energy

What President Trump Means for the Future of Energy and Climate

By Mark Barteau, University of Michigan

President…Donald…Trump. For those on both sides of the aisle who vowed “Never Trump!,” that’s going to take some getting used to. After a stunning election, the first impulse may be to describe the future in apocalyptic phrases. Game over for the climate! Game over for NATO! Game over for the Clean Power Plan! Game over for Planned Parenthood!

While there are certainly extreme outcomes possible for these and many other issues that divide our nation, we may see some moderation, especially on matters where the divisions do not rigidly follow ideological fault lines.

Fact-Checking The Biomass Lobby’s New Website

Lobbyists for the biomass industry have created a new website, Biomass101.org, with the seemingly laudable goal of “Correcting the record and getting the facts out on carbon-neutral biomass energy.”

Mary Booth of the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) says there’s one major problem with that, however: burning biomass — wood or wood pellets and other plant matter — for energy is anything but carbon neutral.

So Booth and PFPI have launched their own website, Biomess101.org, to get the real facts out about the “facts” the biomass lobbyists are pushing.

California Regulators Sued Over Plan To Turn Aquifer Into Permanent Oil Waste Dump

California regulators are facing a lawsuit over their plans to turn an underground aquifer in the Price Canyon area of San Luis Obispo County into a permanent disposal site for oilfield wastewater and other potentially dangerous fluids.

In August 2015, oil giant Freeport-McMoRan submitted an application to California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) for state approval of its plan to exempt an aquifer in the Arroyo Grande Oil Field from federal protections so that the company could move forward with plans to drill hundreds of new wells in the area.

In turn, this past February, DOGGR officially submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have the aquifer exempted from protections under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

CA Officials Want To Allow Oil Industry To Dump Toxic Waste Into Aquifers, Exempt Them From Federal Protection

California officials announced on Wednesday that they will seek the exemption of as many as 60 underground aquifers from federal protections so that the oil industry can use them to dispose of toxic oilfield wastewater. 

Regulators with the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) said they will submit the necessary applications to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the next four months to exempt aquifers in Monterey, Ventura, Kern and other counties from federal laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In a statement issued in response to DOGGR’s plan, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which has put together an interactive map of the aquifers in question, noted that “Oil wastewater commonly contains cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants, according to [DOGGR]’s own testing. Flowback fluid coming out of fracked wells in California contains benzene at levels as high as 1,500 times the federal limits for drinking water, according to oil companies’ own tests.”

Donald Trump Lays Out Disastrous Energy Plan, Denies Climate Science Again

News flash: Donald Trump has proven again that he would be a disastrous President who would let our planet fry. Today, he added further insult to existing injury, launching a jaw-dropping energy speech that defies reality.

April 2016 set a record as the hottest April on record since temperatures were first recorded. Unfortunately, this was not a fluke; This has become the “new normal.” April was the 12th consecutive month that broke monthly high-temperature records. In other words, the last twelve months have been the hottest months ever recorded for each respective month.

The Democratic candidates that have run for Party’s nomination have all been on the same page in terms of accepting the scientific consensus that the atmosphere is warming up and that human activity is the biggest cause. But the Republican candidates, a pool that has been whittled down to include only Donald Trump, have consistently declared that climate change is a hoax.

The New York Times explains Donald Trump’s previous comments about climate and energy as follows:

California Regulators Are Approving Fracking Wastewater Disposal Permits Near Fault Lines

New research indicates that nearly 40 percent of new wastewater injection wells approved over the past year in California are perilously close to fault lines, increasing the risk of man-made earthquakes in the already seismically active Golden State.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) found that 13 out of 33, or 39 percent, of new drill permits for wastewater disposal wells issued by regulators with California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) between April 2015 and March 2016 were for drill sites within 5 miles of a fault.

The CBD also found that 26 of the 33 rework permits for wastewater disposal wells granted by DOGGR over that same period were for wells within 5 miles of a fault. Rework permits are required when a company wants to re-drill a well or alter a well casing.

Democratic Senator Believes His Party “In Denial” About Fossil Fuel Importance

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has always been at odds with the majority of his fellow Democrats in terms of environmental protection, but his statements a few weeks ago show that he might have actually become an enemy to the environment.
 
In early April, Manchin told The Wall Street Journal that while Republicans have plenty of “deniers” on their side who refuse to admit that climate change is real, the Democratic Party has plenty of “deniers”, too. According to Manchin, those “deniers” are the ones who believe that the United States can move to a fossil fuel-free society.
 
In his own words:  “Even worse than that, we have deniers that believe we’re going to run this country or run this world without fossil…That’s a worse denier, thinking they’re just going to just shift it and everything’s going to be hunky-dory.”

Calls For Permanent Closure of Aliso Canyon NatGas Storage Facility As Californians Face Blackouts

Last week, California regulators and Southern California Gas Company, which operates the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, issued a report warning that a continued shutdown of the facility, the site of the worst methane leak in state history, would lead to blackouts throughout the summer.

The regulators and the company have proposed restarting gas injections into the Aliso Canyon facility in the coming weeks, but Porter Ranch area residents — 1,800 of whom had to be evacuated due to health impacts of the methane leak — are challenging the report’s findings and calling for permanent closure of Aliso Canyon, one of the largest gas storage facilities in the US.

Aliso Canyon has been shut down since January. The leak started in October of last year. Two and a half months later, Governor Jerry Brown finally declared a state of emergency, but it would take SoCalGas, as the company is known, another month and a half to finally stop the leak.

Top Five Climate and Environment Issues for Obama-Trudeau Bilateral Summit

The strained relationship between Canada and the U.S. over the last decade was in no small part due to disagreement over the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline. 
 
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a staunch supporter of what he called the “no-brainer” project. President Obama, on the other hand, felt like all sorts of brain should be involved when deciding on the future of such major fossil fuel infrastructure. And he rightfully rejected the border crossing pipeline project, which had clearly failed his climate test.
 
Now, with Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the helm of America’s Hat, the two most intimately tied economies in the developed world have a lot of catching up to do. Even with Keystone XL dead and buried (sort of), environment and energy issues are still top of mind for the two leaders.
 
In a recent Q and A with the Huffington Post, Trudeau acknowledged the timing is right for bold leadership on climate change and the environment: “There is a nice alignment between a Canadian Prime Minister who wants to get all sorts of things done right off the bat and an American President who is thinking about the legacy he is going to leave in his last year in office,” Mr. Trudeau said.
 
“The issues that are important to him and to me are climate change.”
 
Obama and Trudeau already had an informal ‘bromance’ meeting soon after the new Prime Minister took office in November 2015. But now, with the unprecedented Paris Agreement behind them, the two leaders have an incredible opportunity to break new ground on climate action and environmental protection at this formal summit.
 
Here are the top five energy and environment issues these self-proclaimed climate leaders should have on their agenda:

California Offshore Oil Fracking Permits Halted While Federal Government Performs Environmental Review

The U.S. federal government will stop approving offshore oil fracking operations off California’s coast while it studies how damaging the practice is to the health of wildlife and the environment.

In separate deals with Santa Barbara, CA-based Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Department of the Interior agreed to assess the risks posed by well-stimulation techniques such as fracking and acidization when used on oil platforms off California’s coast.

Documents obtained by EDC following a 2013 Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the controversial well stimulation techniques were used on offshore platforms, while federal regulators had no idea where or how frequently the practices were employed.

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