New England States Forge Ahead on Climate Action Despite Supreme Court’s Stay of Clean Power Plan

Feb 10, 2016 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Yesterday, the Supreme Court sided with Big Coal and other climate polluters when it put a hold on President Obama’s historic Clean Power Plan. But this is just a temporary setback for meaningful federal action on climate change. The good news is that the Clean Power Plan has only been put on hold; it hasn’t been overturned altogether.

We’re confident that the courts will ultimately uphold the Clean Power Plan in the face of the legal challenges currently being stacked up against it – and when they do, our country will be back on track to slash greenhouse gas emissions and prevent even more damage to our climate.

The DC Circuit will expedite its evaluation of the Rule beginning this spring, and we can assure you that CLF won’t be putting its work to curb greenhouse gas emissions on hold. We’re continuing to defend the Clean Power Plan and our work to move New England – and, by extension, the entire country – beyond dirty fossil fuels and towards a future built on clean, affordable, and homegrown energy sources.

New England is already a national leader in cutting carbon pollution. Through our participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), New England states are decreasing their carbon emissions from electric power plants every year – independent of any federal requirements. What’s more, the region is reinvesting proceeds from the program into improving energy efficiency and speeding up the deployment of renewable energy technologies. The New England states’ ongoing commitments under RGGI not only place our region at the forefront of climate action, but also drive significant economic benefits throughout the region.

CLF was deeply involved in the passage of RGGI and we continue to play a key role in its success. Even as we work at the regional level to impact climate action, we’re also fighting on the ground in communities across New England to shut down dirty coal plants (only four remain in the region), block expensive and unnecessary new natural gas pipelines – like the massive one proposed by oil giant Kinder Morgan – and stand up against new natural gas power plants.

We’re not just saying no to bad ideas that rely on outdated, dirty fuels, however. We’re saying yes to clean affordable wind and solar power and other clean energy projects that create jobs, boost our economy, and ensure a better future for our families and children.

If the polluters who insist on challenging the Clean Power Plan hope to remain relevant into the future, they should follow New England’s lead by investing in emerging clean energy sources, rather than clinging to dirty, out-of-date fuels through their short-sighted, protracted litigation.

You can help CLF’s fight for New England’s clean energy future by becoming a member today. By donating to CLF, you become a critical partner in our work to defend New England’s environment for all.

 

 

Retail Net Metering Is Good for Us All

Feb 10, 2016 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Retail net metering is the single most important driver behind anyone’s decision – yours, mine, a local business’s, or town’s – as to whether it makes financial sense to install solar panels. And it’s pretty simple: with retail net metering, installing solar makes financial sense; without it . . . not so much.

Here in Massachusetts, net metering has helped us grow the amount of energy generated by the sun by more than 500% in just the last five years alone – making us a leader in the nation. So why does a recent decision about net metering in Nevada have New Englanders worried about the future of solar power here?

Nevada Turns Its Back on the Sun
What happened in Nevada was a radical shift in policy: First, the state tripled the monthly fee solar-using families and businesses have to pay to “access the grid.” Then it slashed the amount those same families and businesses are paid for supplying their clean, homegrown energy back to the grid – by 75%! In essence, the state eliminated all of the economic incentives for installing solar panels in the first place.

As a result, the solar industry in Nevada crashed almost instantly, taking hundreds of good jobs with it and stifling the potential for one of the country’s sunniest states to harness even more solar power in the future.

The Risk to Solar Power in Massachusetts
Could that happen here? We certainly hope not, but you never know. Cuts to net metering in Massachusetts aren’t out of the question, and, as we speak, the Legislature is working on an omnibus energy bill that is expected to include important provisions that will dictate Massachusetts’ solar future. Among the bills currently in committee is a recent House bill (H.3854) that proposes a draconian, Nevada-like cut in solar reimbursement from about 16 cents per kilowatt-hour to about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The Governor’s proposed solar bill was better in this respect, but not by much.

