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The Climate Reality ProjectClimate Reality Project - Be the Voice of Your Generation is dedicated creating a healthy and sustainable future by making a global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies. This year, they’ve decided to give a voice to the generation that will be most impacted by climate change by hosting a video contest and rewarding the winner a trip to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York on September 23 as a representative of the Climate Reality Project.

The U.N. Climate Summit is a day-long event that will feature some of the world’s leaders discussing environmental issues and solutions. Serving as a public platform for all UN Member states, finance, business, and civil society leaders from public and private sectors, the event will be educational and progressive as leaders from around the world work together to address the climate issues.

To participate, contestants must post a video to YouTube or Instagram asking “Why? Why not?” about a climate issue (Ex: Why are we still burning fossil fuels? Why not switch to clean renewable energy and protect our future?) and talk about the issue in under one minute. Six winners will be chosen and flown to New York to watch their video get played to the leaders of the world at the U.N. Climate Summit opening ceremony.

The project is global and winners will be selected based on their passion and the relevance of the issue. Contestants must be between the ages of 13 and 21 to participate.

2050 Weather Forecast

The World Meteorological Organization, the United Nation’s weather agency, challenged international weather media to come up with a futuristic weather report for September 28, 2050 as part of their call for government and business leaders to agree to ambitious action on climate change at the U.N. Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York.

The Weather Channel took up that challenge and Sam Champion walks us through what that might look like.

Click here to watch their futuristic weather report.

As Austin prepares to enter a new phase under 10-1 governance (10 Council members to represent geographic districts and 1 at-large mayor), many voters may find themselves overwhelmed with the large number of candidates to chose from.  A whopping 78 candidates filed to run for City Council this year.  District 3 alone has 12 candidates.

2014-08-21 Austin City Council and Mayoral Candidate Forums on Austin Energy - image for blogSo how do you, as a voter, choose between so many options?  We aren’t going to tell you who to vote for, but we are helping you get some of the information that you might want when making that important choice.  Along with some of our local allies, we are hosting a series of candidate forums focused on Austin Energy issues that are free and open to the public.

  • Districts 6 & 10: September 12, 6 – 9 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 8001 Mesa Dr, Austin, TX 78731
  • Districts 2 & 3: September 19, 6 – 9 p.m., Austin JATC Electrical Training Center, 4000 Caven Rd, Austin, TX 78744
  • Districts 1 & 7: September 20, 12:30 – 3:30 p.m., Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Dr, Austin, TX 78757
  • Districts 4 & 9: September 22, 6 – 9 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756
  • Districts 5 & 8: September 23, 6 – 9 p.m., Treehouse, 4477 S. Lamar Blvd, #600, Austin, TX 78745
  • Mayoral: September 29, 7 – 10 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756

While there are many important issues facing Austin, we believe that governance of Austin Energy will remain one of the single most important responsibilities for any City Council member.  Valued at $3.8 billion, Austin Energy is the City’s most valuable asset.  In addition to providing power for the city, its residents and businesses, Austin Energy revenue to supports city operations such as parks, infrastructure, EMS, firefighters and libraries.

Candidates will be asked to respond to a series of questions relating to Austin Energy, including questions on climate change, energy sources, affordability and governance of the utility.  The public is invited to attend to learn more about the candidates.

Participating organizations are: Public Citizen, SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church

WMO GH Gas Bulletin CoverAccording to the annual report of the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nation’s weather agency, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013.  CO2 rose to global concentrations of 396 parts per million last year, the biggest year-to-year change in three decades. That’s an increase of 2.9 ppm from the previous year — and is 42 percent higher than before the Industrial Age, when levels were about 280 parts per million.  The report also said the rate of ocean acidification, which comes from added carbon absorbed by oceans, “appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years.”

Our climate is changing, our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and time is not on our side.  Click here to read the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

 

EW&F

The Dallas Sierra Club  is holding an “Earth, Wind & Fire Energy Summit” at the Addison Conference Centre the weekend of October 4-5, 2014.

Early Registration Extended to Sept. 12 and there is now a One Day Rate Available  www.earthwindfiresummit.org .

This educational conference will provide insight on both traditional and renewable forms of energy including current and future perspectives on the use of these various forms of energy, on both a national and regional scale, as well as the environmental and human impacts of these various forms of energy.

The conference will be held at the Addison Conference Centre the weekend of October 4-5, 2014 in North Dallas.  Sign up for the conference before Sept. 12 at http://earthwindfiresummit.org/  to receive the early registration rate.

