Business As Usual Meets the New Normal: Climate Change and Fisheries Management

Mar 26, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

What if a hurricane with the lowest low-pressure readings ever seen in human history was barreling toward the East Coast and all we did was debate if it was a category 4 or 5? John Bullard, regional director for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in New England, used that metaphor recently to describe how we are coping with the enormous transformations that are happening in our ocean right now from climate change.

He used this attention-getter at the overdue multi-agency session in Washington, DC, last week, the purpose of which was to consider the implications of climate change for fisheries management along the U.S. Atlantic coast. This meeting was overdue in that climate change impacts are already being observed by fishermen and scientists alike, and adjusting to our new “normal” will not be easy and will take time.

For New England, the challenge is stark. The Gulf of Maine is one of the most rapidly heating bodies of water on the Atlantic Coast, if not in the US. These temperature changes are sending the sea life off to seek their comfort zone – according to NMFS, 24 of 36 stocks evaluated seem to be moving north or away from coastal waters. To make matters worse, our ocean is also acidifying at increasingly alarming rates. This can cause major problems for shell-forming animals such as scallops and lobsters – the animals that much of our fishing economy depend on. Unfortunately, there has been little economic analysis about the implications of this issue yet.

climate-change-and-fisheries-management

Lobsters are just one of the species under threat from warming oceans.

Former fish czar Eric Schwaab also spoke at the climate change workshop, noting that the climate is likely changing faster than the fisheries governance structure. Sadly, New England’s fisheries managers have not particularly distinguished themselves in the first 30 years of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, even with a relatively stable ecosystem. Yes, I know there is no such thing as a “stable ecosystem” but it will likely seem like one compared to future manifestations. Now the natural variability will be happening within an ecosystem that is rapidly changing itself.

Bullard drove this home by saying that the current climate-changing 400 parts-per-million levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have never been experienced by mankind, let alone New England fishermen. He then made the obvious point that nothing in our oceans will ever be “normal” again, even though, right now, everyone is acting as if it will be. As if that huge hurricane heading our way will just be going out to sea.

Current examples of the effects of climate abound and were noted by various speakers: black sea bass in NH lobster traps, green crabs taking over the Maine coast, more summer flounder summering more in New England than ever before, no northern shrimp fishery to be found, and the looming end of the southern New England lobster fishery.

I’ve seen it myself, with the glut of longfin squid hanging out on the Massachusetts north shore the last two summers. While we can hope that these changes will be gradual and that an incremental approach will suffice, many ecologists suggest that the “state changes” could be rapid, extensive, and irreversible. Moreover, some New England fishermen who imagine that they will soon being fishing on Mid-Atlantic fish stocks may have forgotten that most of those fish are already in limited access fisheries and have been allocated to others.

Bullard put his finger on what is needed at such a critical pivotal moment: leadership. In his words (loosely transcribed), leadership requires responding to a threat with actions commensurate to the size of the threat even if everyone around you is acting like the threat doesn’t exist.

Amen. While it is hard to put aside my cynicism about the likelihood that this Rube Goldberg fisheries management system – Dr. Mike Orbach’s metaphor here at the meeting – is up to the task, the challenge is clear and the stakes could not be higher for fishermen and fishing communities up and down the Atlantic coast.

In the end, Bullard’s message seemed to me to fall largely on deaf ears at the workshop, with much of the to-do discussion focused on managing at the margin and improved coordination between the New England and mid-Atlantic councils. In other words, business as usual. The leadership to respond to the dramatic shifts in our marine ecosystems due to climate change was not yet evident at the workshop.

But there is hope for the future. While many of these forces of nature are likely beyond our control even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases altogether, we can prepare for changes and increase resiliency by rebuilding as many fish populations as we can and protecting habitat. Dynamic, integrated management will help our fisheries, ecosystems, and communities respond to the realities of a new normal.

