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June 2nd, 2017 Archives


Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord



A bus-only lane in New York City. Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York, is coordinating a group of politicians, academics and businesses that is committed to the Paris climate accord despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.


Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations.

“We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.

By redoubling their climate efforts, he said, cities, states and corporations could achieve, or even surpass, the pledge of the administration of former President Barack Obama to reduce America’s planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025, from their levels in 2005.


It was unclear how, exactly, that submission to the United Nations would take place. Christiana Figueres, a former top United Nations climate official, said there was currently no formal mechanism for entities that were not countries to be full parties to the Paris accord.

Ms. Figueres, who described the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw as a “vacuous political melodrama,” said the American government was required to continue reporting its emissions to the United Nations because a formal withdrawal would not take place for several years.

But Ms. Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change until last year, said the Bloomberg group’s submission could be included in future reports the United Nations compiled on the progress made by the signatories of the Paris deal.

There are 195 countries committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the 2015 agreement.

Still, producing what Mr. Bloomberg described as a “parallel” pledge would indicate that leadership in the fight against climate change in the United States had shifted from the federal government to lower levels of government, academia and industry.

Mr. Bloomberg, a United Nations envoy on climate, is a political independent who has been among the critics of Mr. Trump’s climate and energy policies.

Mayors of cities including Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City have signed on — along with Pittsburgh, which Mr. Trump mentioned in his speech announcing the withdrawal — as have Hewlett-Packard, Mars and dozens of other companies.


Paris City Hill was illuminated in green on Thursday in opposition to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Buildings in New York City, Boston and elsewhere around the world joined in.

Credit Christophe Petit Tesson/European Pressphoto Agency

Eighty-two presidents and chancellors of universities including Emory, Brandeis and Wesleyan are also participating, the organizers said.

Mr. Trump’s plan to pull out of the Paris agreement was motivating more local and state governments, as well as businesses, to commit to the climate change fight, said Robert C. Orr, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris agreement as the United Nations secretary-general’s lead climate adviser.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, all Democrats, said they were beginning a separate alliance of states committed to upholding the Paris accord.

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Fight to stop controversial Canadian pipeline gets fresh backing in BC

  1. Pact between leftwing NDP and Greens could force showdown with Trudeau
  2. Critics say pipeline proposal raises chances of catastrophic spill in Salish Sea


Opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline in May. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

    Julien Gignac in Toronto

    Friday 2 June 2017 06.30 EDT

    An alliance between opposition parties in British Columbia has offered new hope to opponents of a contentious Canadian pipeline expansion, and raises the prospect of a confrontation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has thrown his support behind the project.

    On Monday, Green party leader Andrew Weaver and NDP leader John Horgan pledged to “employ every tool available” to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

    The proposal would expand an existing route to lay nearly 1,000km of new pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver’s coastline. Critics say that oil tanker and barge traffic in the region would increase by nearly seven times, increasing the chance of a catastrophic spill in the Salish Sea, the network of inland waters that straddles the border with the US.


    Trans Mountain Expansion Project


    Weaver, a former climate scientist, told the Guardian he and Horgan would put their weight behind groups mounting legal challenges to the Trans Mountain expansion, including First Nations groups who argue that the project violates their indigenous way of life.

    Weaver said the minority government would also ensure that environmental conditions are met in full and said “science-based” assessments would be employed.

    “We will no longer accept box-ticking exercises for submissions to environmental assessment authorities.”

    “This is about a pristine Salish Sea being turned into shipping lanes for diluted bitumen,” he said. “We know that this stuff cannot be cleaned up because it sinks, so the fact we are shipping jobs offshore is one thing, but a product that has catastrophic environment consequences of a spill through our pristine coastal waters is just reckless.”

    Trudeau approved the project in November, and BC Liberals support it, too, arguing that it will bolster the province’s economy and insisting that it was in line with the country’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

    The $7.4bn project will pump enough crude oil to fill 890,000 barrels every day – a sharp increase from 300,000 – and export them to international markets. The route extends from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, BC, adjacent to Vancouver.

    But Trudeau has faced a chorus of opposition. Many indigenous and non-indigenous people believe the environmental risks outweigh any economic gains.