The conference will feature well-known academics, policymakers, and professional representatives from associations and institutions that focus on a wide of energy issues.

Of particular interest to Public Citizen’s efforts in Texas are:

  •  Coal — Dr. Daniel Cohan of Rice Univ. speaking about new carbon rules – retrofitting or retiring old coal plants
  •  Fuel Exports — Dr. Beach, UTAustin, speaking on oil/coal/LNG exports

This event is ideal for the public, non-profit organizations, environmental professionals, small business owners, and students who want to:

  • Gain a global perspective of the dynamic and changing nature of energy in America
  • Explore how America’s demand for energy today translates into its production and expansion in the U.S. and Texas
  • Learn about the potential human and environmental impacts caused by energy production
  • Meet and network with an array of experts, respected organizations, and other individuals working on energy issues

Some of the confirmed, featured speakers and topics include:

  • Fracking, Disposal Wells, & Earthquakes – Dr. Nicholas Van der Elst, Columbia Lamont Earth Institute, New York
  • Coal Plants & New Carbon Rules – Will Aging Texas Power Plants be Retrofitted or Retired? –  Dr. Daniel Cohan, Rice University
  • What’s Blowing in the Wind? – Gabriel Alonso, EDP, third largest onshore wind developer in the world
  • Solar Energy – Can I Afford it for My Home & Business? – Steve Wiese, TREIA and JIm Duncan, NTREG
  • Waste to Energy:  Making Electricity from Trash?– Jeffrey Morris, Sound Resource Management
  • Pipeline vs. Rail: The Safe Transport of Oil – Paul Blackburn, Attorney
  • Fuel Exports: Oil, LNG, & Coal – Dr. Fred Beach, UT Austin
  • Fracking and Groundwater Contamination – Dr. Zachariah Hildenbrand, UT Arlington
  • Nuclear Power: What’s the Future for this Energy Source? – Dr. Arjun Makijani, IEER
  • Geothermal – Exploring Energy from the Earth – Maria Richards, SMU

The conference also features a two-part Communications workshop with print/TV/radio journalists including Jeff Crilley on how to get “Free Media with No Money.” Journalists Randy Lee Loftis, Shelley Kofler, and Paul Adrian will also give their perspectivesof media today in a digital world in a second media workshop discussion.

Early 2-Day registration is $55 through Sept. 12 and $75 thereafter. Space is limited.

This includes lunch and the two days of events and exhibitor access.

NEW! One-Day Rate for Saturday or Sunday

Saturday Only   $35 by Sept. 12  ($40 Sept. 13-30)

Sunday Only     $ 30 by Sept. 12 ($35 Sept. 13-30)

For more information, send you questions to the conference organizer using the form below.

Gathering line fire from a rupture near Alice, TX in 2010.  Photo from Texas Rail Road Commission Archives

Gathering line fire from a rupture near Alice, TX in 2010. Photo from Texas Rail Road Commission Archives

NBC News has been investigating the danger that gathering lines (the pipeline installed to get natural gas from fracking sites to storage facilities and major transportation pipelines) pose to rural residents who live near the fracking sites and whose land the gathering lines crisscross with little to no regulatory oversight.

Click here to read NBC’s article resulting from their investigation”Danger Beneath: ‘Fracking’ Gas, Oil Pipes Threaten Rural Residents“.

City sets ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution.  Photo by Al Braden.

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution. Photo by Al Braden.

A diverse coalition of groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the Austin City Council for adopting the Affordable Energy Resolution late Thursday evening.

The resolution comes after years of community-led work to study Austin Energy’s portfolio and generation plan, identify opportunities to strengthen the municipal utility’s clean energy and climate commitments while meeting the needs of low-income communities and after community members demonstrated strong demand for more affordable clean energy and less pollution on a reasonable but aggressive timeline.

The Affordable Energy Plan calls for Austin Energy to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 and eliminate carbon pollution from its generator fleet by 2030. It directs the utility phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant by investing in 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

“Solar is now cheaper than building a new natural gas plant. Our analysis shows that 600 megawatts of solar will save Austin Energy between $12 and $33 million per year,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group. “We’re grateful for the strong leadership shown by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.”