H.3854’s Nevada-style cuts to retail net metering would be a financial disaster for businesses and families across the state, as this recent piece from energy journalist (and Massachusetts resident) Scott Clavenna demonstrates.

Under Massachusetts’ current, nation-leading policies, the Clavenna family was cash-flow positive in year one of using their rooftop solar panels – despite having paid for their average-sized 5.5 kilowatt solar system with a home-improvement loan. And they’re currently on track to fully recover their investment in just three years! But under Nevada-style rules, it would take the Clavenna family 20 years to break even on the same panels after enduring 13 agonizing years of wallet-draining, negative cash flow. Ouch.

Solar Power Benefits All New Englanders
Distributed solar power brings value not just to those who install it, but to us all. Solar provides energy right when we need it most – during the afternoon “peak” when folks return from work and school. And because it does, solar (like energy efficiency) reduces the need to build and run “peaker” plants which, because they run so infrequently and stop and start a lot, are the most expensive and the dirtiest on the grid. So solar anywhere on the grid – on your roof or on mine – lowers the short- and long-term price of electricity for everyone, across the state and across New England.

But wait, there’s more: by generating power right where it’s needed, solar lowers the shared cost – for everyone (check the “delivery services” section of your bill!) – of maintaining the grid’s wires and transformers. And of course, solar doesn’t pollute . . . at all. That means we get electricity without pollution (or greenhouse gas emissions!) that also displaces, one-for-one, dirty, climate-warming power from plants that would otherwise have to be turned on. Win – win – win!

There is no good reason for Massachusetts – or any state (that means you, New Hampshire and Maine!) – to repeat Nevada’s mistake. Retail net metering is fair (look for another post soon with more details on that) and it works. It’s a great investment in our homes, on average adding $15,000 in resale value according to this Lawrence Berkeley National Lab study!) – and it’s a great investment in our future.

Help us fight for our clean energy future!
Click here to send an email to the Speaker of the House, Rep. Robert DeLeo, telling him to!

Become a Member today to help CLF continue the fight for your clean energy future!

No More Dirty Energy for Massachusetts!

Feb 10, 2016 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

As families across New England were preparing for this last holiday season, NRG Energy, a Texas dirty-energy giant (over 80% of its massive power holdings burn fossil fuels!), quietly filed its request with the Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) for approval to construct its newest fossil-fuel power plant: a new, 350 megawatt gas- and oil-fired power plant on the south bank of the Cape Cod canal, in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

NRG wants you to believe that it is doing us a favor by building this new plant, but it isn’t. I will have more to say on each of these points in future posts, but let’s be clear from the start:

We don’t need more energy generation in Sandwich. Even including the imminent retirement of the nearby Pilgrim nuclear plant, that section of the regional grid – the South East New England, or “SENE,” zone – has more electricity available than it actually needs to power our homes and businesses (in fact, it has more than 730 megawatts of excess generation feeding it). (NRG’s Petition is misleadingly wrong on this important point: see page 1-3, and page 1-5, and page 1-20, and page 3-2.)

We don’t need this facility in order to integrate more renewable power into the electricity grid. (NRG gets this wrong too: on page 1-3, and page 3-2, and . . . well, you get the idea.) More than half of New England’s power already comes from gas and gas/oil plants just like this one. The so-called natural gas “bridge to renewables” has already been built (or over-built!) in New England.

And nothing about this proposed plant is “efficient and clean” as NRG suggests in its application (for example, on page 3-2).

NRG’s proposed plant is anything but efficient and clean
Like the old, oil-burning plant it will sit next to, NRG’s proposed new plant – “Canal Unit 3” – will spew toxic smokestack pollution: nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dangerous micro-particle pollution. Each of these are proven to pose major health risks to children, seniors, and anyone living with asthma. In spite of these known hazards, the new plant will sit on the edge of a residential neighborhood just a half mile from the public beach, and directly opposite the canal from the campgrounds and trails of Scusset Beach State Reservation.

That’s not clean. So, how about efficient?

