Climate and Energy

Earth’s New Mass Extinction: The Unnoticed Cost of Increased Consumption

By SARAH CHARLES | Published: NOVEMBER 29, 2018

Sixty percent of the world’s species have been lost in less than 50 years, and almost nobody noticed. How could this alarming and cataclysmic destruction of over half of the Earth’s species go almost completely unnoticed?

The current news cycle is exhausting.  In November, on the day that the World Wildlife Fund released their bi-annual Living Index report, the news was busy discussing the midterm elections, Trump’s deployment of up to 7,000 US troops to the border of Mexico, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in our nation’s history, and Megyn Kelly’s claims that blackface is no big deal.

The recent report by the United Nations stating that we need to drastically change society and the way it functions by 2040 was able to get some coverage for a day or two, but then the cycle just moved on, but we  those that care, shouldn’t move on so quickly.

On the tails of the harrowing report from UN climate scientists comes more shockingly bad news from the World Wildlife Fund. Since 1970, over 60% of species on earth have been lost due to a massive increase in human consumption as countries across the world continue to develop. The report cites massive deforestation due to agriculture and livestock grazing in the world’s most biodiverse areas as one of the biggest problems on land. In our oceans, increasing temperatures and plastic pollution have caused the majority of die-offs.

One of the most alarming statistics to come out of this year’s Living Index report is that freshwater species declined by 83% since 1970. This significant loss is undoubtedly affecting the health of freshwater systems. We rely on freshwater as a drinking water source globally. How will such a massive change to the ecosystem affect our public health?

The biggest losses came in Central and South America, where a loss of 89% of the vertebrate population was observed. Cattle ranching and deforestation in the Amazon and the rainforests of South America has been exploding since the 1990s as global demand for meat continues to grow. Our rainforests are our biggest resource for biodiversity, and they are being burned and destroyed to make room for pastures and factory farms.

The 2018 report explains that while currently 25% of the world’s surface shows no impacts of human activity, by 2050 that number will drop to 10%. Human consumption has now caused a mass extinction of their own, with no signs of slowing down. Tanya Steele, the WWF’s chief executive in Britain, told CNN: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.” Current science is overwhelmingly telling us that the very way our society functions needs to make changes now if we want to save our ecosystems and the health of our planet. Those changes start at the individual level. We can all start to consider our impacts, our carbon footprint, and identify waste we produce in our daily lives. Our decisions will make or break the vibrancy, health, and existence of even more of the Earth’s species, including our own.

Trump Administration Attacks on the Environment are Hazardous to Americans' Health

The first 170+ days of President Trump's term as President of the United States have been marked with controversy around a plethora of issues affecting the American public -not the least of which being the obvious and unjustifiable attacks on our environment, or the relentless assertion that climate change is a hoax. Since taking office in January, President Trump has wasted little time in waging his assault on our environment.  Early in his term, Trump appointed former Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt as his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief; a man who sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the course of his career as Attorney General. It's a classic example of 'the fox watching the hen house."

The president's FY2018 budget proposal included a $2.6 billion (31%) cut to the EPA  budget, reducing the agency to funding levels to it's lowest level in 40 years (adjusted for inflation).  The proposal would eliminate more than 3,200 employees, severely diminishing the agency's ability to implement and enforce important environmental standards, review permit applications, and oversee superfund remediation sites and other environmental cleanup projects.

The president's budget also zeroes-out more than 50 geographic EPA programs, including the Long Island Sound, Great Lakes, and Hudson River Estuary programs.  These critical programs monitor water quality and implement on-the-ground projects to restore habitat and improve water quality in our nation's most vital waters.  Not only do these programs help support local economies by maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems, but they also play an important role in protecting public health.

In addition to his assault on the EPA, the president has already signed a slew of executive orders (EO's) aimed at limiting environmental protections.  These include EO's to expedite the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, abandon the Clean Power Plan that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning power plants, eliminate protections for vital waterways under the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, ease restrictions on off-shore drilling including in the Arctic, allow disposal of coal sludge in rivers and streams, and several others.

By taking such aggressive action to eliminate environmental protections (without congressional approval), Trump is sending a clear message that the interests of business and industry are a priority over  public health and our environment.  Nothing embodies this dynamic better than the Trump administration's war on climate science.

Recently, EPA Director Pruitt has announced the establishment of a new task force to review and challenge climate change data at the EPA.  The task force would review inconsistencies or "vulnerabilities" in existing climate data and determine how the agency should vet and apply climate change research moving forward.  This completely undermines the peer reviewed, science-based standard that is traditionally used to weigh and verify scientific research, and it could limit the agency's ability to ensure sound scientific approaches to important environmental policy matters.

Trump ran on a platform of eliminating the EPA and removing what he deems are "unnecessary" regulatory burdens to business and industry, and so far, it seems he intends to deliver.  Unfortunately, the news media has been so focused on the controversy regarding the president's use of Twitter and swirling allegations of collusion with the Russians, that the president's actual policy agenda is sailing past voters without them even knowing it.  During times like these, it's critical that members of the public remain vigilant, they remain informed, and most importantly, they must remain active.  Now more than ever, our environment is under attack, and it's up to you to defend it.