The landmark resolution also takes significant steps to expand local solar power.  It doubles Austin’s local solar goal to 200 megawatts, with half of that goal reserved for distributed residential and commercial solar projects. And the resolution expands access to rooftop solar projects by including solar leasing as an option for residents and businesses and by refining Austin Energy’s innovative value of solar tariff.

“Local solar creates local jobs.  The Austin solar industry already employs more than 800 people and many of those jobs are in solar installation and can’t be outsourced,” said Kaiba White of Solar Austin.  “Money spent on local solar goes back into our local economy.  Allowing people from all walks of life to benefit from solar is a win-win for Austin.”

A separate resolution was also passed to establish a task force to make recommendations on expanding the utility’s energy savings goal and ensuring that energy efficiency services are provided to people of all income levels. Energy efficiency is the most easily deployed, lowest-cost option for meeting energy needs and will be a critical component of meeting climate goals for the utility.

The City of Austin has long been a leader in Texas and nationally. The City announced its plans to power all city buildings and operations with Texas wind power in 2012, and earlier in 2014 Austin Energy announced a new solar power project at the lowest cost in U.S. history. In June 2014, the Austin City Council became first elected body in the nation to endorse the goals of the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to curb carbon pollution that drives climate disruption.

“The impacts of a rapidly changing climate are clear in Central Texas and as a progressive community we have a moral obligation to lead in reducing our carbon footprint while providing clean, affordable electricity to our people, businesses and churches,” said Reverend John Elford with the University United Methodist Church of Austin. “This resolution sets us on a path to meet both those needs.”

The Decker natural gas-fired power plant is a major contributor to smog pollution in Travis County. Replacing the plant with clean solar power will cut smog and improve air quality for the more than one million residents in the county, protecting children, seniors and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“In its opposition to this resolution, Austin Energy continued the tradition of marginalizing the communities near Decker by citing money as a primary concern at the expense public health. By passing this resolution, City Council members have finally recognized that every Austinite should have the right to clean air. That this is an issue of justice and that it is an issue of equality,” said Mayte Salazar-Ordonez, a volunteer leader with Austin Beyond Coal.

As Austin Energy develops its plan to meet the goals of the Affordable Energy Resolution, building new gas- or coal-fired power plants will not be an option, representing an opportunity to move beyond traditional power plants and further tap Texas’s renewable energy potential.

The coalition will now look to secure timely retirement of the Fayette coal-fired power plant to meet the city’s carbon pollution elimination goal as well as to cut the soot, smog and mercury pollution coming from the plant that impacts local communities, farms and waterways. Nationwide, 178 coal-fired power plants have been announced for retirement as clean energy solutions like wind, solar and energy efficiency have cut air pollution, lowered costs for consumers and created jobs.

Today, Austin City Council will consider an historic energy proposal from Council Member Chris Riley that would save Austin millions while demonstrating an unprecedented commitment to renewable energy.

The resolution calls for Austin Energy to bring more than 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes, to its portfolio, phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant and set goals to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources and eliminate its carbon pollution by 2030.

Councilman Riley spoke about the need to action at Tuesday's Affordable Energy Rally in front of City Hall.  Photo by Al Braden.

Councilman Riley spoke at Tuesday’s Affordable Energy Rally in front of City Hall. Photo by Al Braden.

In addition to the diverse support behind Council Member Chris Riley for his proposed Affordable Energy Resolution, Public Citizen’s analysis shows that a key component of the plan is economically sound.

An analysis of the cost of Austin Energy’s most recent solar Request for Proposals (RFP) and projected cost to generate electricity in ERCOT, the Texas grid, over time shows tremendous savings from investing in an additional 600 megawatts of solar for Austin. The cost analysis was conducted for Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group, using the same planning tools used by ERCOT and found that the solar power proposed in the Affordable Energy Resolution will save Austin consumers between $12.6 and $32 million per year on average compared to building a new natural gas-fired power plant, depending on fluctuations in the gas market.

Continue Reading »

V.C. Summer nuclear plant construction in May of 2014. Source: ScanaScana Corp., owner of two reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina, announed on August 12th that the anticipated schedule for completion of unit 2 at one of the new nuclear plants that was licensed during the “nuclear renaissance” a few years back has now been pushed back, from its original start date of March of 2017 to as late as the first half of 2019. The company has not yet provided cost estimates associated with the new schedule, but three days later, Fitch revised the Rating Outlook for each entity to Negative from Stable.