CLF Works for Clean Water in a Changing Climate

Mar 11, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Lake-Champlain-TMDL

A deluge of rain in spring 2011 caused flooding upstream of Lake Champlain. Extreme weather and damaging floods are not the only downside of Vermont’s changing climate. Mud-brown flood waters flowing to Lake Champlain also increase the loading of nutrient pollution that can cause toxic blue-green algae blooms and noxious weed growth.

The damaging floods of spring 2011 followed by Tropical Storm Irene in late summer awakened many Vermonters to the connection between climate change and extreme precipitation. But well before the “watershed moment” that was 2011, CLF’s Vermont Advocacy Center was pushing policymakers to connect the dots between our clean water challenges and the changing climate. Thanks in part to CLF’s efforts, Vermont is now poised to play a leadership role in the national climate change conversation around strategies to secure the natural resource we literally cannot live without: clean water.

CLF has worked for years to ensure that enforceable measures are put in place to clean up Lake Champlain, which has been heavily impaired by nutrient pollution. This pollution causes toxic blue-green algae blooms and noxious weed growth that make the water unsafe or unpleasant for swimming, fishing, and boating, and has led to massive fish die-offs in some parts of the lake.

In 2002, EPA approved a framework created by Vermont officials for cleaning up nutrient pollution in the lake, but it failed to take into account the growing scientific consensus that our climate is changing. In 2008, CLF sued EPA, under the Clean Water Act, to reopen this framework and revise it to include consideration of climate change. Specifically, CLF cited government studies such as the 2008 EPA National Water Program strategy document titled “Response to Climate Change.” It concluded that the climate chaos we are causing with our greenhouse gas pollution will “alter the hydrological cycle, especially characteristics of precipitation (amount, frequency, intensity, duration, type) and extremes.” The report also made a range of predictions that ring true in Vermont’s recent experience of the changing climate:

• “[w]ater-borne diseases and degraded water quality are very likely to increase with more heavy precipitation”;

• potential increases in heavy precipitation, with expanding impervious surfaces, could increase urban flood risks and create additional design challenges and costs for stormwater management”;

• flooding can affect water quality, as large volumes of water can transport contaminants into waterbodies and also overload storm and wastewater systems.

CLF and EPA ultimately settled the case, with EPA subsequently agreeing to redo the Lake Champlain cleanup framework to account for the ways in which Vermont will have to adapt our pollution-control efforts to a world in which heavy precipitation and flooding are increasingly the norm for New England. CLF’s success in the case has since been cited as a national model (e.g., “Using Legal Tools to Protect Lakes and Rivers from Climate Impacts“) and one CLF is working to replicate as it fights for clean water solutions on Cape Cod.

Now, CLF is actively participating in the new Lake Champlain Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process to ensure that both EPA and Vermont officials succeed in finding a way to secure enough clean water in a changing climate, both because the job is imperative for Vermont’s future and because the lessons we learn here can apply elsewhere in New England and the nation. Fortunately, EPA is bringing some cutting-edge, forward-looking science to the table. For example, EPA has produced a report titled Projected Changes in Phosphorus Loads Due to Climate Change. It is helping Vermont policymakers plan for the added challenges that climate change presents to our ongoing pollution-control efforts. EPA is also working on a second report that will help regulators understand which on-the-ground pollution control measures are most likely to succeed when tested by extreme precipitation  like that we’ve seen recently and can expect more of as climate change worsens.

State officials are also recognizing the need to revisit regulatory standards applicable to developed areas that are the source of polluted runoff and increased flooding risks. CLF is an active stakeholder in the process of updating the state’s official Stormwater Management Manual. One key aim is to ensure that design standards match up with the scale of the extreme weather events we are witnessing. Moreover, CLF is advocating for pollution-control approaches that emphasize “Low Impact Design” and “Green Infrastructure.” These development techniques seek to preserve and/or mimic the natural landscape’s ability to soak up precipitation rather than concentrating its flow into destructive, heavily polluted volumes.