CT Legislative Recap: Areas of Progress and Missed Opportunities in 2017

With the 2017 Connecticut legislative session behind us, it's time to reflect back on what happened this year in the realm of conservation, environmental protection, and public health.  As a whole, this session was marked with some disappointment from environmental groups and consumer advocates across a spectrum of issues, but there were some noteworthy areas of progress as well.  As always, CCE remains committed to advancing unfinished business in the future, and we will continue to advocate for our legislative priorities in 2018 and beyond. Water Protection

VICTORY: CCE worked in conjunction with CT Clean Water Action, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Save Our Water, and the CT League of Conservation Voters to successfully advocate for legislation that allows the public greater access to water planning information under the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, legislation to appoint a consumer advocate to the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) board.  MDC is a municipal water authority serving 8 municipalities, including Hartford, Bloomfield, East Hartford, West Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Wethersfield.  It is critical that the public have increased transparency and greater input into decisions that impact our water supply.

ISSUES FOR 2018: The legislature failed to act on legislation that would protect our water supply from large water users. A proposed bill would have put mandatory restrictions on water withdrawals from large water bottlers during times of drought or other water supply emergencies, and another bill would have prohibited the use of declining block rates for large volume water bottlers and other industrial users.

Toxics 

VICTORY: CCE successfully advocated for legislation that allows retail pharmacies in the state to establish programs for collecting unused and unwanted pharmaceutical drugs.  In addition, CCE supported the passage of a new law that prohibits the use of coal-tar based sealants on state and local highways.  Improperly discarded pharmaceuticals and coal-tar sealants are emerging contaminants that both have devastating impacts on marine ecosystems.

ISSUES FOR 2018: Legislation that would have established a permanent ban on the storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous fracking waste made it through the House with nearly unanimous bipartisan support, but ultimately failed to get called for a vote in the Senate before the midnight end-of-session deadline on the June 7th.  CCE was instrumental in passage of a moratorium on fracking waste in 2014, which spawned a statewide effort resulting in more than 15 local governments in CT passing local ordinances to prohibit the storage, treatment and disposal of fracking waste.

CCE also worked in 2017 to pass a bill that would have prohibited the use of recycled rubber mulch made from shredded car and truck tires on school and public playgrounds across the state.  Despite receiving favorable reports in the Children's and Planning & Development committees, the bill was never brought forward for a vote in the House.

Clean Energy

VICTORY: CCE worked in a coalition with environmental groups and consumer advocates to prevent the passage of ill-conceived legislation that would allow Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford, CT to compete with Class 1 and Class 2 renewable resources for long term power-purchase agreements with the State.  CCE is proud to have defeated this legislation in 2017, which would make our state increasingly reliant on dirty nukes while further delaying progress on meeting Connecticut's clean energy goals.

ISSUES FOR 2018: Environmental advocates were deeply disappointed in the lack of progress made on clean energy policy in 2017.  From legislation that would have expanded our Renewable Portfolio Standard to bring more renewables into Connecticut, to a bill that would have repealed a hidden surcharge levied against electric customers to help subsidize the construction of oil and gas pipelines across New England, the CGA failed to make meaningful progress on a wide range of important energy issues this year.  This is especially concerning in light of Governor Malloy's recent announcement that Connecticut would be joining the U.S. Climate Alliance (a group of 12 states that have agreed to upholding our commitments under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord).

Recycling

VICTORY: CCE worked with ConnPIRG, CT League of Conservation Voters, CT Leage of Women Voters, CT Citizens Action Group, Clean Water Action and many others to successfully defend Connecticut's bottle deposit law (aka the Bottle Bill).  Ill-conceived legislation would have eliminated the 5-cent deposit on carbonated beer and soda containers and bottled water, and replace it with a non-refundable 4-cent tax on every beverage sold in the state.  Thanks to an outpouring of grassroots opposition from all parts of the state, our coalition successfully opposed this shortsighted legislation, thereby preserving one of Connecticut's most effective recycling laws!

ISSUES FOR 2018: CCE will continue to push to modernize Connecticut's Bottle Bill to include juices, teas, and other non-carbonated soft drink containers that are currently not covered by the law. The bill to accomplish this unfortunately died in the House this year, along with a bill to increase the handling fee paid to retailers and redemption center for each container they recycle under the bottle deposit.  The Bottle Bill is a proven, effective system for incentivizing recycling and keeping our beaches, parks and open spaces free of bottles and cans.

Open Space Preservation

VICTORIES: Legislation passed in 2017 to provided added transparency and opportunities to intervene in the trimming and/or removal of trees on municipal property.

ISSUES FOR 2018: Last but not least, many environmental groups are mourning the death of a Constitutional Amendment that would require transparency and public participation for any transfer of protected state lands for development or any other purpose.  An identical bill was passed in 2016, but passage is required two consecutive years in a row in order to approve any changes to our state constitution.  Unfortunately, the bill was never brought out for a vote in the senate, despite widespread bipartisan support for the bill in 2016.