Only if by “efficient,” NRG means “better than the worst.” The Petition (on page 4-4) indicates that the new plant would release on average 1,296 pounds of climate-warming emissions for each megawatt-hour of electricity it produces. That’s better than a coal plant, which releases about 2,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity on average – but let’s face it, that’s a pretty low bar to beat.

NRG’s emissions estimate is in fact almost double the existing rate for New England electricity! According to our regional grid operator, ISO-New England, the region’s average greenhouse gas emission rate was just 726 pounds per megawatt-hour in 2014. And NRG’s numbers are even worse – a whopping 1,730 pounds per megawatt-hour – when the proposed plant will run on oil, as NRG hopes it will for months on end.

Damage to our climate we can’t afford
Which brings us to the real tragedy of NRG’s proposal: its inevitable role in helping to cause more damage, not less, to our climate. If constructed, the new Canal Unit 3 would run 50% of the time, all year long, and would release almost 1 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually. For a plant that will last for 40 or more years, that’s disastrous. There is no way we can meet Massachusetts’ Global Warming Solutions Act emissions mandate if we keep building fossil fuel plants like this one.

Even without a law like the Global Warming Solutions Act mandating deep emissions cuts, building this plant is simply irresponsible if we want to protect our families’ and our children’s health – today and for future generations.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand: No more dirty energy for Massachusetts!
TELL THE ENERGY FACILITIES SITING BOARD THAT YOU WANT CLEAN ENERGY! Come to the Siting Board’s public meeting tonight at 7pm at the Sandwich High School (in the Auditorium; 365 Quaker Meetinghouse Road, East Sandwich, MA 02537) to demand clean energy for Massachusetts! Click here for directions.

TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE NRG PLANT! Send an e-mail to Governor Baker telling him that you oppose construction of another new fossil-fueled power plant in Massachusetts because climate change is real and building plants like this one will make it impossible for the Commonwealth to meet its GWSA carbon-emission-reduction mandate. Include a link to this blog post; please add your own comment to Gov. Baker to personalize your message.

(To download and read NRG’s entire petition, visit the EFSB website here; additional figures and appendices filed with it are also available from the EFSB here: enter “EFSB15-06” / click “Go” / scroll to the bottom to the 12/03/2015 entries.)

 

Why Have Presidential Candidates Been Silent on Northern Pass?

Feb 9, 2016 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The next president of the United States will decide only one issue that uniquely affects New Hampshire residents. Yet as candidates of both parties blanketed the state in the final weeks before today’s primary, that issue received scant attention.

(image credit: flickr, cannuckshutterer, CC-BY-SA)

Presidential hopefuls have been conspicuously silent on Northern Pass, which would destroy viewsheds and bring little long-term benefit to New Hampshire communities. (image credit: flickr, cannuckshutterer, CC-BY-SA).

The next president will decide whether to authorize the cross-border connection to Canada’s Hydro-Québec needed for the Northern Pass electrical transmission line. The mega-utility Eversource is making a $1.4 billion bet on the line, which will ravage New Hampshire’s landscape and communities only to serve electricity customers in Massachusetts and south.

The 190-mile line would snake poles and wires through 31 communities from the Canadian border to Concord and then East to Deerfield, destroying viewsheds along scenic byways and blighting more than 400 acres of lands permanently committed to conservation. The affected acreage also includes some of New Hampshire’s most pristine forestland in the northern reaches of Coos County. Yet in response to public demands for full burial of the line and votes from more than 30 New Hampshire cities and towns to oppose the project, Eversource has been unwilling to step up.

To what end? The rationale for the line is to bring inexpensive hydroelectric power, dubbed “renewable,” to Eversource service territories other than New Hampshire. For states like Massachusetts, where Gov. Charlie Baker is closely identified with and strongly supported by Eversource’s CEO, it’s a sweet deal, rewarding a close corporate ally while letting Baker off the hook for developing homegrown renewable power projects in Massachusetts.

