In a continuing series of public meetings, Marylanders’ voices are being included in recommendations for climate legislation that will ultimately impact their lives. In 2009 Maryland’s General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA), which required the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by means of over 150 programs related to energy efficiency and the use of renewables, like wind and solar. The GGRA has been a crucial factor in Maryland’s status as a leader in climate mitigation efforts, though it must be renewed by the legislature in 2016 to remain in place.
When the GGRA was originally passed it was based on a climate action plan prepared by the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. While the Commission originally served only to write the initial climate action plan, a 2014 executive order reinstated and enlarged the entity, who will now be publishing reports on an annual basis. One hope for the Commission’s revival is that it will give a well-rounded group the chance to lay recommendations for the political framework as Maryland moves forward in a changing climate.
Since the upcoming year is crucial for the GGRA, the Commission is employing an interactive strategy to determine the recommendations it will make for Maryland to continue its work as a leader on climate action. Along with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Commission has begun a series of public comment meetings aimed at assessing what Marylanders think should be done to minimalize the state’s contribution to climate change.
These meetings have acted as a bridge between Marylanders and the Commission’s final report, which will be released in November. The Commission member leading a meeting on the Eastern Shore, Stuart Clark, said “we see this as the beginning of a discussion,” one that will, presumably, continue until the completion of this year’s report.The first series of meetings certainly did their part to facilitate discussion among communities. While the meetings include a formal public comment element, the group discussion, or round table, aspect became a venue for people to interact with fellow Marylanders. Individuals were able to ask questions, exchange knowledge, and share perceptions on the many issues that intertwine with climate change. Some in-depth conversations involved impacts on public health, agriculture, and wildlife.
The diverse backgrounds of participants elevated the round table’s effectiveness. The meetings were witness to many impassioned arguments for expanding Maryland’s climate action goals. Cheryl Arney urged the commissioners to strengthen the state’s commitments to greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy implementation for the sake of her thirteen-year-old granddaughter, who will have to face the challenges of a runaway climate in the coming decades.
Although Maryland has been receiving attention as being relatively proactive with climate action Cheryl urged the commission when she said “We need to go further,” adding that, in particular, “the commission needs to be working hard to increase these standards of renewable energy.”
The Commission report will be released in November, leaving a good amount of time for legislators to consider the finalized policy recommendations by the time the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in January. The report will serve as a reference for elected officials as they determine whether to renew or alter the goals laid out by the GGRA.
Are you a Marylander who wants to join the climate conversation? You can email comments directly to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also check out the Climate Change Maryland website to learn more about the Commission, the GGRA, and to see if there is an upcoming meeting near you!
Thursday, July 23rd, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal for its newest voluntary initiative, the Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program. It is a revamped expansion of an existing voluntary program which suggests a set of best practices and guidelines to oil and gas companies for managing methane emissions. Companies who make and track voluntary reduction commitments will be publicly recognized by EPA as leaders in reducing methane emissions. While this first formal step towards methane regulation is important, voluntary initiatives are no substitute for comprehensive nationwide standards to address methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (with 84 times the warming power of carbon pollution) and contributes heavily to climate change, which poses an unprecedented threat to the natural resources, wildlife, and the wild places we cherish. Methane is also not released by itself: smog and ozone-forming pollutants and toxic chemicals such as benzene leak from oil and gas sites along with methane, harming air quality and endangering public health and wildlife. Exposure to toxic air pollutants have similar impacts on wildlife and humans, including reproductive failure and birth defects. Strong methane regulations can help cut air pollution and encourage the oil and gas industry to take a more deliberate approach to future land developments.
We need strict federal regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sector to effectively curb our climate pollution. Luckily, the EPA and the Bureau of Land Management are moving forward with mandatory regulations to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. Cutting methane can be achieved in a cost-effective, efficient manner using existing technologies that often pay for themselves in a matter of months. Reducing methane pollution from the oil and natural gas industry is a virtually-unused tool to slow the rate of short term climate change and harness the waste of a public resource. Curbing methane pollution is an achievable step towards reducing the impacts of energy development, resulting in a triple win for wildlife, habitat, and climate.
