Driving dirty air

The Republican Party, which is now Donald Trump’s Republican Party (DTRP), has long heralded itself as the party of less big government and more local control. They’ve argued that states, cities, and counties know what is best for them and they should set standards.

DTRP dislikes car emission standards set by California’s elected leaders  so much so that a court battle looms over the state’s ability to set standards for vehicles, which California began doing in 1966.

In fact, the emission standards have worked so well that 13 states adopted California’s standards, meaning that car and light truck manufacturers have already designed their products and factories to meet emission standards which keep air cleaner. It also means consumers are buying these cars and trucks. Tough emission standards didn’t serve as a death-blow to auto sales in those states.

The same can be said for gas mileage standards.  DTRP wants to reduce mileage standards for vehicles, but that doesn’t mean consumers will race out to buy something new to drive. Consumers expect and demand good mileage, safety features, and low emissions.

Manufacturers couldn’t, and wouldn’t, retool their factories in an afternoon to produce gas-guzzling, dirty emission spewing cars just because the DTRP says it is ok. In fact, just two months ago, four manufacturers agreed to meet  continue to meet California’s vehicle standards.

A quick survey of the popularity of electric vehicles, hybrids, and high-efficiency gas fueled cars and trucks, would remind manufacturers that consumers want and expect cleaner running, higher mileage, vehicles. Both domestic and foreign car companies continue to offer best selling models with hybrid versions, and are also re-introducing retired versions of hybrids, because if they don’t, customers will drive past those dealerships on the way to others who offer what they want.

Donal Trump’s Republican Party can deny all kinds of reality and science, but car dealers won’t deny the reality of their bottom line. Profits are increasingly driven by consumers who buy cars using less or no gas, and emitting as little air pollutants as possible.

Car standards aren’t set at the White House any more; they are determined by consumers with their wallets in dealer showrooms and at gas pumps.

 

 

How We Have Failed Since September 11, Redux

First posted here on September 10, 2014

How We Have Failed since September 11

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

 

And the world took note

The Friday Photo
November 6, 2015

photo credit 350.org
photo credit 350.org

Keystone XL has been cancelled, at last. I was lucky enough to be at Forward on Climate, which, until a year ago, was the largest climate action in the United States. My story of that incredible event almost three years ago is here.

The needle hasn’t moved much since last year

This was originally posted last year on September 11. We continue to be a badly broken country in too many ways. No photo today.

How we have failed since September 11, 2001

Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.

Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:

  • fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
  • failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
  • allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
  • granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
  • making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
  • subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
  • denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
  • deporting children
  • complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
  • sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
  • being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
  • we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
  • too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all

We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.

Another hurdle for “dormant” Plant Washington

The Carbon Pollution Standards for new power plants announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 3rd confirm that Plant Washington will not get a “pass”, adding yet another hurdle to the development of one of the last proposed new coal plants in the country.

The new standards rely on partial capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions. Plant Washington project spokesman Dean Alford has said that such a standard will result in cancellation of the coal-fired project because it was not designed to meet the standard. To avoid that outcome, the project developer, Power4Georgians, LLC (P4G) sought to convince EPA that the project had “commenced construction” when the standards for new sources were first proposed in January 2014.  Under such circumstances, Plant Washington would be considered an existing source exempt from the new standards

Dean Alford
Dean Alford

But as Alford and P4G are now finding, there’s a difference between saying something and proving it.

Almost two years ago, in the draft version of the standards, the EPA specifically addressed Plant Washington and another proposed coal-fired plant in Kansas. The agency took the developers at their word that the plants were under construction and therefore qualified as existing sources.  But EPA also said that if either plant failed to qualify as an existing source, and was therefore classified as a new source, the agency would consider granting special standards due to the unique circumstances that both already had their construction permits.  The idea was that these two sources, the last two coal plants still supposedly under development in the country, would get special treatment – perhaps a standard less stringent than that applied to other new sources.  Otherwise the two lingering plants might not get built despite their “sunk costs.”

But last week, in the final rule, EPA said it is “unaware of any physical construction that has taken place at the proposed Plant Washington site,” and noted that a recent audit of the project had described it as “dormant.” EPA said it appears that Plant Washington did not commence construction when the new source rule was proposed, and would therefore likely be considered a new source should it ever be constructed.
 

The EPA pointed out that in October 2014, P4G received an 18-month extension on Plant Washington’s air permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The EPA went on to say that the possibility of Plant Washington being built and operating is “too remote” to merit an exemption from the new carbon emission standards.

So Plant Washington is not an existing source.  But what kind of carbon standard will it get? Remember that EPA said it would give Plant Washington and the Kansas project their own new source carbon standards.  Well, on this point, EPA punted.  Why?  Because the agency views it as so unlikely that these projects will actually go forward that it doesn’t want to spend the time coming up with individualized standards.  In the agency’s words, “because these units may never actually be fully built and operated, we are not promulgating a standard of performance at this time because such action may prove to be unnecessary.”

