Maine offshore wind project still faces money hurdles, despite federal grant

Maine recently received $3.7 million to develop a floating, deep-water wind farm, but needs much more than that to get the project going. Their goal is to win the full $47 million grant from the DOE, which would attract enough private investors to finance the $100 million project. [This article is from November, 2015; if anyone has an update on the status of the grant for Maine, it would be greatly appreciated if they could pass that information along].

From Portland Press Herald contributor, Tux Turkel:

“Clearly, some good news came out today,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “But we don’t know yet how good the news is.”

Payne and others were reacting Monday to word from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King that the Department of Energy is committing additional money to the Maine Aqua Ventus project.

Led by a University of Maine partnership, Maine Aqua Ventus had been competing with demonstration projects in other states for a $47 million grant, but was passed over last year in favor of ventures in New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon. Instead, Maine got $3 million to continue engineering and design work.

Read more (the Portland Press Herald may require a subscription if 10 articles have already been read).


The prototype Volturn US generates power off the coast of Castine. The prototype is a one-eighth-scale model of the floating turbines to be used in a full-scale pilot wind farm planned for deep water off Monhegan Island. 2013 Associated Press File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty


Flint, Michigan: Did race and poverty factor into water crisis?

Michael Moore states that, while the lead poisoning of thousands of children was probably not premeditated, the “less expensive” course of action was taken by officials because it was known the poverty-stricken citizens of the mostly black city of Flint, Michigan would probably not fight back politically or legally.

From CNN contributor, Michael Martinez, and activist/filmmaker, Michael Moore:

The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, has so outraged community advocates that they now pose a powerful question: Was the city neglected because it is mostly black and about 40% poor?

Several advocates say yes. They charge that Flint residents are victims of “environmental racism” — that is, race and poverty factored into how Flint wasn’t adequately protected and how its water became contaminated with lead, making the tap water undrinkable.

Flint water crisis: AG seeks to avoid conflict of interest

“Would more have been done, and at a much faster pace, if nearly 40 percent of Flint residents were not living below the poverty line? The answer is unequivocally yes,” the NAACP said in a statement.

Others go further.

“While it might not be intentional, there’s this implicit bias against older cities — particularly older cities with poverty (and) majority-minority communities,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who represents the Flint area.

“It’s hard for me to imagine the indifference that we’ve seen exhibited if this had happened in a much more affluent community,” he said.

For the record, Flint is 57% black, 37% white, 4% Latino and 4% mixed race; more than 41% of its residents live below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census.

Read more and watch the CNN video.

michael moore on flint michigan aired on CNN

US Senate says climate change not caused by humans

Thank you SAFE member, Nancy Gilberg, for pointing out this story. It’s disturbing that so many elected officials don’t understand basic science.

From Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The Senate rejected the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, days after NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared 2014 the hottest year ever recorded on Earth.

The Republican-controlled Senate defeated a measure Wednesday stating that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, offered the measure as the Senate debated the Keystone XL pipeline, which would tap the carbon-intensive oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta.

The Senate voted 50-49 on the measure, which required 60 votes in order to pass.

“Only in the halls of Congress is this a controversial piece of legislation,” Schatz said.

Read more.

Inhofe is greeted by a reporter

U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) (C) is greeted by a reporter as he arrives for the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 13, 2015.


Obama Just Got Very Good News About His Environmental Policies From A Federal Court

Two bits of good news in the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency case (where the EPA is being charged with breaking the law when it sought to lower greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants). There is still no guarantee that the EPA will win, but the environmental community was happy to hear that two of the three judges who will hear the case are Democratic appointees. The parties that members of a judicial panel belong to has been shown in other cases to make a great deal of difference, especially for judges on the DC Circuit. EPA opponents also sought a delay, but were not granted it (a delay would have meant the emissions could have gone on for years).


“​At the very least, the fact that Democrats enjoy a majority on the West Virginia panel suggests that the EPA rules will not receive the same questionable treatment that Obamacare received in the Halbig case. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the EPA will prevail in the DC Circuit — or that the Supreme Court will not get involved if it does. But the environmental community undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the identity of the judges assigned to this case.​​”

Read more.

Look at this wonderful blog post from the National Wildlife Federation…

The survival of many species has been challenged by climate change. It’s really good news to hear that the National Wildlife Foundation is not only advocating for all the species gone (and all those that still may yet be lost), but also for renewable energy power sources as a possible solution for global warming/species extinction. A replacement by renewable energy sources of fossil fuels could completely change the mix that is destroying our planet.

From National Wildlife Foundation contributor, Amber Hewitt:

On Thursday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will give his State of the Commonwealth address. He’ll reflect on the successes and challenges of 2015 and lay out his vision for the year ahead. Given the highly anticipated energy debate unfolding on Beacon Hill, we’ll be listening extra closely to his words on the Commonwealth’s energy challenges. There is no shortage of debate surrounding which energy sources should power our economy into the future. Gov. Baker’s words will underscore where his Administration stands in the critical energy conversation underway.