Let EPA know that you stand for wildlife and support quick action on strong methane pollution standards on the oil and gas industry!]]>
By the end of 2016, the Block Island Wind Farm’s five offshore wind turbines will be online, generating enough clean energy to meet the needs of 17,000 homes. The turbines will replace a costly, polluting diesel generator that currently requires Block Islanders to import one million gallons of diesel fuel annually. Soon, the island will host an energy profile that matches its conservation legacy, protecting future generations and the island’s treasured wildlife and landscapes from the contamination of their air and water.
The Federation in partnership with the Environment Council of Rhode Island proudly endorsed the Block Island Wind Farm years ago – both as an exemplary project that protects wildlife and as a signal of support in the transition to cleaner sources of energy. From Deepwater Wind’s agreement to protect critically endangered right whales, to the close engagement of local fishing, boating, conservation, labor, and tribal communities, we are thrilled today to celebrate its construction.It was also fantastic to see the strong support of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abby Hopper, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, U.S. Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin, state officials, and other close partners all on hand and working together in pursuit of wildlife-friendly offshore wind power. I am more optimistic than ever that we can face the challenges ahead, while putting folks to work and protecting our natural resources, as we seize America’s clean energy future.
Add your voice to ensure today’s victory launches a robust offshore wind power industry for America!]]>
It can sometimes be challenging to see tangible progress in our pursuit of a clean energy future, but today I was lucky enough to go out on the water and see the construction underway for America’s first offshore wind power project off Block Island. It is truly the beginning of a new energy chapter for America! Congratulations to Deepwater Wind for making it happen.National Wildlife Federation was proud and honored to join US Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abby Hopper, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, US Senators Whitehouse and Reed, US Representatives Langevin and Cicilline, key members of Rhode Island’s state government, our Rhode Island affiliate the Environment Council of Rhode Island, and so many more in celebrating this incredible milestone out on the water today. As the boat approached the construction site, the energy was palpable as everyone broke out in cheers to celebrate this incredible milestone. There were lots of hugs and high fives as we all looked out at what can and must be the beginning of something BIG. Not just the beginning of this project, which will start producing power next year, but the beginning of a major new energy chapter for America.
In many ways this is a Block Island story – since the five turbines that will ultimately spin off their shores will power the entire island, replacing an old, expensive and highly polluting diesel generator. This is also a Rhode Island story – given that the State’s visionary ocean planning process played a critical role in siting this project and ensuring it moved forward with strong stakeholder support. But fundamentally it is a national story – today, America has finally taken our first step toward harnessing the abundant winds that blow far offshore. It is finally happening!
“Rhode Island is leading America toward a clean energy future with the construction of this project. The Block Island Wind Farm will provide pollution-free energy, keep energy dollars local, and create hundreds of new jobs – all while ensuring treasured wildlife like endangered Right Whales are protected,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of National Wildlife Federation, who took part in a boat tour of the Block Island site today. “This is a great example of how offshore wind power can be a win for both people and wildlife. Now is the time for bold commitments from state leaders up and down the east coast to ensure this transformational resource plays a major role in our energy future.”
Offshore wind power’s American debut is long, long overdue. For over 20 years, offshore wind power has been producing thousands of megawatts of pollution-free energy and spurring transformative job creation overseas. We have a world-class wind resource along the Atlantic seaboard, and it is time for us to take advantage of the significant environmental and economic benefits this booming global industry has to offer.