In March 2012 V.C. Summer received its licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and construction began shortly after.  Since then, six rate increases have been imposed on South Carolina ratepayers and the project is now eating up 11% of utility bills with no benefit in sight for quite some time. Fitch is particularly concerned about the extent of the potential cost increase and the utility’s willingness to have rate payers shoulder the entire burden.

Problems at the troubled Vogtle nuclear reactor project in Georgia had been getting all the national headlines, but South Carolina Electric & Gas’ V.C. Summer reactor project is now giving the well-publicized nuclear debacle in Georgia a run for its money.

At the time these plants were trying to get licensed, both South Texas (nuclear) Project (south of Houston) and Comanche Peak (west of Fort Worth) had put in license applications for expansions of two new units at both locations.  The cost overruns and construction delays of the initial plants and the problems at the current new projects in the United States are a good indicator that Texas expansions would have faced the same issues had the licenses gone forward.

Still we must be vigilant as STP is still pursuing the expansion license in spite of the fact that the project is predominantly controlled by a foreign (Japanese) company, which is against the law.  Nevertheless, an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board recently ruled in favor of granting STP a new license despite NRC staff opposing it.  The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition has been party to a suit to opposed the licensing (with assistance from Public Citizen and a local group – STARE) but will be needing additional funds to appeal the recent ruling.

Donate to SEEDIf you can, please make a donation toward SEED’s efforts.  We don’t need Georgia and South Carolina’s nuclear constructions problems in Texas.

EW&FThe Dallas Sierra Club  is holding an “Earth, Wind & Fire Energy Summit” at the Addison Conference Centre the weekend of October 4-5, 2014. Registration is now open for this exciting event at www.earthwindfiresummit.org .

This educational conference will provide insight on both traditional and renewable forms of energy including current and future perspectives on the use of these various forms of energy, on both a national and regional scale, as well as the environmental and human impacts of these various forms of energy.

The conference will feature well-known academics, policymakers, and professional representatives from associations and institutions that focus on a wide of energy issues.

Of particular interest to Public Citizen’s efforts in Texas are:

  •  Coal — Dr. Daniel Cohan of Rice Univ. speaking about new carbon rules – retrofitting or retiring old coal plants
  •  Fuel Exports — Dr. Beach, UTAustin, speaking on oil/coal/LNG exports

This event is ideal for the public, non-profit organizations, environmental professionals, small business owners, and students who want to:

  • Gain a global perspective of the dynamic and changing nature of energy in America
  • Explore how America’s demand for energy today translates into its production and expansion in the U.S. and Texas
  • Learn about the potential human and environmental impacts caused by energy production
  • Meet and network with an array of experts, respected organizations, and other individuals working on energy issues

Space is limited for this event. Early registration is $55 through Sept. 2 and $75 thereafter.For more information or to learn about exhibitor opportunities, contact Rita Beving

Today, Thursday August 14th, the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) is holding a regularly scheduled meeting in the Equinox in Manchester, Vermont.

They are not making a live feed for the meeting available, but say they will record the meeting and make it available on the TLLRWDCC website.  However, they have the technology available if you are present  in Building E, Room 201S, 12100 Park 35 Circle, 78753 Austin, Texas at the TCEQ beginning at 8:00am on August 14th so you can participate in the meeting.

The agenda for the August 14, 2014 meeting of the TLLRWDCC is attached and is also available on the TLLRWDCC website at http://www.tllrwdcc.org/.

http://www.tllrwdcc.org/about-the-comission/public-meetings/

vegetarian benefits 5Producing animals for consumption takes one of the biggest tolls on our environment and is increasing as developing countries and the earth’s population grows to new heights. Today about 70 billion farm animals are produced annually for consumption with approximately 2/3 raised in factory farms under harsh and abnormal conditions. What this is doing to the earth is more damaging than all transportation impacts combined. To start with, it takes a lot of plant calories to produce the same amount of meat calories. Through the long process of raising, slaughtering and transporting livestock, this market is contributing to 75% of annual deforestation, while polluting water from pesticides and fertilizers used to grow feed instead of crops that directly feed the human population.

Like so many other economically efficient yet environmentally awful routines America has, livestock farming is another sector that needs to be reformed… or everyone needs to become vegetarian or vegan. The environmental impacts of meat consumption are no small thing.

vegetarian benefits 65 reasons to be vegetarian:

  1.  Consuming less meat, especially red meat like beef and lamb, reduces your carbon footprint better than buying a Prius would!
  2. Both methane and nitrous oxides (byproducts of livestock waste) have drastically more climate change impact than CO2 over the next couple decades.
  3. More land would be available for direct food crops in a growing population
  4. Reforesting lands that have been stripped of their vegetation to make room for cattle
  5. Feeling good about yourself for being sustainable!

