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[l] at 2/3/23 3:05am
This story is a collaboration between Floodlight and DeSmog As the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, festivities drew to a close, Dina Nuñez called to order a meeting of women grassroots activists in a modest home in the heart of Port Isabel, Texas. Top of her agenda: how to stop a Houston-based oil and gas company from building a $10 billion project to export liquefied natural gas on a nearby stretch of coast. For Nuñez and her friends, the fight against the scheme — known as Rio Grande LNG — is about protecting their community from air pollution; preserving shrimping and tourism; and defending habitats for pelicans, endangered ocelots, and aplomado falcons at the project site on unspoiled wetlands between Port Isabel and the larger city of Brownsville. The claim by developer NextDecade to be building the “greenest LNG project in the world” has thrust the women to the forefront of a global struggle. At a time when scientists warn there can be no new fossil fuel developments if the world is going to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, oil and gas executives are turning to a technology known as carbon capture and storage, or CCS, to convince investors, politicians, and the public their expansion plans are climate-safe. “This is a poor community, yes. We’re not saying we don’t need jobs,” Nuñez said, shortly before the meeting of volunteers with the Neighbors for the Wellness of the Coastal Community group, known in Spanish as Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera. “But we don’t need work that affects the environment, and ultimately, the health of the community.” Dina Nuñez addresses a meeting of the grassroots activist group Neighbors for the Wellness of the Coastal Community / Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera. Credit: Gaige Davila A prime example of the ups and downs of the American liquefied natural gas industry, plans to build Rio Grande LNG faltered in 2020 as demand for energy cratered during the Covid-19 pandemic, and concern over its climate impact grew. But the scheme has been resurrected thanks to a European scramble for LNG triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a new twist on the original design — the use of CCS to portray the facility as a source of “clean” energy. These claims hinge on a proposal by NextDecade to use CCS to capture more than 5 million tons a year of the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced during the process of supercooling the gas for loading on to specialized tankers for export. The company says it will be one of the biggest CCS systems in North America — and the first LNG terminal to reduce its CO2 emissions by more than 90 percent. “NextDecade is a clean energy company accelerating the path to a net-zero future,” NextDecade chief executive Matthew Schatzman told a conference call to present the CCS plan to financial analysts in March 2021. “Efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions are at the very foundation of our company.” Opponents point out there’s a big catch, however. Only 6-7 percent of the overall emissions associated with such projects are generated during the process of cooling the gas, according to a 2019 study by the Department of Energy. That means that the proposed CCS plant could only ever mitigate a small fraction of Rio Grande LNG’s total climate impact. And that impact could be considerable. The Sierra Club estimates that building Rio Grande LNG could generate up to 163 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions a year — comparable to 44 coal plants, or more than 35 million cars. That analysis factors in the potential emissions of CO2 and methane, a powerful climate pollutant, associated with the production, transport, and end-use of the natural gas.  NextDecade did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Carbon capture is like trying to put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. Bekah Hinojosa, a Brownsville artist & community organizer “Carbon capture is like trying to put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole,” said Bekah Hinojosa, a Brownsville artist, community organiser, and Gulf Coast campaign representative for the Sierra Club. “The project itself is highly destructive in so many different ways, and would still release a tremendous amount of toxic air pollution into our impoverished brown and Indigenous community.” Technical and economic hurdles mean that there are only 30 commercial CCS projects in operation worldwide — many of which are used to extract more oil by re-injecting CO2 into wells. The industry-backed Global CCS Institute estimates the capacity of these existing installations is 43 million tons of CO2 a year — about 0.1 percent of global emissions. Nevertheless, as calls for oil and gas companies to reduce their climate impacts have intensified, interest in CCS has grown. In September, the total capacity of commercial CCS projects in the planning stages grew 44 percent over the previous year, to 244 million tons per annum of CO2, according to the Global CCS Institute. At least 15 planned or existing LNG export or upstream gas projects globally have announced plans to add CCS, according to a tally by non-profit climate news service DeSmog. These include five in Louisiana and Texas planned by companies including NextDecade, G2 Net-Zero LNG, Venture Global, Sempra Energy, and French giant TotalEnergies. Revived Project First proposed in 2015, Rio Grande LNG stirred opposition from residents concerned about the kinds of fossil fuel mega-projects seen on other parts of the Gulf Coast arriving on their doorstep. Building the terminal would bulldoze a Central Park-sized area of land sacred to the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas to erect giant storage tanks and flaring towers, and force local fishers to contend with LNG tanker ships three football fields long. The plan suffered a public blow when French utility Engie pulled out of talks with NextDecade to buy LNG for 20 years for $7 billion in November 2020. Media reports at the time said the French government, a part-owner of Engie, was concerned about methane emissions from the production of the fracked gas for the facility in the Permian Basin. The next March, NextDecade announced it would add CCS to the planned project. The company has also unveiled plans to procure “responsibly sourced” gas, and work with Project Canary, an environmental data company, to measure the greenhouse gas intensity of its LNG exports. But the project may not have been revived were it not for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which injected new life into the LNG industry as Europe rushed to secure alternatives to Russian pipeline gas. In May, NextDecade announced it had signed a 15-year agreement with Engie, with the first LNG shipping as early as 2026. Engie did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Christopher Basaldú, a member of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and a volunteer with the South Texas Environmental Justice Network, addresses activists at a protest against NextDecades Rio Grande LNG facility. Credit: Gaige Davila Preliminary tree-felling work at the site has since started, though the company has yet to make a crucial final investment decision on the project. It is also unclear precisely where NextDecade plans to store any CO2 captured by its planned CCS plant. The company said in an August presentation to investors that geologic storage sites were being assessed, but opponents of the plan question whether the local area is suitable. “They haven’t even done a basic geological study of the land and the area to see if it would even support a carbon capture facility,” said Christopher Basaldú, a member of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, who volunteers with the South Texas Environmental Justice Network. “I can tell you that it doesn’t; it’s all sand and clay.” Carbon Credits The Biden administration gave CCS a boost in August by expanding a tax credit for storing carbon — known as 45Q — in the climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act. Given the huge cost of carbon capture projects, the industry is working on an additional source of finance: getting other big polluters to help pay for them. In June 2021, oil companies formed a coalition called the CCS+ Initiative, which aims to establish a carbon accounting framework to enable the industry to sell carbon credits to aviation, steel, cement, or other carbon-heavy companies seeking to offset some of their own emissions. Founding members included TotalEnergies and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, a unit of American driller Occidental Petroleum. “CCS was always greenwash for oil and gas production. Carbon credits for CCS for oil and gas production is greenwash on top of the greenwash.” Polly Hemming, carbon market specialist at the Australia Institute The CCS+ Initiative says it aims to support the huge, global buildout of carbon capture projects envisaged in many models for reaching the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. But NextDecade, which has joined the CCS+ Initiative via its subsidiary NEXT Carbon Solutions, says it hopes to sell carbon credits to help finance its planned CCS plant at Rio Grande LNG. That prospect has been dismissed by experts, who say carbon credits should be used to finance absolute reductions in emissions — not add a green veneer to new fossil fuel production. “CCS was always greenwash for oil and gas production. Carbon credits for CCS for oil and gas production is greenwash on top of the greenwash,” said Polly Hemming, a carbon market specialist at the Australia Institute thinktank. The CCS+ Initiative declined to comment. ‘The Companies Have a lot of Power’ Nuñez’s Vecinos, a shrimper’s association, the City of Port Isabel, the Sierra Club, and other groups wrote a joint letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in December 2021 to raise a series of questions over the CCS plan. Tom Gosselin, an associate attorney with the Sierra Club, said the organisations were concerned that NextDecade may seek to cut costs by running any CCS system only intermittently — or reneging on its pledge to install the equipment altogether. “We think it’s essentially greenwashing because the developer hasn’t actually committed to using CCS but seems to want the benefits of claiming that it will use CCS,” Gosselin told DeSmog. Rio Grande LNG said in a response published on the FERC website that the claims in the letter were “baseless,” “near-conspiratorial,” and demonstrated a serious lack of understanding of CCS technology, global energy markets, and commercial agreements. “Singling out the LNG export project that is proposing the most aggressive means of capturing CO2 emissions of any project in the US does not make sense in light of the demonstrated increasing global demand for natural gas,” the response said. Dina Nuñez speaks about Rio Grande LNG at a meeting of Vecinos in Port Isabel. Credit: Gaige Davila As the Vecinos meeting in Port Isabel drew to a close, candles still burned on an ofrenda bearing gifts for the spirits of the dead: cigarettes, pan de muerto, and a can of Coca-Cola. The women served spicy chicken salad and tostadas while taking care of their children. “I really believe, unfortunately, that there is a possibility that LNG will come here, because there’s a lot of money in the game. And the companies have a lot of power,” Nuñez said. “Unfortunately, people see opportunities for new jobs, but they don’t see the other side of the story.” This story is a collaboration between Floodlight and DeSmog. Gaige Davila contributed reporting from Port Isabel. Matthew Green reported from London. The post Carbon Capture Project Is ‘Band-Aid’ to Greenwash $10 Billion LNG Plant, Locals Say appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/1/23 8:52am
A minister in Rishi Sunak’s government who has been a fierce opponent of climate action received £10,000 from the chair of the UK’s main climate science denial group last month. Wycombe MP Steve Baker stepped down as a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) in September, when then Prime Minister Liz Truss made him Minister of State for Northern Ireland – a post he still holds under Rishi Sunak, Truss’s replacement.   But the latest MPs’ register of interests shows that Baker received £10,000 in January from Neil Record, a Conservative Party donor and chair of the GWPF’s campaign arm, Net Zero Watch. The register does not say what the donation was for.  Net Zero Watch has urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels”, commission “a new fleet of coal-fired power plants”, and for renewable energy from wind and solar to be “wound down completely”.  Record is also chair of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), an influential free market think tank which has opposed UK climate policies and received funding from oil giant BP.  Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party, told DeSmog: “It is clear that action on the climate crisis is being held back by ministers who hold climate sceptic views. Worse, these same ministers are being shovelled funds by some of the most dangerous anti-science organisations.” She added: “The views of climate-sceptic organisations and their money must be kept well away from policy makers.” The cabinet office did not respond when contacted for comment.  Baker and Climate Denial  Baker has long been associated with climate denial groups – and appears to hold sceptic views of his own.  Last year, he retweeted a GWPF paper which declared that there was “no evidence of a climate crisis” while at an IEA event in 2021, Baker said much climate science is “contestable” and “sometimes propagandised”.  Before taking up his ministerial post in September, Baker was a GWPF trustee and deputy chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of backbench MPs opposed to climate action, which had extensive ties to the GWPF.  Last summer, Baker helped run Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s Tory leadership campaign, in which she vowed to “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve Net Zero by 2050”. In October, Baker claimed he was no longer lobbying the government on climate policies, but revealed that he was still administrator of the NZSG’s WhatsApp group.  Last month’s payment was not the first donation Baker has received from Neil Record. Baker also accepted £5,000 from the same donor in January 2022. On that occasion, the register of interests said the donation was for Baker’s work with the Covid Recovery Group, which opposed coronavirus restrictions, and the relaunch of Conservative Way Forward, a pressure group.  GWPF Money At least three front bench MPs, including two members of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, have received funds from GWPF funders in the past.   In 2021, Australian hedge fund manager and GWPF donor Michael Hintze – now a Lord – gave a £1,000 gift of a ticket to the Conservative Party’s gala event to Kemi Badenoch, who is now Secretary of State for International Trade.  Penny Mordaunt, currently Leader of the House of Commons, received £3,000 from Hintze ahead of the 2019 general election.  “The apathy towards climate action within the Conservative government must be called out,” said Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP and climate spokesperson. “The Global Warming Policy Foundation should have no place in our politics. For senior Conservatives to cosy up to the GWPF shows just how far their rot has spread within the party.” She added that the government must “decouple” itself from think tanks that spread disinformation. “The Conservatives cannot break from the shackles of climate action delay while their Ministers continue to align their views with – and take money from – the nation’s leading climate deniers,” she said. The Charity Commission is currently reviewing a complaint that calls for the GWPF to be stripped of its charitable status for political campaigning. The think tank has received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which has $30 million worth of shares in energy companies including Exxon and Chevron, and the DonorsTrust, which has been used to channel funding from the Koch family.  The GWPF, IEA, Neil Record and Steve Baker did not respond when contacted for comment. The post UK Minister Steve Baker Receives £10k from Chair of Tufton St. Climate Denial Group appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/30/23 12:10pm
Top Canadian oil and gas companies are moving “aggressively” to cut their greenhouse gas emissions domestically so that they can sell more of their climate-warming products abroad.  That was the message delivered by the sector’s most powerful trade and lobby group at a recent resources industry conference in British Columbia, that achieving “net-zero” at home is crucial for opening up foreign markets.  “From our industrys perspective, theres a recognition that we must address climate change so that we can play a bigger role to meet that global demand for oil and natural gas,” said Richard Wong, Director of Regulatory and Operations at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also known as CAPP.  One industry leader after the other reiterated this message at this month’s 20th Annual BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George — that reducing emissions at their sprawling oil and gas operations in Canada could provide the industry more opportunities to expand internationally.   “We’re hopefully very soon going to establish Canada as a major exporter [of liquefied natural gas] to overseas markets,” said Margareta Dovgal, managing director of the pro-industry organization Resource Works, during a panel discussion entitled “LNG Export – Putting Canada on the Map.” The industry’s logic is that if Canadian oil and gas companies cut their emissions domestically, then they will be able to market their products globally as better for the climate than other dirtier sources of fossil fuels. “That would greatly displace much higher emitting forms of energy and reduce pollution,” Conservative MP for Prince George – Peace River Bob Zimmer told the conference. “The world needs our ethically produced energy.” He called B.C.’s gas industry the planet’s “cleanest and greenest.”  But it seemed nobody at the conference acknowledged the mounting scientific challenges to that argument: that natural gas’ contribution to climate change has been significantly underestimated due to methane leaks, and that the fossil fuel could even have an atmospheric footprint comparable to coal.   And even if top oil and gas producers achieve their goal of eliminating or neutralizing emissions from their Canadian operations — a big if considering the carbon capture and storage technology needed to achieve their 2030 climate goal isn’t yet operational at scale or financially feasible — the products they sell abroad would still contribute hugely to global temperature rise. The leading oil and gas producer Suncor is aiming to eliminate 21.4 million tonnes of emissions from its operations in Alberta’s tar sands and elsewhere, but has no similar commitment for the 123 million tonnes of emissions that come from actually burning the gasoline, diesel or other petroleum products it sells, according to its Climate Change 2022 submission to the Carbon Disclosure Project.     That document shows that Suncor “supports initiatives to gain access to new international markets in the next 5-10 yrs for our crude oil and refined products.” This is also the goal of Shell, Petronas and other companies leading the construction of LNG Canada, a $40 billion liquefied natural gas project being built on Canada’s west coast that is touted by proponents as having the “world’s lowest emissions intensity.” Yet the project could still produce carbon emissions in a year equivalent to adding 800,000 gas-burning cars to roads. At the B.C. conference, LNG Canada president Jason Klein predicted big expansions for the industry. “Ten years from now, I’m confident we’ll have delivered thousands of cargoes of LNG safely and responsibly to our customers around the world,” he said. “It would be a shame if LNG Canada is the last big project,” he added. “I hope that we are paving the way for the next wave of projects.” The post Canada’s New Oil And Gas Strategy: Green Promises at Home and More Exports Abroad appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/26/23 1:39pm