National Wildlife Federation is a strong advocate for responsibly developed offshore wind power, and we are proud supporters of the Block Island Wind Farm. This project is a shining example of how renewable energy development can and must be done right – with science-based planning, extensive stakeholder engagement, and true leadership from state and federal government as well as industry. NWF has worked closely with Deepwater Wind to ensure that endangered North Atlantic right whales are protected throughout the offshore wind development process, and we applaud this industry leader for setting a strong precedent for responsible offshore wind power development with America’s first project.Offshore wind power offers an unmatched opportunity to diversify our energy portfolio with clean, local power. It is uniquely valuable to state energy planners because its peak production coincides with moments of peak power demand: summer afternoons and winter cold snaps. It can create tens of thousands of long-term, high-quality US jobs. It is ready to go, but it requires the political will of our elected federal and state officials to become reality. A promising example of the state commitment needed has been introduced in Massachusetts, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased enough area offshore to meet the needs of more than half of the homes in the Commonwealth. In Massachusetts and elsewhere, these will just be numbers on a page until states commit to creating a stable market capable of helping launch an industry. Today was an inspiring reminder that big change can happen. America can begin a new energy chapter powered by clean, inexhaustible offshore wind. It starts with one foundation for one turbine at one project off one state – but it can and must be the launching pad for a robust offshore wind industry that can power millions of homes, businesses, and vehicles all along the coast with pollution-free energy. In order for America to charge forward and ensure that offshore wind power plays a major role in our energy future, we need continued bold leadership from our federal and state leaders to commit to making it happen.
Ensure today’s historic moment is truly the beginning of something big by speaking for offshore wind power, whose day has finally come!
That is the legacy of tar sands oil in Michigan. And it’s a tragic one for wildlife.
On July 25, I’m joining hundreds of others in Battle Creek, Michigan to remember the fifth anniversary of the rupture of Line 6B, where pipeline giant Enbridge spilled approximate one million gallons of sticky tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek and then the Kalamazoo River. And I’ll also celebrate real progress made possible through the leadership of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
This Saturday we’ll gather to remember this horrible event and recommit our efforts to make sure we never have an accident like this again.Action is needed. The tar sands oil industry has plans to bring more tar sands oil into the Great Lake’s region, concocting a scheme to avoid public review. That scheme is being challenged in court by NWF, our affiliate in Minnesota, and indigenous and other conservation groups.
Here are reasons we must take measures to stop tar sands expansion and protect wildlife in the Great Lakes region.
There is some good news. A taskforce in the State of Michigan led by Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant, who serves under Republican Governor Rick Snyder, moved to ban tar sands oil from moving through Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
This marks continued momentum in the region against tar sands oil. Michigan’s future could be made even safer if Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama can say no to more tar sands oil in the Great Lakes.
Tell State Department: DO NOT allow expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline!
Hope to meet some of you on Saturday.]]>
The Extension has roots from the 1800s but was authorized in 1914 by the Smith-Lever Act with the goal to inform farmers and the general public about advances in agriculture, economic development, coastal issues, and a range of related subjects such as leadership and governance. Today, over 100 land-grant colleges and universities are dedicated to providing research, information and services to farmers, young people, and whole communities.
While describing the strategies used and lessons learned in NWF’s various advocacy campaigns, Ben Larson, Jan Goldman-Carter, and Naomi Edelson frequently described the strength and experience that NWF has in convening often disparate groups to unite for action. Ben explained, “The effectiveness of coalitions comes down to how well you relate to each other. NWF has experience being a good convener – that big tent for lots of organizations to come together.”
Jan noted that when bringing together a coalition to successfully support the Clean Water Rule, “We didn’t stop at environmentalists and sportsmen but also reached out to faith groups, local community leaders, county commissioners, even brewers – who had a huge interest in preserving clean waters.”
And Naomi, who gave an overview of the work NWF has done to support Monarch butterflies and other pollinators, explained that “You can do policy by writing rules and regulations and have enforcement. But you can also have policy successes just by bringing people together.”Ben also noted that Extension leaders, like those present, were perfect candidates for getting involved and advocating for ecologically sound policies. He explained that representatives are much more receptive to the input from their constituencies as opposed to just hearing from Washington lobbyists. Extension leaders can more easily reach into geographically dispersed communities, engage people, and bring them from their home districts to DC for direct advocacy with their representatives. Also, through their established networks, Extension leaders have access to a large quantity of relevant and vivid stories to which representatives respond. Having already been familiar with NWF’s long-running Campus Ecology program, NELD program participant Tom Wojciechowski, with the University of Wisconsin Extension, had reached out to Julian with a request for NWF to host this discussion. Of course, Julian had no trouble finding NWF staff members eager to share their experiences with this dynamic and engaging group.