Although consuming less meat would help decrease the negative effects of livestock farming, the farmers themselves have the ability to do their big part as well. According to a report by FAO, the most GHG emitting step in the livestock farming process was feed production and processing, which accounted for 45% of the total GHG emitted by livestock farming. Using low-emission feed or keeping the livestock grass fed, which eliminates transportation costs for the feed, is a large change that could be made to drastically reduce GHG emissions into the air. Other changes include the use of energy saving equipment, recycling the manure produced from cattle instead of producing fertilizer and improve graze and farming management to use rotational land use and crop harvesting. These are just a few necessary changes that need to be made in the livestock farming business which effects would drastically lessen greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and deforestation.

Either our diet or our demand for sustainable livestock farming needs to change and it starts with the consumer. If eating meat is too good to give up then, try eating less meat and choosing the more climate-friendly options. Some animals are more efficient at converting plant calories into meat calories than others and therefore have impacts relating to feed production.  If you have to get beef, choose grass-fed beef which eliminates the production and transportation of grain feed. These small changes can make a big difference if people can take the leap and change.

The Subcommittee on Seismic Activity will meet to hear testimony from the Railroad Commission of Texas and members of the public.  This hearing will be held in Austin at the Texas Capitol in E2.010 starting at 1pm on Monday, August 25th.

Texas-EarthquakeCOMMITTEE:   Energy Resources
SUBCOMMITTEE: Seismic Activity

TIME & DATE: 1:00 PM, Monday, August 25, 2014

PLACE:       E2.010
CHAIR:       Rep. Myra Crownover

 

 

NOTICE OF ASSISTANCE AT PUBLIC MEETINGS: Persons with disabilities who plan to attend this meeting and who may need assistance, such as a sign language interpreter, are requested to contact Stacey Nicchio at (512) 463-0850, 24 hours prior to the meeting so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

 

According to NBC News, NBC News ACthe United States uses more air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. Dealing with the high energy peaks has led utilities to try everything from new technology to “behavioral science.”  Check out their story.

 

photo by Brian Skerry

photo by Brian Skerry

Bigger, healthier fish, free of hormones, colorants, pesticides and prophylactic antibiotics free fish live in gigantic round or diamond shaped holding tanks off coasts. This is the next generation of fish harvesting called Open Ocean Fish Farming, which strives to be a sustainable and healthier source of fish for the rapidly growing human population.

There is a growing global fish crisis as the world population rises and consumes more fish in its wake. According to World Watch Institute, as of 2009 wild fish stocks around the world are 57% fully exploited, 30% overexploited and just 13% underexploited which is causing destructive effects on marine life. Every year there is about 7.3 million tons of bycatch, unintended marine life caught in fishing net, which is thrown back into the ocean either dead or severely injured such as dolphins, sharks, turtles, whales and many other species. These problems are associated with open water fishing, but there are also hoards of problems that come with fish farm plants where fish live in an unnatural environment that requires antibiotics, antifungal and antiparasitical agents to keep them alive. Conditions such as these are not only bad for the fish, but also transfer to the humans who eat them.

photo courtesy of NatGeo

photo courtesy of NatGeo

The difference between open ocean and conventional fish farms is basically the difference between free range grass-fed animals and animals raised in feedlots. In open ocean farms:

  • The fish are in pods located off shore where their waste is taken with the ocean, allowing a constant flow of new water.
  • Their diet is all-natural and does not include hormones, colorants, pesticides, or prophylactic antibiotics
  • The fish are able to swim more freely and actively
  • Coastal shores are not polluted by concentrated fish waste
  • The fish grow more rapidly – at a pace that can reach 10lb per year compared to 1lb per year
photo by Bryce Groark

photo by Bryce Groark

This new technology of fish farming could bring sustainability to a market that is currently destroying the earth’s aquatic environment. Through a man named Brian O’Hanlon, the start of open ocean fish farming has begun with the birth of Open Blue, a small business founded in 2007 that is currently producing 20-25 tons of Cobia in 1 harvest and is working with new innovative technologies to improve the way we harvest fish. With the earth’s human population expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, according to the UN, there is a huge change that needs to be made in the way we harvest marine life.

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