Ouch. 

EPA puts the ball P4G’s court, telling the developer that it must formally request a determination of its status — new or existing —  before EPA can decide whether and what kind of standards should apply to its carbon emissions.

P4G has had the ability since January 2014 to seek this so-called “applicability determination,” which would clear up once and for all the question of its status under the new standards.  In fact, under Alford’s leadership, P4G sought such an “applicability determination” from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, but later chose to withdraw that request before the state agency could respond. Rather than clarify the project’s status, Alford opted to pursue an 18-month extension of the construction deadline under Plant Washington’s state-issued air permit. Alford got the extension, but this did little to convince EPA of P4G’s claim that the project had commenced construction in January 2014.  Instead, EPA arrived at the opposite conclusion: that Plant Washington is going nowhere fast.

Thanks to EPD’s generosity, Plant Washington still has 8 months left on its deadline to construct under the air permit.  But the project’s water discharge permit, another critical piece of the project, expired in March of this year. P4G failed to timely file an application to renew the permit prior to its expiration, prompting EPD to fine P4G.  EPD gave P4G thirty days to cure the defect but P4G missed that deadline as well.    These are not the actions of a project developer intent on meeting its construction deadline. 

And here in Washington County, there are no signs the coal-fire project is going forward, even at a snail’s pace. No ground has been broken, no Power Purchase Agreements have been announced, and no financier willing to pour the necessary billions into the project has emerged.

The EPA was correct in its refusal to exempt Plant Washington from the new carbon emission
standards.  The plant is not needed and would be a major source of carbon emissions.

Over 8.5 years have passed since this boondoggle plant was first announced, and its future is not one bit brighter than it was on the cold, gray, January day when it was unveiled. If Mr. Alford returns for yet another permit extension next year, the state would be wise to tell him that the final buzzer has sounded and no more time can be added to the game clock

Sunday reads

Just some of the news I’ve been catching up on today:

Maggie Lee at the Macon Telegraph  has an article about last Monday’s carbon pollution rules and the shift already underway towards renewal energy sources in Georgia.

Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out that the world didn’t come to an end years ago when Atlanta’s air quality was classified as “non-attainment” and the city was required to take action to reduce smog and other problems (the article concludes behind their pay wall).

The AJC is doing a series of articles on climate change and the impacts already seen on Georgia’s coast called “A rising tide of concern.” The articles are behind a pay wall and include this: “David Stooksbury, the former state climatologist, said the unwillingness of leaders to address climate change is dangerous.’I don’t think that most of our elected officials understand the long-term seriousness of what climate change will do to the agricultural economy, public health and the environment,’ Stooksbury said. ‘It will be much cheaper and better for the state if we follow a well-developed plan starting now rather than waiting until we must respond.’ ”

Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is quoted too, stating, “Last month the wildlife resources division of the Department of Natural Resources issued its State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP, which states unequivocally that “climate change presents unprecedented challenges.”

The AJC reports that Governor Nathan Deal had no statement on climate change. Senator David Perdue, who lives in a mansion on one of Georgia’s Barrier Islands, Sea Island, told the AJC, ““the scientific community is not in total agreement about whether mankind has been a contributing factor.”

The rising tides will eventually wash away the sand Perdue and others have their heads buried in on this subject and many others.

 

The rules of the game are changing

The Friday Photo
August 8, 2014 20140808-074453-27893384.jpg This looks like a lot meetings do, with PowerPoint presentations and charts that are hard to read from the back of the room. It was the first public meeting held by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to discuss how Georgia will meet the EPA’s carbon pollution rule. Georgia’s Plant Scherer is the biggest carbon spewing coal plant in the country, so the task ahead of the state’s regulatory agency is steep. They didn’t seem very enthusiastic.

For those of us who have spent years advocating for reducing carbon pollution, yesterday was no ordinary meeting. The rules of the game are changing, literally.

Today’s EPA deadline

The Friday Photo
May 9, 2014

pine trees
mature pine trees in our front yard

I had other plans for The Friday Photo today but spent more time than I expected crafting my comments to the EPA about proposed carbon pollution rules for existing power plants and why Plant Washington isn’t an existing source of greenhouse gases. The deadline was today at 5:00 p.m.

My comments included this:

“On a sunshine soaked afternoon in September 2013 while Power4Georgians was announcing its intent to request permit extensions from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, crews hired by the current land owners were preparing the proposed plant site for planting timber. Growing timber is an investment in time and money, as my family knows from timber management on our family farm. Growing trees requires patience as it takes several years before even a thinning of the growth is necessary, with significant harvesting sometimes requiring 20 years of patient waiting and watching.”