Read more.

national wildlife federation

Study: Gulf of Maine warming faster than thought

wpdms_nasa_topo_gulf_of_maineA new study shows that the waters in the Gulf of Maine, (which a previous study showed to be warming faster than 99.9 percent of the rest of the Earth’s oceans), are warming at an even faster rate than previously thought. The gulf sits at the intersection of two currents: the warmer water in the shifting Gulf Stream on the south and the colder water in the Arctic and Labrador streams to the north and east. Less of the colder water is entering the gulf, while more of the warmer water from the south is. The warming trend could result in a rise of 4 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 80 years. This would result in catastrophic changes in the region’s ecosystem. For example, the cod population would be dramatically affected, since their normal habitat is in colder water temperatures.

From Sean Horgan, Salem News Staff Writer:

“The Gulf of Maine is really being subjected to a one-two punch,” said Vincent Saba, a NOAA Fisheries scientist and lead author of the study. “On one hand, the region is dealing with the elements of global warming being experienced in all of the oceans, but there also has been a change in the circulation of the two gulf streams that feed into the Gulf of Maine.”

The result, according to Saba, is that more of the warmer water contained in the shifting Gulf Stream is making its way into the Gulf of Maine from the south, while less of the colder water from the Arctic and Labrador streams are entering the gulf from the north and east.

“The Gulf of Maine really sits at the intersection of those two currents,” Saba said.

(map source: Wikipedia, Gulf of Maine)

Read more.


​This ​blog post is from 2014, but explains in detail why there is currently so much controversy over raising the upper limits on how much the utilities have to pay back to consumers who have solar installations on their homes/companies (“net metering”). Energy from solar power is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. The utilities claim that this causes them to lose revenue, and to pay for their general expenses, they’ll have to pass higher rates on to consumers who don’t have solar panels. The Koch brothers, Edison Electric, and other groups that represent the industry side of the utility business have gone so far as to say solar homeowners should be taxed for the utilities’ lost revenue. However, this article makes the case for raising the caps on net metering, and thereby incentivize the solar industry to expand even more.

From contributor Evan Leonard​ in​ The Artisan Blog (for Artisan Electric)​, June 23, 2014:

Argument #1: Rooftop solar causes utilities to lose revenue and pass those costs to non-solar ratepayers.

Several studies have come out over the last few years proving this claim to be false. Studies in California, New York, Vermont and Texas all show that utilities actually make money in the long run when their ratepayers install solar, and do not shift costs to non-solar ratepayers even in the short term.

Argument #2: Too much solar creates an unstable grid.

Again, the opposite turns out to be true. In fact, net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.

Read the original blog post.

eversource bidirectional meter

(diagram from Eversource)

Environmental Damage Is Bad Enough To Create A New Geologic Period

There has been scientific debate for more than ten years if the changes humans have been making to the planet actually comprise a new name-worthy geologic time period. A new study indicates that is indeed so.

From contributor Alejandro Davila Fragoso on 1/7/16:

Waters and other authors of the study — which gathered data from multiple other studies — said the amount of data available identifies various so-called signatures that can be found worldwide in a similar time and scale. This makes the case for the Anthropocene and its proposed starting date compelling, some authors said.

“It’s the things like the novel materials we’ve seen in the last 60 years,” said Waters, a principal geologist at the British Geological Survey. “It’s the way that the atmospheric geochemistry, the CO2 and the methane (have) changed dramatically in the last 60 years. It’s the general contamination from nitrates and phosphates, heavy metals, all the things that we looked at seem to show a very dramatic change in the mid 20th century.”

Read more.


Graph based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey. CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS


The logging prevented in an average conservation project simply moves to an unprotected area. As a result, this kind of conservation effort is becoming ineffective, especially as it relates to preserving the earth’s rainforests to mitigate climate change.

From onEarth contributor, Brian Palmer (onEarth is published by the Natural Resources Defense Council​) —

…conservationists must coordinate their efforts at both the national and the international level. So far, however, global attempts to get on the same page have basically failed. According to a 2007 study in the journal Ecological Economics, at least 42 percent of the logging prevented in an average conservation project simply moves elsewhere. In many cases, that figure can be as high as 95 percent—rendering conservation efforts essentially useless from a climate change perspective.

Read more.

rain forest

An aerial image shows the contrast between forest and agriculture land in Brazil (PHOTO: KATE EVANS, CIFOR/FLICKR)

Solar bill bogged down in conference that hasn’t met

Two months ago, the Massachusetts House and Senate failed to reach an agreement on lifting caps on solar power. Cautioned by activists that new solar investments and installations were imperiled, a conference committee was formed to find a compromise between the differing bills between the House and the Senate. However, the committee only met for 15 minutes right before the long winter recess, and while talks between legislators are ongoing, there is the real danger that a deal won’t be struck in time.

From the Salem Gazette, by Andy Metzger and Matt Murphy (State House News Service)

As lawmakers and activists warned that solar projects and investments were imperiled, the House and Senate in mid-November assigned a six-member conference committee to settle differences between the branches over competing solar bills.

The committee, according to Tarr, met on the day it was appointed – Nov. 18 – and has not met since, a span of 54 days. The Nov. 18 meeting was hastily convened moments after the House and Senate appointed conferees. It lasted just 15 minutes, and an hour and a half later conference leaders announced that no deal would be struck before the Legislature began its weeks-long winter recess.

Read more.

The Massachusetts Senate Chamber (from the online photo tour of the Statehouse)