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Lisa Hymas' Posts

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Triple threat: Obama orders federal agencies to boost clean energy use threefold

Obama and solar panels
Nellis Air Force Base

Two bills in the Senate would require the country to get at least 25 percent renewable electricity by 2025, but neither has a chance in hell of making it to Obama's desk. Thanks, Republicans! So the president is doing what he can without approval from Congress: requiring the federal government to get more of its power from renewable sources.

From NPR

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Nancy Sutley plans her White House exit

Nancy Sutley
Howard SIlverman, Ecotrust

Another member of Obama's environmental team is headed for the door. The administrator of the EPA and the secretaries of energy and interior departed soon after the president's second term began, and White House climate adviser Heather Zichal left last month.

Now Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, plans to step down in February.

From National Journal:

Sutley, appointed at the outset of Obama's presidency, has kept a lower political profile than some other top officials. But she played a crucial role in several major administration policies, the White House said. ...

Obama, in a statement, thanked Sutley for her five years with the White House, calling her a vital part of such policies as the second-term climate agenda he rolled out in June.

"As one of my top advisers, Nancy has played a central role in overseeing many of our biggest environmental accomplishments, including establishing historic new fuel-economy standards that will save consumers money, new national monuments that permanently protect sites unique to our country's rich history and natural heritage, our first comprehensive National Ocean Policy, and our Climate Action Plan that will help leave our children a safer, healthier planet," he said.

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Times are tough for the fossil-fuel lovers at ALEC

"end ALEC laws" light display
Light Brigading

Pity the poor right-wing schemers at the American Legislative Exchange Council. Things are just not going their way.

ALEC is a corporate- and Koch-funded group that pushes conservative bills in state legislatures around the country. Among many others, it's promoted bills to roll back renewable energy standards (unsuccessfully so far), and now it's trying to undermine net-metering rules that benefit solar-panel owners. In the first seven months of this year, ALEC helped get at least 77 anti-environmental bills introduced into 34 statehouses, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.

But it was ALEC's advocacy for so-called "stand your ground" laws, made famous in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, that started scaring off corporate donors.

Now, as The Guardian reports, ALEC has a big budget hole. And as a trove of internal ALEC documents reveals, the group is also facing declining membership among state legislators and potential concerns that it could be targeted for improper lobbying.

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Jerry Brown keeps getting heckled by anti-fracking protesters

Jerry Brown
Steve Rhodes

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is finding the fracking issue to be increasingly irritating. Or more to the point, he's finding anti-fracking activists to be increasingly irritating.

Brown is a long-time environmental champion with a strong record of advancing clean energy and climate action, but he doesn't mind the fracking that's going on in his state. In fact, he kinda likes it.

The San Jose Mercury News reported a month ago on Brown's "most extensive remarks yet defending his administration's fracking policy":

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Obama OKs pipeline that will help Canada’s tar-sands industry

pipeline
Shutterstock / Oleinik Dmitri

The week before Thanksgiving, the Obama administration quietly approved a pipeline project that will cross the U.S.-Canada border and benefit the tar-sands industry. But not that pipeline.

This 1,900-mile pipeline will carry gas condensate or ultra-light oil from an Illinois terminal northwest to Alberta, where it will be used to thin tar-sands oil so it can travel through pipelines. Without this kind of diluent, tar-sands oil is too thick and sludgy to transport. "Increased demand for diluent among Alberta's tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers," reports DeSmogBlog.

Houston-based Kinder Morgan is the company behind the $260 million Cochin Reversal Project, which will reverse and expand an existing pipeline. The pipeline will be fed by fracking operations in the Eagle Ford Shale area in Texas.

Yes, fracking and tar sands, together at last.

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Will Massachusetts become the second state to ban fracking?

no-fracking sign
Steve Harbula

Legislation that would impose a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature. On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture passed the bill, which would also prohibit the dumping of fracking wastewater in the state.