Looking back on the 2017 session, it's clear that while Connecticut has made incremental progress on a number of environmental issues, but there is still much work to be done to preserve public health and the environment, protect our water supplies and open spaces, meaningfully advance our clean energy goals, and end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.  Unfortunately, there were a number of good bills that never saw the light of day this year- this is no doubt due in part to the looming $3.5 billion dollar deficit lawmakers are grappling with currently.  It's a classic example of how the environment suffers during tough economic times, and policymakers need to understand that these issues are just as important now as they are when the state finds itself in "greener" economic pastures.  Clean air and clean water are not luxury items that can be disregarded in difficult economic times!

The failure of the Connecticut General Assembly to act on many commonsense, bipartisan efforts to protect our environment is troubling, especially when juxtaposed against Governor Malloy's recent announcement that Connecticut must remain a leader on climate change.  What our state needs now more than anything is leadership; the kind of leadership that Malloy is trying to demonstrate.  It's time for our House and Senate representatives to step up to the plate, put politics aside, and make our health and the quality of our environment a priority once again.

People's Climate March - Washington D.C. 4/29/17

It’s pre-dawn on the Jersey Turnpike.  A torrential downpour has turned it into a river.  The unrelenting storm is complete with constant, menacing flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder.  In the days prior, it has already wreaked havoc and destruction across the Midwest as the driving force behind a rash of tornadoes. By midday in D.C., the temperature has climbed all the way to 91ºF.  It is still April.

These extreme weather events could not have been more ironically timed, as CCE came together with over 200,000 people from all over the country - lead by indigenous people from all over the world - to march for action on our changing climate.  The unseasonable heat punctuated the urgent message each one of us was there to deliver directly to the White House: “Climate Change is upon us and there is no more time to waste!”

This is fact. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years on record occurred between 2000 and 2016.  Data collected from the polar regions tells us they are warming even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists have studied fossilized life forms and Antarctic ice cores to determine that the speed at which the Earth is warming is happening much, much faster than ever before.

Sea level rise threatens coastal communities, ocean acidification and warming ocean temperatures imperil marine organisms of all types and have already contributed to the impending death of the Great Barrier Reef.  Desertification is reducing the amount of arable land available to feed our exploding population.  Unpredictable weather patterns are leading to water shortages and crop failures.

All of that can – and must – change.

But, the People’s Climate Movement is in fact more than a movement for the climate. Indeed, one of the slogans for the march proclaimed it was for “Climate, Jobs, and Justice.”  Transitioning to renewable energy offers solutions not just for climate change, but also for a range of economic and social issues facing our country.  Over 900 different organizations came together for the march.  Among them were labor unions, groups concerned with water and air quality protection, and even coal mining communities who were there to advocate for a ‘just transition’ to renewables for the workers in their hometowns. Moving our country forward toward energy independence, toward leadership in innovation and economic prosperity, toward keeping our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink, can only happen by embracing the renewable energy future.

The good news?  It’s already happening.  Deepwater Wind flipped the switch on the first offshore wind farm in America this week, providing 100% of the power for Block Island, Rhode Island and replacing noisy, polluting, diesel-burning generators with its five turbines a few miles out.

The best part?  It will not be the last.  Advances in solar and wind technology have made them cost-competitive against fossil fuel generation. That means we don’t have to choose between clean energy and cheap energy. We have reached the point whence they have become one in the same!

We pay tremendously with our dollars, our health, and our environment to keep fossil fuels on life support.  It needs to end now. We must demand it – for the Climate, Jobs, and Justice we all deserve.

The march was a great start.  It was an absolute inspiration to see so many doing exactly what needs to be done; standing up, showing up, and speaking up for our energy policies to work in the best interest of everyone.  We must continue to demand it because (as one sign read) “Silence is Compliance”.  We have finally arrived at the precipice of a paradigm shift away from filthy fossil fuels.  We have the technology and the capability to make it happen. Exercise your rights to the fullest!  Protests.  Letters.  Petitions.  Phone Calls. ‘This is what De-mo-cra-cy looks like!’

Some quotes spotted on signs at the march:

“CLIMATE JUSTICE IS A MORAL IMPERATIVE”

“THE GREATEST THREAT TO OUR PLANET IS THE BELIEF THAT SOMEONE ELSE WILL SAVE IT”

“WE ALL NEED CLEAN AIR, WATER”

“RESPECT EXISTENCE OR EXPECT RESISTANCE”

“GREEN ENERGY --> 5 TIMES MORE JOBS THAN COAL”

Nuclear is NOT Renewable! Connecticut's Lawmakers Taking our State Energy Policy in the Wrong Direction

The CGA Joint Committee on Energy and Technology introduced legislation this week that would allow Dominion (the Virginia based corporation that owns and operates Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford, CT) to apply for state energy subsidies under the "Class 1 Renewable" category of Connecticut's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  The RPS is a critical program designed to ensure energy providers in our state procure a certain percentage of the electricity they sell through clean, renewable sources and energy efficiency, thereby helping to reduce our state's carbon footprint and create good paying clean energy jobs. The Class 1 tier of the RPS has historically been reserved for true clean energy sources, such as clean wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal.  Connecticut's current RPS standard goal is to derive a minimum of 23% of our total in-state energy supply from renewable sources by the year 2020.  With only three years left to meet that goal, our state remains overly reliant on nuclear power and natural gas, while renewables make up less than 4% of our total energy mix.