The meeting ended with a brief question and answer session in which the speakers opened up about their personal motivations and aspirations as well as their biggest lessons learned. Ben noted, “It takes years to do big stuff,” and Jan added, “You can’t take anything for granted. It is a constant education and reeducation process.”
Julian added her hope that with the connections made in this meeting, she would like to see “a collaboration between NWF and Extension, where together we have a huge army of students and young professionals who are engaged and caring and educated and educating others about water and biodiversity and sustainability and clean energy.”
Right in the middle of the experience, though, with a grizzly charging after me, something truly bizarre occurred. Maybe you’ve heard that time slows down when your life is in jeopardy? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. Every second seemed to stretch on forever, and I realized, pretty much out of the blue, that I was indignant. Hell, I was angry. You’re never supposed to run away from a grizzly bear, right? And here I was, sprinting away from an irate mama griz in a pair of LL Bean slippers.
You have to understand that none of this was supposed to happen. It wasn’t like we made some huge, boneheaded mistake that was guaranteed to put our lives in danger. It was more a series of minor miscalculations, each one compounding the last, until, without ever intending to put ourselves at risk, a friend and I found ourselves running down a dirt road with mama bear in hot pursuit.
To make matters worse, a truly horrible thought popped into my head as all this was playing out. I was going to die. I was going to die, and they were going to write on my tombstone that I was the only man in human history dumb enough to run away from a grizzly bear in his slippers. Honestly, I couldn’t understand how any of this was happening; how I was about to be mauled to death when just an ounce of common sense and a tiny bit of foresight could have kept me safe and sound.
And that’s the connection I’d like to make today. Climate change is an awful lot like that big, angry grizzly bear. It’s out there in the shadows and we’re strolling toward it, vaguely aware that something might be askew; that it feels wrong to be traveling this particular path. Yet instead of changing direction, we’re making light of the situation and asking ourselves, “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s almost as if we’ve convinced ourselves that a handful of poor decisions and a pinch of willful ignorance will never, ever turn around and bite us on the backside.Life is a funny thing. I never thought I’d run away from a bear in my slippers. Of course, I never made a conscious decision to put myself at risk either. It just sort of worked out that way. Which, when you think about it, was Elizabeth Kolbert’s point in her book Field Notes From A Catastrophe where she writes “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing”.
We are indeed walking the road toward climate chaos. Perhaps not consciously, and certainly not with premeditation, but we can’t dump more than 30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each and every year and expect that our climate won’t react. You walk around in a heavy jacket, you get warmer. You shoot unimaginably huge quantities of greenhouse gasses into the sky, the planet heats up. It’s just the way it works.
Ninety-seven percent of the world’s climate scientists are convinced that our CO2 emissions are cooking the planet. As the U.S. National Academy of Sciences pointed out a couple of years ago, human-caused climate change is a “settled fact”.
The good news is that we’re still in a place where a little foresight and a little common sense can go a long way toward keeping us safe. Yes, things are getting tenuous, and yes, the future is looking a lot darker than we’d imagined just a few years ago. But if enough of us stand up to the climate deniers and demand action; if enough of us refuse to sit quietly on the sidelines while one of the biggest threats to ever come down the pike barrels toward us, then we can still come out of this in one piece.
But opportunity isn’t going to perch on our shoulder for much longer. The forecast is for grim. No, that’s not a typo. It’s for grim – for heat like we’ve never seen before, and for melting glaciers, and for storms of the millennia; for huge floods; for droughts and something beyond droughts called “dustbowlification;” for dying forests and extreme wildfires and a planet far, far different from the one we know and love. That’s why we made our Cold Waters film, and it’s why so many of us work day-in and day-out to educate people about climate change.
