Leading the charge to a 100% renewable energy future for Pennsylvania

from PennEnvironment, 2/19/19

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country, but that could all change this legislative session.

PennEnvironment is reintroducing legislation in both the House and Senate this session that will require Pennsylvania to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. This legislation couldn’t come soon enough, with recent reports such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s, that show that climate change’s effect are not in the distant future as previously thought.

A commitment to renewable energy at this level would make Pennsylvania a leader in clean energy, and, as a state that depended largely on coal until more recent years, serve as a primary example of how states can take action to drastically reduce their emissions.

“We’re not California. We’re not Hawaii,” said David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, to CBS News. “When you have a purple state that Trump won, where the General Assembly is dominated by conservative Republicans, it’s significant and shows that other states with a history of fossil fuel production can lead the way.”

Just one month into the new legislative session, the bill already has more than 50 cosponsors.

Read more here from Environment America.

Why Are People Finally Believing in Climate Change?

By Mukta Patil, Sierra, Feb 19 2019

A climate communication expert talks bad weather, and young Republicans

A record number of Americans—73 percent—now understand that global warming is happening. About 62 percent of them know that humans are mostly responsible. What is bringing this change in understanding? Is it a generational shift? Or just a whole lot of bad weather?

Anthony Leiserowitz is director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC), which is behind this new data. Along with colleagues from George Mason University, the YPCCC has spent the last decade studying American awareness of climate change and how to shift that awareness. Leiserowitz spoke to Sierra about young Republicans, the weather report, and why it’s easier to explain climate change to a person in India than to a person in the US.

Sierra: The most recent survey that YPCCC has done shows awareness of climate change is at its highest since you started collecting data. What is it about right now that is significant?

Anthony Leiserowitz: The number of Americans who think global warming is happening is at an all-time high. We saw an eight percentage point jump in Americans who were very worried about climate change. That’s a big surge. When you do these kinds of surveys twice a year, you’re used to seeing changes that are one, two, or maybe three percentage points. Very rarely do you see that kind of movement.

Questions like “When will climate change start to harm people in the United States?,” “When will it harm you, your family, your community?”—we saw a big jump in those numbers— much more than “How much will it harm future generations or other plant and animal species?,” which are more distant.

We think that in the end, this big jump from March to December 2018 has a few different things that have sort of converged. One is the extreme, record-setting weather—from Hurricane Michael destroying part of the Panhandle in Florida to the terrible wildfires that went on and on in California.

They still have a long way to go, but the media is beginning to use the words “climate change” when they are reporting those extreme events. That’s crucial, because there have always been fires and floods and droughts. Of course, all disasters cannot be connected to climate change, but many can. As the media begins to make that link for people, it helps solidify in people’s minds that this is happening and it’s not some far away, distant thing—it’s tearing apart communities right here, right now, in the United States.

The other thing that happened was the release of two major scientific reports—the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] special report on what it would take to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming, which is a real wake-up call for the global community, saying that we’ve actually got about 12 years to very seriously bend the curves on our emissions if we are to have any hope of staying below 1.5 degrees. That got a fair amount of press coverage….

read more at Sierra

Living plastic-free: One activist fights a rising tide of pollution

By James Rainey, NBC News, Feb. 16, 2019

From her front stoop to coffee shops, dry cleaners and markets, activist Dianna Cohen is fighting to rid her life, and the world, of plastics.

LOS ANGELES — Dianna Cohen is on alert. From the newspaper on her front stoop each morning, to the clothes she will pick up at the dry cleaner, to the lunch she’ll eat, to the shelves at her seemingly eco-friendly health food store — Cohen’s nemesis appears everywhere.

The world seems to be wrapped in plastic — and Cohen is not buying it. She is fighting to lead a life free of plastics, and to get others to do the same.

The Los Angeles native has taken her campaign against plastic waste — an annoyance of her youth and later the medium of her work as a visual artist — and made it her life’s cause.

She co-founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition a decade ago, to bind together environmental groups trying to reduce the amount of plastic that goes into landfills and streets and then into streams, rivers and oceans. Her crusade includes changing consumer behavior — beginning with her own — in an effort to not only reduce waste today, but also to get companies to offer more products in reusable containers in order to slow the waste of the future….

read more at NBC News

Uwchlan becomes sixth Chesco municipality to set renewable energy target

Daily Local News, Feb 13, 2019

UWCHLAN—Uwchlan supervisors Monday night unanimously endorsed a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in line with international and national commitments to head off a worsening climate crisis.

Despite the falling snow, residents came out to show their support for this decision and expressed gratitude for the vision and leadership of the Board of Supervisors both in trying to reduce the immediate dangers of expanding pipelines and to prevent the impact of extreme weather due to climate disruption resulting from carbon and methane emissions.