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    Utilities post-Paris: Uncertainty rules power sector as Trump shatters climate consensus

    There are plenty of factors still pushing the utility sector to cut carbon, but time is running out to avert the worst impacts of climate change


    Gavin Bade



    June 2, 2017

    If President Trump’s aim was to further isolate the United States, yesterday certainly did the trick.

    The president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord was lauded by American conservative activists and coal interests — and nearly no one else.

    California, Washington and New York immediately announced they would form a “climate alliance” committed to the goals of the agreement. Many of the largest American companies, including giants like GE, Walmart and Microsoft, condemned the move. The CEOs of Tesla and Disney pulled out of Trump’s executive council.

    “Industry must now lead and not depend on government,” GE CEO Jeff Immelt tweeted.

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    International reaction was also swift. Trump’s move would leave the U.S. as only one of three nations that have failed to sign onto the international agreement. Nicaragua, one of the others, considered the agreement too underwhelming and would like to see faster climate action. Syria, the third, has been engulfed in a grinding civil war for years.

    The European Union and China were quick to step into the breach, announcing they are “joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy.” On the eve of the decision, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned the U.S. was giving up its role as a global leader.

    “[The] vacuum will be replaced and the Chinese are pushing to take over the lead,” he said.

    Amid the global uproar, reaction from the U.S. electric utility sector was notably tepid. Statements from the Edison Electric Institute and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association did not even mention the decision outright, instead focusing on the power sector’s emissions reduction and plans to invest further in renewable energy.

    “Based on preliminary estimates, our industry’s carbon dioxide emissions were nearly 25% below 2005 levels by the end of 2016, and we expect that emissions will continue to decline,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said in a statement.

    The muted response reflects the widespread belief that a Paris exit would have little immediate impact on the power sector, particularly in light of the White House’s previous moves to roll back domestic climate regulations. The controversial decision could spur further action on the state and local level, analysts said, but also increases uncertainty for a sector that was just beginning to plan for deep decarbonization, and puts the planet further behind the emissions trajectory needed to stave off catastrophic climate change.

    Not out yet

    Despite Trump’s proclamation that the U.S. would exit the Paris agreement and immediately begin negotiating for a “better deal,” getting out of the accord is actually a lengthy process.

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    The Buzz

    JUN 2017

    During hours-long floor sessions, lawmakers advanced several energy bills, including ones setting a 100 percent renewables requirement, cutting in half the number of electric utility shutoffs due to non-payment of bills, and creating an energy storage equivalent of the California Solar Initiative.

    Around the time Prez Trump dumped the Paris Climate deal, San Francisco Bay Area air regulators announced emission caps for oil refineries, which emit considerably more pollution than the region’s power plants.

    In the nation’s capitol, nuclear waste is getting considerable attention. That includes reintroducing legislation to safely store it onsite, and NRC’s reopening of the Yucca Mountain waste wound.

    The California Air Resources proposes a temporary fix for counting under-counted emissions attributable to power imports that fossil fuel-fired power plants are backfilling when cleaner power is sold to California in the energy imbalance market.

    JUICE compares and contrasts community choice with direct access as California moves closer to a retail energy market.  Who wins, who loses? You decide.

    The Energy Commission is asking the grid operator to weigh in on whether the gas-fired Puente Power plant is necessary.

    —The Editors

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    SF Bay Area Refineries Face Hard Emissions Cap




    The Bay Area Air Quality Management District appears poised to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s five oil refineries, the area’s largest stationary source of carbon gases. The caps on individual refinery carbon emissions are to be the first in the state and nation.

    “Today’s action by the Air District Board demonstrates local leadership, ensuring that refinery greenhouse gas emissions do not increase, providing a model for California and beyond,” Jack Broadbent, Air District executive officer, announced May 31.

    The district’s Regulation 12, Rule 16 was reworked to help avoid increased air pollution at the refineries from processing dirtier crude oil, including tar sands from Canada.

    Beginning in January of next year, emissions are to be capped on an individual facility basis (see table).