By Daniel Cohan, Rice University Gas stoves are a leading source of hazardous indoor air pollution, but they emit only a tiny share of the greenhouse gases that warm the climate. Why, then, have they assumed such a heated role in climate politics? This debate reignited on Jan. 9, 2023, when Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, told Bloomberg News that the agency planned to consider regulating gas stoves due to concerns about their health effects. “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” he noted. Politicians reacted with overheated outrage, putting gas stove ownership on a par with the right to bear arms and religious freedom. CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric tried to douse the uproar, stating that he was “not looking to ban gas stoves” and that his agency “has no proceeding to do so.” Neither does the Biden administration support a ban, a White House spokesperson said. Nevertheless, congressional Republicans raced to the barricades, introducing bills with titles like the Guard America’s Stoves (GAS) Act and the Stop Trying to Obsessively Vilify Energy (STOVE) Act. This skirmish may seem like a tempest in a teapot, but it reveals important contours of the battlefield on which climate politics are waged. As I explain in my book, “Confronting Climate Gridlock: How Diplomacy, Technology, and Policy Can Unlock a Clean Energy Future,” gas stoves matter to climate and to the gas industry because they serve as gateway appliances to the dominant residential uses of natural gas: heating and hot water. Serious health effects Direct impacts from gas stoves are a much more urgent concern for human health than for Earth’s climate. Gas stoves are a leading indoor source of nitrogen dioxide, or NO₂, which can cause or worsen respiratory illnesses in people who are exposed to it. For example, scientific studies show that living in a home with a gas stove increases children’s risk of asthma by nearly one-third and contributes to pulmonary disease in adults. The climate doesn’t care what fuel we use to cook. Gas stoves account for just 0.1% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, even accounting for recent findings of larger than expected household methane leaks. They aren’t a big share of fuel sales either, burning just 3% of the natural gas consumed in homes. https://www.youtube.com/embed/_6cXiqrIueo?wmode=transparent&start=0 Some experts say health risks from gas stoves could be comparable to living with a smoker. Impeding home electrification The significance of gas stoves for the climate becomes clearer in the context of the Biden administration’s goal of achieving net-zero U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This target can only be achieved by curbing fossil fuel use across the economy, including in homes. Installing more-efficient furnaces, better insulation and smart thermostats are helpful first steps, but getting close to zero will require switching to electricity for space heating and water heating. In the U.S., 46% of homes use natural gas as their main source of heat, 40% use electricity, 10% use other fuels such as heating oil or propane, and 4% are unheated. For water heating, the percentages are 47% gas, 47% electricity and 6% other fuels. Today, electric and gas heating have similar carbon footprints, since roughly 60% of U.S. electricity is generated from fossil fuels and many homes use inefficient electric resistance heaters. But the emissions intensity of electricity is rapidly declining as coal plants close and solar and wind power expands. President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100% clean electricity nationally by 2035. Although current federal policies fall short of that target, a growing number of states have committed to 100% clean electricity by 2050 or sooner. Natural gas is far harder to decarbonize than electricity. Lower-carbon fuels such as biogas and hydrogen that could be blended in with natural gas are likely to remain scarce and costly. Furthermore, advanced technologies enable electric heat pumps to heat both air and water far more efficiently than traditional electric or gas furnaces and water heaters. That’s why various scenarios for decarbonizing energy all envision a major shift to electric heat pumps. This transition is well underway in Europe and starting in the U.S. Replacing existing gas furnaces and water heaters with electric heat pumps can be costly and complicated, though incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act can help. But if new homes are built fully electric from the start, they avoid the cost of installing natural gas hookups, and emit far less air pollution and fewer greenhouse gases throughout the homes’ lifetime. This schematic shows key components of a net-zero house that generates as much electricity as it consumes, using renewable energy. Efficiency Vermont, CC BY-ND New York City and more than 50 California towns, cities and counties have already banned gas hookups in new buildings. Elsewhere, 20 states have barred the enactment of natural gas bans. Gas stoves are a big reason why. The power of a slogan “Most people don’t care how their water is heated or how their heater works, but the Viking stove in the kitchen, people have this visceral emotional attachment,” Michael Colvin of the Environmental Defense Fund told me in an interview for my book, “Confronting Climate Gridlock.” That emotional attachment makes stoves a flashpoint in battles over climate policy. “Cooking is the hill that the gas industry wants to fight on,” Bruce Nilles of Climate Imperative told me in a 2020 interview that foreshadowed the current skirmish. “They’ll say, ‘Do you want the government to take away your gas stove that makes you a great chef?’” The American Gas Association has promoted the notion that gas stoves make skilled cooks since the 1930s, when it introduced the advertising slogan “Now you’re cooking with gas.” An AGA executive planted the phrase with writers for comedian Bob Hope. Soon it was picked up by comedian Jack Benny, and even by Daffy Duck. The phrase has also appeared over time in social media endorsements and hashtags. https://www.youtube.com/embed/FJRQo5aawho?wmode=transparent&start=0 ‘Cookin’ with Gas,‘ a 1988 commercial produced by National Fuel Gas. Gas burners do provide more control than many stoves with electric coils, especially older models, which can be slow to heat up and cool down. Today, however, many chefs, consumers and experts say gas is no longer the obvious choice. Magnetic induction cooktops, which cook using electricity to generate a magnetic field, heat faster, control temperatures more precisely and use less energy than other stoves. “There’s this big misconception that electric ranges don’t cook as well as gas,” Shanika Whitehurst, a member of Consumer Reports’ research and testing team, said in a recent article. “But the technology has improved to the point where electric and especially induction ranges and cooktops cook every bit as well, if not better than gas.” Consumer Reports ranks induction and some traditional electric stoves among its top-rated models. Homes built today will endure far beyond Biden’s 2050 net-zero target. And the longer the gas-is-better myth persists, the harder it will be to fully electrify new homes from the start. As I see it, if “cooking with gas” keeps us tethering new homes to natural gas grids for decades to come, our health, climate and wallets will pay the price. Daniel Cohan, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. The post Why Gas Stoves Matter to the Climate – and the Gas Industry appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/26/23 11:43am
A large donation to the Labour Party from wood-burning giant Drax has raised concerns among campaigners over the sway of big carbon emitters over Parliament. The payment from the former coal-fired power station was registered on September 12 last year, and published in December in the Electoral Commission register of political donations.Labour has declined to comment on receipt of the donation.  Opposition leader Keir Starmer has yet to articulate his party’s position on burning wood for electricity – or to clarify whether Labour accepts donations from polluting companies. DeSmog revealed earlier this week that Drax is applying intense pressure across government departments to influence energy policy in its favour. The latest donation shows the company continues to exert influence across a broad political spectrum – including the Labour party, whose ‘Green New Deal’ sets out to decarbonise the UK by 2030. Drax earned £893 million in direct government subsidies in 2021 to burn wood pellets at its North Yorkshire power plant, which generates around 12 percent of the UK’s renewable electricity.  Despite being the UK’s largest single source of carbon dioxide, the electricity from Drax’s plant is treated as carbon neutral, on the grounds – hotly disputed by green groups – that trees can be planted to reabsorb the carbon. It is awaiting a decision on an estimated £31.7 billion in public funding from 2027, to create ‘carbon negative’ energy from bioenergy with carbon capture with storage (BECCS), which would bury emissions from burning wood under the North Sea. Molly Griffith-Jones, a climate activist and Labour party member from Yorkshire, told DeSmog she was “ashamed” to learn that Labour had accepted the donation. “Im not comfortable with leadership figures cosying up to big polluters and corporate interests,” she told DeSmog. “Drax are currently trying to secure billions of pounds in future subsidies to continue burning trees for decades to come and are clearly hoping big money will firmly place Labour in their pocket.” Robert Noyes from campaign group Fossil Free Parliament said the donation was “deeply concerning”. “Labour’s pledge to offer a fairer, greener future is undermined by this willingness to accept money from a company that is responsible for forest destruction, environmental injustice, biodiversity loss and climate-wrecking emissions,” he said. “We need urgent action from our MPs to cut emissions if we are to prevent climate catastrophe, yet Parliament continues to have an open-door policy for the fossil fuel and biomass industries.”  Corporate Capture The Labour Party has so far failed to state whether it would continue subsidy support for Drax should it win the next General Election, which is due to take place by December 2024 at the latest. DeSmog understands that Labour is working on a position for the manifesto on biomass and BECCS, and its role within the energy sector, but the party is yet to announce when this will be published. The company has sponsored major events at both Conservative and Labour Party conferences.  A campaigner was ejected from a Labour Party event sponsored by the power station operator last year, after criticising the company’s use of biomass, at a debate on the UK’s net zero target on the fringes of the party conference in Liverpool. Labour was also criticised in 2021 for holding a Drax-sponsored conference event on building “a zero carbon, lower cost energy future”, which was branded by the Green Party as “green spin at its worst”. Drax has also sponsored multiple Conservative Party conference events, including a 2022 panel discussion on “levelling up” led by The Spectator magazine. Drax told DeSmog that sponsoring Labour is “part of the engagement we have with all the major political parties” and it was “important to engage with a range of stakeholders”.  However, the recent donation appears at odds with its own company policy, included in its latest annual report, that states “Drax makes no political donations”. Drax also stated that the September donation was for “sponsoring events and buying tickets to attend events organised by the Labour party”. However, the amount is not listed as a sponsorship, but as a donation on the Electoral Commission’s register, which – if incorrect – contravenes the commission’s rules.  A spokesperson for the commission said political parties had “a legal responsibility to ensure their quarterly reports are accurate, so sponsorship donations should always be reported as being such”. Labour did not respond to DeSmog’s request for a comment.  ‘Ashamed’ It is not illegal for carbon-intensive companies to donate to political parties in the UK, but the practice has come under increasing scrutiny over fears that the heavily subsidised fossil fuel industry is paying for political favour.  A 2021 Guardian investigation found that the Conservatives had received £1.3m from fossil fuel interests and climate sceptics since 2019, prompting Labour MP Richard Burgon to announce his intention to present a parliamentary bill to ban MPs from taking oil and gas money. Fossil fuel donations identified in the investigation were made overwhelmingly to the Conservatives. DeSmog also revealed last year that £650,000 was given to the Tory party by companies and donors linked to the aviation industry, and exposed the fracking industry’s donations to Liz Truss’ leadership campaign. Labour supporter Merry Dickinson of the Stop Burning Trees Coalition told DeSmog she is “tempted to leave” the party over the news that the party received  funding from Drax. Campaigners and experts oppose Drax’s bid to create the world’s largest carbon capture plant, citing potential harms to wildlife and poor mis-use of land for energy crops. Studies have also questioned the ability of BECCS to remove millions of tonnes of carbon a year. “By accepting this money, it suggests that Labour is open to Draxs greenwashing and their attempts to get billions more in subsidies through BECCS. It is vital that our politicians stay free from corporate interests, so that they can act in the interests of people and the planet, not capital.” The post Labour Accepted £12,000 From Major Polluter Drax appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/24/23 3:10pm
Louisiana Democratic Party leaders are accused of funneling thousands of dollars from utility companies to the campaign of a fossil fuel–friendly candidate who ran for reelection on the states utility regulatory committee. Campaign finance records filed this week show that the Party received more than $90,000 in donations from utility companies, energy producers, and their executives during the elections for two Louisiana Public Service Commissioners. The same utility companies — Entergy, Cleco, and CenterPoint Energy — also donated directly to incumbent Lambert Boissiere III, whose campaign was largely sponsored by industry groups. Entergy, Cleco, and CenterPoint Energy did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Despite these industry donations to his opponent, climate candidate Davante Lewis won the District 3 Commissioner seat, which represents parts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Lewis campaigned on holding utility companies, like Entergy, accountable for expensive electricity bills and lack of investment in the grid, which has led to frequent power outages during storms. He pledged to push utility companies to speed up their adoption of renewable energy in order to reduce air pollution and reduce power bills. Some Louisiana Democrats are frustrated that the Party accepted utility donations, which they say are egregious considering the state’s vulnerability to climate change. “It’s completely baffling that the Louisiana Democratic Party says to hell with the future,” Lewis said. “This raises for me some serious questions about industry donations and campaign donations.” “It makes you feel like you can’t trust the system, you can’t trust the process.”Ciara Hart, President of the Young Democrats of Louisiana About 70 percent of Louisiana’s electricity is generated with natural gas, followed by nuclear and coal, according to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration. Renewables make up less than 4 percent of electricity generation in the state. Utility companies and power producers have kept Louisiana dependent on fossil fuels, despite rising natural gas prices. The Louisiana Public Service Commission is a five-member body that sets most of the utility rates in the state, in addition to regulating water, telecommunications, and utility companies. Louisianas grid is largely powered by natural gas, as shown in this chart of net electricity generation by source, October 2022. Credit: Energy Information Administration NextEra Energy, a power production company that donated $50,000 to the Party and $17,500 directly to Boissiere, has plans to develop a small solar project in Louisiana. But the company’s only current asset in the state is a natural gas drilling facility near Shreveport. Last year, NextEra signed an agreement to supply natural gas for Venture Global’s LNG export project in Plaquemines Parish, which is expected to begin operating in 2024. NextEra did not respond to a request for comment for this story. NextEra has not shied away from shady political dealings in the past. The company was implicated in a ghost candidate scheme in Florida that ousted a climate advocate from state office. Entergy, which donated $10,000 to the Party and $20,000 directly to Boissiere, has fought past efforts to incentivize solar energy and used paid actors to feign support for a natural gas power plant in New Orleans. Entergy executives gave another $9,000 to the Party and $4,500 directly to Boissiere, according to campaign finance reports. Boissiere did not respond to requests to comment on this story. Early on in the 2022 election, the Partys executive committee endorsed Lewis alone. But Party leadership changed the rules in the middle of a Democratic State Central Committee meeting last summer to give a dual endorsement of Lewis and Boissiere. Still, campaign finance records show that the Party spent more than $30,000 on mailers and text messages that endorsed Boissiere alone. The Louisiana Democratic Party spent thousands campaigning on behalf of industry-supported public service commission candidate Lambert Boissiere, but not on his pro-climate challenger, Davante Lewis, who ultimately won. The Party never reached out to offer the same sort of in-kind donations to Lewis, he said. Campaign finance reports show that Lewis did not receive any in-kind donations from the Party or money from utility companies. However, he did receive $8,000 from two solar companies and a $5,000 donation from the Environmental Defense Action Fund, an environmental advocacy group. State Party members were alarmed at the sudden move to override the executive committee’s solo endorsement of Lewis. “It felt like a slap in the face,” said Ciara Hart, a Party member and the President of the Young Democrats of Louisiana. “It makes you feel like you can’t trust the system, you can’t trust the process.” Hart is a former teacher who has taught lessons on Louisiana’s coastal land loss and vulnerability to sea level rise. She also serves on the Young Democrats of America’s Environmental Caucus. Hart thought Lewis deserved the endorsement because of his emphasis on addressing disproportionate pollution in Black communities, high electricity bills, and because he looks like her and other young Democrat voters in the state. “Davante brought up issues that just arent being brought up,” she said. “You have a Black man in Louisiana who is talking about it. He wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said.” Longtime Louisiana Democratic strategist Lynda Woolard, who worked on Lewis’s campaign, said the Party should never have taken money from known bad actors like Entergy. “It’s particularly suspicious when you’re in a cycle with a Public Service Commission race and the person who wins that race is going to have power to regulate Entergy,” she said. “That is not a donor that has previously showed up on Democratic Party reports and it’s not the kind of donor that the Democratic Party should be courting.” Kathy Hurst, a Democratic State Central Committee representative from Lafayette, said Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt is ultimately responsible for accepting utility company and fossil fuel firm donations and for overriding the executive committee’s endorsement of Lewis. “The donation from Entergy was just money funneled in so that she could try to help sabotage Davante Lewis. For what reason, I dont know,” Hurst said. “Her own executive committee very strongly recommended Lewis.” Bernhardt, who did not return a request for comment, is the president of an oil and gas company that she took over after her father died and has a history of supporting candidates with ties to the fossil fuel industry. This week, a TV ad went out in the state featuring Bernhardt, alluding to a possible run for governor. The ad was sponsored by “Team Louisiana PAC,” an entity funded by New Orleans real estate developer Anthony AP Marullo. In 2015, Marullo made campaign contributions to Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who has been endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party in his run for governor.  Party members burned by Bernhardt are not ready to endorse her for office. “I am deeply troubled that the consideration is even being made and the Party chair hasn’t stepped down,” Lewis said. “Louisiana doesn’t need people who want to be somebody. We need candidates who want to do something.” The post Louisiana Democratic Party ‘Funneled’ Utility Donations to Climate Candidate Challenger appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/24/23 4:39am