SB 106 would allow Dominion to compete directly with true clean energy providers for Renewable Energy Certificates(RECs) under the RPS program.  These RECs are sold on a regional market to states that have less robust renewable programs and rely on those credits to help meet their own clean energy goals.

To be clear, nuclear power is not clean energy. Subsidizing existing nuke plants to compete with new development in clean energy totally defeats the purpose of this important program, and it sets a terrible precedent for other states to follow.

A thorough examination of the nuclear fuel cycle--from mining, enriching and transporting the uranium, to the construction of billion-dollar refineries and nuclear power plants, to the handling, processing and storage of nuclear waste--demonstrates that our dependence on nuclear power is energy intensive and creates signficant amounts of pollution.

It's also important to remember that Millstone causes significant adverse impacts to the health of Long Island Sound. Millstone utilizes an outdated "once-through" cooling system that damages Long Island Sound and its marine ecosystems with deadly thermal pollution.  In fact, CCE and other groups concerned with LIS protection and restoration efforts have been working for almost a decade to see Millstone act as a good neighbor by upgrading to a closed-cycle cooling system, which is something Dominion has refused to do.  In 2012, Millstone was forced to shut down one of its two reactors for 12 days because the ambient water temperature in the Sound was higher than the plant's safety standards would allow for.  This was the first time a U.S. nuclear facility had to halt its operations for such a reason.

Perhaps the most alarming part of this discussion is that Connecticut lawmakers do not seem to be concerned in the least about the fact that nuclear power leaves a legacy  of more than 10,000 years of radioactive waste with no permanent repository.  Spent nuclear fuel rods must remain on site for40-50 years or longer before they can be moved, as the radioactive fuel remains highly unstable for decades after use.  To make matters worse, the industry has a questionable safety record, including thousands of private, public and military accidents leading up to the present day.  Most recently, a tritium leak at New York's Indian Point Nuclear Plant resulted in groundwater contamination problems that NYS DEC is still working to mitigate to this day.    Indian Point acknowledged the elevated risk in preliminary reports, finding "alarming levels of radioactivity" at three monitoring wells, including one where radioactivity levels reportedly increased by more than 65,000%.

The bill to include nuclear power as a renewable energy source under Connecticut's RPS is a dishonest effort to fool Connecticut's ratepayers into thinking we are moving forward on clean energy, when in reality, we would be subsidizing a dirty energy source of the past.  Nuclear power is  a costly, outdated technology that puts Connecticut's residents and their environment at risk.  Allowing nukes to compete with real renewables is a raw deal for Connecticut, one which our lawmakers in Hartford seem all too eager to approve.

Think subsidizing nukes instead of investing in renewables is a bad idea? Contact the members of the CGA Energy and Technology Committee and tell them to Vote "NO" on SB. 106 today! https://www.cga.ct.gov/et/

 

 

2016 Connecticut Post-Session Legislative Recap

Wednesday, May 4th marked the last day of the 2016 regular legislative session in Connecticut.  It was a difficult year for many in our state, as deep cuts to critical government programs are being implemented across virtually every sector.  Over the last few weeks, we've seen the executive and legislative branches clashing repeatedly over budget negotiations in an effort to mitigate a projected $900 million deficit in FY 2017.  The final budget agreement will be finalized and voted on this coming Thursday, May 12, when the entire CT General Assembly will return for a special budget session. While we will not know the extent of the cuts and how they will impact Connecticut's health and environment for another week, there were some significant legislative victories this year to celebrate!  Victories include:

  • Passage of first of its kind legislation to protect pollinator's health by restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that are toxic to bees and other pollinators. The law also establishes a pollinator health task force to study the decline of pollinators in Connecticut and take steps to promote and develop pollinator-friendly habitat.

  • Legislation to reduce the amount of unnecessary and wasteful consumer-based packaging used in manufacturing every day consumer goods.

  • The legislature approved $6 million in virtual net metering credits for municipalities seeking to increase clean solar development in their communities.

  • New legislation to require greater transparency and oversight during the removal of trees on private property.

There were a number of good environmental bills that unfortunately did not get a vote before the midnight end-of-session deadline.  Important legislation that did not pass in 2016 included a bill that would eliminate toxic flame retardants in children's products and household furniture, legislation to reduce pollution from single-use disposable shopping bags, and a resolution to enact a referendum vote on a constitutional amendment to preserve State-owned lands (the resolution passed the Senate and House but unfortunately did not receive the two-thirds vote needed in the House to put the amendment on the ballot for a vote this November).

These losses came as a disappointment to many advocates and members of the public who fought hard for these pro-environment measures in 2016, but the bills also garnered a growing body of bipartisan support that advocates hope to build on in 2017.