Just like growing timber, fighting Plant Washington has required time and patience, and some watching and waiting. The investment for those of us who steeled ourselves and stood up in our community has been worth the effort. We won’t have to wait decades for the return on our investment.

Climate, kidnapping, and GPB

20140507-072428.jpg
This is good Mr President but why not step up and stop Keystone XL now? We won’t get the oil, Americans and First Nations will be forced to give up their private property to a foreign company, spills are sure to happen in our backyards, and all of us will suffer the climate effects of the dirtiest oil in the world. If you truly belief what you are preaching, act now.

20140507-073509.jpg
Why did the world sit on its hands for over two weeks before beginning to address the 300 girls kidnapped for the purpose of being sold as child brides? It is because they are black? Because they are Nigerians? I am holding Hamatsu Abubakar in The Light until she and all her friends are returned safely to their families. Abubakar means “noble.” Bring Back Our Girls

Email-Chip-Rogers-Nathan-Deal
There are two big news items from Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and we’re only three days into the week. Chip Rogers was fired for violating GPB’s employment policies for much of his stint at the public broadcasting network. While Rogers stated his $150K per year job at GPB, the network hired a radio professional with decades of experience to produce his show. Did Rogers need help with his 30 minute show because he was also busy working as the Vice-President for Government Affairs at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association?

WRAS
Yesterday the Atlanta Business Chronicle announced that Georgia State University’s 100,000 watt, student-run radio station WRAS, will broadcast GPB’s programming from 5 a.m.to 7 p.m. The station’s Album 88 programming has a strong following, but those listeners will have to stream Album 88 during the day until it switches back to over-the-air broadcasting after 7 p.m.

And that’s not all. GPB is switching to a news and information format with programming piped in from National Public Radio, American Public Media, and Public Radio International.  A GPB produced talk show will debut in the fall of this year.

GSU has a license to operate the student programmed station but didn’t involve WRAS management and staff in the decision making process to fundamentally change the programming format. WRAS posted this on its Facebook page,”WRAS management and staff have had no part in the decision made by the university regarding our partnership with GPB. As a completely student-run/managed station, the administration of GSU acted unilaterally in making this decision. A statement from the staff on the matter will be made public soon.”

Koch Brothers sponsored rally fails

There were two public rallies scheduled today before the Public Service Commission (PSC) considers a $482M rate increase request from Georgia Power. One was supported by the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots along with renewable energy advocates. The second was funded by the Koch Brothers.

Update: the PSC voted for in favor of adding 500MW of solar power to Georgia Power’s 20 year energy plan!

935820_276331312508372_1858173474_n

Putting happiness in a jar

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by art, community and spontaneity
February 22, 2013
Feb 22, 2013

I don’t keep a journal or diary, but when 2012 drew to a close
several of my friends said they were going to keep a jar to fill with
notes when they do something they would like to reflect on after 2013 winds down.

My notes include simple things (I found an oncologist I really like two years post diagnosis).

The notes also include big things like last Sunday’s Forward on Climate Rally and attending my first TEDx event last Friday (TED really is “ideas worth spreading.”
I’ll post the videos from TEDx Charlotte when they are online. Thought provoking and inspiring. Food for your brain and soul.)

Whoever said you can’t bottle happiness was wrong.

A tribe of 40,000 strong

Washington County, where I live in Middle Georgia, is small, about 20,000 people living in a county with white clay, rolling hills, and woods filled with deer.

Yesterday I watched the area at the Washington Monument fill with twice as many people as those who call Washington County home to make their concerns about our natural resources, climate, and health, clear to the country.

Photo via 350.org
Photo via 350.org

I met fellow tribe members from Burlington College in Vermont on the DC Metro Sunday morning. The young man who chatted with me was wearing a tie, I suspect because the day was planned to be of historic proportions.

A father with his young son, perhaps four years old, wearing a Forward on Climate button, navigated Union Station. Travelers from New York and New Mexico jockeyed for hot coffee before setting out in the bitter cold for the Washington Monument.

On our way to the monument we walked past a small group of people wearing bright yellow t-shirts. imageThey weren’t smiling, and they seemed to want to debate and record people rather than participate. Clearly they weren’t there because of passion, and their sad, plain flyer with pro fossil-fuel data identified them as the hired hands the industry pays and outfits for events which threaten their profits.

We streamed in with signs and banners. We came by car, train, bus, and plane. Great-grandchildren perched on the laps of  their elders in wheelchairs. Children carried cheerful signs with bright suns and flowers, lettered in the distinct print young children use.

image

We bounced on our toes to warm our feet. Couples held gloved hands. Before long we were a sea of fleece and down jackets.

And we marched, this river of people from across North America. Women from First Nations walked in front while men towards the back kept a steady beat on a large handmade drum. So many people, so many colors, shapes, ages, and reasons for being there to say, together, that the old ways must change.