The power station operator Drax is applying intense pressure across government departments to influence energy policy in its favour, DeSmog can reveal. In particular, the biomass giant is pressing the government to deliver key decisions that could hasten the adoption of a costly and controversial ‘carbon negative’ technology. The set of documents seen by DeSmog – which include summaries of meetings, emails and memos – show the company lobbying senior ministers and pushing for answers on key bioenergy consultations and strategies that could impact Drax’s future.  Drax – the UK’s largest single source of carbon dioxide – is awaiting a decision on an estimated £31.7 billion in public funding from 2027, when its current subsidy comes to an end. The energy firm earned £893 million in 2021 from public subsidies to burn wood pellets at its North Yorkshire power plant, which generates around 12 percent of the UK’s renewable electricity.  One civil servant characterises a call with Drax as “the next one in a series of lobbying attempts” before an online meeting on the topic of the controversial carbon capture and storage technology known as BECCs.   The meeting in question, which took place on 9 March 2022, was between the financial secretary to the Treasury, Lucy Frazer, Drax chief executive Will Gardiner and then senior public affairs manager Ed Leech.   Environmentalists are alarmed at Drax’s strong push for BECCS, which would see the power plant capture the carbon emissions from burning wood pellets and bury them under the North Sea in a bid to lower its emissions. Experts say the technology is costly – and unproven. Green campaigners also dispute the bioenergy firm’s claim that the wood it burns is sustainable. They point out that forests can not be replaced quickly enough to make the energy source ‘carbon neutral’, as the fuel is currently treated in the UK and EU. “It is unsurprising that Drax is so keen to lobby the government at this crucial moment – their billions in public subsidies are running out and their profits are at stake,” Mair Floyd-Bosley, senior policy officer for bioenergy at environmental campaign group RSPB, told DeSmog. “What is disappointing is the government’s willingness to give Drax this level of access, while ignoring scientists’ and campaigners’ rightful warnings, and the advice of many other stakeholders who agree large-scale reliance on BECCS is not sustainable. Greenpeace has also raised concerns that its BECCS stance, which is referenced in the files, has been grossly misrepresented.  In the briefing shared with Frazer prior to the meeting, the NGO is cited as a supporter of the technology – despite in 2021 signing a letter to the government warning of the risks of BECCS. ‘Series of Lobbying Attempts’ The cache of files, which were obtained by a Freedom of Information request, show that Drax is applying pressure in multiple government departments to influence the government’s policy on BECCS technology, which the company claims will capture at least eight million tonnes of carbon emissions a year. Notes shared ahead of the meeting between Frazer and Gardiner reveal officials at the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) were “regularly meeting with Drax to discuss the costs and benefits of BECCS” and that civil servants had been “working internally to determine the government position on this”. As well as meeting Frazer and Kwarteng, the documents reference a recent introduction between Gardiner and former climate minister Greg Hands. Emails also reveal Gardiner had initially requested a meeting with Helen Whately, then exchequer secretary to the Treasury, whose husband Marcus Whately runs biomass power plant Estover (she excused herself from the meeting).  Documents also reveal the involvement of high-ranking civil servants such as the Treasury’s BECCS policy lead, who is a correspondent in the email exchanges.  Drax’s meeting with Frazer was summarised as an opportunity to bring the financial secretary up to speed on carbon capture, and references Gardiner pushing the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, the government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation, as well as Drax’s plans for expansion to work in Canada and the South East of the U.S. Most revealing are the notes circulated ahead of the online call that sum up a previous meeting held between Drax chief executive Will Gardiner and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng the week earlier. The file states that Drax is “keen to see progress on BECCS Business Model asap” and appears to set a deadline for a government decision, asking for this to be negotiated by the middle of next year [around June 2023]. Gardiner’s request refers to a consultation run by BEIS, which sets out the government’s preferred business model to incentivise the use of BECCS within the UK. ‘Tailor-Made Policy’ Almuth Ernsting, a campaigner for Biofuelwatch, says the whole consultation exercise was “tailor-made for Drax”, with the position put forward by BEIS in the document  “identical to what Drax had previously asked for”.  In addition, the files show Drax pushing for the publication of the UK’s biomass strategy, scheduled to appear in 2022 but now delayed until later this year. “Drax wants to see the Business Model set out as part of [the] biomass strategy due at the end of this year,” read the notes. “Our SoS [former Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng] said this won’t be as part of the strategy but could come later.” According to Ernsting, the strategy should be confirmed before any government decision on a funding framework for BECCS. However, the consultation on BECCS funding was published in August 2022, several months after the meeting with Gardiner. “BEIS basically did what Drax had asked them earlier that year, i.e. tried pushing through this Business Framework ahead of the Strategy,” said Ernsting.  DeSmog previously revealed with The Guardian that Drax and fossil fuel producers met with officials at BEIS nine times more often than with green groups after Kwarteng took over as business secretary. The documents released in response to DeSmog’s FOI show Drax continued to exert a high level of influence on the government a year after those revelations. One civil servant’s email reminds Frazer and the other attendees that Drax is “a key stakeholder in the energy space” and tells officials to be “in listening mode”. The sender also apologised to Drax for having to initially postpone the call, adding: “We don’t like to move meetings with important stakeholders such as yourselves”. “These documents obtained by Desmog back up our suspicions,” Ernsting said. “They show the company has indeed been lobbying ministers on this and has been very much able to influence their thinking.”  ‘Dizzying Spin’ Greenpeace has expressed its concern that the FOI shows the government grossly misrepesents the campaign group’s stance on BECCS. The ‘background information’ notes shared with the minister describe Greenpeace as a supporter of the technology. They reference a 2021 paper, in which Greenpeace cites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s position that “a small proportion of emissions is likely to be unavoidable and must be offset by carbon removal technologies, such as tree-planting, BECCS or direct air carbon capture with storage (DACCS).” However, Dr Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK told DeSmog the quote was taken entirely out of context. It was worrying, he said, that the Treasury and Drax were “seriously focused on such speculative thinking”. “The extract is simply referencing the IPCC position that carbon dioxide removal of some form will be needed to hit 1.5C alongside a list of proposed technologies,” Parr said. “It’s not an endorsement of BECCS and certainly not of Drax specifically. It takes dizzying levels of spin to suggest otherwise and to do so is dishonest.” Energy think tank Ember says BECCS cannot yet be relied upon to provide true net negative emissions, and has urged the government to “proceed cautiously” until the carbon savings are guaranteed.  A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “As a significant energy generator, Drax is an important stakeholder on energy policy. It is right that Ministers meet regularly with stakeholders and listen to their proposals, and that officials are polite when meetings have to be moved. The Government is keen to hear the views of all stakeholders and it is not correct to say that Drax has an undue level of influence.” Ember’s estimated cost of BECCS was “not recognised” by the Treasury as no decision had yet been made, they added. All projects under consideration would be “subject to full assessment including cost, value for money and negative emissions potential”.  Drax did not respond to DeSmog’s multiple requests for comment. However, the company gave the following quote to The Guardian, which has run its own story on DeSmog’s findings: “As the UK’s largest renewable power generator by output, Drax plays a vital role in keeping the lights on for millions of homes and businesses. It’s therefore essential for Drax to engage with government and other key stakeholders on matters relating to energy security and its future business strategy.” The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was also approached for comment. The post Drax ‘Lobbying Efforts’ Revealed in Internal Treasury Memos appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/20/23 5:27am
A think tank with ties to senior Conservative politicians has appointed a businessman who claims environmentalism is part of a “totalitarian” plan to control the public, and says there is “no causal link” between human-made carbon emissions and global warming.  Michael John Cole, chairman of a Newcastle-based health foods distributor, joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s (GWPF) board of trustees on December 30, according to Companies House documents filed last week.  The GWPF claims to provide “robust and reliable analysis of climate and energy issues”, but is in fact the UK’s main climate science denial group, and an out-and-out supporter of fossil fuels.  Cole is the author of two books, both published in 2021 – one called Debunking the Myth of Human Made Climate Change, and another, A Virus in Society, which promotes conspiracy theories.  He will sit on the GWPF board alongside former Brexit minister Lord David Frost, who joined as a trustee in November. Steve Baker MP stepped down as a GWPF trustee in September to join Rishi Sunak’s government as a junior minister for Northern Ireland.  DeSmog has reported extensively on the GWPF’s ties to Conservative MPs, including the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbenchers.  Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat climate spokesperson, responding to the appointment, said: “The Global Warming Policy Foundation has long been a spreader of disinformation in the climate change discourse. “Another brazen climate change denier being added to their board should come as no surprise.” She added: “Their deliberate attempts to place doubt on the need to tackle the greatest threat facing the planet should be called out by all sides and their influence cast out of politics for good.”  Michael Cole and Climate Denial Cole, whose GWPF website profile says he has a degree in chemistry, is chairman of the Health Made Easy Group, a distributor of health and nutritional products based in Newcastle.  Cole claims in the blurb for his climate change book: “There has been a deliberate and orchestrated approach to promote the theory of human-made climate change initiated largely by the IPCC [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] which has created alarmist fears about climate and threats of global warming.”  He goes on to assert that there is “no causal link” between human-made CO2 emissions and global warming. The IPCC, the United Nations climate body, has documented that the evidence that humans are causing climate change is “unequivocal”.  Cole’s other book, A Virus in Society, claims “elitist political classes” and the media are imposing a “creeping totalitarianism”, and using “unscientific claims such as environmental issues as a flagship to brainwash the public to accept such restrictive controls”. GWPF and Fossil Fuels The Charity Commission is currently reviewing a complaint that calls for the GWPF to  be stripped of its charitable status. A group of cross-party MPs and lawyers lodged the objection, which accuses the think tank of funding one-sided research and non-charitable lobbying through its campaign arm Net Zero Watch.  Last week DeSmog reported that GWPF founder and honorary president Nigel Lawson was retiring from the House of Lords.  The GWPF has a consistent track record of spreading climate science denial. In September 2022, it published two papers rejecting climate science on the greenhouse effect, arguing that “changing atmospheric carbon dioxide has minimal impact on Earth’s temperature and climate”. Earlier this month the group was accused of misrepresenting a scientific study by AAP factcheck. One co-author described Net Zero Watch’s characterisation of the research as “totally misleading” climate misinformation.  Net Zero Watch has consistently attacked renewable energy and the UK’s climate targets while campaigning for more fossil fuel extraction. In October, they urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels” and commission “a new fleet of coal-fired power plants”. In March 2022, they campaigned for a plan which “aims to wind down renewables completely”.  The think tank is famously secretive about its funding. Last year, OpenDemocracy and The Guardian revealed that the GWPF received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which has $30 million worth of shares in energy companies including Exxon and Chevron, and the DonorsTrust, which has been used to channel funding from the Koch family.  Michael Cole and the GWPF did not respond when contacted for comment.  The post Tory-Linked Think Tank Appoints ‘Brazen’ Climate Denier as Director appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/19/23 10:41am
Fossil fuel-linked groups spent around $4 million on Facebook and Instagram that spread false climate claims over the COP27 summit, a new report says. The physical presence of more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists overshadowed the November conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, as world leaders, NGOs and activists gathered in a bid to accelerate global efforts to confront the climate crisis.  Analysis out today shows oil and gas interests were also busy online. Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD) – the coalition behind the second “Deny, Deceive, Delay” report – has documented how PR companies, front groups and oil majors were actively spreading disinformation in the weeks leading up to and during the summit. Researchers with the coalition’s COP27 Intelligence Unit identified over 3,700 ads sharing false claims on Facebook and Instagram, platforms owned by Meta. They also found a rise in content related to outright climate-science denial by ‘anti-woke’ pundits on Twitter, who pushed #ClimateScam and lines such as ‘climate is a hoax’. Jennie King, head of climate research and response at the non-profit Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) think tank, which led the Intelligence Unit, said the events of 2022 had “turbocharged a global ecosystem of disinformation”. “Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on energy supply chains have renewed anti-climate attacks globally, as vested interests falsely attribute blame for these events to the “cult of Net Zero,” King explained.  “Our report shows Big Oil continues to invest millions in digital advertising to launder their image as ‘climate champions’, while also promoting the necessity of fossil fuels.”  The coalition’s findings come nearly two years after a report by the UN’s climate science body, which found for the first time that “vested interests” were delaying efforts to tackle climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that actors representing “vested economic and political interests” had eroded support for climate policy by generating “rhetoric and misinformation that undermines science and disregards risk and urgency”. Climate Denial ‘Comeback’ Big Oil companies Shell, Chevron and Exxon all ran ads in the run-up to the summit, but the majority were posted by PR and fossil fuel front groups. The 850 organisations surveyed spent between $3-4 million on nearly 3,800 adverts on Facebook and Instagram between September 1 and November 23, the report found. Adverts promoted fossil fuels as affordable and reliable, and justified their ongoing use with arguments around energy independence. Energy Citizens – a PR and lobby group for the largest trade association for the oil and gas industry the American Petroleum Institute – ran more daily ads than all the other pages combined, the analysis found. The ad campaign advocated for U.S. production of fossil gas and oil, citing nationalist arguments around ‘energy security’. The analysis found that a number of U.S. based pages ended their ad campaigns after mid-term elections on November 8. However, the research found disinformation ramped up with ad campaigns from three industry PR groups: America’s Plastic Makers, funded by the American Chemistry Council, which describes itself as ‘the leading association representing the $553-billion U.S. chemicals industry’, and fossil fuel front groups Affordable Energy for New Jersey and Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future. In addition, the Saudi Green Initiative had at least 13 live adverts around the summit, just as Saudi Arabia’s delegation was accused of pursuing a ‘strategy to keep the world hooked on oil.’ The findings come as Sultan Ahmed Jaber was announced as the new President for COP28, making the Dubai summit next year the first to be led by a current oil executive. Ben Dennes, a researcher at the University of Exeter who specialises in environmental communication online, said the $4 million figure was just the “tip of the iceberg”. The Meta ad library used in the analysis was a “black box”, with only ads deemed by Meta to relate to ‘social issues, elections or politics’ fully accessible. There is “unclear and subjective guidance on what this means”, Dennes told DeSmog, adding that researchers were also unable to analyse Google Ads in the study as the service does not permit searches for misinformation and greenwashing content. It was therefore possible that “certain greenwashing and misinformation content has slipped through the net”, Dennes said.  Culture Warriors Co-opt Climate  Alongside analysis of industry-linked advertising, researchers also documented climate disinformation on Twitter over a four week period from the end of October. ‘Anti-woke’ pundits and conspiracy theorists gained the most traction, the report found, and “often collaborate with a well-funded network of think tanks and pundits.”  Climate denial tropes such as ‘climate actors are alarmist’ and ‘climate change is a hoax’ also featured. Some posts targeted the “loss and damage” fund, established in Sharm-el-Sheikh to provide financial assistance to vulnerable nations most impacted by the climate crisis.  Researchers also found that the hashtag #ClimateScam spiked on Twitter with 362,000 mentions between July and December, raising concerns over a failure to prevent disinformation on the platform. The original content came from a non-verified account, but was then adopted by a number of verified account holders – including U.S. pundit Tom Fitton, a climate denier with two million followers. The CAAD coalition is advocating for immediate steps to be taken by tech companies to stem the flow of climate delayism and “junk science”. It is also calling on governments and multilateral bodies to implement a “unified definition” of climate mis-and disinformation within UN key institutions. “This research shows that climate disinformation isn’t going away and, in fact, it’s getting worse. During COP, Twitter’s search engine pushed #ClimateScam as a top result without any justification for the data behind it,” said Erika Seiber, climate disinformation spokesperson at Friends of the Earth U.S. “Until governments hold social media and ad companies accountable, and companies hold professional disinformers accountable, crucial conversations around the climate crisis are going to be put in jeopardy.” Meta and Twitter were contacted for comment. The post Fossil Fuel Groups ‘Spent Millions’ on Social Media Ads Spreading Climate Disinformation During COP27 appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/18/23 2:33pm
Shell Canada is going out of its way to assure the public that it cares deeply about fixing the climate emergency.  The oil and gas major paid late last year for an advertising feature in the Globe & Mail touting its commitment to a “net-zero” economy where humankind is no longer releasing atmosphere-warming emissions. “We’re recognizing we have to be a force for good for the community,” Susannah Pierce, who became the president of Shell Canada in 2021, says in the feature. But Pierce’s apparent dedication to climate action is raising eyebrows among disinformation experts, because she was recently on the board of directors of the Fraser Institute, which is one of the most prominent climate crisis denial think tanks in Canada.  One of the Fraser Institute’s senior fellows recently authored an op-ed in the Calgary Sun arguing that net-zero is “the pathway to Canadian decline” and that alternatives to fossil fuels are “unstable and unreliable.” The institute previously bragged that one of its biggest intellectual contributions over 35 years in Canada was bringing “to public attention the uncertainties of climate science.”  The Fraser Institute was described in a 2008 climate change lawsuit brought on behalf of the Alaskan village of Kivalina as having a long history of disseminating “misleading information to downplay the severity of global climate change.”  As Shell’s latest president, Pierce says that climate change is becoming so urgent that as a society we need “to act locally and globally” and that Shell is doing its part to build a “net zero future.” The company claims it will achieve that future by reducing “absolute emissions by 50% by 2030, compared to 2016 levels on a net basis.” But Pierce’s previous institutional connections to the Fraser Institute are yet more evidence that Shell Canada’s insistence on being a climate leader is “bullshit,” argues Donald Gutstein, an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and author of several books about corporate power and the media. “It’s total greenwashing,” he said of Shell Canada’s current promises to cut emissions.  Neither Pierce nor the Fraser Institute responded to questions from DeSmog.  Pierce was on the institute’s board of directors from 2017 to 2020, according to the institute’s annual reports. She acted during those years as a representative of LNG Canada, a Shell-led consortium that is building the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which has faced years of opposition from Wet’suwet’en First Nation members, along with a $40 billion liquified natural gas project in northwest British Columbia.  If and when this gas export terminal goes ahead it could produce carbon emissions equivalent to adding 800,000 gas-burning cars to roads in a year. During Pierce’s time on the board, the Fraser Institute published numerous studies and op-eds downplaying the seriousness of climate change. That includes a 2019 Financial Post column by senior fellow Ross McKitrick entitled “Hold the panic: Canada just warmed 1.7 degrees and…thrived.”  “Tell everyone over and over that the climate is changing, and soon they will see proof of change everywhere. Rain, snow, wind, floods or dry spells; it will all seem to eerily confirm the theory, even though we have always had these things,” McKitrick wrote. “Most of what people are noticing, of course, are just natural weather events.”  The Fraser Institute highlighted McKitrick’s column in its 2019 annual report, citing it as an example of the organization debunking “inaccurate and alarmist” fears about climate change. “All told, centre staff and senior fellows wrote over 25 original newspaper commentaries on environmental issues in 2019,” the annual report reads.  The following year’s annual report no longer lists Pierce on the board of directors. In 2021, she became president of Shell Canada, and immediately began doing interviews touting the company’s commitment to addressing climate change. “I’ve seen it just in the first couple of months that I’ve been on scene,” Pierce said at the time, explaining that she was helping “transition our company from one that had traditionally produced oil and gas into one which is a leader in new technologies and new energy systems that can achieve our net-zero ambitions.”  But internally Shell very much remained focused on oil and gas.  “Please do not give the impression that Shell is willing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that do not make business sense,” reads a Shell PR guidance slide that was released this year as part of a US congressional investigation into climate disinformation. “Shell has no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years.” It appears to confirm what researchers like Gutstein have long suspected about Shell’s ambitious public targets for reducing carbon: “They’re never going to actually achieve the goal.” The post Shell Canada’s Latest President Spent Years on Board of Climate Denier Group appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy, climate denial, Fraser Institute, Shell Canada]

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[l] at 1/17/23 10:51pm
