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This post is about a pipeline project we’ve written quite a bit about over the past few years–Dominion Energy’s New Market project that ever-so-modestly expands an existing pipeline in Upstate New York. But at its heart, the issue is much deeper. Anti-fossil fuel radicals are challenging this project, in court, as a way to force the government to consider man-made global warming when approving such projects.

Last July a small group of rich snobs from Cooperstown, NY calling themselves Otsego2000 sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in federal court to try and stop Dominion Energy’s New Market Project–which is now largely done (see Otsego2000 Snobs Appeal FERC Approval of New Market Pipe Project).

The false premise of Otsego2000’s lawsuit is that FERC did not consider mythical man-made global warming when it decided to approve the New Market Project. Unfortunately, NY’s wildly left/radical Attorney General’s office has entered the case by filing a “friend of the court” brief in December, along with the wildly left/radical AGs in Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington State, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia (see NY, Other Lib States Try to Block Dominion New Market Pipe Project).

But wait…the pipeline doesn’t run through any of those other states (other than NY), and has zero impact on those other states. Doesn’t matter. The point is they want to redefine how FERC does its job by warping and twisting our laws. This case conveniently provides them with a way to do just that.

FERC responded last Friday to the lawsuit, which sits before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In their response, FERC points out the global warming emperor has no clothes. Trying to calculate the impact on so-called climate change from this one pipeline is “virtually unknowable” according to FERC’s response. Let’s hope the justices agree. If they don’t, all future pipeline projects are in peril. Big Green would use a ruling that FERC must calculate climate change impacts as a tactic to slow and stop most new projects. A hideous prospect.

Federal energy regulators last week defended a controversial policy shift on the government’s climate analysis obligation in natural gas pipeline reviews.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) does not require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas projects the agency authorizes, government lawyers wrote in a Friday filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Because gas infrastructure demand follows gas production, “it is unknown — and virtually unknowable — whether the gas to be transported on the Project will come from new or existing production,” federal counsel wrote in the brief.

“Absent that basic information, it is nearly impossible to assess whether there will be any additional production activities in connection with the gas to be transported on the Project,” FERC attorneys argued. “As a result, any greenhouse gas emissions from any additional, incremental production activities are not reasonably foreseeable.”

FERC’s brief is a response to a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit group Otsego 2000 contesting the agency’s decision last year to scale back its consideration of climate impacts in natural gas project approvals (E&E News PM, May 18, 2018).

Six states and the District of Columbia last month called on the D.C. Circuit to scrap the policy shift, which was announced in a procedural document denying a request to rehear FERC’s authorization of Dominion Energy Transmission Inc.’s New Market Project in New York.

FERC’s Democratic commissioners, Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur, supported the denial but disagreed with the inclusion of the policy change.

Both cited the D.C. Circuit’s 2017 ruling in Sierra Club v. FERC, which ordered the agency to more closely examine downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the Southeast Market Pipelines Project, which includes the Sabal Trail pipeline.

“This decision clearly signaled that the Commission should be doing more as part of its environmental reviews,” LaFleur wrote in her dissent.

After the D.C. Circuit sent the Sabal Trail review back to FERC, the agency wrote that it could not find a “widely accepted standard” for determining the significance of greenhouse gas emissions, rejecting tools like the social cost of carbon and state emissions inventories.

“The Commission’s only tool to address any concerns it may have regarding downstream greenhouse gas emissions would be to decline to authorize the pipeline project,” FERC attorneys wrote Friday.

The agency noted that Sierra Club and other opponents did not sue after the Sabal Trail case was remanded.

FERC attorney Beth Pacella made a similar argument last month before a panel of D.C. Circuit judges (Energywire, Dec. 10, 2018).

The absence of a challenge does not imply agreement, Elizabeth Benson, an attorney representing the Allegheny Defense Project, responded at the time.

“Of course, in any particular case, parties are free to seek judicial review of the Commission’s determination as to whether or not upstream and downstream activities are project-related effects for purposes of NEPA,” FERC wrote in its reply last week.

Final briefs in the case are due March 8.*

*E&E News – Energywire (Jan 28, 2019) – Climate impacts are ‘virtually unknowable’ — FERC

If you think Gov. Cuomo’s neglect of mass transit has caused headaches, just wait ’til you see what his reckless de facto ban on natural-gas pipelines is doing.