We walked away from the yellow t-shirted few, greeting the people around us while we chanted and smiled. I walked with two women from Canada, then students from Earlham College and Appalachian State. New Yorkers opposed to fracking wore their signs over their chests and backs. Three men carried wooden numbers on tall stakes spelling out 350.

We cheered and chanted in front of the White House, calling for the President to make good on his words about Climate Change and how we will fuel our country. He had escaped the bitter cold for a weekend in Florida, but we were sure our voices were heard.

Jack Magoon, 14, and his brother Will, 12, wait for the train home to Virginia with their grandparents.
Jack Magoon, 14, and his brother Will, 12, wait for the train home to Virginia with their grandparents.

Our message was clear and our voices were strong. We made history yesterday standing shoulder to shoulder for the future we want for the youngest who were among us.

 

Advent 1: Doing the math in hope

This post was shared with me by Betsy Blake Bennett, the Archdeacon of the Diocese of Nebraska. It was originally posted at Green Sprouts.

Advent 1: Doing the math in hope

Our Advent Scripture readings, hymns, and prayers emphasize the themes of expectation, hope, and repentance.

Today’s reading from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:14-16) is a prophetic voice of hope in a situation that looked hopeless. People of faith are people of hope. A gift people of faith can bring to conversations about the environment – and especially about the climate crisis – is hope.

The Do the Math tour presented by Bill McKibben and 350.org was in Omaha last night. The Do the Math website summarizes Bill McKibben’s primary message:

It’s simple math: we can burn less than 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.

An article published today by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press drawing on new international calculations on global emissions published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change says that rather than decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases, in the past year the amount increased by 3 per cent. The study’s lead author, Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway, says that the only possible way to stay within the goal of two degrees of temperature rise is to start reducing these emissions now and “throw everything we have at the problem.” Given how little we have thrown at the problem up to now, it seems unlikely to happen now.

With 0.8 °C degree of warming, we have seen all sorts of extreme weather in 2012, including Superstorm Sandy, the drought in the Midwest, and wildfires such as the one that forced evacuations around Estes Park, Colorado, this weekend. Imagine what two degrees would bring! Some scientists have said that reaching even the two degree limit would be disastrous , but it’s clear that our earlier failure to notice the signs and turn things around makes it nearly inevitable. Anything beyond two degrees changes our world in even more extreme ways, ways that are nearly unimaginable.

In today’s Gospel lesson (Luke 21: 25-36) , Jesus talks about paying attention to signs that are right in front of us, signs that people tend to deny or ignore. He describes distressing, fearful times and then says (Luke 21:28): “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

In Omaha last night, Bill McKibben said that even though the information he was presenting was very discouraging, he found it exciting in a way because we are getting “nearer to the heart of things”. And we are indeed down to what is essential to survival; we are down to questions of meaning and questions about our priorities; we are down to questions about where our hearts lie when we face the finitude not only of our own lives but of our biosphere, our planet, and the way of life it has supported. Our search for hope in this seemingly hopeless situation leads us to a place of repentance and conversion: Are we willing to do what it takes to make hope possible?

The Do the Math campaign is taking a page from the anti-apartheid campaign and asking institutions – including religious institutions – to freeze new investments in the fossil fuel industry and then to fully divest themselves of all fossil fuel investment within five years unless those companies change their way of doing business. When energy companies are willing to leave most of their current reserves underground, to stop exploring for new hydrocarbons, and to stop lobbying for special breaks and for the defeat of legislation that would promote a switch to other forms of energy, in short, when the fossil fuel industry puts life ahead of profits, then divestment will become unnecessary.

Bill McKibben said that people tell him this sort of campaign is impossible, that it’s a “David and Goliath” situation. He said these words were discouraging until he though, “Wait a minute! I’m a Methodist Sunday School teacher; I know how the David and Goliath story ends!” We know not only how that story ends, but how the entire salvation story ends, and that is why we hope when all seems hopeless.

The questions we must answer are Advent questions; the journey of the heart we take to repent and turn ourselves and the world around is an Advent journey. Where do our hearts lie? How do we hope when everything seems dark? Can we set aside lesser priorities of personal convenience and comfort in order to do what needs to be done for the greater common good both close to home and in corners of the globe about which we know very little?

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility…(From the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent)

Posted by Betsy Blake Bennett at 5:59 PM  

 

 

Where are the families Romney wants to help?

NASA photo by Neil Armstrong

Last week Mitt Romney closed his acceptance speech for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination with this,  “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans, and heal our planet. My promise…is to help you and your family.”

Governor Romney is right to want to help families. I looked around and the only families I know are living here on Earth, so shouldn’t Romney also want to work on healing our warming planet so families are stronger? Hmmmm.