As chemicals designed to kill insects and weeds, fungi and rodents, pesticides are among the most toxic and damaging substances on the planet. Their harmful impacts on human and ecosystem health are generally well understood. What receives far less attention, however, is the climate impact of these agrochemicals. Not only do pesticides directly contribute to the climate crisis, but a changing climate is likely to intensify pressure from agricultural pests and decrease plant resiliency, resulting in greater pesticide usage and therefore further greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.  This “vicious cycle” of pesticide use fueling climate change, and vice versa, is examined in a report published Tuesday by the advocacy group Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). According to PANNA, the assessment is the first in-depth scientific review of the relationship between pesticides and climate change.  “The fossil fuel industry, pesticides, and industrial agriculture are inextricably linked,” explained Asha Sharma, PANNA organizing co-director and co-author of the report. “Pesticide companies are complicit in the climate crisis, and further the agricultural sectors dependency on fossil fuels.”  Nearly all synthetic pesticides are derived from fossil fuels, and like other petrochemical products such as plastics and nitrogen fertilizer, they emit greenhouse gasses throughout their manufacturing and use. But while the climate impacts of plastics and fertilizers have garnered more attention in recent years, the climate emissions associated with pesticides have received relatively little consideration or study. “Virtually no studies calculate the GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions of pesticide use over the full life cycle of the chemicals,” the report notes. Production emissions, for example, are difficult to quantify due to commercial confidentiality, allowing manufacturers to avoid disclosing complete information on pesticide ingredients.  While precise figures may be lacking, research does indicate that pesticide production is especially energy-intensive, and there are estimates of energy use associated with the production of certain pesticides. These calculations can be used to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from pesticide production. According to the report, insecticide production on average generates between around 15 and 19 kilograms CO2-equivalent per kilogram of pesticide, while herbicide production results in between 18 and 27 kilograms of CO2-equivalent per kilogram on average — more than double the amount of emissions (in kilograms of CO2) from burning one gallon of auto gasoline. In terms of energy usage, manufacturing one kilogram of pesticide requires an average of 10 times more energy than producing one kilogram of nitrogen fertilizer, which is made from natural gas. Fossil fuels are therefore integral to the production of pesticides, both as an energy source and as chemical feedstock. Through their chemical divisions, major fossil fuel companies produce pesticides or their chemical precursors.  Pesticides further contribute to climate emissions once they are applied to agricultural fields. Many pesticides release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a precursor to ground-level ozone that acts as a powerful greenhouse gas. In addition, they disrupt soil microbes, which play a critical role in the ability of soils to sequester carbon. By degrading soil health, agrochemicals limit the capacity of soils to store carbon. Furthermore, a form of gaseous pesticides called fumigants may generate emissions directly, as some like sulfuryl fluoride are themselves greenhouse gases, or indirectly by stimulating soils’ production of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.  Pesticides therefore release climate-warming emissions across their life cycle, but research indicates that climate change itself is likely to lead to further increases in pesticide use. As climate change intensifies, rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are expected to make crops more vulnerable to pests as these plants lose their ability to withstand stressors. Higher temperatures are likely to boost insect development, exacerbating pressure from pests such as corn borers. Farmers also can expect worsening wars with weeds because these unwanted crop competitors tend to be more adaptable to changing climate conditions, giving weeds a leg up under a less stable climate.  The report calls for putting an end to this noxious nexus between pesticides and climate change by shifting farming away from the chemical-intensive industrial model and towards agroecology. This latter approach eliminates chemical and corporate dependency and integrates ecological principles into food production. “Agroecological farming is also more resilient to climate change effects,” the report notes. Its key recommendations include increasing technical assistance and direct incentives for farmers to adopt agroecological practices, and setting pesticide use reduction targets within climate policy.  Avoiding False Solutions However, according to the PANNA report, current climate mitigation discussions and policies tend to ignore the role of pesticides — a lynchpin of chemical-dependent industrial agriculture — and overlook alternative farming models like agroecology that minimize the ecological and climate damages of industrial agriculture. Many of the proposed solutions to agriculture’s climate footprint instead consist of technological or efficiency improvements that maintain dependency on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. These purported solutions, promoted by big agribusiness interests like the pesticide industry, fail to confront the underlying system of chemical-intensive farming.  As DeSmog previously reported, the pesticide industry is now marketing itself as climate-friendly and pushing high-tech innovations such as “precision agriculture,” which the report calls a false solution because it “maintains a system dependent upon chemical and energy-intensive technologies and materials, while diverting attention from and investment in more effective climate-friendly strategies in agriculture.” Promoting tech-based fixes that preserve business interests is the same strategy the fossil fuel industry has used, campaigners say.  “Our new report reveals how oil and gas companies and pesticide manufacturers have followed a similar playbook — strategically promoting flawed solutions to the climate crisis, like carbon capture and storage and new digital agriculture tools, which in reality offer minimal climate benefits,” PANNA’s Sharma said in a statement. “Corporations tout these novel technologies to protect their reputation, while they continue to profit from fossil fuels. We need deeper, transformative approaches to actually solve the root problems of our broken food system.”  And as with the fossil fuel industry, lower-income and communities of color tend to bear the brunt of negative impacts, such as health impairments due to pesticide use and production. Moreover, climate effects like high temperatures can exacerbate the health risks from pesticide exposure. This is especially concerning for farmworkers, who tend to be immigrants or from minority populations, and who directly handle the chemicals and often work under sizzling temperatures.  “The compounded effects of climate change and pesticide use primarily fall on the shoulders of people of color — a climate and racial injustice,” the report states.  Sharma told DeSmog that more work is needed to raise awareness of the inextricable links between pesticides and fossil fuels, and to build grassroots power to counter the enormous influence of the $200 billion agrochemical industry. As DeSmog has previously reported, the industry plays a substantial role in working to block the transition to more sustainable farming models, with heavy lobbying that threatens policy efforts to reduce pesticide use.  “The only way to combat industrys political influence given the amount of resources at these companies disposal is through collective movements that center the people most impacted by the health effects of industrial agriculture and climate change,” Sharma said. “These broader movements that bring together advocates across the food system demonstrate the publics overwhelming support for more sustainable and equitable farming systems to policymakers while also working to shift systems of power in the food system, which is ultimately whats needed if we are to make any real progress.” The post New Report Highlights Pesticides Overlooked Climate Connection appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/12/23 5:39pm
Climate campaigners reacted with outrage on Thursday to the announcement that the United Arab Emirates’s president has appointed the leader of the country’s national oil company to preside over the 2023 United Nations climate talks, which the UAE will host later this year. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber was named as president-designate of this year’s UN climate summit, COP28, scheduled to take place November 30 December 12 in Dubai. Al Jaber is the UAE’s special envoy for climate change and also serves as the country’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology. He is the founder and CEO of a renewable energy firm called Masdar. But it is his role as the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world, that is sparking condemnation and conflict of interest allegations. “You wouldn’t invite arm dealers to lead peace talks. So why let oil executives lead climate talks?” Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign leader at Global Witness, said in a statement. “Renewable energy is now cheap and abundant,” Harrison continued. “But fossil fuel companies are working hard to keep skin in the game, and sadly the UN is rolling out the red carpet to them. This blatant conflict of interest at the heart of this year’s climate talks threatens to torpedo them before they’ve even begun.”   The presence of people with ties to the fossil fuel industry and other big polluters at the annual UN climate negotiations is nothing new. More than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists attended last year’s climate talks, COP27, in Egypt, a more than 25 percent increase over COP 26. And representatives of big agribusiness at COP27 totaled at least 160, according to a DeSmog analysis. Furthermore, Hill+Knowlton, the PR firm hired to run communications at COP27, also represents fossil fuel clients and ignored calls to sever ties with these clients ahead of last November’s climate summit. But Al Jaber is the only COP president who was a fossil fuel CEO at the time of his appointment. As hosts of this year’s UN climate summit, the UAE had a significant presence at COP27 in Egypt. The largest group of fossil fuel lobbyists appeared to be the 33 delegates from Abu Dhabi’s National Energy Company, TAQA, followed by 22 representatives from ADNOC, according to Global Witness. ADNOC’s promotion of its initiatives around carbon capture and storage (CCS) at COP27 elicited criticism from campaigners who viewed it as greenwashing its fossil fuel business. With the head of ADNOC now appointed to lead COP28, climate advocates are alarmed and angered that the UAE’s national oil company will have even greater influence at this year’s climate summit. “The appointment of Sultan al-Jaber… risks jeopardising the entire UN climate progress. We are extremely concerned that it will open the floodgates for greenwashing and oil and gas deals to keep exploiting fossil fuels,” said Zeina Khalil Hajj, head of global campaigning and organizing at 350.org.  The increasing infiltration of fossil fuel interests into the UN climate talks, and the reluctance of these negotiations to confront fossil fuels head-on as the main driver of the climate crisis, have left some advocates questioning the process’s effectiveness and seeking an alternative solution. “The COPs are increasingly becoming irrelevant,” Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said Thursday during a Covering Climate Now press briefing. “With their backs against the wall, the fossil fuel industry is scrambling, sending more lobbyists to the climate summit each year and now weaseling their way into a position to dictate these negotiations. But we cannot meet the goals of the Paris Agreement without international cooperation to explicitly tackle all fossil fuels head on. A glaring gap exists, one that can be filled by a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is already being called for by nation states, parliamentarians, Nobel Laureates and sub-national governments,” Alex Rafalowicz, executive director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said in an emailed statement. The treaty campaign calls for an end to fossil fuel expansion and a global phaseout of existing production of coal, oil, and gas. We cannot have the fossil fuel industry defining how the transition away from fossil fuels takes place,” added Harjeet Singh, strategic advisor to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. “We need governments and vulnerable countries leading that conversation.” The post UAE Selects Fossil Fuel Exec to Lead COP28 appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/12/23 3:52pm
By Nick Bowlin, Capital & Main. Originally published on Capital & Main. Since October, Colorado oil and gas companies have been submitting plans to the state detailing how they intend to pay for plugging and cleaning up oil and gas wells at the end of their productivity.  When the process is complete, every operator in Colorado regardless of size is to have a financial assurance plan guaranteeing they can pay for the cleanup. All plans must be approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state industry regulator. The commission describes the new financial assurance rules as “the strongest in the nation.”  A Capital & Main analysis of the financial assurance proposals submitted by oil and gas companies found that while some firms are proposing robust bonding increases, others are seeking financial requirements that fall far short of the full cost of plugging and reclaiming their wells. The latter is what worries Mike Foote, a former Democratic state representative who’s now a lawyer specializing in environmental and energy litigation.  “If a company doesn’t have a viable plan to plug all its wells, it shouldn’t be doing business in Colorado,” he said.  Regulators and experts say the financial assurance process is crucial to the evolution of oil and gas regulation in Colorado, the country’s fifth largest crude oil producer and seventh largest producer of natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The process started in 2019 with a law that overhauled the state’s relationship to oil and gas by giving local governments more power over operations and changing the mandate of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to prioritize public health. Since then, Colorado has cracked down on flaring and venting natural gas, in which gas accumulated during the extraction process is either burned off or released, and required drilling operations to be sited at least 2,000 feet from schools and homes.  The commission is now turning to another mandate originating in the 2019 law: increasing the amount of money operators must put forward, often in the form of bonds, to pay for the plugging and reclamation of their wells. Companies are supposed to pay for the cleanup themselves; the bonds serve as insurance, in case of bankruptcy, so that the cost does not fall on the state and, ultimately, taxpayers.  The agency is trying to head off an enormous potential bill. Colorado has about 50,0000 unplugged oil and gas wells. Using data from its orphan well program, the state estimates that plugging and fully reclaiming a Colorado well costs $92,710 on average, although the number can vary for a variety of reasons, including the depth of a well. The estimate suggests Colorado has about $4.6 billion in well plugging costs.  The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, fears the process could result in bankruptcies if financial assurance requirements are raised substantially.  “The new rules are difficult for small producers and the COGCC needs to be cautious about unnecessarily exacerbating that problem,” Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement. “The COGCC runs the risk of creating more orphan wells if those operators are forced to walk away. The state views low-producing wells as a nonviable business model, but that is just not true.” Plugging wells is a time-consuming process. A concrete plug is sunk into the drilling hole, and infrastructure such as flowlines and water tanks is removed. Spills or leaks must be cleaned up. A tiny fraction of the full cleanup cost of all Colorado’s unplugged wells is currently secured in bonds: 2 percent, according to a 2020 estimate by the climate-focused nonprofit Carbon Tracker. A 2022 study by the Bell Policy Center, a Denver-based organization that focuses on Colorado economic issues, found the state budget could be overwhelmed if forced to take on a large chunk of that liability, accumulated over 150 years of oil and gas production.  “The financial assurance rules adopted ensure that each operator has the financial capability to meet all of their obligations under the Act through the development of a first-ever individual operator-specific financial assurance plan,” commission spokesperson Megan Castle said in a statement. “These rules are aligned with the mandate from [the law signed in 2019] to regulate oil and gas in a manner that is protective of public health, safety, welfare, wildlife and the environment.”  Maralex Resources Inc., based in Ignacio, Colorado, appears to be a financially healthy company. All but one of its 46 wells in the state actively produce natural gas, according to commission data. Data submitted to the commission by Maralex show the company plugs a few wells per year, and its producing wells are strong — from September 2021 through August 2022, Maralex’s wells produced natural gas at a robust clip of 237 million cubic feet equivalent per day. The common industry measure for natural gas, known as MCFE, is based on the energy equivalent of burning one barrel (42 gallons) of crude oil. Maralex states in its financial assurance plan, submitted November 15, that it has no low-producing wells and that all of its Colorado assets “are near [the] beginning of their productive well-lives.” Under Colorado regulations, low-producing wells generate a daily average of less than two barrels of oil equivalent, or 10 MCFE, per day over a 12-month span. The thresholds are generally accepted industry benchmarks, below which wells risk losing their economic viability. Maralex’s picture of health is possible because of a business deal that allowed it to shed risky assets. In a transaction dated January 1, 2020, Maralex carved off 131 unplugged wells and transferred them to a company called Vision Energy LLC, also based in Ignacio. Many of the transferred wells were old — one was drilled in 1977 — and low-producing (average well life spans vary, but generally run 20-30 years). Dwayne Purvis, a petroleum engineer for 25 years who now runs a consulting firm, said the wells transferred to Vision were “much older, much lower production and much more expensive to retire” than the wells retained by Maralex.  Vision’s website lists Maralex as one of its “parent” companies, along with Durango, Colorado-based Adelante Oil and Gas. Attorney Robert A. Willis of Poulson, Odell and Peterson in Denver signed the financial assurance proposals for both Maralex and Vision. In a 2018 Mesa County well sale between Vision and Maralex, A.M. O’Hare is listed as the CEO for both companies, according to documents obtained in a records request.  The two companies list overlapping members of their respective management teams and share a mailing address on their respective proposals. Maralex also notes in its commission application that two gas gathering facilities would be transferred to Vision in the future.  Maralex reports that it plugged several wells, according to its financial assurance application, which commission data show were operated by Vision.  Representatives from Maralex and Vision did not respond to several emails seeking comment about the relationship between the operations and their financial assurance applications. The commission is treating Maralex and Vision as independent entities in the ongoing financial assurance process.  Purvis, the petroleum engineer, noted that with the transfer of wells to Vision, “The cost of retirement will be much higher for [the transferred wells] than for the wells retained by Maralex.”  “Fewer than half of the transferred wells are still operating,” he said, “and those survivors produce at marginal rates and thus narrow margins. Based on my experience with these kinds of analyses, it looks unlikely to me that the wells could have been expected to generate enough cash flow to fund their own plugging and retirement at the time that they were transferred away from Maralex.”  Colorado’s new rules are supposed to increase protections on such transactions.  “The advantage the new rules provide is that all wells will be covered by an increased level of financial assurance and require operators who are receiving wells through a transfer to increase their financial assurance for the transferred wells before the selling operator’s financial assurance is released,” Castle, the commission spokesperson, said in an email.  Vision owns 108 wells, according to the most current commission data. Of that number, 40 are listed as producing — and 16 of those wells are listed as low-producing. About 62 percent of Vision’s wells are unplugged and not actively producing, the data show.  In total, Vision’s Colorado assets averaged 9.3 MCFE of natural gas per day over the past year, according to the data — below the threshold for low-producing wells. In its application, Vision lists a significantly higher production figure. The company did not respond to a question about this discrepancy.  Experts say such low-producing wells that hold minimal economic value are at higher risk of becoming orphaned — where no responsible party exists to pay for cleanup. Under Colorado’s new rules, companies are supposed to increase their financial assurance levels based on factors such as the number of wells and production. Companies with larger proportions of older low-producing wells are supposed to pay more. Or, like Vision and seven other companies to date, they can suggest their own plan, which the commission must approve or reject. Under the new rules, operators can request eased financial assurance requirements because of “individual circumstances” that make it “unnecessary or unreasonable” for them to comply.  