On Thursday, Con Ed notified regulators that, come March 15, it won’t accept new gas customers in most of Westchester, thanks to supply shortages. National Grid has been issuing similar warnings. New-customer cutoffs in the city may be just around the corner.

With no practical replacement fuel for heating, this will throttle residential and commercial growth.

“Cities either grow or die, and we are always concerned about anything that would discourage continued growth,” New York City Partnership President Kathryn Wylde told Politico. “Clearly the threat that the supply of natural gas will be inadequate to support new business and development is a big concern.”

Cuomo hasn’t officially banned new pipelines; his staff just doesn’t OK very many, often citing lame excuses for nixing them. Team Cuomo reportedly has urged Con Ed to find alternatives to pipelines, and Cuomo himself has been pushing for a shift away from allfossil-fuel energy sources.

Which threatens big trouble for new would-be customers — residential or commercial.

“We see . . . opportunities for economic development . . . with large companies wanting to come,” notes Public Service Commissioner Diane Burman, a Republican. “They’re going to need energy.”

Yet Alan Armstrong, whose firm is looking to build a pipeline from New Jersey to Queens, says the utilities “are not really in a position” to assure new businesses of “adequate gas supplies.”

Meanwhile, New York City is requiring customers to switch from higher-emission fuel oil, driving up the demand for far “cleaner” natural gas. Con Ed has already converted 5,000 buildings in the area from oil to gas.

Oops: climate-change warriors now oppose gas, too. And Cuomo is only too happy to do their bidding and effectively ban pipelines, in exchange for their political support. The gov and the greenies pretend that power from renewables — like solar, wind and geothermal sources — can replace natural gas, especially with steps to boost “efficiency” and conservation. Maybe one day that’ll be true, but not anytime soon.

New York needs gas today, and pipelines to deliver it, to keep the economy healthy and growing. Cuomo has already socked New York with his ban on fracking and his Indian Point shutdown. Just how much more can its economy take?

A new analysis of US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions received wide media attention last week. Preliminary findings from the Rhodium Group showed that after three years of decline, US CO2emissions had the largest single-year jump in two decades last year with an increase of 3.4 percent.

The news prompted some observers to question the role of natural gas in helping to drive future emissions reductions. “New GHG Findings Clash With Industry Defense of Gas As a Climate Strategy,” wrote InsideEPA. Utility Dive called the report a worrying reversal for utilities, “raising questions about whether its recent formula for emissions reductions has outlived its usefulness.”

However, there is a key element of this story that has not been covered, one which I will dig into here. In looking at the data from 2018, it becomes clear that the primary reason for the increase in carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 is increased energy use associated with weather and economic growth. Natural gas played a considerable role in meeting these increased energy needs, and it is important to note that overall emissions are still 11 percent below 2007 levels. This begs the question: What would our CO2 emissions look like without natural gas helping to meet our growing energy needs?

What happened in 2018?

Simply put: Temperatures were significantly colder in the winter and considerably warmer during the summer. As a result, Americans used more energy, which caused CO2 to increase year-over-year.

Even as the ball dropped, we saw the makings of a brutal winter. The New Year opened with a bomb cyclone and record cold temperatures in dozens of cities. Based on heating degree days, a measure of heating requirements, January through March of 2018 was 14 percent colder than 2017. These frigid temperatures were felt across the US for longer than usual, making, April, typically the beginning of spring in many areas, the coldest in two decades for the continental US.

heating

Degree days are a measure of heating and cooling requirements. The higher the value, the more intense the heating or cooling requirements. Increases from 2017 to 2018 suggest significantly higher heating and cooling requirements. Source: NOAA

As a result of this nation-wide chill, heating demand spiked. The US set a single-day record for natural gas use as Americans tried to keep their homes and businesses warm. Residential sector energy consumption increased by 15 percent and residential CO2emissions climbed 14 percent for the period of January through April in 2018 when compared with one year prior.

Similarly, the summer was much warmer than usual. The US posted 15 percent more cooling degree days from May through August compared with the same period in 2017. As a result, cooling requirements spiked. During the same period, electric power generation was 4.5 percent higher than 2017, and natural gas use for electric power set monthly records in July and August.


Economic growth also contributed to rising emissions

Meanwhile, economic growth was strong. The Bureau of Economic Analysis showed strong economic growth in the second and third quarters. More people were driving, flying on airplanes, shipping more goods and industrial activity was up.

quarter 768x349

As a result, US petroleum consumption climbed as consumers and businesses used more diesel and jet fuel. (Gasoline demand is projected to have declined slightly.) The Energy Information Administration’s short-term outlook forecasts that petroleum CO2emissions increased two percent in 2018.