But both the “inexpensive” and “renewable” descriptions are dubious. Eversource has never disclosed what price it will pay for the Hydro-Québec power, or even whether it has locked the price in by contract as some of its competitors have. And the “renewable” label is not really apt for the power Northern Pass would deliver. As designed, the Hydro-Québec system has a larger carbon footprint than the wind and other renewable projects available to the states receiving the power. Plus, construction of the line mostly above ground will sacrifice significant forest acreage that now serves as a carbon-absorbing sink.

For all of Eversource’s hard-to-substantiate boasts about short-term job creation from Northern Pass construction, the mostly above ground approach forgoes much of the line’s potential for economic stimulus, while sacrificing iconic vistas that are essential to the long-term health of New Hampshire’s recreation and tourism sector.

In addition to being of direct concern to the people of New Hampshire, Northern Pass presents a microcosm of many issues at the heart of our energy platform that will face whoever wins the presidency: whether full burial of electric transmission lines should be the norm, as it always has been with gas transmission; whether we invest in huge gas and electric transmission projects on the backs of families and businesses when those projects may be obsolete before completion; and whether we embrace carbon-intensive technologies or the clean and job-creating energy options available today.

So it is remarkable that an issue of such importance to New Hampshire voters, whichever party they favor, never came to the forefront in the endless town halls and other forums leading up to today’s state primary.

Political candidates are deft, of course, at reducing tough choices like these to bumper-sticker slogans or glib generalizations (“I support an all-of-the-above energy policy”; “I believe in a clean energy future”). But a candidate’s mettle is best shown when asked to take a stand on an issue as tough and divisive as Northern Pass.

Coal-Fired Power Plant Owner Shows No Commitment to Bridgeport or the Environment

Feb 2, 2016 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

A little over a year ago, the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut, home of one of the last coal-fired power plants in New England, passed a resolution calling for the plant’s owner, PSEG, to shut down the 50-year old behemoth and rehabilitate the property for its next use. But PSEG decided instead to double-down in Bridgeport, announcing it would add a second fossil-fuel plant on the same property and that it would keep burning coal “for as long as it makes financial sense.”

The City then formed a Citizens Action Committee (CAC) to investigate.

Last September, the Committee issued its report, calling on PSEG to do the right thing: shut down the outdated coal-fired plant, which continues to dump hundreds of thousands of tons of poisonous pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air every year. The Committee also urged PSEG to establish a fund supporting the community’s efforts to heal the damage the plant had done to people’s health and the local environment.

Finally the Committee asked the plant owner to create a task force to determine whether a new gas-fired plant even makes sense – that is, could a big new fossil-fueled power plant ever comply with the Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act’s (GWSA) mandate to drastically reduce emissions by 2050? And, particularly given growing concern over sea level rise (and the plant’s perilous location on the coast), is there a better use for the site?

Let’s cut to the chase: the answer to these questions is simple. There is no way Connecticut can meet its GWSA mandate if PSEG continues to build and operate coal and gas plants across the state “for as long as it makes financial sense” (to PSEG!) to do so. The reality is, any other economic use would be better for Bridgeport than a new fossil-fuel power plant with another pollution-spewing smokestack.

But PSEG is a fossil-fuel power company desperately holding on to the old energy economy. So instead of meaningfully addressing the Committee’s report, PSEG negotiated in secret with a hand-picked group of “community” and environmental representatives (CLF and many others were originally excluded). The result of these behind-closed-door meetings was a draft “Community Environmental Benefit Agreement” so weak and one-sided that PSEG’s legal team should have called it the “PSEG Benefits Agreement.”

Close the coal plant as soon as possible? Nope, how about later. Address Connecticut’s climate laws? We’ll think about it. Invest in local renewable energy projects? Perhaps, if they meet our corporate “investment guidelines.” Help fund the restoration of Bridgeport’s health and environment? A little bit, but if anyone speaks out of turn, you won’t see a cent.