Under the requirements of the new rules, Vision should have to put forward about $300,000. But according to its proposal, the company wants to pay $100,000. Combined with an existing $100,000 bond, the funds would cover about two-thirds of what the new rules require. (Vision has many wells on federal land, which are exempt from the assurance process until October.) The commission members and commission staff will review operator financial assurance proposals in the coming months. Foote said their decisions will be a crucial indicator as to whether the new rules are working as intended. None of the plans have been approved. The commission and its director, Julie Murphy, have the authority to deny plans and require companies to submit a new proposal that meets the rules.  “It’s all about enforcement with these new rules,” Foote said. “If they are enforced well, we’ll have fewer bad transfers and orphaned wells. If there are a lot of loopholes and exceptions, then business as usual can likely continue.”  Vision is not the only Colorado operator suggesting financial assurance plans that, if approved, would result in a company paying less than the full cost of plugging and reclaiming wells.   Some, like Vision, are small firms with low production rates. In its application, Williford Resources, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, lists a portfolio of 51 wells that average just 0.5 BOE — the standard measure of “barrel of oil equivalent” — per day, well below the threshold for low-producing wells. Under the new Colorado rules, the company would have to pay $5.3 million in financial assurance, according to Williford’s recent filing. Williford suggests paying $270,110.  Another firm, Fritzler Resources, headquartered in Fort Morgan, Colorado, acknowledged the steep financial requirements of the new rules — $3.6 million, in its case. Fritzler representatives have asked the commission to approve a financial assurance plan of $564,000, or $12,000 per well. The company stated in its application that it “does not have the financial resources to fully fund both the financial assurance and continue to operate its business.”  Fritzler’s situation is not uncommon and points to a larger issue facing the commission: If it plays hardball with companies and requires substantial bonding increases, bankruptcies could follow, leaving the state with millions of dollars in well-plugging costs.  The issue becomes more pressing for companies with extensive well holdings. OWN Resources, based in Breckenridge, Colorado, holds 3,310 wells in Colorado, 1,898 of which count as low-producing. On average, OWN’s wells produced 10 MCFE per day over the past 12 months. The company is requesting a plan that would include bonding requirements that would average $3,000 per well — about one-third of the funds the company is supposed to put forward under the new rules. Yet as OWN notes in its proposal, even $3,000 per well would be a significant increase on its current financial assurance levels.  In 2021, Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure package, which, among other things, authorized an historic influx of federal money for well plugging. Colorado is set to receive about $79 million so far. And Colorado’s new oil and gas rules include increased fees on companies that will go to the commission’s orphaned well program. In his statement, Haley of the state oil and gas association called attention to these funding streams. “Colorado has the most expensive financial assurance rules in the country, and one of the smallest number of orphan wells,” he said. “With new funding from Colorado operators and the feds, the state ought to be able to resolve what is a comparatively small problem.”  Foote also noted the increased funding, but he argued that there is money available if the new financial assurance rules do cause some companies to go under. Colorado’s oil and gas industry has not put forward the full cost of plugging its wells for a long time, he added.  “There’s going to be a reckoning,” Foote said. “The question is how much it costs and when it happens.” This story originally appeared in Capital & Main and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story. The post Colorado Seeks Payments for Oil & Gas Cleanup appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/11/23 6:26am
The founder and honorary president of the Global Warming Policy Foundation has announced he will be retiring from parliament.  Lord Nigel Lawson, who was chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, is leaving the House of Lords, according to the Telegraph.  The newspaper – which regularly runs columns attacking climate action – notes Lawson’s pivotal role in the official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, during the 2016 EU referendum.  The article neglects to  mention that Lawson also set up the influential Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) think tank, a major source of climate science denial and unwavering supporter of fossil fuels.  Lawson claimed that “global warming is not a problem” as recently as 2021, in an article written for the Spectator magazine during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.  His piece also defended the continued burning of fossil fuels, claimed decarbonisation would be an “unparalleled economic calamity”, and said plant growth was the “principal effect” of carbon dioxide. The UN has identified misinformation that undermines climate science – like some of these messages put out by Lawson – as a key blocker to action to bring down carbon emissions. A 2022 report described how such rhetoric results in “public misperception of climate risks”, polarises public opinion and delays effective policy. Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay told DeSmog: “Nigel Lawson is the climate denier-in-chief. He should not only leave the Lords but park his views on climate change where no one can see or hear them.   “His dubious Global Warming Policy Foundation is just one of the dangerous far-right lobby groups working out of 55 Tufton Street. With the planet facing climate chaos, charitable funds must never be used to subsidise those who undermine climate science or seek to weaken action to address the climate crisis.”    Climate Denial Founder Lawson founded the GWPF in 2009 and remains its honorary president, since stepping down as chair in January 2019.  He is also on the board of the think tank’s political arm, the Global Warming Policy Forum, which since 2021 has campaigned as Net Zero Watch.  Lawsons departure will still leave several climate sceptic peers in the House of Lords, including former GWPF trustees Peter Lilley and Charles Moore, GWPF advisory board member Matt Ridley, and outspoken climate sceptics Claire Fox and Anne Widdecombe. Australian billionaire and Conservative Party donor Michael Hintze, one of the few known funders of the GWPF, was made a Tory peer for life in October. The GWPF is famously secretive about its sources of funding. The Charity Commission is currently reviewing a complaint by lawyers and MPs about the think tank’s charitable status. DeSmog has reported on the GWPF’s extensive ties to the campaign by backbenchers to oppose the UK’s target to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 – the so-called Net Zero Scrutiny Group of MPs – and to increase its reliance on fossil fuels, including by fracking for shale gas.  GWPF Record The GWPF continues to spread climate science denial. In September, it published two papers rejecting climate science on the greenhouse effect. In April, the group released a paper claiming there is “no evidence of a climate crisis”.  Last week the group was accused of misrepresenting a mainstream study on climate science by the report’s authors.  The GWPF’s campaign arm Net Zero Watch has consistently attacked climate policies and renewable energy and pushed for more fossil fuel extraction. In October, Net Zero Watch urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels” and called for “a new fleet of coal-fired power plants”.  In March 2022, Net Zero Watch called for a “rapid” expansion of oil and gas, and for renewable energy from wind and solar power to be “wound down completely”.  The GWPF’s office is in 55 Tufton Street, home to a network of right-wing groups with a record of opposing climate action.  The address became better known last year for its association with the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), though the libertarian think thank is actually based in a different, nearby street. The IEA – which has received funding from BP – was widely credited with inspiring Liz Truss’s September mini-budget, which cost the economy an estimated £30 billion, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.  Lawson has been contacted for comment but has not responded at time of publication.  The post Nigel Lawson, Founder of Tufton St. Climate Denial Group, Quits Parliament appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 1/3/23 7:29am
Last year, we chased ambitious stories all along the climate spectrum. We investigated allegations of workers exposed to radioactive oilfield waste, reported from the frontlines of climate-fueled extreme weather and climate migration, expanded our coverage of the climate impact of agriculture, followed the ongoing buildout of LNG, and sent a team to COP27, among other things. This year, we’ll continue chasing major climate stories around the globe and exposing the people and groups fueling denial and delay. Below, a handful of DeSmog writers dive into the issues they’ll be watching in 2023. Aquaculture Salmon might seem like a good alternative to meat, in a world that needs to shift away from carbon-intensive cattle — at least the fish farming industry would have you see it that way. The aquaculture market is booming and is the fastest-growing food sector in the world right now.  But there’s a hitch. Salmon is fed on other fish — small, oily, and nutritious pelagic species — which are harvested by the tonne off the West African coastline and pulverized into fishmeal and fish oil for export to Europe and Asia. These fish would otherwise be feeding communities — already hard hit by climate change — who have no other way to replace this lost superfood, which contains the nutrients most needed by children in their first 1,000 days of life. In 2023, DeSmog will be looking more into the aquaculture industry, its impacts, and where it seeks to influence policy. Hazel Healy, DeSmog’s UK editor Bioenergy Burning wood to raise energy security? What sounds like a bizarre idea for hitting climate targets is set to gain further purchase in 2023, as Europe’s scramble to replace Russian gas continues apace. Bioenergy already makes up around 60 percent of the EU’s renewable energy sources, and lobbyists are jumping on the current geopolitical crisis to ramp this up further. Weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, DeSmog revealed with the Financial Times how UK power plant Drax was at the heart of lobbying efforts to dilute EU biodiversity rules that could limit its supply of wood.  In 2023, we’ll continue to keep our eye on EU policy around bioenergy. In September, the European Parliament sent a clear signal that using “primary woody biomass” — healthy or fallen trees for fuel — is problematic and shouldn’t be subsidized. But plenty of loopholes remain. And let’s not forget Drax in Yorkshire, a former coal-fired power station which generates nearly 13 percent of the UK’s “renewable” electricity from burning wood pellets.  Drax already receives over £800 million a year from the UK government to burn these pellets sourced from around the EU and the U.S., and is hoping to win more public money from 2027 through creating “carbon negative” bioenergy by capturing carbon from its operations and burying it underground. DeSmog will be looking at the ways in which lobby groups and pro-bioenergy politicians move from questionable “carbon neutral” to “negative emissions” claims about bioenergy, and what this means for the future of Europe’s energy mix. – Phoebe Cooke, DeSmog UK’s senior reporter Canadian Hydrogen Hydrogen fuel gained significant traction as a climate solution in 2022, with governments and industry pledging billions of dollars towards new development projects. In particular blue hydrogen, derived from gas and paired with carbon sequestering tech, has been touted as a promising transition fuel in Canada and around the world.  Critics of the push say carbon capture technology is still unproven, methane leakage could add untold greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, and transport complications all make blue hydrogen a much dirtier fuel than the name implies. Last year, we mapped Canada’s hydrogen lobby and revealed how fossil fuel interests are pushing for blue hydrogen in Canada. DeSmog will be keeping an eye on how industry actors are leveraging the theoretical promise of hydrogen to lock in continued fossil fuel production in 2023 and beyond. – Sarah Berman, DeSmogs Canada editor Carbon Capture and Storage Haven’t heard of “net-zero oil”? Next year you will. Big Oil has been holding out the prospect that a technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) can slash the emissions caused by burning its products for decades. That promise has never materialized: Existing CCS projects capture and bury about 0.1 percent of global emissions. And the technique has mostly been used to pump yet more oil out of depleted fields — canceling out the benefits of storing the carbon dioxide (CO2) underground. With pressure to decarbonise growing, oil executives are pushing the technology harder than ever. At the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, host of next year’s negotiating round, placed CCS at the heart of its attempts to present a climate-friendly image, and majors such as TotalEnergies, Shell, and ExxonMobil are also making big carbon capture promises. Campaigners will be pointing out that building a few CCS projects will nowhere near offset the harm caused by the industry’s plans to ramp up overall production — and that the only “net-zero oil” is the oil that stays in the ground. As scrutiny of CCS intensifies, DeSmog will be on hand to make sense of one of the most complex and fast-moving fronts in the global climate fight. Matthew Green, DeSmog’s global investigations editor Disinformation Disinformation campaigns will certainly continue in 2023, confusing and convincing ever more people that fake news is true. Still, Im encouraged by growing interest in pre-bunking — inoculating people against disinformation by familiarizing them with common disinformation tropes and techniques ahead of time.  This is familiar territory for DeSmog — we have unpacked and decoded fossil fuel greenwashing and climate denier messaging for more than a decade — but now that social media has turbocharged the circulation of conspiracy theories and white grievance, its vital to get out ahead of these messages.  Researchers have been studying the effectiveness of pre-bunking for some years, and now the idea seems to be going mainstream; NPR, the Associated Press, and NBC News have all run stories about pre-bunking in recent months.  I asked Janet Haven, executive director of Data & Society, where she thought disinformation might go in the year ahead. Haven anticipates little self-regulation from within the tech sector, particularly when it comes to the new generation of chaotic-neutral AI tools and bots like Chat GPT. However, I do hope we will see growing attention at the federal level to build meaningful guardrails around the development and deployment of these and other AI systems, she said, ones that put the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms over pure technical innovation.”  Its hard to be optimistic. Still, the bipartisan passage of the Respect for Marriage Act makes me wonder if both parties in Congress may find one or two more things to agree on in the coming year.  Emily Gertz, DeSmog editor Global Oilfields In 2023, I will be watching what happens with oil and gas fields in Alaska, the Arctic, Africa, and South America. I will also keep an eye on how Europe responds to the re-energizing of the fracking boom in the United States due to the war in Ukraine, and whether or not Europe chooses to drill, and even frack their own resources. Of course, I will be closely following issues around oilfield radioactivity, and how readers in the United States and the world at large continue to respond to our stories and reveals on this topic. Justin Nobel, DeSmog contributor LNG Buildout The year we’ll be keeping an eye on the scramble by the oil and gas industry to lock in the last gasps of growth before the unfolding energy transition forces them into stagnation and decline. For instance, the industry sought to capitalize off of Russia’s war in Ukraine to build new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, as DeSmog covered in 2022. We’ll be watching those efforts to cash in on the war as 2023 unfolds. A handful of LNG projects are moving forward on the U.S. Gulf Coast, but many others are struggling to secure financing. To be sure, the gas industry is not entirely on the offensive; it is under siege on many other fronts. Dozens of municipalities, counties, and even a few states are starting to ban gas connections in new buildings and are stepping up efforts to accelerate building electrification. This has the potential to cut off one area of growth for the fossil fuel industry. In the face of that threat, the gas industry and utilities are engaging in various greenwashing campaigns, hyping up false solutions — such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen for home heating — in an attempt to influence climate policy and secure a long-term future for fossil fuel assets. DeSmog will continue to scrutinize and report on these developments. Nick Cunningham, DeSmog contributor PR Influence Last year, reports challenged the notion that PR firms are merely neutral bystanders when it comes to Big Oil’s ideas. Instead, agents have created and shaped the communication strategies of their fossil fuel clients, while remaining close to invisible. Authors Melissa Aronczyk and Maria I. Espinoza have called these processes “strategies of silence,” as I explored in my first Gaslit column, published at the beginning of 2022.  PR firms have remained behind the scenes so effectively that only recently has their role in spreading climate disinformation come into the spotlight. From creating phrases like “lower emission fuel” to executing greenwashing strategies, research is increasingly showing that PR firms are involved in creating marketing, image, and reputation strategies for oil and gas companies, while shaping culture, policy, and public discourse on the climate crisis. For example, last November, DeSmog highlighted the role of Hill+Knowlton, the PR firm handling communications for COP27, which also retains clients such as Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute and contributed to creating Big Tobacco’s denial playbook. As the veil is being lifted, much remains to be learned about the intersection between PR firms and the fossil fuel industry. In 2023, I’ll be looking at how this is developing, and the role PR plays in climate obstruction around the world.  Stella Levantesi, DeSmog contributor and “Gaslit” author The post Heard of “Net-Zero Oil” or “Carbon Negative” Bioenergy? In 2023 You Will appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 12/29/22 7:23am