The resolution calls for the development of an energy transition plan to be prepared for review by April 22, 2020 (Earth Day) which will include interim milestones, financial impacts, equity metrics, potential financing mechanisms and the percentage of clean energy to be locally produced.

Uwchlan’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) recommended the Board consider the resolution after consulting other communities who passed similar energy management targets both within the county and elsewhere.

More than 100 cities and municipalities across the nation and in Southeastern PA have pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. Six communities have already achieved the goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, including Burlington, VT, Georgetown TX and Greensburg, Kansas.

The Supervisors noted that momentum is building in Pennsylvania for a renewable energy future. Uwchlan joins Kennett Township, Downingtown, West Chester, East Bradford and Phoenixville in Chester County in setting specific targets for 100 percent clean and renewable energy community-wide. …

read more at Daily Local News

Riverkeeper case can proceed

by Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, Feb 13, 2019

PHILADELPHIA—On Feb. 12, 2019, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) defeated a motion to dismiss filed by Sunoco Pipeline L.P., thus allowing the case to proceed. DRN’s complaint was filed in June 2018 against Sunoco for their failure to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES permit) for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network released the following statement: “Our government, both state and federal, has been complicit in helping to advance the dirty fracked has industry despite its traumatic impacts on our water, air, forests, climate and future generations. When it comes to pipelines, not only is the law stacked against us, but our state and federal agencies have twisted themselves into pretzels to find ways to help pipeline companies advance the full power of the laws that should apply.

“The Clean Water Act is one place where this is abundantly clear. Our government officials have not required pipeline companies like Sunoco to comply with the pollution permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act, they have allowed the companies to evade this mandate of the law entirely. Had Pennsylvania mandated compliance with state and federal permitting requirements from the get go, we would not have had the devastating impacts we see today.”…

read more at Daily Local News

Make Your Grocery Game Zero-Waste

By Mukta Patil, Sierra Club, Feb 4 2019

Five ways to render grocery shopping easier on the planet—and your wallet

Shopping for groceries can be overwhelming. Once you get past the sheer volume of products staring down from the aisles, you’ve got to reckon with their ingredients, prices, and the way the food is packed. For environmentally conscious shoppers, the latter—excessive packaging and the resulting pollution—is especially irksome. Enter the zero-waste grocery store.

These small-but-budding enterprises are increasingly popping up, and they’re promising plastic-free, packaging-free products ranging from grains and produce to detergent and shampoo. The original zero-waste grocery story was the late in.gredients in Austin, Texas, which unfortunately shut down last April after five years of selling exclusively (un)packaged and locally sourced food. In its wake, however, in.gredients hatched a trend. The similarly modeled Package Free Shop cropped up in Brooklyn in 2017. Vancouver’s Nada opened in June 2018. Nada owner Brianne Miller, a marine biologist, says her zero-waste store and cafe was inspired by her research travels, which made her realize just how widespread plastic pollution was. “We want to inspire a better world by changing the way people shop for groceries,” Miller says. “Through these individual actions, we can reduce food waste and plastic pollution.”…

read more at Sierra Club

What we have learned about Mariner East since the latest sinkhole

letter, Daily Local News, 2/4/19 (in print 2/14/19)

On Sunday January 20th, 2019, yet another sinkhole opened up in a residential backyard in West Whiteland Township, exposing Mariner East 1. Mariner East 1 is an 80 year old pipeline that was repurposed and its flow reversed (against PHMSA recommendations) in 2014 to carry dangerous Natural Gas Liquids across Pennsylvania to be shipped overseas to make plastic. This is the 4th sinkhole on this street in 14 months, all caused by the Mariner East project. Directly impacted residents notified Sunoco, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and called 911.

It has become clear that the PUC is not an unbiased regulator when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Senator Dinniman even recently stated “It’s like the Public Utility Commission is all ‘utility’ and no ‘public’.”

The PUC is using the ARM Group, which is a full-service science and engineering consulting firm, “to monitor geological testing of the site and analyze the results for the PUC investigators”. The ARM Group is the same firm that was utilized last spring after previous sinkholes and ground subsidence concerns. According to that 2018 report, the ARM Group concluded that “the corrective actions taken and planned to be taken by Sunoco Pipeline L.P. (grouting and post-grouting monitoring program) as described herein will be sufficient to mitigate the risk to the integrity of the ME1 Pipeline”. To summarize, less than 9 months after the ARM Group determined this location to be stable, another sinkhole appeared, and the PUC has contracted them to do the same work again. Continue reading