It should come as no surprise that when CLF was allowed to join the negotiations – and we saw how hollow and unenforceable PSEG’s draft “benefits” agreement was – we threw the penalty flag. Public process and participation – at least ours – is not for sale. The stakes are too high, and a sustainable, clean energy future is everyone’s responsibility, PSEG included.

After half a century of breathing coal pollution, Bridgeport deserves more. If PSEG wants our support, CLF is standing by to discuss any number of market-savvy, win-win climate solutions for Bridgeport. Business as usual just isn’t one of them.

Gov. Baker’s Clean Energy & Climate Plan Merely Skims the Surface of Meaningful Climate Action

Jan 29, 2016 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Last week, the Baker Administration released its first update to Massachusetts’ Clean Energy and Climate Plan. This plan – a requirement of the state’s landmark climate law, the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) – is intended to guide the state in reaching its statewide emissions limits of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

In its updated plan, the Administration confidently asserts that it will meet the state’s aggressive emissions reduction goal on schedule. But, up until now, all signs showed that the Administration was NOT on track to reach that goal. A recent analysis by the Global Warming Solutions Project showed that, by 2020, Massachusetts would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20% below 1990 levels – trailing the mandated target by 5%.

The Administration’s strategy to make up the difference? Hydroelectric power from Canada. In fact, 17% of the climate plan’s purported emissions reductions by 2020 rely on long-term contracts to procure Canadian hydropower.

But this calculation belies the truth about hydropower, which relies on reservoirs that flood forests and release carbon dioxide, making the true emissions from this fuel source much higher than Governor Baker contends. Furthermore, the transmission lines Governor Baker is counting on to carry all that supposedly clean power from Canada to Massachusetts do not yet exist. They haven’t even been permitted yet (which must be done by other states), let alone constructed or made operational. And there is no assurance any of that will be completed by 2020 (if it’s completed at all).

A bad bet on hydropower isn’t the only way the Baker Administration’s plan goes wrong. Here are highlights of others ways it fails to deliver:

  • The section on transportation downplays current statistics showing that people are driving more, not less – a reality that threatens to wipe out the planned emissions reductions from this sector entirely. While the plan frames this problem as a mere caveat, it’s much more than that, and the plan should address this challenge head on by utilizing more aggressive measures in this sector.
  • Energy efficiency has been downplayed since the last version of this plan and deserves a stronger emphasis as the most cost-effective solution to reducing emissions.
  • The plan fails to address the Commonwealth’s stated reliance on new natural gas pipelines – a “sin of omission,” to quote our partner, Mass Energy. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel – and it brings with it a slew of climate warming emissions. An overreliance on Big Gas will cripple the state’s ability to cut emissions as deeply as climate change demands.
  • In addition to what the plan gets wrong, it also misses a big opportunity to get one thing right: increased emphasis on wind and solar, preferred renewables that aren’t burdened by the same challenges plaguing hydropower.

Implementing the GWSA is of the utmost importance if we’re to prevent more damage to our climate from greenhouse gas emissions. Backfilling the state’s climate plan with tenuous hydropower commitments that misrepresent its true emissions profile is a recipe for disaster.

And this isn’t the only way the Administration is failing to meet its obligation under the GWSA. CLF is also working to ensure that the GWSA’s goals are met by suing the Department of Environmental Protection at the Supreme Judicial Court over its failure to issue regulations to fully implement the GWSA, as the statute requires (check out our oral argument here).

The Administration needs to step up to the plate to ensure that climate change and its immediate and future threats to Commonwealth communities are meaningfully addressed – skimming the surface won’t do.

CLF’s Next 50 Years: Shaping the World We Want for our Children and Grandchildren

Jan 15, 2016 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

2016 is a pivotal year for CLF.

This is the year that CLF turns 50. Since 1966, we have turned impossible odds into incredible milestones, protecting the things we all love about New England – our beautiful coasts and ocean, our mountains, our farms and forests – to ensure that our communities, our friends, and neighbors can thrive.