Click here to view the embedded video.
Here’s the thing. I’m just some guy who loves the outdoors. I shouldn’t have to tell you about climate change. But I’ve run from the bear, and I don’t ever want to do it again. Not with my ten year old son at my side; not with everything I care about on the line. We need to pick a different road. It’s time to get our act together and give ourselves a chance. If we want to share a livable world with our kids and our grandkids, then we have to get to work.
About the Author: Todd Tanner is a longtime outdoor writer, as well as the president of Conservation Hawks. While he’s rooting for an even stronger version of the President’s Clean Power Plan, he supports every reasonable effort to limit CO2 emissions and shift America toward clean, renewable energy.]]>
Despite this good news, we’ve got a problem. Just across Lake Champlain, in New York, poorly regulated oil trains rumble along old rail lines and bridges just yards from the shore, posing a serious threat to the lake and the communities that surround it.
The domestic oil boom in the U.S. and Canada has trains running like never before across the continent. According to the Association of American Railroads, between 2006 and 2015 the amount of crude oil and refined petroleum products transported on U.S. rail lines has nearly tripled.
As should be expected, the increase in rail transport has lead to an increase in accidents. In 2013, more crude oil (1.15 million gallons) was spilled from train accidents than was spilled in all of the years between 1975 and 2012 (800,000 gallons) combined. So far this year, there have been train accidents and associated crude oil fires and spills in West Virginia, Illinois, North Dakota and two in Ontario, Canada.
The plan would clear the way for the same train line to carry this heavy oil that is strip mined from vast stretches of boreal forests into the market. Mining and then burning this oil is pumping massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so much so that former NASA climatologist James Hansen said that if Alberta’s tar sands oil is extracted and burned, it will be “game over for the planet.”
Some argue that slowing oil-by-rail shipments will increase the pressure for pipelines, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, or the use of the Portland Montreal Pipeline that runs across the Northeast Kingdom. That notion is based on the false assumption that we have no choice but to double down on dirty fuel, digging it up and hauling it around in ever-greater quantities. For the sake of the climate, clean water, and the safety of our communities, we’ve simply got to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels. Throttling back – not up – is the only option.
Specifically in terms of shipping oil by rail, NWF has called for an immediate moratorium on the shipments along Lake Champlain until safety can be guaranteed. VNRC agrees. Given the progress we are making on cleaning up Lake Champlain – and the growing urgency to deal with climate change – allowing this threat to remain makes no sense.
About the Author: Brian Shupe, Executive Director of NWF Vermont affiliate Vermont Natural Resources Council]]>
Such a sight would have been rare just years ago. It told us of the progress we can achieve when people come together to protect wildlife.
In what may be remembered as a day the tide again turned in favor of wildlife, I was proud and humbled to march with over 5,000 people to demand a better future for wildlife at the Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul. The message was simple: let’s build an energy future where wildlife and communities can thrive. Let’s turn away from a risky future of extreme fossil fuels like tar sands that place our water, wildlife, communities and climate in peril.
As we close in on rejection of the controversial and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline, it appears the U.S. State Department still hasn’t fully gotten the message. Last Spring, it approved a behind-the-scenes illegal scheme to approximately double the amount of tar sands entering the Great Lakes region. This is despite having promised to conduct a public permitting and review process before allowing any additional tar sands into the region.
On Saturday, 5000 people delivered a message. Tar sands oil is all risk and no reward for the Great Lakes region. The additional tar sands oil illegally approved by the State Department will almost certainly pass by the at-capacity refineries in the Great Lakes and head to the Gulf Coast, where it will be exported. The tar sands oil already entering the region is currently sickening nearby communities and rivers.Along the way, tar sands oil will inevitable spill, as it did in July of 2010 in Marshall, Michigan when a major pipeline burst. This disastrous spill of almost impossible to clean up tar sands – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history – still pollutes sections of a forty mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River. It killed thousands of wildlife, including almost 65% of all small mammals injured by the spill. This is not a future wildlife can afford.