The US power sector’s CO2 emissions increased, but structurally it continues to decarbonize

The US likely used a record amount of electricity in 2018 according to initial projections from the US Energy Information Administration. Total retail sales of electricity reached an all-time high because of economic growth, a larger building stock, and the weather. As a result, the US power sector’s CO2 emissions increased.

sales

The US likely used a record amount of electricity in 2018.
Source: Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook

The US power sector has gone through an unprecedented level of change during the past decade. The increased use of natural gas, renewables deployment, and the retirement of coal-fired power generation has contributed to steady declines in the carbon intensity of this sector.

Moreover, that didn’t change in 2018. Natural gas and renewable generation increased year-over-year, both regarding new power plant capacity and in total electricity generated. The US also retired a record amount of coal-fired power generation capacity, about 15 gigawatts.

Preliminary data through September shows that the carbon intensity of the US power grid—the amount of CO2 released divided by the amount of electricity generated—declined 3.1 percent in 2018.

carbon 768x557

Source: Energy Information Administration, AGA Calculation

US power sector CO2 emissions would have been much higher in 2018 if it weren’t for the structural improvements in electricity generation during the past decade, namely the increased use of natural and renewables as a replacement for coal.

How much higher? To answer this question, we can look at the grid of the past and apply it to today. For example, we can take the carbon emissions intensity of the US power grid in 2008 to the amount of electricity generated in 2018 to get a sense of how much higher emissions would have been.  In this alternate 2018—where we are using more coal, and less natural gas and renewables—the US power sector CO2 emissions are 36 percent higher.

power 768x552

The building sector

In its analysis, the Rhodium Group called buildings and industry “The Forgotten Sectors,” often ignored in clean energy and climate policymaking. Are building emissions lagging the rest of the economy? Disaggregating different components of the building sector is helpful in sorting out the underlying trends.

If we look only at residential buildings, we see very divergent trends by fuel. Specifically, electricity CO2 emissions increased significantly until 2009, at which point that has started to decline.

residential 768x557

Source: Energy Information Administration

Natural gas, however, has been flat for decades. The reason is that residential natural gas customers have been leaders in energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reductions.

customer 768x557

The average residential natural gas customers’ CO2 footprint has cut in half since 1970, a result of improvements to building and appliance energy efficiency, consumer conservation, and the impact of utility energy efficiency programs. This fact is made even more remarkable given the median single-family household is nearly 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973. As 30 million more households today are natural gas customers, the result has been largely flat CO2 emissions from residential natural gas consumption for four decades.

How do we continue to reduce the building sector’s carbon footprint?

This progress is good, but how do we continue this success? How do we continue to reduce emissions from consumers and help bring down overall emissions in the buildings sector?

A recent analysis from Enovation Partners suggests that natural gas technologies can contribute more to emissions reductions, and at lower cost. In the study, the consulting group identifies and assessed more than 100 emerging natural gas end-use technologies that could contribute materially to GHG reductions. They found a greenhouse gas reduction potential of 25 to 40 percent on a customer basis. Steeper reductions were possible with more advanced technologies and the integration of renewable natural gas.

ennovation 768x545

Source: Enovation Partners

Integrating efficient natural into long-term resource planning can help achieve continued emissions reductions in the building sector. We need to continue to increase consumer access to high-efficiency natural gas appliances; advance research, development, and deployment of next-generation natural gas technologies; and develop renewable natural gas. Industry efforts and public policy will be key to meeting these objectives.

Conclusion

Preliminary data suggests US carbon dioxide emission increased in 2018, a result of weather-driven energy demand and economic growth. If we dig into the data, there are still many hopeful signs of progress on US carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Among these areas are a decline in CO2 emissions intensity in the power sector and steadily decreasing CO2 emissions per residential natural gas customer. We find that natural gas continues to play a key role in reducing US CO2 emissions. Moreover, importantly, integrating efficient natural as solutions into long-term resource planning can help achieve continued emissions reductions in the building sector.

