A Few Bits Of Good News On The Environment

Yesterday the high temperature where I live was 76° (F), 24° (C).  Yesterday was 20 February 2018.  It is never 76° in my area in February, nor in March.  The average high temperature for this time of year is 43°. Perhaps by mid-April we see temps in the 70s on occasion, but never, ever in February.  Now, admittedly I enjoyed the warmth of the day — Miss Goose and I went for a nice walk … I only managed 3.2 miles, but she went 5.6, and we both felt good about our accomplishments after a winter of inactivity, but … You don’t believe in global warming or in climate change?  Well, I do.

bumblebee on flowerFor one thing, when nearly all of the world’s climate scientists confirm the same data and draw the same conclusion, I am convinced, for they are the experts, not me, not Donald Trump, Rick Perry or Scott Pruitt.  For another thing, I can see and feel the difference from, say, ten years, or even five years ago.  There are fewer bees about in the springtime, the air is harder to breathe, the humidity levels in summer are much higher and the temperatures throughout the year, on average, much warmer.  The sky never looks as clear (okay, sure, I am half blind, but still …) I can observe these things on my own.

Sadly, we are governed by a bunch of stodgy and stupid men who deny or choose to ignore the evidence produced by scientists, and who do not leave their air-conditioned offices long enough to observe nature.  Rather than consider the work of the scientists, they simply dismiss the scientists and remove the words “climate change” from their new, alternative vocabulary.  Problem solved, right?  WRONG.

I don’t do a regular feature on the environment, but when news crosses my path that I think matters, I try to incorporate it into my work.  Today, there is some good news (and some bad news).  But just for today, let’s look at the good news, for that always makes us feel a little better, and I find hope in some of the steps being taken to defy the administration’s destructive environmental policies, or rather undoing of policies.seperator

One of Michigan’s largest public utilities, Consumers Energy — which provides power for more than 60 percent of the state’s residents — has promised to stop burning coal completely by 2040 in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The company plans to completely phase out coal and generate 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar.

wind turbinesIn 2016, Consumers Energy closed down 7 of its 12 coal-fired power plants, which reduced its emissions by 38%.  They currently get 24% of their energy from coal and 10% from renewable sources.

“We believe that climate change is real and we can do our part by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we also believe it doesn’t have to cost more to do it,” Consumers Energy president and CEO Patti Poppe said, adding that coal has become less cost competitive as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall.

Michigan’s other major energy company, DTE Energy, has also pledged to shutter its coal plants by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

According to a recent cost analysis from the financial firm Lazard Ltd., it is currently cheaper to build and operate renewable energy projects than to operate coal and nuclear plants in many parts of the United States.

Despite Trump and Pruitt’s best efforts, many more power plants are steering away from coal and into cleaner, less costly renewable energy sources. seperatorJust the words “oil pipeline” raise the hackles of those of us who care about the environment.  Keystone, Dakota Access.  New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, is saying “hold on just a minute there …” in response to the 120-mile PennEast Pipeline. PennEast is seeking eminent domain over nearly 147 parcels of land in New Jersey and has started proceedings to condemn, or gain legal permission to take control of these areas.  Grewal, acting on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting information from PennEast regarding site-specific information detailing how environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized.  Thus far, the company has not provided any such information to DEP.

The pipeline would cross some 30 streams, and no information has been provided for how that would be safely done.  Additionally, there has been no study performed to determine whether the properties PennEast wants to condemn would even qualify for permits under the Clean Water Act.  February 1, the New Jersey DEP rejected PennEast’s application for a water quality permit pending provision of the requested information.

This is one to watch, and will speak volumes about whether FERC is serving to protect our environment or to lick Donald Trump’s boots, but I am pleased to see the DEP and New Jersey Attorney General taking a stand.seperator

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

Last week, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California took a stand against Trump’s destructive moves.  For 30 years, federal standards governing the efficiency of home appliances and commercial equipment have been updated with bipartisan approval, producing major cuts in energy usage and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers also have saved money on their utility bills by using highly energy-efficient appliances. But in the Trump administration, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, has missed several deadlines for updating appliance efficiency standards and is expected to miss several more in 2018.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ordered the Trump administration to end its hold on rules that would strengthen appliance energy efficiency standards and help consumers save money on their energy bills.  According to Kit Kennedy, a senior director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) …

“The Trump administration’s baffling decision to block the final procedural step could have cost Americans $8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers. Today’s ruling reaffirms that the Trump administration must follow the laws designed to ensure America’s consumers and businesses aren’t forced to pay needlessly higher energy bills.”

Score another one for We The People.seperatorSmall victories, of course, but victories nonetheless.  It is encouraging to see states, energy companies and the courts standing for protections for our planet, not afraid of Trump and his minions.