"Although the state isn't seen as a rich source of shale gas, there could be limited deposits in western Massachusetts," the Associated Press reports. As EcoWatch explains, "Local concern about fracking has grown since the U.S. Geological Survey identified shale gas deposits in the Pioneer Valley last December. Moreover, as New York mulls large-scale fracking next door, drilling operators could soon view Western Massachusetts as a convenient dumping ground for toxic fracking wastewater."

If the full state legislature passes the bill and Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signs it, Massachusetts would become the second state in the nation to ban fracking. Vermont banned it last year, despite having negligible fracking potential.

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If your pot isn’t organic, you’re probably inhaling pesticides

pot smoker
Shutterstock

Bummer news for pot smokers: Up to 70 percent of the pesticides found on a marijuana bud can end up in the smoke you're inhaling. That's according to recent research conducted by Jeffrey Raber, who holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Southern California and operates a medical cannabis testing laboratory in L.A.

The Eureka Times-Standard reports:

"I think that what's so alarming to us is that such a huge amount of pesticide material could be transferred,” Raber said. “And, you have to consider that when you inhale (something), it's much like injecting it directly into your blood stream.” ...

Raber said it's important to remember that smoking a marijuana bud that's been sprayed with chemicals is far different than eating a non-organic tomato. First and foremost, he said, there are no controls over what's sprayed on marijuana crops. And, while most people would rinse off a tomato before eating it, they can't wash a bud before putting it in their pipe. The body also has filters in place for things that are ingested, he said, but not for what's inhaled.

"You don't have the first pass metabolism of the liver,” he said. “You don't have the lack of absorptivity going through the stomach or the gut lining. It's a very different equation when you're inhaling.”

Read more: Living

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The big election winner: Deep-pocketed Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer
Givesmart.org

Enviros appear to have won two key contests on Tuesday -- a high-profile governor's race in Virginia and a low-profile county council race in rural Washington -- and they did it by outspending their fossil-fuel opponents. Billionaire green activist Tom Steyer can claim much of the credit.

Through his NextGen Climate Action PAC, Steyer poured more than $2 million into electing Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia -- or, more to the point, defeating Republican climate denier Ken Cuccinelli. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the national League of Conservation Voters pitched in almost $2 million too, and the Sierra Club contributed nearly half a million. All in all, environmentalists donated more to the McAuliffe effort than any other interest group save for the Democratic Governors Association, reports The Huffington Post.

Virginia's lax campaign-finance rules worked to the benefit of Democrats and greens this time around, according to Politico:

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EPA chief tells Grist what coal will have to do to survive in a “carbon-constrained” future

Gina McCarthy
Reuters/Jason Roberts
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

It’s been a long time coming, but, finally, the EPA is going to begin tackling carbon pollution from the world's single greatest contributor to climate change -- the U.S. power sector.

Under draft rules being announced this morning, new coal power plants will have to be a whole lot cleaner than the ones we've got today. In fact, thanks also to market conditions, new coal plants might not get built at all. Perhaps most important, the draft rules lay the foundation for a bigger move to cut emissions from already-existing coal-fired power plants, a plan due to be unveiled in June 2014.

In an interview with Grist, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposed regulations for new plants are not intended to push coal out of the energy mix. Still, the standards are pretty strict. The EPA had released an earlier version of them in March of last year, then decided to rework them, but this new set of regs still takes a hard line with coal.

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Naomi Klein says big green groups are more trouble than climate deniers

Naomi Klein
Ed Kashi
Naomi Klein.

Progressive journalist and activist Naomi Klein made waves a couple of years ago with an article in The Nation arguing that climate activism and current-day capitalism are incompatible. An appropriate response to the massive threat of climate change "is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades," she argued.

Now, in a new interview with Jason Mark of Earth Island Journal, she lambastes major environmental groups for failing to understand this point, for being too tied to the neoliberal agenda and too cozy with corporations.

I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme -- we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right. The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it’s going to bankrupt us, it’s handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it’s not going to work. And they were right ... Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn’t going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do [to] lower emissions. So I think it’s a really important question why the green groups have been so unwilling to follow science to its logical conclusions. ...