the net metering cap by 40 percent for public entities and 50 percent for private entities and empowers the Department of Public Utilities to further raise the cap “when it is in the public interest to do so.”

The biggest boon for those trying to plan for long-range projects is the grandfathering of all solar generators already receiving net metering credit for the next 20 years.

The bill now sits in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, which continues to hear testimony from scores of witnesses on all sides of the issue, from National Grid to Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and dozens of renewable energy proponents.

Mass Power Forward, a brand-new, statewide coalition dedicated to fighting for a just transition to clean energy, advocates modernizing the power grid and empowering “everyday people” to access locally generated power. Among its 90 members are HealthLink, Ipswich Watershed Association, ICARE, GASSP and other local groups.
While House leaders have said they are holding out hope of completing a more comprehensive energy bill, most observers are skeptical that will happen.

This uncertainty affects everyone, from energy consulting firms trying to plan large-scale projects to municipal electric utilities, to large investor-owned utilities, solar panel installers and, of course, the consumer.

Opening the solar floodgates
According to Donald E. Bowen and Richard E. Waitt Jr., principals of Beverly’s Meridian Associates, settling the net-metering issue will open the floodgates on large-scale, freestanding solar projects.

Read more.

5 Climate And Clean Energy Charts From 2015 You Need To See

It’s good to finally start hearing some good news about the climate. The big question, of course, is if we can make enough of a difference in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. Note that a few of these charts do not bear good news.

Think Progress contributor Joe Romm, on 

My candidate for the top solutions chart of the year comes from a November DOE report, “Revolution…Now The Future Arrives for Five Clean Energy Technologies.” It shows the stunning progress core clean energy technologies have made in the last several years as accelerated deployment created economies of scale and brought technologies rapidly down the learning curve.


See the rest of the charts.

Fossil Fuel Stocks Tumble, Renewable Energy Stocks Soar

From Common Dreams contributor, Lauren McCauley on December 16, 2015; an almost immediate reaction on the Stock Market the day after the climate agreement:

Fossil fuel stocks tumbled while renewable energy soared on Monday, the first day of trading after global leaders cemented their landmark climate pact in Paris.

Under the agreement, countries have pledged to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to keep global warming beneath 1.5 degrees Celsius. And it is clear the fossil fuel industry is feeling the heat…

…“Pace is now the key word for climate,” said co-founder Bill McKibben after the agreement was finalized. “Not where we’re going, but how fast we’re going there. Pace—velocity, speed, rate, momentum, tempo. That’s what matters from here on in.”


Caption: The first day of trading after global leaders cemented their landmark climate pact in Paris, it is clear the fossil fuel industry is feeling the heat. Photo credit: Pieter Morlion / Flickr

[Read the entire article]

Report warns rising seas, erosion threaten coast

rising_seas(Salem News file photo)

North Shore communities, in particular, are losing coastline to erosion from rising seas and storm surges.


From the Salem News, Thursday, December 17, 2015
By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter
In Essex County, more than $100 billion is at risk…
New England coastal waters are rising at an annual rate three to four times faster than the global average, according to the state Office of Coastal Zone Management, which attributes the trend largely to climate change exacerbated by human activity…
Many communities are already feeling the impact. Plum Island — which bears the brunt of erosion in the North Shore — has lost about 100 feet of beach to the sea in the last 20 years, the report says. The problem has been exacerbated by recent storms that have destroyed homes, though local officials suggest that the sand isn’t eroding but shifting to other areas…
In Ipswich, Crane Beach loses about 4.6 feet a year, while Swampscott’s Phillips Beach loses 2 feet a year, according to the report…
     In Essex County…only 46 percent of the region’s 150 miles of coastline is protected with man-made barriers.
Read the article.

What Does a Climate Deal Mean for the World?

Various New York Times writers and contributors reflect on how this deal will help the environment, or at least slow down climate change; and how it will affect world economies. [Thank you, SAFE Board Member Kathy Karch for finding this article.]

A group of 195 nations reached a landmark climate agreement on Saturday. Here is what it means for the planet, business and other areas.

Environmental activists and supporters at a rally in Los Angeles last week called for action on climate change. CreditMark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JUSTIN GILLIS: “…some of the consequences of an overheated planet might be avoided, or at least slowed, if the climate deal succeeds in reducing emissions. At the least, by requiring regular reviews, the deal lays a foundation for stronger action in the future…”

MELISSA EDDY: “It could aid the economies in technologically innovative places like the United States and Japan; create economic stars out of relatively poor countries with an abundance of sun and wind for renewable energy; or leave developing countries that are slow to adjust with an energy disadvantage…
“There will be greater emphasis on more efficient electrical products, homes and vehicles. Jobs could be created through the construction of a new energy infrastructure… Or, as Republicans warn, Americans could see a loss in jobs and American economic competitiveness, as developing economies with less stringent targets are allowed to grow at American’s expense…”

SEWELL CHAN: “The environment has not typically played a major role in voters’ choices, and the issue will most likely be overshadowed in the current election cycle by fears of terrorism, though the drought in California and severe weather in many parts of the country have raised concerns for many Americans…”

STANLEY REED: “The ambitious targets included in Saturday’s deal for limiting the rise in global temperatures may help companies involved in renewable energy and energy efficiency by expanding their markets…”