But, celebrating our first 50 years is not about looking backward. It’s about laying a strong foundation for our fight for New England’s future and the healthy, thriving world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit 50 years from now.

The Defining Challenge of Our Age
Today the stakes are higher than ever before in our history. The battles are more complicated and the fossil fuel lobby is well-funded to maintain its stranglehold on public policy and sabotage our clean energy future. Corporate polluters have funded a deceit and denial campaign about climate change that has put people and communities in New England and around the world at great risk.

But thanks to your work with CLF, decades of climate denial are being drowned out by unprecedented public demand for action, as awareness that climate change is happening here, right now, and in our backyard increases.

Indeed, stopping further damage to our climate is the challenge of our lifetime. But CLF never shies away from the big fights. We never give up and we know how to win. The actions we are taking in 2016 will define CLF’s  – and New England’s – next 50 years.

CLF Staff Attorney Jenny Rushlow argues to enforce climate law before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

CLF Staff Attorney Jenny Rushlow argues for the state to enforce climate law before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The Next 50 Years Starts Today
Last week we defended our climate before the highest court in Massachusetts. Alongside the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance and four courageous teenagers, we demanded that Massachusetts’ groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act – which mandates cuts to carbon pollution – be fully enforced. Our rallying cry for climate action at the Supreme Judicial Court will resonate and be heard throughout New England.

Our rallying cry for climate action will be heard in our push to protect our coastlines. Fifty years ago we stood up and demanded that Boston Harbor be cleaned up – and we won. Now we will take that fight to the next level by ensuring our coastal communities can stand strong in the face of a changing climate and rising sea levels. Our work will determine the future of coastline development throughout New England and across the country.

Our rallying cry for climate action will be heard as we shut down the last coal plant in New England. But we know getting rid of dirty coal isn’t enough. We are also fighting to make sure we don’t trade one dirty fuel for another – natural gas. In 2016 we will escalate our campaign to stop unnecessary and expensive Big Gas gambles, like the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which will be obsolete before they come online.

Our rallying cry for climate action will be heard as we revolutionize our energy infrastructure. We will ensure that new natural gas plants built in New England must reduce their climate-warming emissions over time and shut down by 2050. At the same time, we will drive the growth of affordable, home-grown energy sources, such as offshore wind and solar.

Our rallying cry for climate action will be heard in New England’s legislatures, as CLF comes to the table to help push laws and policies that move us towards a low-carbon emission society by 2020 and a zero-carbon society by 2050.

And our longstanding work on clean water, marine conservation, and healthy communities will become all the more urgent because of climate change. Our work to establish the Gulf of Maine’s Cashes Ledge and the New England canyons and seamounts as the nation’s first Atlantic Marine National Monument will help protect species threatened by ocean warming. Our work for better public transit will keep toxic soot out of our communities, vehicles off the road, and carbon out of the air. Our clean water enforcement work is needed more than ever as climate change causes record rain and snow fall in New England, overwhelming our dated infrastructure.

We’re Stronger Together
But we will only succeed with your voice amplifying our efforts. We cannot make the impossible possible without you. I look forward to our journey together in 2016 as we work to ensure that our next 50 years are as transformative for New England families and communities as our first. The time is now for your voice, your advocacy, and your action.

New England Energizes Paris Climate Talks

Dec 11, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

16980610589_ca17e514b1_oThe COP21 climate talks are in the home stretch, with a working deadline of Saturday for an agreement and a practical deadline of Sunday, when the vast temporary complex for the talk, and the supporting cast of logistical and security staff at the largely defunct Le Bourget airport, will become a memory.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been a rallying presence in this end-game. Earlier this week, he announced that the U.S. will commit $800 million in additional adaptation aid by 2020 to developing nations that will be submerged or otherwise will need to respond to sea level rise and other climate impacts. According to Kerry, the U.S. is now committed to reach $1 billion in such aid annually by 2020.