It was another busy year in the courts for climate-related cases. From challenges to fossil fuel and petrochemical expansion to climate lawsuits against Big Oil and national governments, there were notable victories for climate action and accountability in 2022. There were also some setbacks, for instance, the U.S. Supreme Court’s limitation of the U.S. EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some of the highlights. U.S. Climate Liability Lawsuits Against Fossil Fuel Companies Make Key Advances More than 20 U.S. cities, counties, and states have filed lawsuits against major fossil fuel producers aiming to hold them liable for the mounting costs of climate impacts and for allegedly engaging in deceptive campaigns to deny the risks of their products and promote misleading greenwashing advertising. The litigation has been tied up in procedural battles and no case has yet made it to trial. But several cases are nearing that stage, with breakthrough decisions this year setting them firmly on the path to trial. Climate liability lawsuits filed by Honolulu and Massachusetts are entering the discovery phase A pair of climate cases from opposite sides of the country appear to be the closest yet to holding fossil fuel companies accountable in court. Lawsuits filed by Honolulu, Hawaii, and by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have both overcome initial procedural hurdles and are advancing in state courts, despite dogged attempts by lawyers for the fossil fuel firms to punt the cases into federal courts where they hoped to find an easier path to dismissal. And the two cases have each taken a big leap forward in state courts with judges denying fossil fuel defendants’ requests to dismiss the litigation.  Earlier this year, a Hawaii state court judge issued several rulings denying oil companies’ motions to dismiss Honolulu’s case, originally filed in March 2020. In a press release, the Honolulu City Council explained, “with these favorable rulings [Honolulu’s] case is now set to become the first in the country to move into a trial phase and begin the all-important process of discovery, where the oil companies must begin opening up files to show what they knew.” For the first time ever, a climate liability lawsuit that makes tort claims to hold Big Oil accountable for the costs of climate change has reached and survived motions to dismiss. The people of Honolulu are now one step closer to putting these polluters on trial. — Center for Climate Integrity (@climatecosts) March 3, 2022 The Massachusetts case is also heading into the pre-trial phase of discovery, during which internal corporate records will be revealed. The case, brought by Attorney General (now Governor-elect) Maura Healey in October 2019, targets ExxonMobil with claims of misleading consumers and investors about the climate risks of its products and the climate risks facing the company’s business. In June 2021, a Massachusetts trial court denied Exxon’s attempt to dismiss the litigation, which claimed the lawsuit was harassing the company and violating its free speech rights. And this May, the state’s highest court upheld that decision, clearing the way for a trial. “We look forward to proceeding with our case and having our day in court to show how Exxon is breaking the law and to put an end to the deception once and for all,” Attorney General Healey responded in a statement. Discovery in the case is currently underway. Federal courts continue rejecting fossil fuel companies’ bids to keep climate cases out of state courts Other U.S. cases targeting fossil fuel majors scored important procedural wins this year, with defendants repeatedly losing their bids to force the litigation into federal courts where oil companies presumably see an easier path to dismissal. Cases filed by Boulder, Colorado, Baltimore, Maryland, a handful of California coastal communities, and the states of Rhode Island and Delaware all received rulings this year from federal appeals courts rejecting fossil fuel defendants’ theories for why the cases should be in federal rather than state courts. For all but one set of cases, the appeals courts were ruling for the second time that, yes, the litigation really should proceed in state courts. The targeted fossil fuel companies are challenging these rulings, with several petitions currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. (The court has not yet decided whether to accept or reject the petitions.) Also this year, several federal district court judges decided to send four sets of cases back to state courts, most recently in last month’s ruling in the District of Columbia’s case against BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell. Fossil fuel companies are fighting relentlessly to keep these climate liability cases out of state courts. As Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity — which advocates for holding climate polluters accountable through the courts — wrote recently in Bloomberg Law, “Big Oil defendants are terrified that these cases will reach trial in state courts, where juries would be shown the long trail of evidence of their climate deception, and the companies would face — in their own words from U.S. Supreme Court petitions — massive monetary liability.’” Biden promised on the campaign trail to strategically support climate lawsuits, but his administration hasnt said a peep about them. Now the #SupremeCourt is asking the administration to weigh in municipalities or industry? https://t.co/PXHnVz2lUW— lesley clark (@lesleyclark) October 3, 2022 With at least two cases already in the pre-trial discovery phase, it seems Big Oil will have to face its fear of standing trial. “This has been a banner year for climate accountability lawsuits. More states and municipalities are taking Big Oil to court than ever before, Puerto Rico communities filed the first-ever RICO suit against fossil fuel companies, and other cases are marching toward historic trials that would present the evidence of the companies deception to juries, which is the industrys worst nightmare,” Wiles told DeSmog by email, calling out Puerto Rico’s groundbreaking racketeering case. “These polluters will keep trying to escape accountability, but thankfully judges across the country have seen through their misleading arguments and unanimously ruled in favor of plaintiff communities. Theres no doubt 2023 will be another decisive year in legal efforts to hold these companies accountable.” U.S. Court Strikes Down Gulf Oil Leases on Climate Grounds A significant — but for now, temporary — legal win against fossil fuel expansion came in late January. In November 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it would offer oil and gas companies the chance to lease 80 million acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, but environmental groups challenged the decision. On January 27, Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated the lease sale — the largest ever for offshore oil and gas — saying the government did not adequately consider the potential climate impacts. The decision cited the bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to undertake comprehensive studies to consider the environmental impacts of major federal actions. “The Biden administration’s failure to adequately evaluate the climate impacts of this massive lease sale wasn’t just out of step with their stated commitment to climate action, it was also illegal,” Sierra Club Senior Attorney Devorah Ancel said in a press statement responding to the court decision. This week weve seen some BIG frontline-led wins for #Climate!MVP hits a legal roadblockLA bans new oil and gas drillingBiden cancels lease for MN mineCourt revokes Biden’s Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leasesLets keep up the pressure and #BuildBackFossilFree! https://t.co/k8ISMchiMV— 350PDX (@350_PDX) January 28, 2022 Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda emphasized that NEPA’s value extends beyond documenting potential environmental impacts. “NEPA provides not only the vehicle for considering the climate effects of projects, it’s also the most effective vehicle we have to lift up the public’s voice in decisions that will shape our future,” he said. Although the Biden administration declined to appeal Judge Contreras’ ruling, the Interior Department did reinstate the lease sale per a requirement included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed in August. “We filed a brief with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals just before Thanksgiving emphasizing that the directive to issue the leases did not absolve Interior from its NEPA violations, which is what both the oil industry and Interior are arguing,” Mashuda explained via email. “Rather, nothing about the lease sale, which was held in violation of NEPA, has changed, and the IRA makes no mention that NEPA be disregarded at any point.” Huge Win in Court Against Formosa Plastics’ Giant Petrochemical Complex In September a Louisiana judge delivered a big win for community and environmental groups fighting a proposed massive petrochemical complex by Formosa Plastics. The polluting project, announced in 2018, would be sited in St. James Parish, Louisiana — part of a corridor predominantly populated by people of color and known as “Cancer Alley” due to the heavily polluted air, which stems from the area’s large concentration of refinery and chemical facilities. The September ruling by Judge Trudy White overturned the project’s air permits issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, effectively halting the $9.4 billion chemicals facility. “Stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives, and today David has toppled Goliath,” RISE St. James founder and president Sharon Lavigne said in a statement following the ruling. The court’s decision to nix the air permits was clearly a victory for public health and environmental justice — and for the climate. Formosa’s proposed petrochemical complex would have emitted an estimated 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of 3.5 coal plants. This enormous climate footprint, from just a single project, would raise Louisiana’s total energy-related emissions by 6.5 percent over 2016 levels. In her ruling, the judge emphasized that the state’s environmental agency “must take special care to consider the impact of climate-driven disasters fueled by greenhouse gases on environmental justice communities and their ability to recover.” The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Formosa are appealing the decision. Successful Climate Litigation Against the Czech Government Outside the United States, courts made some key rulings this year favorable to climate protection. In recent years, European courts have made landmark decisions in climate lawsuits challenging national governments’ insufficient climate action or policies. Courts in the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Belgium, and Germany have all ruled that governments are failing to take adequate measures to reduce emissions or that current climate policies must be revised to comply with states’ legal obligations. This year, the Czech Republic joined the list of European countries where climate litigation targeting governments’ climate responses has been successful. In June, the Prague Municipal Court ruled that the state’s actions to reduce emissions were insufficient and that Czech government ministries must urgently implement stronger measures in line with the goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions at least 55 percent by 2030. That target is the European Union’s current commitment under the Paris Agreement and is cemented into EU law. The court’s decision came in a lawsuit filed in April 2021 by an association of over 260 Czech citizens. "The Municipal Court in Prague has ruled that Czech ministries are interfering with the plaintiffs rights because they arent reducing GHG emissions. The authorities must revise their plans"https://t.co/htXRvM91pg— Robbie Andrew (@robbie_andrew) June 15, 2022 Although government ministries are appealing the ruling, it represents a major development in holding the Czech government accountable for its responsibility — and legal obligations — to take all necessary actions to meet its climate commitments. We are obviously pleased with the courts verdict. It is a victory for the climate movement in the country and around the world,” Martin Abel, a spokesperson for the association that brought the litigation, said in a statement. Landmark Decisions in Australia on Climate Change and Human Rights Another important climate win came just last month out of Australia when a Queensland court ruled in favor of a youth and Indigenous–led legal challenge to a massive proposed coal mine. The “landmark” ruling marked the first time that human rights were successfully invoked in a climate case targeting a coal mine.  The lawsuit, brought by a group called Youth Verdict, sought to stop Waratah Coal’s Galilee coal project proposed for central Queensland, arguing the coal mine would cause extensive climate and environmental harm and infringe on human rights. The coal mine would produce up to 44 million tons of coal per year and contribute 1.74 billion tons of carbon pollution. During a trial earlier this year, the Land Court of Queensland actually traveled to the low-lying Torres Strait Islands, located off the northern tip of Queensland, for an unprecedented hearing. There, the court heard firsthand how climate change and sea level rise are impacting the islands’ First Nations inhabitants and how the proposed mine would worsen those effects. In late November, the court determined the Galilee coal mine’s impacts would limit certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, and recommended the project be scrapped. The final decision on whether to approve the mine is in the hands of Queensland government officials. ~ Torres Straits Islanders Climate Claim Against Australia ~In a legal first a group of Islanders from the Torres Straits are bringing an innovative claim against Australia before the @UN_HRC for inadequate action on climate change.#TorresStraight8https://t.co/YvOuqMBp8T— COP26andbeyond (@COP26andbeyond) April 15, 2022 “This case has made legal history,” Justine Bell-James, an associate professor at TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland, wrote in The Conversation. “It is the first time a Queensland court has recommended refusal of a coal mine on climate change grounds, and the first case linking human rights and climate change in Australia.” In a similarly groundbreaking decision on climate change and human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee declared in September that Australia’s insufficient climate response and failure to protect the Torres Strait Islanders, who face potential climate displacement, violate the Islanders’ human rights. This determination is the first from an international human rights tribunal that holds a government accountable for failing to protect its citizens from climate impacts. The Committee has requested that Australia provide adequate compensation to the islanders, engage in meaningful consultations with them and implement measures to ensure their safe, continued existence on their islands.  New Climate Cases Stack Up The increasing number of climate-related lawsuits emerging around the world shows no signs of slowing down, as the climate emergency itself accelerates and intensifies. This year saw a host of new climate cases filed against governments and corporations. In the United States, young people filed several new lawsuits against their state governments, including in Virginia, Hawaii, and Utah. And recently both New Jersey and a group of municipalities in Puerto Rico announced they were filing new climate liability suits against fossil fuel companies. Outside the United States, more climate cases were announced against national governments in countries such as the UK, Russia, Sweden, and Finland. In addition, new filings this year took aim against an airline in the Netherlands, the oil company TotalEnergies in France, and a cement manufacturer in Switzerland.  “Over the past year we’ve seen communities and individuals continuing to turn to the courts to advance their agenda on climate action,” Joana Setzer, assistant professor in climate governance and climate litigation at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said via email. “Cases against corporations are definitely one area where we’ve seen new, creative litigation strategies being used to good advantage.” While it’s too soon to predict how those cases will play out, Setzer says she sees signs that many corporate and financial players are starting to consider this litigation threat in their decision-making. If this last year is any indication, expect even more climate litigation and major developments in 2023 — and more coverage from DeSmog. The post 2022 Was a Big Year for Climate Action in the Courts appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 12/28/22 7:36am
By Angelika Albaladejo, Capital & Main Extraction Oil and Gas, a Denver-based energy company, sent Boulder County an offer this summer. It’s one that local officials don’t want, but can’t refuse. The company, a subsidiary of one of Colorado’s largest oil and gas producers, Civitas Resources Inc., gave the county three options: Sell access to its oil and gas, partner up as a working interest owner or get thrown into a legal process known as “forced pooling,” whereby the state can give a company permission to drill for a nonconsenting owner’s oil and gas. Boulder, one of Colorado’s most populous counties, is pushing back against the private company’s efforts to extract oil and gas worth millions of dollars. The company is urging the state to give it access to the lucrative minerals, despite the county’s objections. But the county is arguing that the process would be illegal, and that local governments should have the power to reject drilling because of its harmful environmental and health effects. Colorado established its forced pooling process in 1951 with the intention of reducing helter-skelter drilling, preventing waste and protecting the rights of mineral owners. Many oil and gas producing states have similar legal tools for compelling landowners to accept oil and gas operations. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a state regulatory agency that oversees the industry, has sole decision-making power over who gets forced to pool their oil and gas into a company’s planned drilling. The COGCC told Capital & Main that it can’t comment on pending legal matters, but acknowledged that Colorado passed a law in 2019 that transformed the commission’s mission from “fostering oil and gas development” to “regulating in a manner that is protective of public health, safety, welfare, wildlife and the environment.” Extraction requested a forced pooling proceeding from the COGCC just two days after submitting its offer to Boulder County, and months before county officials decided to reject it. The COGCC has scheduled a hearing for January 25, 2023. However, the county is hoping to end the process early. “We believe that the whole concept of forced pooling is outdated,” said Boulder County Deputy County Attorney David Hughes, who filed a motion with the COGCC on November 21 asking to halt the process through summary judgment. The county is arguing that if the COGCC forced it to pool its oil and gas with Extraction, the commission would be violating both the state constitution and local laws. Boulder County argues that these laws give it “clear and largely exclusive authority over its own property and budget.” Forced pooling would infringe on this local authority by requiring the county to enter into a multiyear financial partnership with a private entity “against the will of its elected officials and its electorate,” the county claims. If the COGCC decides to make Boulder pool its oil and gas, Hughes said the county is prepared to appeal. When Extraction proposed the drilling project in 2018, the company hoped to drill up to 32 horizontal wells on a 13-acre well pad just 1,000 feet outside of Boulder in neighboring Weld County. Boulder County objected, arguing that while the well pads would be built in Weld County, the oil and gas would be removed from Boulder. Nonetheless, the COGCC approved the permits. Boulder County challenged the permits in 2019 on the grounds that a conservation easement and several existing leases don’t allow for the drilling. But the lawsuits failed. Because the oil and gas in question lies beneath 552 acres of land purchased by Boulder County with tax money designated for open space parks, various county agencies were required to hold public hearings to decide what to do next. The Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee unanimously recommended not to accept Extraction’s offer, for reasons including an ongoing dispute over whether Extraction owns or has control of more than 45 percent of the mineral rights, the legal threshold for forced pooling. The Boulder Board of County Commissioners rejected the offer in November. Commissioner Claire Levy said in a press release that Extraction’s offer “is not in the best interests of the county, our residents or our open space.” Levy said that the drilling project would bring detrimental health and environmental impacts, and “require Boulder County to be in business with a private corporation on oil and gas development — something the county cannot and will not do.” Environmental lawyers and activists told Capital & Main that the Boulder case exemplifies broader problems with Colorado’s forced pooling process, even after the state passed its 2019 law intended to better protect owners of oil and gas rights. As the oil and gas industry’s technologies have improved over time, companies have been able to expand the acreage of their proposed drilling sites, increasing the potential for there to be multiple owners of the land and minerals, said Matt Sura, an attorney who represents land and mineral owners in lawsuits against oil and gas companies. Meanwhile, with the advent of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing, also known as fracking, the industry has been able to pool resources beneath larger swaths of land. In the case of Boulder County, the company would be extracting oil and gas from several miles away using horizontal pipes connected to wells built in a neighboring county. But even as the proposed drilling areas grow, options remain limited for objecting to forced pooling. Kate Merlin, an attorney who has represented mineral rights owners in COGCC proceedings for about a decade, said she has only protested forced pooling a handful of times because “the odds are incredibly stacked against [those who own oil and gas beneath their land].” “It’s a travesty against property rights,” Merlin said. “It seems to be capitalism run completely amok” because the state tends to side with companies seeking access, rather than owners, whether they are local governments or average homeowners. Some Colorado legislators attempted to establish additional protections in 2017 for oil and gas interest owners who are subject to pooling, but the bill didn’t pass. Legal challenges have also been unsuccessful. In 2019, a residential community in Broomfield, a city between Boulder and Denver, launched a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of forced pooling. Ultimately, a judge dismissed the case, and the COGCC gave Extraction Oil and Gas the go ahead to drill against the community’s objections. Nonetheless, that same year, Colorado passed the law that altered the COGCC’s mission and introduced new rules for forced pooling. Now, a driller must secure consent from the owners of more than 45 percent of the mineral interests in order to pool. The changes also prohibit oil and gas operators from using the land of nonconsenting owners without their permission, slightly increase the royalties due to nonconsenting owners and remove liability that nonconsenting owners previously faced. Even with these changes, Kate Christensen, an activist with the advocacy group 350 Colorado, said the state regulation has been twisted into an “industry tactic” used to scare the owners of oil and gas rights into entering agreements with companies. “Oil and gas has a total stranglehold on the state,” Christensen said. “It’s really hard for local electeds to fight against oil and gas. They’re fighting the regulators, they’re fighting the commissioners, they’re fighting everything.” Extraction, the company seeking access to Boulder’s oil and gas, has hired several lobbying firms to represent its interests in recent years, among them the 76 Group, whose past clients include Chevron and ExxonMobil. In 2022, Extraction’s parent company Civitas also paid the lobbying firms Husch Blackwell Strategies, Collective Strategies and Axiom Politics. Extraction did not respond to Capital & Main’s emails or phone calls. Christensen said this type of industry influence is why forced pooling continues to play out in companies’ favor. “If an oil and gas company dot all their i’s and cross their t’s, then they’ll get approved,” Christensen said. “It’s hard for people to get their heads around that in our country, with all these personal freedoms. … An oil and gas company can just take your minerals [even] if you say no.” This article by Capital & Main is published here as part of the global journalism collaboration Covering Climate Now. The post How a Colorado Law Could Force Boulder to Sell Oil and Gas to Private Company appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 12/27/22 4:00am