    California oil refineries are under the state’s carbon cap-and-trade program, under which they are given a substantial amount of free emission allowances. They are allowed to exceed their emissions allocation ceiling by buying credits from other businesses that don’t use them, such as power plants that operate minimally, and/or buy offsets from carbon reduction projects. The May 31 proposed revision to the district’s rule, expected to be approved at the district’s June 21 meeting, would prohibit Bay Area refineries—Chevron, Shell, Tesoro, Valero and Phillips 66—from buying emission credits and using offsets to increase their greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Western States Petroleum Association says that the regional cap on refineries will push the production of crude oil elsewhere, and drive up the cost of fuel. The cap limits production, but not consumer demand, warned Bob Brown, WSPA spokesperson.

    Daily demand for fuel in California includes 15.2 million gallons of gasoline and 8 million gallons of diesel fuel, according to the Board of Equalization, which collects taxes on sales.

    After initially objecting to the proposal, the California Air Resources Board formally backed limiting refinery emissions.

    “The action marks a dramatic turn in the long, hard fought struggle by community, environmental justice, climate, and environmental groups to prevent already-harmful refinery emissions from increasing,” a group of environmental justice activists stated April 6 in response to the ARB’s support.

    The California Air Board backing is credited with getting the regional district to agree to cap refinery emissions to avoid higher emissions intensity and mass emissions.

    Earlier, the Bay Area district proposed including criteria air pollutants under the refinery caps, but decided to limit those associated emissions in a subsequent rulemaking.

    The Bay Area air regulators say this latest rule rewrite along, with a series of rules and air quality protective measures “are the most health-protective in the nation.” They note that in contrast to loss of climate protection momentum on the national level, “the Bay Area marches forward.”

    The measure also will apply to two hydrogen production plants

    Elizabeth McCarthy

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    A Deep Look at Sacramento’s Groundbreaking Use of Distributed Energy and Customer Data


    This utility is integrating smart meter data and customer insights for a holistic approach to DERs and grid planning.

    by Jeff St. John

    June 01, 2017


    Utilities traditionally haven’t had to consider the vagaries of consumer behavior as a big part of their grid investment and power procurement plans.

    But with the rise of customer-owned solar PV, plug-in electric vehicles, demand response, behind-the-meter batteries and other distributed energy resources (DERs), leaving the customer out of the equation is no longer an option -- at least, not for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

    In fact, the utility DER projects that its customers and third-party companies are financing total around $150 million to $200 million per year. That’s more than what SMUD spends on all the utility-scale solar and wind energy it's procuring to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard, indicating how important a role they will play in the utility's carbon and green energy goals.

    These DERs are largely outside utility control. But they have an increasingly important impact on how SMUD operates and invests in its grid and procures power for future years.

    At the same time, there are also opportunities for utilities to explore new financial structures and business models.

    This week, SMUD, the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and engineering firm Black & Veatch released a report that could lay out a new model for utilities struggling to bring DER-equipped customers into their long-range plans. It’s based on more than a year of work integrating dozens of different sources of data about customers, and then using it to predict just how different neighborhoods will adopt DERs at different rates over the next decade or so.

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    Black & Veatch has been working with SMUD on this new approach for two years now, and this approach has now been described as part of SEPA’s “Beyond the Meter” research into how utilities can plan proactively for a distributed energy future. The latest report, the fifth in the series, is the first time SEPA has been able to apply its new concepts to a real-world utility.

    “In terms of how this compares to what other utilities have done, SMUD is, at least in our opinion and experience, on the cutting edge in terms of DER planning, and putting a lot of different pieces together,” said Dan Wilson, manager at Black & Veatch.

    Utilities around the country are exploring DERs as grid assets. California’s investor-owned utilities have created DER capacity maps for their distribution grids, and are in the process of enumerating their localized values. New York is doing the same under the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative. And big utilities in Hawaii, Arizona, Vermont and other states are doing pilot projects to see how solar, batteries, EVs and building energy controls can be aggregated for local and system-wide benefits.

    But as Wilson noted: “What I think is interesting about SMUD, and what makes this study kind of unique, is combining these pieces together using the same set of data through the whole process." Those pieces include customer adoption forecasting, distribution grid impacts, bulk power system planning, and broader utility financial modeling.

    SMUD has incorporated all three elements of SEPA’s protocol for dealing with DERs -- evaluating them as grid assets, integrating customer insights, and reconfiguring the utility’s standard operating practices to make use of these new sources of data. Unlike most traditional utility distribution grid planning, however, this process begins not with power flow models or engineering estimates, but with customer data.