Since Vermont has been thrust into the forefront of states wrestling with this complicated issue, President Obama named Governor Peter Shumlin to his White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resiliency. Recognizing CLF’s leadership role in this effort, Governor Shumlin has tapped CLF advocates to join other Vermont experts in crafting climate-resilience recommendations to the White House Task Force.

The challenge of achieving clean water in a changing climate is a daunting one. First and foremost, we must do all we can to reduce climate-change pollution, thereby avoiding making the problem worse. In Vermont and throughout New England, CLF is fighting hard for clean energy solutions. At the same time, and with your continued support, CLF is helping Vermont lead the way toward water-pollution control measures that can stand up to the worst climate change has to offer.

They’re Still Number 1: PSNH’s Merrimack Station Leads the State Again in Toxic Chemical Releases

Feb 20, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

It’s clear to anyone paying attention to air pollution trends in New Hampshire that PSNH’s coal plants are a huge health and environmental liability for the state. And according to EPA data released last week, PSNH’s coal fleet continues to lead the state in toxic chemical releases: Merrimack Station in Bow remained New Hampshire’s number one toxic polluter in 2012, and Schiller Station in Portsmouth was number four.

Toxic-Chemical-Releases

“Merrimack-Station” by PSNH on flickr is licensed under CC by-nd 2.0

That these largely coal-burning facilities (one of Schiller Station’s units burns wood) are still the biggest releasers of toxic chemicals in the state is even more sobering given that the capacity factors (the ratio of utilization of a unit compared to its potential) for PSNH’s coal units hit their lowest levels ever in 2012:

I’ll say it again: a coal plant running at less than 1/3 capacity (the Merrimack units together ran at 32.23% in 2012) still releases more toxic chemicals than any other facility of any type in New Hampshire. 2012 was also the first full year that the $420 million scrubber was operational at the plant.

While Schiller Station dropped from second place in 2011 to fourth place in 2012 in toxic chemical releases, it’s a good bet that Schiller will be back in the number 2 spot when the 2013 numbers are released next year. Why? Though they’re still very low, the capacity factor for Schiller’s coal units nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013 (from 12.54% to 22.95%).

The bottom line: Even with a $420 million pollution control project online and rock-bottom capacity factors, PSNH’s coal-burning units are the state’s worst and fourth-worst toxic chemical releasers. The Public Utilities Commission and New Hampshire Legislature should keep this in mind as they discuss the future of PSNH’s electricity generating assets.

Toxic-Chemical-Releases

Source: ISO-NE and EPA Air Markets data

Groundbreaking Settlement Reached on Salem Natural Gas Facility

Feb 18, 2014 by  | Bio |  3 Comment »

In a groundbreaking settlement with Footprint Power on its proposed natural gas facility in Salem, MA, the plant developers agreed to emissions limits and a future shutdown date to comply with Massachusetts mandates. The settlement ensures that, for the first time ever, a proposed natural-gas-fired plant must comply with conditions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and over-reliance on fossil fuels.

Our press release about the settlement is below. Look for more analysis about this settlement in future blog posts. 

BOSTON, MA  February 18, 2014 – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) today announced that the organization has reached a groundbreaking settlement ensuring that for the first time, a proposed natural gas-fired power plant must comply with conditions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and over-reliance on fossil fuels, including enforceable annually declining emissions limits and a date certain for future plant retirement. The agreement between CLF and the developers of the natural gas-fired Footprint Power Plant proposed at the site of a retiring coal-fired plant in Salem, Mass., has been filed for final review and approval with Massachusetts state authorities.

“At a time when many across the nation and the world see unrestricted growth of natural gas as a climate solution, this is the first settlement providing a pathway for new natural gas infrastructure to help enable rather than undermine a clean energy future,” said CLF President John Kassel. “By recognizing the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas-fired plants, this agreement reaffirms that natural gas and other fossil fuel projects must comply with state climate mandates, and has important implications for similar projects in the region and nationally.”