CCE would like to extend a special thanks to Rep. James Albis, Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, Rep. Diana Urban,  Sen. Beth Bye, Rep. Phil Miller, Sen. Bob Duff, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, Rep. Roberta Willis, Rep. Mary Mushinsky, Sen. Clark Chapin, Rep. John Shaban, Rep. Kim Rose, Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, Rep. Russ Morin, Rep. Michael D'Agostino, Rep. Joe Gresko, Sen. Tony Hwang, Rep. Jon Steinberg, Rep. Fred Camillo, Rep. Roland Lemar, Rep. Matt Lesser, Rep. John Hampton, Sen. Joe Markley, and the countless others who worked tirelessly on these critical environmental issues in 2016.  We appreciate your efforts and look forward to working with you to continue fighting for Connecticut's environment during next year's CT legislative session!

Divesting From Fossil Fuels

For several years, student protesters at Syracuse University and SUNY ESF called for the divestment of fossil fuels. It was not until last April that both institutions announced the policy change. Syracuse University and SUNY ESF committed to complete fossil fuel divestment within five years. In addition, both institutions pledged to no longer directly invest in companies whose business is the extraction or transportation of fossil fuels. Institutions like SU and SUNY ESF allow for grassroots activism to take place so that each individual has the opportunity to be heard. Without student activism, there would not have been a policy change that ultimately led to social change. Two student organizations, Divest ESF and Divest SU, are responsible for taking this positive action, and hope to move towards a brighter environmental future both at home and around the world.

One year later, neither institution has any direct investments in fossil fuel companies, with no plans to invest in the future. At the divestment goal’s completion, any indirect investments made to companies with the biggest potential climate impact will be relinquished. Several universities followed suit after Syracuse University and SUNY ESF set divestment goals, fueling a larger movement towards social change.

There are currently over 500 institutions working towards fossil fuel divestment. Among these institutions are universities, governmental organizations, faith-based groups, NGOs, pension funds, foundations, for-profit corporations, and health care groups. Some of these organizations have made full divestment commitments, while others have only made partial commitments. Divestment commitments – whether full or partial – work to end the profiteering off of harming the environment.

Divesting from fossil fuels makes a strong statement that these institutions do not condone and will not finically support harming the environment or the public's health. Divestment movements are not just a moral statement, but are an effective strategy in promoting change. Divestment movements have a long history of leading to political change (i.e. South African divestment in the 1980s) and the fossil fuel divestment movement has gained momentum.

Fossil fuel divestment has now reached statewide efforts. New York State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz announced the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (S.5873/A.8011). This would require the State Comptroller to divest the Common Retirement Fund (CRF) from fossil fuel holdings by 2020.

After its announcement, the bill received the endorsement of several outside groups – including environmental and community organizations. Senator Krueger is among one of the strong supporters that shared a video, stating “it is critical that we send the message that we are no longer going to invest our public funds in activities that do enormous damage to our environment, not just in New York, not just in the United States, but throughout the world.”

To start, divestment from coal companies must be completed within one year. Moving forward, divestment from all other fossil fuel companies must be completed by January 1, 2020. In addition, the Comptroller will annually report on the progress of divestment from fossil fuel companies. Statewide efforts are natural to the progression to federal legislature. As Senator Krueger mentioned, fossil fuel divestment is an imperative action that will positively affect not only New York State, but also the entire world.

Connecticut is Losing its Leadership Position on Clean Energy

It's no secret that now is a challenging time to live and do business in Connecticut.  Right now, our State is simultaneously planning for its energy future, seeking to improve its business climate, and trying to keep working families from moving out of state, all against the backdrop of an impending $930 million budget crisis.  But in times like these, it's important to keep the big picture in mind.  If CT is ever going to grow jobs and meet its clean energy and climate change goals, we need an aggressive plan to ramp up utility and community scale renewables and energy efficiency, and we can't afford to wait until our financial problems go away. No point in sugar coating it, CT is beginning to lag behind our neighboring states on expanding its clean energy infrastructure.  In response to a growing demand from the public and private sectors, the General Assembly passed legislation in 2015 to establish a shared-solar pilot program.  Unfortunately, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has chosen to delay implementation of the project by asking for changes and clarification.  Now DEEP is supporting legislation that would further delay the shared solar pilot, much to the dismay of installers who are increasingly leaving the state to look for a more "renewable friendly" business climate.

To make matters worse, Connecticut's projected budget deficit is having a disastrous effect on our clean energy and energy efficiency programs.  The proposed Finance committee budget released last week raids $22 million from Connecticut's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) accounts to help fill holes in the general fund.  RGGI revenues help cities and towns finance clean energy solutions,  provide low cost energy efficiency assessments and weatherization for low-income families, and support the development of clean utility-scale hydropower, and improve the reliability of our state’s energy grid.  Today, more than 6,000 businesses and 55,000 homes in Connecticut benefit from RGGI programs, including more than 20,000 low-income households.