Our team has Mike German, Karen Moreau,Tom Shepstone and Mike Zagata as presenters. The Anti-faction has many more presenters who will speak on topics ranging from imminent climate disasters to "Deep Energy Retro Fits". The acolytes will be there and applaud! We have a chance to be heard but we need knowledgeable boots on the ground. You are those BOOTS!
This summit is the beginning of a policy move to eliminate natural gas from the energy mix for Otsego County and upstate NY. We can see the stitches on this curve ball. How do we counter this?  You have to be there!! Our business community is counting on you!!
 
Dick Downey and I are available to assist you in way we can.. 
 
 sincerely,
 Dick Downey
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
607 988 9116
 
Marie Lusins
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
607 287 4982

The following Letter to the Editor in Hometown Oneonta was published today. The local antis are pushing for local renewable energy but will not recognize any form of gas development in the energy mix. From an economic point of view, this is foolish. The Letter below shows that it is also foolish from an environmental aspect as is being proved in present-day Germany. 

Two reports and a conference warn that climate is warming due to human activity, ie. greenhouse gases (GHG.) This warming will "disrupt many areas of life," affecting trade and precipitating conflicts. 

Let's assume for the moment that the data warrants the conclusion -- man-made GHGs are the cause of global warming. How do we solve this problem? What works? 

For smooth transitions to a less carbon-intensive future, the best path is the use of natural gas -- the bridge fuel. Two decades of data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) is testimony to its efficacy. According to the EIA, the substitution of gas for coal in power plants has lowered CO2 in the USA to levels not seen since the late 1980's. This happened while population and GDP grew over the same period. In cities substitution of gas for oil in buildings has eliminated most sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxides (NOX), and particulates, enabling them to meet EPA standards. According to Bloomberg, regardless of our withdrawal from the Paris Accords, the United States is the ONLY nation in the world that has a CHANCE of meeting the Accords' stated goals. No country equals our record in tonnage or percentage of emissions reduced. Fracking has made this possible. 

Therefore, a modest proposal: In order to lower the world's carbonization in the least problematic manner, prioritize the exploration, extraction, transport, sale, and use of natural gas. 

Germany, the world's fourth largest economy and paragon of green virtue, offers a case study. In the year 2000 Germany embarked on as massive transition away from fossil fuels to renewables. The goal was to derive 80% of their energy from renewables by 2050, thus the slogan "80 by 50." With escalating costs in infrastructure, subsidies, and grid maintenance, the price of retail electricity skyrocketed; Germans pay the American equivalent of 37 cents per kilowatt hour. Here in the USA we average about 10 cents. 

What do the Germans get for their money? In spite of massive outlays, solar and wind only produce about 25% of German electricity. Fossil fuels generate double that (53%,) primarily coal (35%,) with lignite (dirty coal) two thirds of that coal. Germany has problems -- in the summer, when they have too much renewable electricity, they have to PAY neighboring countries to take their excess in order to maintain grid stability. In the winter. when there is not enough renewable output, they have to stoke up the coal plants in spite of coal's emissions problems. These inefficiencies create a dilemma. In spite of potential, there's no current means of storing excess renewable electricity. Back-up coal (coal plants must be continually running) produces unacceptable emissions that have remained stubornly constant over the years. The goal remains "80 by 50." The clock is ticking. Nothing's happening. Who you gonna call? 

Gas producers! Gas has half the CO2 and almost none of the oxides, volitile organic compounds (VOCs,) and particulate contained in coal. With gas, Germany has a chance of breaking the present system's stalemate. The 900 mile Nord 2 Pipeline (gas from Russia) is in the planning stage. Dow Chemical will partner with Germany to build a LNG facility. Two more LNG facilities are are in the early phase of planning. Gas will replace coal, just as it did in the United States. And, just as in the United States, CO2 will be reduced. 

Implications for Otsego County? While green intentions are noble, what good are they if they don't work? Economics count. France, anyone? Macron raised the price of gasoline 25 cents to save the planet. The people erupted. Cost/benefit matters. Ask Germany. Germans haven't erupted but Merkle will make deals with Putin to keep the lights on, the houses warm, and a few euros in the ratepayers' pocket. 

The road to carbon neutrality is a long one. Until wind and solar's storage problems are solved, renewables won't work. Until then, gas is the go-to element in the process. Otsego County can put its head in the sand and form energy committees that ignore the most reliable, affordable, scaleable source of energy (as used in the City of Oneonta, here and now) or the County can take full advantage of natural gas produced only a few miles south in Pennsylvania. 

The advantage is -- GAS WORKS! If not fot irrational ideological politics, it could be here! It could be now! 

Keep the faith,

Dick

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