Since summer 2012, the proposed Footprint plant has been at the center of legal battles over concerns raised by CLF and residents of Salem and surrounding communities, on the grounds that neither the plant’s developers nor the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had demonstrated how the proposed facility could be consistent with the deep emissions reductions established by the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008, requiring emissions to be cut at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Under the settlement announced today, the developers of the Footprint plant agreed to the first ever set of binding conditions for a natural gas plant that establish decreasing annual emissions limits and a retirement date of no later than January 1, 2050. These conditions will help to ensure that the new plant will not hinder Massachusetts’ progress toward reducing emissions. In addition, in connection with the settlement, the Patrick Administration has committed to provide support to municipalities with active or retired coal plants with up to $2 million in funding to build renewable energy facilities and transition to clean energy rather than relying on new fossil fuel plants.

“This agreement shows how natural gas can be a tool for reducing greenhouse emissions if it is appropriately conditioned and constrained in a manner that is consistent with the need to decarbonize our energy system,” said Shanna Cleveland, attorney for CLF. “Natural gas is often viewed as a bridge to the clean energy future; this settlement ensures that there is an end to that bridge. CLF will continue to advocate for sound legal frameworks around energy projects for the benefit of the citizens, communities, economy, and environment of Massachusetts and the entire region.”

The settlement will only take effect if the Siting Board incorporates the entirety of the agreement into the Final Decision as a condition of the approval that the Siting Board is proposing to issue for Footprint Power’s plant. A public meeting will be held at the Siting Board at 10 a.m. at One South Station, Fifth Floor, Hearing Room A in Boston, Massachusetts on Thursday, February 20.

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that conserve our natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Sensible Thoughts About the Proposed Salem MA Gas-Fired Power Plant

Feb 5, 2014 by  | Bio |  4 Comment »

The editorial page of the Boston Globe today weighed in on the natural gas-fired power plant that a New Jersey–based company (Footprint Power) is seeking to build in Salem, Massachusetts.

The whole editorial is well worth reading – but the final three paragraphs are particularly striking:

Footprint CEO Peter Furniss says the plant will start off as a crucial supplier of electricity to New England’s often strained power grid, especially as the Vermont Yankee nuclear station and the Brayton Point coal plant come off line. But Furniss says the Footprint gas plant will eventually taper to a role of firming up energy supplies as more solar and wind sources come online under Massachusetts’ aggressive green-energy policies, which require an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. The state’s facilities siting board approved the plant last fall, saying it “contributes to a reliable, low-cost, diverse regional energy supply with minimal environmental impacts.” Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary Rick Sullivan says the plant is part of the “balancing act” of maintaining reliability while converting to a clean-energy future.

But some environmental watchdog groups don’t buy it. The Conservation Law Foundation has filed an appeal of the plant’s approval with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, arguing that the state is undermining its long-term emissions targets. The lawyers assert that regional CO2 emissions have already dropped close to the level of modern gas plants, meaning that adding another one does nothing but maintain the status quo. The CLF wants more proof that the plant will not derail the long-term goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

As a mid-sized city seizing a rare chance to revitalize its waterfront, Salem is understandably eager to build the plant. The Patrick administration makes a plausible case for the need to get the plant online to assure that Massachusetts has enough power at peak periods. But the conservationists also make an important point: Today’s energy decisions must be viewed in terms of the fight to dramatically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. There should be a plan on paper for the plant to operate at levels that don’t impede the achievement of an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. Gas powers the economy for now, but the state must clear the way for a clean-energy future as soon as technologically feasible.

The editorial highlights two key points: 1) new energy infrastructure such as the proposed Footprint gas plant in Salem needs to be consistent with the objective of reducing global warming pollution 80% by 2050 and 2) CLF’s goal is to ensure that this requirement be respected in the permitting of the proposed power plant. We firmly believe that, as the editorial suggests, the legal requirement CLF is championing can be respected at the same time that the lights remain on and Salem builds a thriving economy. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of balancing act our whole society and economy will need to master again and again as we confront the crisis of global warming.