Clearly, these are programs that benefit our state in a number of important ways.  RGGI moneys are leveraged with private capital to spur jobs and innovation and to keep energy costs low; two things that are depserately needed in our state.  But the uncertainty created every time Connecticut changes or delays its clean energy policy is forcing investors to look elsewhere, and it undercuts our ability to keep our commitments on fighting climate change.  Connecticut needs to recognize that clean energy is not a luxury, but a necessity if we are to fully realize the benefits that clean energy carry with them.  It's time to stop gambling with our state's energy future, and that starts with maintaining funding for clean energy programs and moving full speed ahead with renewables.

 

 

 

Shoreham Solar Commons Benefits Long Island’s Air and Water

Over the last decade, New York has seen multiple bad energy proposals, from offshore liquefied natural gas facilities, to hydrofracking, to  providing lifelines to dirty coal plants. Members of the public have time and time again said “no” to these polluting, antiquated fossil fuel projects. We need to move our state in a cleaner, more sustainable direction.  Fortunately, Governor Cuomo has listened to  the public and has continued to support and invest in increased renewable energy. Standing alongside former Vice President Al Gore, Cuomo recently pledged to reduce harmful climate change emissions and move NY towards a renewable energy economy. To fulfill that commitment, we need to invest in large scale wind and solar projects.

One such project is the Shoreham Solar Commons. This 25 megawatt solar project will replace energy now generated by dirty, polluting fossil plants on Long Island and reduce harmful climate change emissions by roughly 29,000 tons per year. That's good news for the climate, our environment, and public health for all Long Islanders.

Shoreham Can Aid Water Quality

In addition, the project will also work to improve water quality on Long Island. Long Islanders get 100% of our drinking water from underground aquifers. This groundwater also feeds all of our lakes, streams, rivers, and harbors. Unfortunately, the quality of our groundwater is steadily declining, due to increased contamination and over-development.

So, how will solar energy help our water quality? Currently, the site of the solar farm is a golf course—a heavy user of toxic pesticides and high-nitrogen fertilizers. By replacing the Tallgrass Golf Course, Shoreham Solar Commons will eliminate a significant source of these pollutants. There’s no need for fertilizers or pesticides under solar panels. Existing flora on the golf course will be replaced with indigenous, drought-resistant plants. This project will also prevent the site from being developed into new residences, mitigating further potential groundwater contamination by septic seepage, as well as residential application of pesticides and fertilizers.

Solar Sets the Right Energy Path for Long Island

Long Island has been on the forefront of many environmental and renewable energy initiatives and have set strong, aggressive precedents for environmentally sound decisions that will shape our energy future. Moving towards a 21stcentury renewable economy means investing in large scale wind, residential solar, and large scale solar projects. Shoreham Solar Commons would signify the right energy shift for Long Island and New York. This solar project is consistent with renewable goals called for by federal, regional, state, county, and local leaders. More importantly, it is aligned with what Long Islanders have been asking for—increased clean, home-grown renewable energy.

CT Legislative Update and Perspectives on Environmental Advocacy in the New Year

Connecticut has historically been a nationwide leader on environmental protection and public health issues, and activists in Hartford are working to make this another important year for our state.  The 2015 Connecticut legislative session has been underway for just over a month and state legislators have already raised a over a dozen important pro-environment bills to be debated and considered for passage this year. In addition, legislators now in leadership positions in the House and Senate (as well as in several key committees) have made environmental issues a priority in the past, and many have promised to stay true to their commitments in 2015.  Advocates are encouraged and hopeful to see a strong showing of bi-partisan support for legislation designed to protect public health and enrich our quality of life in the Nutmeg State.

Some highlights of legislation being considered this year include:

  • Protecting our waterways by eliminating plastic microbeads from personal care products;

  • Expanding Connecticut's Child-Safe Playing fields law to eliminate toxic pesticides on public parks and high school athletic fields;

  • Putting a 10-cent fee on single-use paper and plastic shopping bags at the checkout counter;

  • Expanding CT's bottle-deposit law to include single serving juices, teas, sports and energy drinks; and

  • Lifting the cap on using federal funds to purchase open space.

Another highlight is the recent announcement that Governor Malloy has formally endorsed legislation that would create a Long Island Sound Blue Plan and Inventory.  The Blue Plan would be a master planning document that would allow the state to map out all of the various features and existing infrastructure in the Sound, to ensure that new development proposals are consistent with the values and existing uses of the Sound.  The bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2014, but did not pass as time ran out on the session before this bill could be called for a vote in the House of Representatives.  By designating it as a Governor's bill, Gov. Malloy will help elevate the likelihood that this bill will get voted on in a timely manner.  CCE is pleased to see this legislation being re-introduced and applauds Governor Malloy for making it a priority of his administration.

Of course, not all of these forward-thinking environmental and public health initiatives will pass this year.  Many will face vigorous opposition from industry groups that  view these proposals merely as burdensome and unnecessary regulations that will cut into corporate profits, despite the fact that they will provide significant environmental, health, and economic benefits to Connecticut.