After marching over a mile to the State Capitol, speaker after speaker spoke of hope and of a better future for our children, where we don’t have energy sacrifice zones for energy, but instead gain our power from clean energy that doesn’t imperil people and wildlife. It voice grew louder than the next.
All the while, a red tailed hawk perched on the State Capitol dome encircled the crowed, drawing the crowd’s attention, reminding us of what we were there to protect.
Tell the State Department: Do not allow expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline!]]>
With the U.S. State Department giving backroom approval for a near doubling of the amount of tar sands entering the region primarily along the Alberta Clipper line, it’s time for a clean energy future. People are demanding that no new tar sands enter the region until a transparent, public review process takes place, and cleaner solutions are considered and advanced.
Tar sands oil is not like regular oil. It’s a heavy, thick substance that has to be mined by clearing forests, draining wetlands, and stripping away earth in the productive evergreen forests of Canada.
Almost 200 species of internationally protected migratory birds use the tar sands area of Alberta for seasonal habitat and breeding, including the endangered whooping crane and popular game birds like wood ducks and teal. In addition to direct habitat destruction and fragmentation, toxic tailings ponds needed to contain the waste pose an immense hazard for birds and other wildlife, with one incident resulting in about 1,600 duck fatalities.Since it’s so thick, tar sands oil cannot be transported via pipe unless it’s diluted with a toxic gas condensate. Even then, it must be transported at high pressure, which causes the substance to heat up. There is some indication this heating process and the uneven pressure of the tar sands mixture places undue stress on pipes.
When the substance spills, it has disastrous consequences for wildlife and habitat. The diluent gases off into the air, producing a toxic cloud of benzene and other chemicals. The sticky tar sands sinks to the bottom of wetlands, rivers, streams and other water bodies, attaching itself to the bottom.The tragic consequences were seen in my home state of Michigan in July, 2010 when an Enbridge line carrying tar sands oil ruptured. It spilled almost a million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River and surrounding area. The spill killed or injured thousands of birds, mammals, turtles, and other wildlife. Almost 65% percent of small mammals impacted by the spill died. Forty miles of the river was sullied. Today, portions of the river are still polluted by the spill, despite multiple dredging attempts and over $1.2 billion in clean-up efforts. In 2013, a smaller tar sands spill in Arkansas has left a residential neighborhood uninhabitable. The Alberta Clipper line crosses or runs near countless Minnesota lakes, ponds, wetlands and streams. It terminates in Superior, Wisconsin, after it crosses tributaries of Lake Superior. From there, the tar sands oil makes its way onto a web of pipelines that flow through the Great Lakes region and beyond. More tar sands oil means a higher risk of a tar sands oil spill, with likely permanent impacts for the wildlife and habitat in the affected area.
Tar sands oil also produces much more carbon pollution than regular oil, and more tar sands oil is used as the pipelines’ capacity increases. This fuels the climate change that is likely leading dramatic declines in moose populations in Minnesota and other northern states, as well as fueling toxic algae blooms that are increasingly threatening water quality, wildlife, and recreation in the Great Lakes.
Before more tar sands oil comes into our state and region, the State Department should follow the law and make good on its commitment to have a public review process that will look at all the impacts of the project and determine if the project is necessary.
Residents throughout the Great Lakes’ region deserve a chance to have some fundamental questions asked and answered before we put our resources at risk.
The facts are increasingly clear. We don’t need tar sands oil. The risks to wildlife are too high. And we can successfully move off of oil and onto cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy that don’t pose serious threats to wildlife.
The time is now to get work. The people of the Great Lakes are ready to lead the charge for a clean energy future for wildlife. They’re asking our decisions makers to lead with them.
Even if you can’t attend the event in St. Paul on June 6th, support the cause by urging the U.S. State Department to stop more tar sands from entering the region and to protect wildlife!]]>