The issues addressed in the editorial are even more pertinent today as the State has, unfortunately, moved forward another tentative decision proposing to approve another permit needed by that power plant without considering the critical issue of climate and compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act. That tentative decision is reported on the website of the Boston Business Journal accurately noting that “CLF views this Salem issue as an important test case for the viability of these relatively new greenhouse gas emissions rules.”

Indeed, in our statement about the decision our Massachusetts Office Director Sue Reid notes, “The rushed and flawed approvals process for the Footprint Power Plant threatens the progress Massachusetts has made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are the state agencies denying the public the thorough vetting that a major new fossil fuel power plant like this deserves, the Patrick Administration is setting a terrible precedent for how similar projects are addressed—fast-tracking a major new source of greenhouse gas emissions while acting in violation of federal and state law.

Dismantling the Latest Legal Delays in the Fight for Cape Wind

Jan 28, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

WindThe new year has brought more of the same when it comes to the decade-long battle over the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project proposed to be built in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts. While Europe continues to leap forward with deployment of offshore wind – tapping into this resource’s unparalleled capacity to deliver tremendous quantities of clean electricity – yet another dubious lawsuit has been filed in an effort to further delay America’s first offshore wind project. In a week that saw Cape Wind again successfully beat back its opponents’ legal claims, this time winning a favorable decision from a federal appellate court , longtime Bill Koch–backed Cape Wind opponents filed yet another new lawsuit in federal court in Boston.

The case is called Town of Barnstable v. Berwick; however, no one should be fooled as to who’s really driving this new case. As detailed in press reports and earlier posts, we have good reason to believe that it’s Mr. Koch’s Alliance, not the Town, that is continuing to pay the bills in the ongoing pursuit of a longstanding strategy of “delay, delay, delay.” This is expected to be the first of two posts that will focus on the new lawsuit’s fatal flaws.

Latest Legal Claims Fail to Stand Up to Scrutiny
We will set aside, for now, the new lawsuit’s fundamental errors of fact and instead focus on explaining why the new legal claims are wrong. Basically, this new lawsuit alleges that the Cape Wind project violates the United States Constitution in two ways: first, that Cape Wind allegedly violates the Supremacy Clause (because federal law governs interstate electricity markets); and, second, that Cape Wind supposedly violates the Commerce Clause (on the claimed basis that Massachusetts is impermissibly favoring an in-state developer over possible out-of-state developers, even though most of the Cape Wind project will be built in federal, not state, waters).

Two recently decided federal lawsuits in Maryland and New Jersey are instructive in understanding that both of the anti-Cape Wind arguments in this new lawsuit are without merit. In fact, these two legal arguments are so weak that they would reveal the real purpose of this newest anti-Cape Wind lawsuit – i.e., delay through endless, meritless litigation – even if Mr. Koch had not publicly confessed to such a strategy.

Let’s look at both of the new lawsuit’s central arguments separately.

The “Supremacy Clause” Does Not Apply
The “Supremacy Clause” of the U. S. Constitution says that federal law generally trumps state law; in areas where the federal government has pervasive, all-encompassing laws and regulations, states are not allowed to enact laws or policies that directly contradict the existing federal laws. Wholesale, interstate electricity markets are an area that the federal government regulates, through a federal agency called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

In many parts of the country, FERC has created independent companies to manage and run the regional electricity grid. Here in New England, FERC has licensed the Independent System Operator-New England (ISO) to manage and run central aspects of New England’s electricity grid. For Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and several other states, FERC has licensed a company called PJM to play a similar role with respect to that region’s electricity grid. Because PJM and ISO are very similar to each other, these two recently decided cases I referred to above may have some legal bearing on the recently filed lawsuit against Cape Wind. (For those who are interested, the names of the two lawsuits I am discussing are: PPL Energyplus, LLC v. Nazarian, the Maryland case; and PPL Energyplus v. Hanna, the New Jersey case. I’ll refer to them here as Nazarian and Hanna.)