In addition, environmental groups frequently find themselves working to advance legislation aimed at protecting the environment, while simultaneously having to remain on guard for legislative proposals that would be decidedly less "eco-friendly."  Every year, dozens of bad bill and rats (dangerously worded amendments that are added onto bills, often at the last minute, to weaken them or repeal parts of existing laws) emerge in the legislature in an attempt to limit or eliminate environmental protections.  CCE continues to remain vigilant in monitoring the House and Senate for environmentally harmful legislation, and will be sure to notify policy makers and the public if this occurs.

For now, there is much to be hopeful for in the realm of environmental protection in our State.  CCE is hard at work at the state house, organizing around any number of initiatives that would make Connecticut a cleaner, healthier place to live.  But with months remaining in the 2015 legislative session, only time will tell what kind of advancements the environmental community will be able to accomplish in Connecticut this year.

It's Time to Say YES to Offshore Wind

New York is at an energy crossroads. We must choose between more fossil fuels that will leave us with a legacy of toxic pollution or a pollution-free, renewable energy future.  New York is considering multiple proposals to advance offshore wind farms.  It’s time to end Long Island’s continued reliance on dirty fossil fuels, and invest in responsibly sited offshore wind! While nearly 1,000 land-based wind turbines have been installed throughout the state, New York's offshore wind energy potential is completely untapped.  But that can change, as New York has vast offshore wind energy potential.

The U.S. Department of Energy has a goal of 54,000 MW (megawatts) of offshore wind energy by 2030, largely focusing on the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean, which could:

  • Generate enough electricity to power over 20 million homes;
  • Generate $200 billion in new economic activity;
  • Create 43,000 permanent, high-paying jobs; and
  • Displace 140 million tons of carbon dioxide, the chief pollutant responsible for climate change

NY CAN INVEST IN VIABLE OFFSHORE WIND PROPOSALS NOW 

In response to Long Islanders’ demands for clean power, last year the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) committed to purchasing 280 MW of new renewable energy—enough to power 150,000 homes. The LIPA Board of Trustees is expected to decide on this new power source by the end of the year. It is critical that LIPA not delay and move forward with New York’s first offshore wind farm!

Viable projects to develop offshore wind energy have been proposed, including a wind farm planned for 30 miles off of Montauk. This wind farm, which would not be visible from shore, could supply Long Island with up to 240 MW of clean, renewable energy—enough to power 120,000 homes!

BENEFITS OF OFFSHORE WIND

  • Offshore wind will stabilize energy costs and diversify LI's energy supply: At present, 97% of Long Island’s electricity comes from fossil fuel sources. While the cost of fossil fuels is volatile and increasing, the cost of offshore wind is declining and will be fixed and guaranteed for the duration of the power purchase agreement (often 20 years).
  • Offshore wind will reduce dangerous emissions: Transitioning to clean, offshore wind energy will keep our families safer by reducing dangerous emissions. The wind farm proposed off of Montauk would displace over 1.7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Not only will this help to avoid future climate-fueled disasters like Superstorm Sandy, but it will protect public health by reducing other harmful pollutants, such as mercury.
  • Offshore wind creates sustainable, green jobs: Offshore wind can create tens of thousands of new jobs, attract new manufacturing industries, and be a substantial economic driver for New York. Developing offshore wind will bring jobs in construction, manufacturing, marine biology, engineering, and in the legal, environmental and professional service sectors on Long Island.
  • Offshore wind provides reliable energy where and when we need it most: Europe has been successfully harnessing the power of offshore wind for more than 20 years.Wind resources over the oceans are stronger and more consistent than onshore, meaning offshore wind can generate more electricty.  Offshore wind power is strongest in the summer months and in the afternoons, which is precisely when Long Islanders use the most electricity.

HOW YOU CAN HELP! We need to send a strong message on NY’s clean energy future. There are two ways you can help:

1. Write to Governor Cuomo, LIPA Chairman Suozzi, and Public Service Commission (PSC) Director Bovey:

  • Urge Governor Cuomo to move ahead with responsibly sited offshore wind in New York! Offshore wind is a viable, clean alternative to dirty fossil fuels.
  • Urge LIPA Chairman Suozzi and PSC Director Bovey to move forward with 280 MW of renewable energy for Long Island! Tell them Long Islanders prefer clean, renewable, large-scale offshore wind power over fossil fuels.
  • Ask for a response in writing, informing you of their position.
  • Remember to include your name, address, and email address in your letter!

    Write to:

  1. Honorable Andrew Cuomo, New York State Governor, Executive Chamber, NYS Capitol, Albany, NY 12224
  2. Ralph Suozzi, LIPA Chairman, OMNI Building, 333 Earle Ovington Blvd., Uniondale, NY 11553
  3. Julia Bovey, Director, Dept. of Public Service, Long Island Office, 125 East Bethpage Road, Plainview, NY 11803

2. Attend the "Let's Turn, Not Burn" Rally for Renewables at the LIPA Board Meeting on Thursday, October 30th, 2014

On Thursday, October 30, the LIPA Board will hold a final meeting before making its decision on whether to move forward on a major investment in offshore wind. CCE will be delivering thousands of petitions as well as letters of support from our elected officials. There will be an opportunity for members of the public to make comments. Your voice is needed to make sure Governor Cuomo and the LIPA Board keep their promise to Long Islanders to invest in renewable energy by moving forward with offshore wind now.