Through these and other actions, Senator Kerry has given the U.S. prominence in the self-dubbed “High Ambition Coalition” of nations seeking an agreement that is as ambitious, transparent, and enforceable as possible. The ultimate fate of the negotiations will be determined by whether this coalition, which includes the European Union and more than 100 other developed or developing nations, can resolve its differences with less developed countries like India, concerned that it cannot de-carbonize its economy as quickly as the Coalition would like, and island states like the Phoenix Islands, concerned about recovering compensation, losses, and damages when their countries are inevitably and irrevocable submerged.

The View from New England
The push for ambitious carbon cuts promoted by Kerry and the larger Coalition have crucial importance for the secretary’s home region of New England. Our energy system is currently at a crossroads – choosing between a path of continued de-carbonization or a path marked by immense new investment in natural gas pipelines and plants, which would lock us into fossil fuel dependency for generations to come.

A Paris agreement that includes ambitious commitments for carbon reduction will send a strong signal to regional, national, and international markets that fossil fuels have no economic future after COP21. If such an agreement emerges, the New Englanders present and pushing in Paris – including Kerry, Senators Markey (MA), Shaheen (NH), and Whitehouse (RI) – will fairly be entitled to bragging rights.

Conversely, failing to reach an ambitious agreement in Paris would dampen New England’s continued shift to an energy platform in which renewables predominate.

Read all of CLF’s recent blog posts on COP21 and New England’s path forward.

The Climate Change Connection: The Warming Gulf of Maine Needs Protected Areas

Nov 24, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –President Theodore Roosevelt

Photo ©Brian Skerry

Photo ©Brian Skerry

Considering how quickly our planet is warming, and what little is being done to combat it by our national government, this quote has never been more relevant or applicable.

Here in New England, our ocean is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – with one study showing that the Gulf of Maine is warming 99% faster than ocean waters elsewhere on the planet. If that’s not alarming enough, we’re also seeing whole populations of species (such as lobster) moving toward colder waters – which could spell disaster for New England’s economy. And, we are just beginning to understand the effects of ocean acidification on our shellfish populations, with much more to learn before we’ll know how to adapt.

But, what gives us hope amidst this dire news is that we New Englanders, whose lives – and livelihoods – are intertwined with a healthy ocean, have long been champions and leaders for its protection.

Conservation Law Foundation has advocated for ocean conservation in New England for decades, from our fight to stop oil and gas drilling on Georges Bank in the 70s, to our work to protect our iconic cod fishery from extinction, to our commitment to the state and regional ocean planning processes. Today, we’re rallying the public to support the protection of two of the Atlantic’s most fragile and vulnerable areas – the Cashes Ledge Area and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts. We’re imploring President Obama to create a Marine National Monument, which can give these special places the highest possible level of protection.

You may be thinking – what does any of this have to do with climate change? The answer is this: Conservation and climate change are inherently connected. President Roosevelt, who uttered the words above, understood the importance of conserving such vital places – he knew that some places were just too beautiful, unique, and fragile to be disturbed or exploited, even if resources such as gold, oil, or gas were to be found there. What he couldn’t have known then is something we do know now: Creating fully protected marine areas is a critical step in our defense against climate change.

Studies of protected areas show that the robust ecosystems they contain are better able to withstand the stress of warming temperatures. The complete and relatively pristine habitats at Cashes Ledge and the Coral Canyons and Seamounts should be kept intact ­– so they can continue to be used as an underwater laboratory for marine scientists as we work urgently to identify how climate change is impacting our oceans and how we can best respond.

If and when the day comes that we are able to stop or even reverse global warming, we need to have done the legwork now to prepare. Will species damaged from warmer temperatures recover and thrive again? Will ocean plant life maintain the ability to provide us with the oxygen we need? Will our children ever get to gaze in wonder at a North Atlantic right whale breaching the ocean’s surface?

We can’t solve climate change in a day. We know it will take a comprehensive, long-term effort. But we should do what can be done today – right now, with what we have, in New England to protect our most significant places for our children and grandchildren. We believe a Marine National Monument designation is the first, best course of action for New England’s ocean right now.