PJM and ISO are concerned with making sure that their respective geographic regions always have enough electricity to keep the lights on for electricity customers. One thing that they do to ensure this is to run a so-called “Forward Capacity Auction” three years ahead of time. Electricity generators bid into this auction, in effect offering to sell electricity in the geographical area three years in the future. These Forward Capacity Auctions are a principal means by which these operators of the electricity grid ensure that they will have enough electricity in the future. The procedures used to run these auctions are approved in advance by FERC; the auctions themselves are monitored by FERC; and FERC has to approve the results of the auctions. In short, federal law governs every aspect of the ways these auctions are run.

What happened in both the Nazarian and Hanna cases is that, after the capacity auction was run by PJM, Maryland and New Jersey were concerned that there would be a future shortage of electricity in their states. As a result, after the auction was run, and after the federal agency (FERC) approved the results of the auction, Maryland and New Jersey tried to do an impermissible end-run around the auction results by offering additional money – outside the auction – to anyone who would build a power plant in their states. In fact, in the Maryland case, the state actually said publicly that the reason for its action was specifically to do an end-run around federal law and regulations that were responsible for the PJM auction and its results! Not surprisingly, the courts in both cases ruled that state laws or policies could not directly contradict federal law in a specific area in which the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction. This violates the Supremacy Clause.

These two decisions simply have no applicability to Cape Wind. Neither the Commonwealth of Massachusetts nor the developers of Cape Wind nor the utilities that signed contracts with Cape Wind are trying to do an end run around the ISO’s Forward Capacity Auction – nor around any federal statute, regulation or rule. In fact, the Cape Wind project was well on its way to being permitted before the ISO ever held its first Forward Capacity Auction in February 2008.

State Interests Trump Commerce Clause Concerns
The second argument being advanced in the recently filed anti-Cape Wind lawsuit relates to the U. S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Basically, as a general rule, the Commerce Clause says that in the absence of a compelling justification no individual state can pass a law that benefits in-state residents and harms out-of-state residents. For example, Massachusetts cannot pass a law that says: “At all grocery stores in Massachusetts, in-state residents get a 10% discount on the prices shown, and all of-of-state residents must pay a 10% premium on the prices shown.” This (hypothetical) law would violate the Commerce Clause because it discriminates in favor of in-state residents and against out-of-state residents.

In both the Nazarian and Hanna cases, the plaintiffs claimed that the state laws that would encourage construction of in-state power plants violated the Commerce Clause because they were aimed at getting power plants built – but in state only. However, the courts in both cases ruled that this does not violate the Commerce Clause. That is, the holdings in both Nazarian and Hanna cut directly against the legal theory that the anti-Cape Wind lawyers are asserting in the newly filed case.

In both Nazarian and Hanna, the courts found that states have regulatory authority over many aspects of siting and permitting power plants. These include environmental concerns and legitimate concerns about getting enough electricity for their state’s electricity customers. In both Nazarian and Hanna, the courts found that these legitimate areas of state interest trump any Commerce Clause concerns.

In fact, the Judge in the Nazarian case wrote that individual states are allowed to facilitate the financing and construction of “certain types of power plants within its borders (such as environmental-related regulation)” without offending the commerce clause. Of course, that is what Massachusetts did when it established a requirement for electric utilities to enter long-term contracts to buy clean renewable energy – a requirement that ultimately resulted in two long-term contracts signed between utilities and Cape Wind, as well as a number of contracts with other projects. What’s more, most of the Cape Wind project isn’t even located within the borders of Massachusetts – it’s in federal waters. The judge in the Nazarian case also said that federal law specifically “preserve[s] states’ jurisdiction over certain direct regulation of physical generation facilities [including, specifically to] promote certain environmentally desired types of generation facilities.” Again, this holding shows why the new lawsuit against Cape Wind will fail.