When: Thursday, October 30, 2014, 10:00am Where: LIPA HQ, 333 Earle Ovington Blvd, Uniondale, NY

*WEAR BLUE TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!*

Check the Facebook event page for updates!

Tips for Making Comments:

  • Urge the LIPA Board to act on the renewable energy RFP by December! Long Island must move forward with clean, renewable offshore wind energy.
  • Mention that offshore wind is a viable, clean alternative to dirty fossil fuels.
  • Tell the Board that building a large scale offshore wind project will attract new businesses, create jobs, and grow our economy while providing Long Island with clean, reliable power.

 

PSEG-LI's Utility 2.0: A vision for the "utility of the future"or business as usual?

This summer, PSEG-LI released "Utility 2.0," the utility's long-awaited Long Range Plan for renewable energy on Long Island. While PSEG-LI’s commitment to invest in energy efficiency and solar as well as steps to cut unnecessary electric use at peak times is a good start, the Plan fails to provide a necessary clean energy vision for Long Island’s future.  Long Islanders want and need a plan that facilitates the transition from a carbon-intensive, fossil powered economy to a low-carbon economy dependent on large-scale renewable energy sources, like offshore wind. Saddling Long Islanders to more of the same, more fossil fuels and more excuses to wait is not the long range plan we hoped for.  The discussion of transitioning from fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable energy has been taking place for years.  The time for implementation is now. Moreover, the plan lacks a clear blueprint with aggressive, yet achievable goals. Long Island needs a new energy vision.  An energy vision that will set us apart and make us a leader in combating climate change, reducing toxins, and investing in clean, safe renewable energy.  Our energy plan needs to be both a vision and a road map to achieving our goals.  Setting long-term goals is critical to maximizing Long Island’s efficiency and renewable energy potential, while demonstrating to the industry that New York is open for business.

1. What about climate change? Considering that the electricity sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions on Long Island, it’s frustrating that climate change is mentioned only once in this 96 page document. In Dave Daly’s cover letter he states that the plan, “seek(s) to align with the energy policy and initiatives supported by the Authority, DPS, and the government of the State of New York.” Why, then, is there no mention of either the State’s goal of 80% GHG reductions economy wide by 2050, or the interim goal of 50% by 2030? What is PSEG-LI’s envisioned role in working to reach NYS’s GHG reduction goals?  Utility 2.0 should define the Utility’s role in combating climate change and should offer a clear blueprint for meeting the State’s GHG reduction goals.

2. Where’s our wind? Large scale offshore wind power needs to play a significant role in Long Island’s energy future.  We need to stop talking about it and start implementing it. Despite the fact that an entire section of this plan is devoted to addressing load constraints on the South Fork, the Plan is silent on large scale offshore wind. Since PSEG-LI will be assuming planning responsibilities for power procurement within six months, it is extremely concerning that there is no discussion of the various proposed offshore wind projects.

A 900 MW wind farm planned for 30 miles off of Montauk has very real potential to feed a growing and hungry Suffolk County market if it leads to a power purchase agreement in 2014. Power from this wind farm is currently planned to go to Rhode Island but LI can tap into this resource if PSEG has the political will to do so.  In order to move away from fossil fuels and to fulfill New York State’s commitment to renewable energy generation, this Long Range plan must embrace offshore wind as a key part of Long Island’s sustainable energy future.

3. Solar:  We are making progress on solar—but we can do more. According to a recently released report issued by The Solar Foundation, New York State ranks fifth in the nation in solar energy jobs, up from seventh place last year. Due in large part to NY-SUN programs, the state has created over 5,000 jobs in the solar industry, with the potential to grow as more investment in the solar market continues. The Plan should make increasing solar a priority—and not just residential solar, but commercial solar as well. We have a lot of flat roofs on Long Island.  Let’s put those flat roofs to good use, while investing in local jobs and small businesses.

4. Let’s start a Green Roofs for Long Island program. Green roofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and mitigate the heat island effect.  Green roofs are becoming common in Chicago, as well as in Atlanta, Portland, and other United States cities, where their use is encouraged by regulations to combat the urban heat-island effect. In the case of Chicago, the city has passed codes offering incentives to builders who put green roofs on their buildings. It has been estimated that if all the roofs in a major city were greened, urban temperatures could be reduced by as much as 7 degrees Celsius. Green roofs can also reduce heat loss and energy consumption in winter conditions.

This plan was supposed to put forth a vision for the “utility of the future.” Instead we got more of the same. Business-as-usual is not the solution Long Islanders are looking for. And it is certainly not a vision for the future. PSEG-LI can continue to kick the can down the road for a few more years and watch as we fall behind and fail to meet state policy goals for reducing carbon emissions—or we can hit the reset button.  Planning is important, stalling is crippling. Long Island has been planning for far too long.  This is an opportunity to provide a better life for Long Islanders, now and in the future, and for PSEG-LI to become a leader and symbol of what it means to embrace a clean energy economy in the millennium. Let’s not let it become a missed opportunity.