Photos I shot in 2022 for DeSmog capture damage from extreme weather events and the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry — the dominant industry causing global warming. In recent years, the industry shifted from persistent science denial to presenting itself as a leader of climate solutions, embodying Merriam-Webster’s word of the year “gaslighting.” I covered developments related to the rapidly expanding petrochemical and LNG export industries, like new facilities that came online this year and rely on fracking new wells to supply the growing demand for natural gas, which is mostly methane. I also documented the construction of projects related to these industries and the public meetings for polluting projects proposed but not yet built — that if approved will contribute to global warming and intensify the climate crisis. Industries reliant on methane gas continue to expand their footprint, despite bipartisan discussions about the need to develop climate solutions. Tanker at the dock at Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, on April 12, 2022. Credit: Julie Dermansky Travis and Nicole Dardar in front of their home in Cameron, Louisiana, near the Venture Global Calcasieu Pass LNG export facility. The company is poised to build a second facility across the street from their property and has yet to offer the couple a formal buyout. Credit: Julie Dermansky Fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Shell have stopped denying basic climate science — although they continue to deny any culpability for driving the climate crisis — and are now painting their industry as the key driver of ushering in solutions to the crisis. Aerial view of Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on October 3, 2022, after it was devastated by Hurricane Ian. Credit: Julie Dermansky Talking points used in a growing number of ads on TV, digital platforms, and billboards, as well as in social media posts, depict fossil fuel companies as the arbiters of climate solutions. They claim carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and the expansion of the so-called blue hydrogen industry are climate solutions. For instance, recent ExxonMobil Facebook posts tout CCS as critical to the world’s energy transition, rather than as something that if it were to work, still doubles down on fossil fuel dependency. Support for such fossil fuel industry projects that are referred to as “green” solutions has led to tax breaks and federal funding, despite environmental advocates exposing these so-called solutions as little more than greenwashing. While the fossil fuel industry undoubtably has a role in curtailing further global heating, its fiscal responsibility to create maximum profits for its shareholders, paired with its influence on politicians globally, demands greater scrutiny of its proposed solutions — and such scrutiny has been overlooked or diminished due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. DeSmog’s coverage of COP27 shed light on the fossil-fuel­-linked companies that dominated the event’s sponsors, as well as how industry solutions occupied much of the focus, despite offering no clear path to halt global warming. The Shell Polymers Monaca site, a petrochemical plant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a few months before it began operations this year. Credit: Julie Dermansky A housing development that overlooks the Shell Polymers Monaca site in Pennsylvania. Credit: Julie Dermansky Climate scientists are offering increasingly dire warnings that if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels in the near future, there will be no chance to meet the benchmarks set by the Paris Climate Accord. Yet new petrochemical plants and LNG export facilities — fueled by oil and gas — continued to come online this year, with even more under construction or in the permitting process.   For instance, Air Products claims that its proposed $4.5 billion “clean energy complex” that will produce ammonia and blue hydrogen in Ascension Parish just south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will have technology meant to “capture and sequester 95 percent” of the facility’s emissions. But if built, even with the best available carbon capture mechanisms in place, the project will still contribute to the climate crisis by locking in demand for natural gas that can only be met by fracking more wells.The announcement of the proposed project in October 2021 initially faced no backlash from communities on the banks of Lake Maurepas, home to a freshwater estuary that supports the local fishing industry. But that changed when those communities learned that Air Products’ proposed CCS project connected to the complex would be in their backyard — and when word spread this year that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries already had granted the company a lease to store the carbon sequestered from the facility under the lake in injection wells it proposes to build, if permitted to do so. Now, community members in parishes along the lake — which are traditionally oil and gas industry friendly — are taking a harder look at assumptions they readily accepted related to CCS, and do not like what they are learning. An aerial view of the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Sanibel Island in Florida, on October 3, 2022. Credit: Julie Dermansky Tyler Bryant, in front of his home, totaled by Hurricane Ian, on September 29. He is one of many Floridians who might not be able to build back at all, let alone ‘build back better,’ because the owner of the property where his mobile home sat may choose to not rebuild the infrastructure needed for the mobile homes. Credit: Julie Dermansky Although the natural gas industry’s biggest supporters seldomly refer to it as a “bridge fuel” anymore — one of the fossil fuel industry’s many misleading and often-repeated phrases — new documents released in the House Oversight Committee’s final report on the industry’s greenwashing revealed that it always saw natural gas as a “destination,” not a bridge. Supporters of the natural gas industry continue to gaslight the public about the role it plays in climate change by labeling it as a clean energy source. This claim is often repeated unchallenged or unquestioned by news outlets when describing new projects. But methane, the main component of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. Since methane is released at every point along the natural gas production process, from fracking to distribution, projects that call for expanding the world’s reliance on natural gas will spur ever-warming temperatures and more dramatic climate changes. The Dickinson and DeJean families recover what they can from their destroyed property. the day after an EF3 tornado ripped though Arabi, Louisiana, on March 22, 2022. Credit: Julie Dermansky As temperatures rise and the climate changes with each passing year, impacts that scientists predicted are starting to happen, making climate science denial less prevalent. But despite the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warning last year that we are facing “code red for humanity” and the IPCC stating this year that “widespread, pervasive impacts…have resulted from observed increases in the frequency and intensity of climate and weather extreme,” the buildout of infrastructure to service the fossil fuel industry’s expansion is in full swing. While selecting photos for this report, my work was interrupted by a warning telling me to take shelter due to the risk of being hit by a tornado. Luckily for me, the December 14 tornado outbreak that warning was related to didn’t impact me, other than disrupting my work. However, it had catastrophic impacts across Louisiana. One of the tornados hit Arabi, the same suburb in the New Orleans metro area that was struck by an E3 tornado in March. Joan Hill surveying the damage on December 15, the day after the tornado outbreak tore through parts of the Gulf South. A tornado knocked her home in Gretna, Louisiana, off its foundation. Credit: Julie Dermansky Speaking about a similar rare tornado outbreak in December 2021 for the Gulf South region, renowned climate scientist Michael Mann told NBC that increased temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are leading to more moisture in the atmosphere.   “The global oceans have warmed more than a degree over the past century, and that’s because of carbon pollution from fossil fuel burning,” Mann said, explaining that the increased moisture and heat provides the turbulent energy to create thunderstorms. He also added that although there is not yet a known direct link between climate change and tornadoes, the maximum intensities of tornadoes are increasing as we would expect them to, leading to much larger outbreaks.  A flare at Valero’s St. Charles Refinery in Norco, Louisiana, on January 1, 2022. Credit: Julie Dermansky A cemetery in Cameron Parish left with open burial sites, two years after being impacted by Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020. Credit: Julie Dermansky February 27, six months after Hurricane Ida hit, tombs displaced by a storm surge in a cemetery in Ironton, Louisiana, remain scattered about. Credit: Julie Dermansky Robert Taylor inside his gutted home six months after Hurricane Ida hit. He plans to fix it, despite not having the funds to do so. Credit: Julie Dermansky Chris Brunet at his home on the Isle de Jean Charles on August 21, a few days before moving into his home in The New Isle subdivision. The subdivision was built with federal funds to relocate an island community facing immense risk from the climate crisis. Credit: Julie Dermansky Jean Charles Choctaw Nation Chief Albert Naquin next to a home with standing water under it, where closing documents were signed, at The New Isle, on August 24, 2022. The New Isle is the country’s first state-run federally funded relocation settlement for those displaced by climate change. The Tribe’s innovative proposal to relocate its members from the Isle de Jean Charles helped Louisiana secure $48 million through Housing and Urban Development agency’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. But shortly thereafter, Louisiana’s Office of Community Development (OCD), the agency in charge of the project, radically transformed the Tribe’s proposal, revising its focus from relocating a tribal community impacted by climate change to relocating the island community. Any mention of the Tribe has been removed from OCD’s website, which Chief Naquin sees as gaslighting. Credit: Julie Dermansky View of a diesel fuel spill site in Chalmette, Louisiana, on January 22 that was first reported more than two weeks after the spill occurred. Credit: Julie Dermansky Two LNG tankers filling up at once at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG export facility on the border of Louisiana and Texas. The facility is now capable of docking three vessels at once. Credit: Julie Dermansky Low levels on the Mississippi River led to a slowdown of tankers on October 27, 2022. Credit: Julie Dermansky Flares at the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery on Scenic Highway, on December 15, the day after a tornado outbreak swept through the state. Exxon issued a statement on December 14 that the flaring was due to “operational issues” and was not an emergency situation.” Brproud, a local news source based in Baton Rouge, reported that nearby residents should not be concerned. The company stated on Facebook: “Flares are safety control devices intended to consume excess gases when a unit is shut down or restarted. ExxonMobil personnel are constantly monitoring the flare systemSafety remains our top priority.” Reports that mention the flares, including Brprouds, failed to mention that such flares, despite being permitted, add carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Credit: Julie Dermansky One of the homes in Gretna, Louisiana, damaged by a tornado on December 14, with a tarp on its roof held down by sandbags. Credit: Julie Dermansky The post 2022 in Photos: Gaslighting by the Fossil Fuel Industry and Its Supporters appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 12/26/22 7:12am
By Joe Walsh, Earth Island Journal On the southern coast of Africa, local community groups and environmental activists have been celebrating a significant legal victory over a major oil player. In September a South African court prohibited Shell’s controversial plan to conduct seismic exploration for oil and gas deposits off the Wild Coast in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. But, the battle is far from over, Shell is appealing the ruling, and it has the resources and government support to take the case through the country’s court system to get the decision it’s after. For the moment though, the advantage lies with the anti-drilling activists. “We stand for human environmental rights and this [Shell’s planned exploration] was illegal as we, the local communities, were not consulted,” said Sinegugu Zukulu, who is a program manager at the environmental nonprofit Sustaining Wild Coast (SWC), one of the many local groups that filed two lawsuits contesting the permit. The suits argued that Shell hadn’t adequately consulted with impacted communities, nor had it conducted a required environmental impact assessment of underwater seismic testing in the region. The Wild Coast is a famous migratory path for whales moving north from Antarctica during winter in search of warmer waters and then returning to the Antarctic Ocean at the start of summer. Scientists are concerned the noise from the surveys will disrupt these patterns, while causing stress and interfering with animals communicating with each other affecting their ability to find food, reproduce, and even calves’ ability to suckle at their mothers. Dolphins and sharks are just two other marine species that could be negatively affected by seismic surveys through behavioral changes to get away from the noise. Although no baseline research exists on the effects of these surveys, the suits against Shell’s exploration included statements from six marine biologists affirming the latest consensus on the damage such surveys can do. “Coastal communities and the environment are both being violated. It’s nothing new, Europeans going and exploiting the ‘Third World’… it’s about enriching shareholders of Shell, not African economies,” Zukulu said. In its ruling, the Makhanda High Court cancelled the permit on grounds of improper community consultation by Shell, saying “consultations consist not in the ticking of a checklist, but engaging… in a two-way process aimed at achieving consensus. It added that “a chief does not denote a community” and cultural practices and communities’ ancestral beliefs towards the ocean and environment hadn’t been taken into account by the government treating Shell’s application as an “energy-sector specific issue”. In addition, the court stated that as experts differed on whether the damaging effects of the seismic survey on oceanic wildlife had been mitigated and emphasized that Shell, and the South African government, to take a precautionary approach. But the struggle to protect the Wild Coat is far from over. Shell and South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy are appealing the judgement. Tuesday, December 13, the same court that cancelled Shell’s seismic exploration permit earlier, granted the company leave to appeal that judgement at South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal. However, the court did emphasize that it believed the appeal would be unsuccessful. “The appeal sought has no reasonable prospects of success,” the court said. Though it added that it agreed with Shell that “the matter is of significant importance and requires ventilation by the Supreme Court of Appeal”. “It’s a real David versus Goliath here,” said Ricky Stone, one of the lawyers representing some of the applicants against Shell. The oil giant has a long history of court cases across the continent. Just last year, Shell was finally found to be responsible for decades of oil spills in the Niger Delta that destroyed local farmland and fisheries. The case was originally filed in 2008 and two of the plaintiffs died in the 13 years it took for the verdict to be issues. And earlier this month, Shell was granted the right to appeal this decision. In 2009 the company paid out $15.5 million in compensation for the killing of 9 Nigerian activists who fought against widespread oil pollution in the Niger Delta during the turbulent 1990s. Here, in South Africa, activists are battling not just oil companies but their own government, which supports the project because it believes fossil fuel exploration will boost the country’s energy security and would bring new jobs that would aid economic development of this remote region. Currently, the coastal economy is dominated by fishing and tourism, with many people also working in agriculture, all of which would be threatened by oil and gas development in the region. In 2014, Impact Africa, a subsidiary of African exploration company Impact Oil & Gas Limited, was granted a license by South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, to carry out seismic exploration for oil and gas off in an ecologically sensitive region of the Wild Coast that is also home to several Indigenous communities. At the time, Stone’s law firm, Cullinan & Associates, represented local fishing and ski boat organizations as part of public consultations over whether license should be granted. For eight years, the groups heard little about the status of exploration. Then, in 2021, the license was acquired by Shell in partnership with Impact Africa. In October 2021, Shell announced that it would begin conducting a seismic survey in December that year. Soon after, a ship hired by the company to conduct the tests showed up in the area, leading to widespread public protests across the country. The speed with which Shell planned to move forward with exploration left environmental and community groups scrambling to file interdicts with the courts. They sought an interim prohibitory interdict, in November 2021, based on the potential damage from the exploration to marine life, especially whales who migrate along that coastline, but that case was dismissed. Community groups, including fishers and tourism and surfing outfits, then filed a second, interdict focused on the communities that will be affected by the seismic exploration and any development of oil drilling. They also argued that the seismic survey would do lasting damage to coastal habitats of whales and other marine life. “Nobody’s done a survey about damage of livelihood if they find oil, they tell us how much is invested. That’ll be the end of sources of livelihood if they find oil. If the amount of [fish] catch drops, no-one can take care of that drop,” Zukulu says. In its September ruling on that case, the court found Shell had failed to consult with communities in the area. In its defense, the oil giant claimed communities had been consulted in 2014, at the time Impact Africa was granted the license. It produced affidavits from several local kings and chiefs from the area as proof. However, the project’s opponents successfully argued that this did not amount to consultation. In South Africa, there’s a long history of state or its business partners claiming legitimacy and community approval for projects based on colluding with one or two chiefs in the communities concerned and placing notices in newspapers. Critics say this practice harkens back to the days of apartheid. “We’re really disappointed that our own [energy] minister is using the old method of using the traditional leadership as the key of stealing our minerals in Africa, this is how it used to be in apartheid,” said Nonhle Mbuthuma of Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) another local organization opposing Shell’s seismic exploration. The South African constitution demands community consultation before projects, such as this one, can be undertaken. Proper community consultation involves seeking the input of the wider communities affected. This can be done through chiefs, but they have no authority to assert that they alone represent the community and can agree to development projects without engagement and approval from those communities they serve. Not only had these chiefs not engaged with the communities before siding with Shell, Sinegugu argues they weren’t even representative of all the areas that are going to be affected. “They said they spoke to kings, they consulted people who claimed to represent these kingdoms,” said Sinegugu. “Our kings don’t make decisions on our behalf.” Makhanda High Court concurred with this opinion, saying in its judgement that consulting only with kings and other traditional leaders “finds no space in a constitutional democracy.” Now that Shell is preparing to take the case to the Supreme Court of Appeal, the activists need to be prepared to fight the company not only there, but also at South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, as Shell appears prepared to take this as far as they can in a bid to wear down the finances and resolve of the activists they’re up against. “Finances will remain a serious challenge, a lot of our advocates and attorneys are working at a reduced rate,” Stone of Cullinan & Associates said. The community groups have been raising funds to pay the legal fees. The South African public has been particularly supportive of this action, but there’s a limit to how much financial support they can offer. Beyond the immediate consequences for South Africa’s Wild Coast and the communities that rely on it, the global impact of this project, if it does go ahead, is more fossil fuels being burned and more carbon emissions. Shell is seeking to drill more, despite being bound by a Dutch court to reduce its emissions by 45 percent (from 2019 levels) by 2030. Roos Wijker of activist shareholder group, Follow This, said: “Oil majors should stop looking into new exploration areas. The problems in South Africa and elsewhere are blessings in disguise for Shell because every dollar in exploration is wasted.” This article by Earth Island Journal is published here as part of the global journalism collaboration Covering Climate Now. The post Shell Persists with Effort to Explore for Oil Off South Africa’s Wild Coast appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 12/23/22 12:35pm