New Day, Same Old Delays
We all know there is a climate-change emergency, and that it is crucial to develop non-carbon-emitting power plants to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. We all know that building Cape Wind is good public policy.

Based on a review of the latest weak, meritless claims advanced by opponents, we also know that their central strategy appears to be nothing more than the same old “delay, delay, delay.”

CLF Statement on Brayton Point Power Plant’s Notice of Intention to Shut Down by 2017

Jan 27, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

CLF Calls Plan Good News for Mass. and New England Communities and Environment, Underscores Need for Planning to Ensure Stable and Just Transition

In response to the notice from the owners of the Brayton Point power plant to ISO New England announcing the company’s intentions of retiring all units of the Brayton Point coal- and oil-fired power plant by 2017, the Conservation Law Foundation issued the following statement:

“This announcement provides certainty about the closure of the Brayton Point power plant. The fact that the largest coal- and oil-fired power plant in New England will definitively close by June of 2017 is good news for the communities of Massachusetts and New England, and is an important step on our path to a cleaner energy future and healthy environment,” said Seth Kaplan, Vice President for Policy and Climate Advocacy at Conservation Law Foundation. “CLF has been sounding the alarm about the financial and environmental issues that signaled the end was near for the plant. Planning for a stable and just transition must move forward immediately to ensure clean, reliable electricity for the local community and for the broader environmental and economic benefit of the Commonwealth and the region.”

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

CLF’s Most Read Blog Posts for 2013

Jan 2, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Building a Clean Energy Future: Transmission Is One Piece of the Puzzle

Dec 3, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

transmission-snapshot

Dealing with the fundamental challenge of global warming and ending the direct and painful impact of fossil fuel-fired power plants on our communities and our families will mean systemic and systematic change to all aspects of our energy system – and doing that will mean employing a wide range of tools and strategies.

A first tool we must employ is already in our hands: efficient and smart use of energy in our homes and businesses.   Confronting the effects and implications of energy production can and must lead us to move forward policies that encourage both conservation (simply using less energy) as well as efficiency (getting more from the energy we continue to use).

Another critical element in our arsenal for reducing emissions is the large, deep and pervasive deployment of clean energy generation.  Zero emissions electricity generation will take a wide range of forms and come in every imaginable size – from the smallest solar power installation to the largest wind farm.  Replacing the mammoth fleet of coal, oil and gas burning power plants that have kept the lights on for the last century will require a deep and abiding effort to find and embrace every reasonable opportunity to make clean energy.

Recently, I had the chance to participate in an online presentation about a tool that is needed to accommodate and make full use of our clean generation potential: electric transmission to bring clean energy from wind farms to the urban customers who can make use of that power.

The webinar was put together by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid – a group that brings together environmental groups and industry voices in support of renewable energy development as part of a series of such events they were convening to discuss developments in different regions. The slides and an audio recording from that event are still available online.

The story told that day is one of change – a change from the past when transmission was built almost entirely to meet the needs of electric reliability and satisfy rising demand for electricity to a new world where efficiency has ended such “load growth” and transmission is being built more and more to either move wind power from Northern New England or to import hydropower into the region from Canada to serve as “firming power” during times of less wind.

This change will not be easy or simple and it must be done right.  Imports of hydropower from Canada may or may not be part of the solution set we need – and any proposal to build transmission for that purpose must be carefully scrutinized and integrated into our planning for meeting the climate driven emissions reductions mandates on the books across the region.  This caution is even more true of natural gas infrastructure, whether it be pipelines or new power plants. Keeping our eye on the prize of meeting our climate and reliability goals in a sane and cost-effective manner will drive a push for greater efficiency, local clean generation and a measured amount of transmission to support bringing large-scale renewable energy (and wind in particular) to market.

 

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