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    Report: There’s an Auto Industry Death Spiral Coming


    Automated and electric vehicles will change everything, but will it happen as quickly as these analysts predict?

    by Katie Fehrenbacher

    May 26, 2017

    Over the next 15 years, the American auto industry will face a death spiral of epic proportions that will lead to plummeting demand, cratering profits and slumping sales. Car dealerships and sales of traditional gasoline-powered cars will both evaporate.

    Those findings are delivered by a research report released earlier this month from analyst firm RethinkX, co-founded by analysts Tony Seba and James Arbib. RethinkX prides itself on reading the tea leaves on how truly disruptive technologies -- like cellphones and solar panels -- can be on incumbent industries.

    The report says that in 2021, when the authors predict that automated vehicles will be approved for widespread use on roads, a disruption point will happen. And from that moment on, using cars as a service will become cheaper and cheaper over time, thanks to automated car technology, electric vehicles and the ability for anyone to swiftly summon a car with a cellphone.

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    Texas will offer rebates for electric cars

    Posted by Ryan Maye Handy

    Date: May 31, 2017


      Nissan LEAF Electric Car is displayed at the Houston Auto Show on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. The Nissan LEAF gets the equivalent of about 129 miles per gallon in the city. (Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle)

      The Texas legislature has reinstated rebates for Texans who buy electric vehicles, a provision in the state’s clean air program that was discontinued during the 2015 session.

      RELATED: Electric cars may soon beat gasoline models on price

      The Texas Emissions Reduction Program, which promotes clean air, includes a $2,500 rebate for electric-car buyers, according to Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy non-profit. Electric car drivers are also eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

      Texas legislature first passed rebate for electric cars in 2013.

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      Oroville Dam update: Fracture likely caused by ‘multiple factors’

      JUNE 01, 2017 11:18 AM



      If you’re expecting a quick and easy answer on what caused the spillway failure at Oroville Dam, think again.

      The leader of the independent forensics team studying the Oroville crisis said Thursday that the crack in the dam’s main flood-control spillway likely was caused by a combination of problems.

      “We do anticipate there will be multiple contributory factors, no single factor,” said dam safety consultant John France in a conference call with reporters.

      France, an independent consultant from Denver, added that it will take months before his team gets to the bottom of what went wrong in Oroville, comparable to the lengthy probes that follow major airplane or train crashes. His team will delve into the earliest design work performed on Oroville Dam, which was completed in 1968.

      “We’re looking at the full span of the dam’s life, including its gestation period,” he said.

      He said investigation is being closely watched by dam operators worldwide.

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      Filed under: Water Comments Off

      Water Authority Floats a Radical Idea in Strange Public Poll

      The San Diego County Water Authority paid for a poll last month that asked voters whether they would support the state seizing control of water supplies across the region, including much of the water used in San Diego. The $31,000 poll is part of an aggressive campaign the Water Authority is waging against another public water agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.


      Photo by Sam Hodgson

      Interested in Water narrative? Follow

      By Ry Rivard | May 29, 2017

      The San Diego County Water Authority is floating a radical idea to upend how 19 million Southern Californians get their water.

      The agency paid for a poll last month that asked voters whether they would support the state seizing control of water supplies across the region, including much of the water used in San Diego.

      The $31,000 poll is part of an aggressive $220,000 campaign the Water Authority is waging against another public water agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

      The Water Authority is a member of Metropolitan’s board and its biggest customer, but the two agencies have long been at odds. Water Authority officials blame Metropolitan for failing to prepare for a drought in the early-1990s and screwing San Diego then and now.

      Most of the poll’s 62 questions were designed to test various messages that might turn voters against Metropolitan, a tactic typical of political polling. That alone is strange. One public agency does not usually poll to figure out how to damage another public agency’s reputation.

      Beyond that, one question in the poll floated a policy shift that would affect the water supply of nearly everyone in California south of Bakersfield.

      The poll asked whether “The state should step in and purchase water for our region until the MWD [Metropolitan] can correct its fiscal mismanagement.”