From rogue Tory backbenchers to North Sea profits for Putin, in the past year the DeSmog UK team has kept tabs on the people, money and PR machines that work to slow meaningful action on climate change.  In 2022 this has led us to stories that have unmasked all manner of trickery: from the minutiae of misleading stickers marketing “hydrogen-ready” boilers to the sinister presence of sanctioned coal barons at this year’s COP27 climate summit. It was a tough year for the green transition. Climate targets were under threat from all sides with climate science deniers, politicians and media platforms exploiting the war in Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis to demand an increase in fossil fuel extraction. We saw misinformation surge from familiar and new sources, with a disturbing conflation of “QAnon” and anti-vax conspiracy theories with climate opposition.  Meanwhile, corporations’ greenwashing tactics morphed, sometimes into forms of dizzying complexity – in the case of voluntary carbon markets. It was also the year that “solutioneering” took hold in agriculture – source of 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions – as major players announced net zero plans and began to push harder on sometimes fanciful technologies (think: capturing cow burps), at the expense of the deeper transformations needed to safeguard nature and the climate. At the same time, it was a year in which the case for climate action could not have been clearer. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine showed the real dangers of relying on brutal polluting petrostates for energy, and climate impacts became tragically ever more present across the world.   Plenty for DeSmog to get stuck into, in summary. And we were, in essence, all over it. It was a tough call to select the highlights, but here you have my Editor’s pick of our Top 10 – in no particular order – chosen for going deep, originality, capturing the political moment, scoring victories for the climate movement or straight-up popularity… North Sea Gas Profits Going Direct to the Kremlin Our reporter Christopher Deane noticed that a subsidiary of Gazprom had posted £28 million in dividends to its parent company and thought the world should know. So did The Times, which also ran the story – and Ukrainian journalists who are collecting evidence of how President Putin’s regime sidesteps sanctions. This scoop made a mockery of the “energy sovereignty” argument used by the UK government to justify 130 new North Sea oil and gas drilling licences, which fly in the face of unequivocal scientific advice ruling out all new fossil fuel extraction. Russia’s North Sea profits also run counter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to clamp down on Putin’s funding streams. The government has so far refused to rule out awarding new licenses to Gazprom, which hopes to launch new projects in the North Sea. The Dangers of Liquified Natural Gas Lock-In Many months in the making, this deeply reported long read saw our senior reporter Phoebe Cooke travel to the industrial German port of Wilhelmshaven, which, as the site for a new floating liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal, is at the forefront of the country’s dash to break its dependence on Russian gas. Climate campaigners see the new piers and pipelines as ominous signs that the gas lobby has finally achieved a long-standing goal to lock Germany into the $100 billion global LNG market – threatening to keep Europe’s biggest economy hooked on fossil fuels for decades to come instead of fast-tracking renewable alternatives. ‘Anti-Net Zero’ MP Hires Aides Linked to Climate Denial Group We uncovered how out-and-out climate science denial had slipped into parliament with this story about two employees from the UK’s leading climate-sceptic think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), who were found to be working as parliamentary aides to Craig Macklinay, the Tory MP leading a backbench campaign against the government’s net zero policies. Picked up throughout the mainstream media, the story landed a “fatal blow” to the legitimacy of Mackinay et al.’s anti-climate agenda in the words of the Grantham’s Institute’s Bob Ward. This story is best read alongside its companion piece: an exposé that showed anti-green MP Steve Baker had taken money from a funder and chair of the GWPF. The Net Zero Scrutiny Group: Mapped! Who doesn’t like a DeSmog map? Our investigative reporter Adam Barnett and lead researcher Michaela Herrmann meticulously – you might say obsessively – pulled together a stack of insights on the climate denial links of the various figures who launched an attack on the UK’s green targets earlier this year: figures such as Nigel Farage, Michael (now Lord) Hintze, Telegraph columnist Charles Moore, haulage industry lobbyist Howard Cox, and others. We documented how they were connected – to each other, to think tanks linked to vested fossil fuel interests and also to Brexit – so that other journalists could run with the story.  How the Bioenergy Industry Lobbies Against Woodland Protection We read, re-read and read again a seemingly innocuous note from the wood pellet industry to European politicians that was leaked to DeSmog. It transpired that the reasonable-sounding request to harvest tree stumps was in fact an attempt to roll back EU legislation geared to protect ancient woodlands in Europe. Polluting UK power plant Drax – a former coal power station which now burns wood to generate electricity – was found to be at the heart of these lobbying efforts to dilute EU biodiversity rules that could limit its supply of wood. It turned out to be the first of many scandals that would rock the company, which ended the year “running for cover”. Big Ag Delegates More Than Double at COP27 In this intense, high-speed number-crunching exercise, we found that the number of registered COP27 delegates who represented the interests of industrial agriculture had doubled compared to last year’s summit in Glasgow. Participants linked to the world’s largest agribusiness firms – such as meatpackers JBS, food corporation Cargill, or biotech leaders Bayer – and their lobby groups had jumped from 76 in 2021 to at least 160 this year. This investigation was part of our series on the growing presence in climate policy forums of the agribusiness lobby, set on sowing doubt and delaying action, campaigners say. Uncovering the Fracking Industry Donations to Liz Truss’s Campaign Our revelation from DeSmog researcher Clare Carlile that donors linked pro-fracking groups had made tens of thousands of pounds worth of donations to Liz Truss’s leadership campaign was particularly pertinent given that two days after taking office, Truss lifted the fracking ban (later reinstated by Rishi Sunak). Along with revelations of huge party donations from the aviation industry uncovered by our associate editor Rich Collett-White, the story showed the alarming extent of carbon-intensive industries’ ties to the Conservative party. Tufton St Our Disinformation Database entry on Tufton Street was among the most-viewed DeSmog content in a year that the UK finally woke up to the dangers posed by the shadowy network of think tanks that deny or downplay climate change and push a fiercely libertarian agenda. Under Liz Truss’s premiership, the British government adopted almost wholesale the demands of these groups (which are linked to fossil fuel money) to: remove “green levies” from energy bills, lift the UK’s ban on fracking, and increase extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea. The Global Warming Policy Foundation was another much-visited profile, along with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and Institute of Economic Affairs. Wind Turbines on Oil Rigs The revelation that Liz Truss’s chief of staff Mark Fullbrook had lobbied for a company that puts wind turbines on North Sea oil rigs showed once again  – are you noticing a theme here? – the proximity of fossil fuel-linked energy interests to government. It also highlighted the “greenwashing” tactics represented by Cerulean Winds, which had received public money for decarbonising North Sea oil and gas fields via its plans to power – wait for it – new North Sea drilling rigs with offshore wind turbines. Best case: drop in the ocean. My personal take? Lipstick on a pig. How Big Ag Delays the Shift to Sustainable Farming in Europe This major investigation, led by researchers Clare Carlile and Michaela Herrmann, documented how pesticide companies and others have taken a leaf out of Big Oil’s playbook to sow doubt over targets to cut the use of harmful chemicals that are decimating bees, birds and butterflies in Europe. Questioning the science around green reforms and scaremongering about economic impacts of green reforms were just some of the arguments used in this extensive study that also produced a new set of profiles on Big Agriculture’s major players and their stance on climate change and biodiversity.  Special mention: DeSmog Debunks… And finally, on a lighter note, we have also been experimenting with new ways – beyond the investigative stories above – to counteract misinformation from anti-climate pundits. DeSmog’s  DeBunk pilot has gently corrected figures via Twitter threads on Talk TV host Julia Hartley Brewer, Lord Frost and others, to help put the evidence at the public’s fingertips to correct the misleading claims that are proven to slow action on climate.  The post Editor’s Pick: Top DeSmog UK Stories of 2022 appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 12/22/22 7:31am
By Audrey Carleton, Capital & Main On the same day that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office reached a plea agreement with an energy company on charges of environmental crimes dating back more than a decade in the town of Dimock, state regulators quietly signed a consent order allowing the company to drill beneath an area that had been subject to a 12-year moratorium on such activity. The decision has outraged residents who’ve lived with the pollution tied to Coterra Energy’s previous fracking activity and endured over a decade in which they’ve lacked access to clean water for their homes. “We’re just goddamn puppets,” said Ray Kemble, 30-year Dimock resident of the 9-square-mile moratorium zone and water pollution victim, who stood next to Attorney General and Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro the day he applauded his office for reaching a conclusion to the years-long battle for clean water in the area. On November 29, Coterra Energy and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) signed a consent order allowing the operator, one of the largest natural gas producers in the state, to drill laterally beneath an area that has been mostly fracking-free since 19 households found methane in their water in 2008 and 2009. On November 4, 2009, the DEP signed a consent order tying drilling by Coterra — then called Cabot Oil and Gas, prior to a merger with Cimarex Energy Co. in 2021 — to household water pollution, banning the company from drilling new natural gas wells in the area entirely. Following the new consent order, Coterra will now be allowed to drill horizontally underneath the 9-square-mile protected zone, as long as the top hole of a well is drilled outside of it. (Fracking involves drilling vertically for thousands of feet underground, then horizontally, carving an L-shaped path.) The consent order was not announced to residents nor mentioned during a November 29 plea hearing at which many celebrated a long-sought victory: Coterra agreed to pay $16.29 million for clean water wells and a water line to provide clean water to residents who have been deprived of such for over a decade, as well as $58,000 to each affected household to cover its water bills for the next 75 years. The new order allowing lateral drilling represents the fulfillment of a request Coterra has made to regulators numerous times over the last 13 years. “Based upon the remedial work of Cabot … Coterra is requesting that the Department allow new drilling and hydraulic fracturing of wells with surface locations outside the Dimock/Carter Road Area and laterals that traverse under and produce the Dimock/Carter Road Area,” the consent order reads. “New drilling or hydraulic fracturing is currently restricted by the 2010 COSA.” Environmental groups around the state have expressed disappointment in the DEP’s decision, including Karen Feridun, head of the Better Path Coalition, which advocates for clean energy in the Keystone State. When she got word of the new consent order, Feridun quickly launched an online petition calling on Shapiro to ban fracking in Dimock entirely — as of the morning of December 16, it had more than 1,100 signatures. Feridun’s coalition is also planning a protest for Shapiro’s inauguration on January 17. In a statement published Tuesday, Megan McDonough, Pennsylvania state director at environmental advocacy group Food and Water Watch, called the new consent order “outrageous” and a “gift” by current Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to the fossil fuel industry. “Reaching this deal on the very same day that Coterra was in court for contaminating Dimock’s water raises serious questions about what was going on behind the scenes in the Wolf administration,” McDonough said. “This unconscionable action is a betrayal of suffering communities that are still years away from a permanent solution that will restore their access to clean water.” Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering emeritus at Cornell University who once served as an expert witness for Dimock residents in their class action suit against Coterra Energy, told Capital & Main in early November that he feared any victory in the attorney general’s case could come at the expense of the 9-square-mile moratorium. A $16 million fine pales in comparison to the profits that could be reaped from what Ingraffea says is the “richest shale resource area currently known to man.” “Anywhere you drill in there is guaranteed to be so profitable that your stock price would probably double,” he said at the time. “Coterra gets a multibillion dollar reward for not being found guilty of anything,” he told Capital & Main more recently. The DEP entered into negotiations with Coterra around the order in early 2022, the Associated Press reported Monday. At that point, the natural gas driller “committed to strict controls, monitoring and evaluation” amounting to “some of the most restricted conditions on any drilling in the commonwealth,” agency press secretary Jamar Thrasher told the news wire’s Michael Rubinkam. Gov. Tom Wolf told the AP he was “satisfied” with the DEP’s move as well. The order sets out terms for Coterra’s lateral drilling beneath the 9-square-mile moratorium zone, including that the operator “case and cement a well to … [p]revent pollution or diminution of fresh groundwater,” and “prevent gas, oil, brine, completion and servicing fluids” from “entering fresh groundwater.” The DEP confirmed to Capital & Main in November that Coterra had been cited for 1,167 environmental violations since the first consent order was drafted in November 2009 and it was originally banned from new fracking in the moratorium zone. The water line is referenced in the consent order, mandating that Coterra fulfill its $16.29 million agreement with the Attorney General’s Office by 2027, a date that the order notes could be subject to change. The order also requires that Coterra offer residents water treatment in the meantime, but it does not include mention of water delivery as was spelled out in the November 29 plea hearing. As Capital & Main reported previously, some Dimock residents are skeptical of water treatment systems and at least one system repeatedly failed. Should residents reject the systems this time around, Coterra will be deemed to have met its obligations to secure them clean water should they deposit money into a “mitigation fund,” the order notes. The gas company’s ability to drill laterally appears partially contingent upon the company offering residents water treatment systems. Coterra appears to be moving quickly to fulfill this requirement; company representatives have already contacted several residents about systems. One resident who spoke to Capital & Main on the condition of anonymity said they were contacted by a Coterra representative within a few days of the November 29 plea hearing. “Whomever negotiated this behind closed doors without our knowledge, consent or approval has not asked our opinions, given us options, or even gone over it with us,” the resident said of the new consent order. The Attorney General’s Office assured Capital & Main that Coterra is “bound” by the plea agreement, “which includes water treatment systems and/or bottled water delivery until the water line is up and running.” A spokesperson also noted that the Attorney General’s Office had no role in the drafting of the consent order, or in its timing on the date of the plea hearing. “Our office plays no role in DEP’s regulatory decisions,” Jacklin Rhoads, communications director at the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, said by email. “The only agreement announced last month that our office played a part in was convicting Coterra and securing resources to finally build a public water supply in Dimock.” The new consent order represents a jarring about-face for residents savoring a long-sought resolution to their plight. “This is a joke,” said Craig Stevens, landowner in neighboring Montrose and community anti-fracking activist, who worries that the proposed activity could pollute their homes again. “They can reach the center of that [9-square-mile box] from any edge.” “This is a cop-out,” Stevens added. “They didn’t fix the problem. They haven’t restituted the victims properly, nor do they have clean water. And they’re gonna let them drill underneath.” The plea hearing was celebrated as an environmental victory of sorts for the state’s new governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who takes office in January. Shapiro’s office charged Cabot Oil and Gas with 15 counts of environmental crimes in June 2020. After several years with no resolution and no formal court hearing scheduled, residents told Capital & Main they felt left behind, as the attorney general appeared to turn his focus to winning his election. Several residents, including Kemble, said they hoped for a water line that would pipe clean water to their homes — they had spent years getting creative with finding water supplies. Kemble, for instance, has for years trucked miles away from his home weekly to refill two 500-gallon tanks that sit in his basement and feed his faucets. A matter of days after his election, Shapiro’s office informed residents that a plea hearing would be scheduled and a water line was in sight. After the hearing, Shapiro held a press conference applauding his office’s work in pursuing justice for Dimock families. What was not announced was a change of terms to the moratorium that had been reached the same day — in fact, when asked about Coterra’s future prospects in the area at the press conference, Shapiro deferred to the DEP.  “When you’re governor, will Coterra be allowed to resume drilling and operations in the 9-square-mile box?” one reporter asked at the press conference.  “That’s obviously a question for the regulators, not for the Attorney General’s Office,” Shapiro said. “Certainly it’s an issue that we will review upon taking office.” Days after that, residents quietly learned that the terms governing Coterra’s fracking in their area had changed.  Victoria Switzer, a 19-year resident of Dimock who spoke at Shapiro’s press conference on the November 29 hearing told Capital and Main she feels “duped.” Switzer says she asked a representative from the AG’s office at an earlier meeting directly about the possibility of a trade — water line for protected drilling rights — and was told that the matter was under the purview of the DEP. “I’m just reeling from the decision,” Switzer said.  “I just feel like I’m in a worse situation than I was before I met the AG.”  Though the AG’s office confirmed it had no role in the drafting of the consent order, Kemble told Capital & Main he feels lied to by regulators. But he remains hopeful that in his capacity as governor, Shapiro could order the DEP to write a new consent order to rescind this one. “I’m praying to God that he was a victim in this whole thing with us.” Feridun is slightly less optimistic. “Shapiro … punted on the question about the moratorium, saying Wolf was still in charge,” she said. “He doesn’t get to do that any longer. He owns this now.” In a comment emailed to Capital & Main, the DEP underscored that vertical drilling within the zone will remain prohibited. The consent order also requires Coterra to plug several wells within the moratorium zone by 2032. “Not allowing surface impacts inside the box avoids the possibility of spills and releases impacting water resources. DEP did not want Coterra drilling vertical portions of new wells in the area before [unplugged wells that will soon be plugged] are addressed,” Thrasher told Capital & Main. “DEP did not want Coterra drilling vertical portions of new wells that may intersect the groundwater aquifer before public water was available in the area.”  When asked to comment on potential environmental impact of lateral drilling beneath the zone, DEP did not respond by publication time.  But Coterra will now be permitted to drill vertically immediately outside the moratorium zone — and horizontally beneath it. Though the company will be required to submit an “operations monitoring plan” to the DEP for any well it wishes to drill beneath the area, residents worry that freeing up the region around the 9-square-mile zone will shepherd in a new era of drilling and all of the environmental externalities that come with it: water pollution, truck traffic, noise, late-night flaring and the like. Memories of these side effects of the fracking boom still haunt some in this community, which has long been splintered on the issue of natural gas drilling.  Capital & Main reached out to Coterra Energy and did not hear back by publication time.   In the years since the last consent order was signed in December 2010, leaving homeowners with funds in escrow accounts but without sources of clean water, the DEP found several additional instances in which private water wells had been polluted — instances they tied to Cabot’s failure to properly cement and case their gas wells. As of February 2019, 12 of the 18 water supplies originally affected by Coterra’s activity in the aughts have not seen their water return to pre-fracking quality, the consent order notes.  The consent order also charges Coterra a $444,000 civil penalty. This article by Capital & Main is published here as part of the global journalism collaboration Covering Climate Now. The post Pennsylvania Lets Polluter Resume Drilling in Protected Zone, Outraging Residents in Fracking’s ‘Ground Zero’ appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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