      For the Water Authority to make such a suggest is bizarre: For the past two years, the agency has been criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration for trying to micromanage local water agencies during the drought. Now, it suggests some form of state control is the way to go.

      Metropolitan is often seen as distinct force acting on behalf of Southern California, including San Diego, in the endless power struggles over water in this state. If the state were suddenly in charge, it’s possible other political interests – like Northern California environmentalists or powerful cliques of Central Valley farmers – could use their influence in Sacramento to gain more control.

      During a board meeting last week, a few Water Authority board members wondered about the poll, which many of them had not seen before.

      Water Authority assistant general manager Dennis Cushman told everyone not to take the question about state control too seriously.

      “They don’t represent specific proposals that we’re recommending pursuing,” Cushman said.

      Gary Arant, a member of the Water Authority’s board who was not involved in crafting the poll questions, told Cushman that even floating such ideas was dangerous.

      “I’m just concerned sometimes these ideas take life and the next thing you know … ” he said.

      Arant said he worried the state might decide to take control not only of Metropolitan but also of the Water Authority. The Water Authority has a governance structure nearly identical to Metropolitan’s.

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      Filed under: Water Continue reading

      As Trump Exits Paris Agreement, Other Nations Are Defiant


      UNITED NATIONS — Leaders from around the world maintained a defiant front on Thursday after President Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

      President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking in French before switching to English, said he believed Mr. Trump was making a mistake. He then extended an offer to Americans:

      “Tonight, I wish to tell the United States: France believes in you, the world believes in you. I know that you are a great nation. I know your history, our common history. To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second home.”

      “I can assure you,” Mr. Macron added, “France will not give up the fight.” He capped off his English remarks with a twist on Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan: “Make our planet great again.”

      China made it a point to say it would stay in the accord, while Mr. Macron and the leaders of Germany and Italy issued a joint statement expressing “regret” and rejecting Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would renegotiate the deal.

      “We therefore reaffirm our strongest commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, including its climate finance goals, and we encourage all our partners to speed up their action to combat climate change,” the statement said.

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      World Leaders Shut Down Trump’s Paris Climate Speech: ‘There Is no Legal Basis for Anything’


      President Trump wants to exercise his negotiating skills. He’s probably not going to use them.

      by Julia Pyper

      June 01, 2017


      President Trump announced today that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

      "The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord," the president said to cheers at a press conference at the White House this afternoon. He added, however, that the U.S. "will begin negotiations to re-enter the Paris accord, or an entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States."

      The announcement today will have immediate effects. Trump said the U.S. will "cease all implementation" of the deal, which includes ending national contributions and stopping payments to the Green Climate Fund.

      But while Trump intends to halt all participation in Paris, officially withdrawing from the agreement will take years due to the legal structure and language of the international treaty.

      Any country can withdraw from the Paris Agreement three years after the law has gone into effect in that country, said Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), on a call with reporters. For the U.S. that date is in November 2019. At that point, the U.S. could officially submit its intent to withdraw by sending notification to the United Nations and complete the exit process a year later, on November 4, 2020 -- one day after the next U.S. presidential election.

      Today’s announcement “is fundamentally a political message, period,” said Figueres. “There is no legal basis for anything. I would call it a vacuous political melodrama.”

      In the immediate aftermath, France, Germany and Italy all issued a statement saying the deal "cannot be renegotiated."

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      Trump may doubt climate change, but Pentagon sees it as a ‘threat multiplier’

      JUNE 01, 2017 3:50 PM




      President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement puts him at odds with the Pentagon, which has been warning for years that climate change poses a critical national security threat.

      At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called climate change a “driver of instability” that “requires a broader, whole-of-government response.”

      For more than a decade, military leaders have said that extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels are aggravating social tensions, destabilizing regions and feeding the rise of extremist groups like al Qaida and the Islamic State.

      Closer to home, scientists estimate that rising sea levels threaten at least 128 U.S. military bases, some of which are already flooding.

      “The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today . . . are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security,” says a 2007 report by the Military Advisory Board, an elite group of retired three- and four-star flag and general officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. “It is important that the U.S. military begin planning to address these potentially devastating effects.”


      Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in 2014

      In 2014, the Pentagon released a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap that declared “climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.” Another Pentagon report in 2015 called climate change a “threat multiplier.”

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