Our Common Good

The lines are now drawn on a political hot button in Iowa: a lucrative tax break for wind energy.

Mitt Romney is against it, President Barack Obama favors it — opposing stances that could have political and economic implications in Iowa, which has more wind energy jobs than any other state in the nation.

The wind production tax credit is big deal because it bolsters the market for more turbines and towers.


Top GOP leaders in Iowa — including Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and the entire congressional delegation — champion the tax break as a vital economic development tool.

Monday evening, U.S. Rep. Tom Latham said the position Team Romney laid out “shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. It’s the wrong decision.” Latham called for Romney to re-evaluate.


I really hate corporations, greed, and profit motive.

…Fast-growing Oakland-based home solar provider Sungevity teamed up with Lowe’s recently to offer affordable solar options to customers of the world’s second-largest home improvement retailer.

Sungevity offers an attractive panel leasing plan that requires zero upfront payment and includes a money-back performance guarantee, free maintenance, free online monitoring and free insurance. Purchasing the hardware outright requires a $1,000 deposit and includes none of these features. According to Sungevity, customers typically save at least 15% on their utility bill the first year of installation, and save more each year as grid power becomes more expensive.

Starting this summer, homeowners in California, Colorado, Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware will see the solar service offered at a Lowe’s near them. However, this is only the beginning. Sungevity CEO Andrew Birch said the company is already planning to reach Lowe’s customers in most states across the nation.

“Lowe’s new partnership with Sungevity responds to customer demand by providing a convenient and affordable process for going solar,” said Senior Vice-President of Merchandising at Lowe’s Patti Price in a press release issued by Sungevity. The home-improvement giant has an equity position in the solar company as part of the deal.

In this case, big business is doing its part to spread the cause by offering industry-pioneering small businesses a chance at larger exposure. The agreement between Sungevity and Lowe’s is not the first of its kind, but illustrates growing public awareness of the importance of controlling consumption.

The US Navy has gone into battle to save its “great green fleet” from Republicans in Congress who are trying to sink the ambitious biofuel project in what should have been its finest hour.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and a strike force of 71 jet fighters, helicopters and transport planes, set off on a demonstration voyage off the Hawaiian island of Oahu this week, powered by a 50-50 mix of conventional fuels and algae or cooking oil.

An Australian Navy commander also joined the Nimitz in a biofuel-burning helicopter.


A bill before the Senate, supported by Republicans Jim Inhofe and John McCain, would ban the navy from buying more biofuels unless the price drops to the same prices as conventional fuels. It also seeks to block the navy from spending on biofuel refineries – support that could help speed up the commercialisation of biofuels.

McCain argues the project is just too expensive.

"I was just reading, it’s the cost of one destroyer - $1.8bn extra - they want to spend on this green technology," he told Reuters. "The fact is, I just do not believe that we need to spend that kind of money on it," McCain said.

However, opponents of the green fleet are encountering pushback in Congress from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats determined to preserve the project.


"The whole navy is committed to pursuing alternatives to foreign oil and the whole navy believes it is critical to our national security and combat capability," said Mabus. He also tried to reassure Republicans, saying there would be no major purchases of biofuels until they became cost-competitive with conventional diesel and aviation fuel.

"We simply have to figure out a way to get American-made, homegrown fuel that is stably priced, that is competitive with oil," he said.

National Casualty (Insurance) Company, part of the Nationwide group of insurance companies, has announced that hydraulic fracturing operations are prohibited in relation to properties it insures.

The company has determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage. The company said it would not bind risks with this exposure, and any policies currently written with the exposure would be non-renewed
(following state requirements).

Among the prohibited risks involved in fracking operations listed by the company are contractors involved in fracking operations, landowners whose land has been leased to lessees with fracking operations, frack sand and frack liquid haulers and site prep (dump trucks, bulldozers) or leasing of tanks.


Witness regulatory capture in action. New York sells out the public to natural gas fracking companies by holding secret, backroom talks with industry goons for environmental permits.

Basically, Cuomo allowed gas industry folks access to help write special documents, an EIS, that will allow natural gas fracking in New York State. An EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) is a document that basically shows the environmental impacts from a building things, like new homes, pipelines, dumping pollution into the environment, etc.

The EIS is used to help determine if a project will harm the environment, and if so details a plan that the developer will do to mitigate those effects. The city will then issue a permit to the developer with certain restrictions and requirements. The developer must comply with the written findings of the EIS. EIS is very, very common. It’s (usually) an open, public process. The public can review and comment on pretty much any EIS in their communities (even you!). This public review helps shape the language in the permit.

But, it crosses the line of ethics and legality when industry is given special access to the documents without the public knowing. It’s not entirely illegal, but there are parameters that must be met - changes to text should be made public and put up for comment, for example. This seems not to be the case with Cuomo, who seems to want natural gas fracking allowed in New York State.

Story here and EIS here.

Send corrections here.

On June 21 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012. In addition to dramatically weakening health safeguards from smog and other air pollution, the bill would significantly expand oil and natural gas drilling on public lands, reducing places for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other uses.

Making matters worse, there is no guarantee that the oil and gas produced on these newly available publicly owned lands will benefit American families. Instead, big oil and gas companies could export these resources or refined products made from them. Americans would get the oil and gas pollution and higher prices while other nations benefit from the energy.

Oil companies are pushing for more exports to boost profits

The United States just became a net exporter of refined petroleum products. The House bill would allow oil companies to export even more oil and gas products produced from resources generated from drilling on public lands at time when Americans have been paying higher prices for gasoline and diesel fuel.


Report shows Republicans voted in favor of stripping environmental laws to help the oil and gas industry.

“Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey released a new report that provides an updated analysis of the anti-environment record of the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress. In 2011 and in the first half of 2012, the Republican-controlled House voted 247 times to dismantle environmental and public health protections.

The report, prepared by the Democratic staff of the Energy and Commerce Committee, found that the House averaged one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011 and in the first half of 2012.  Nearly one in five of the 1,100 legislative roll call votes thus far this Congress – 19% – were votes to undermine environmental protection.

The report also found that the oil and gas industry has been the largest beneficiary of this anti-environment record in the House.  The House has voted 109 times on legislation that would enrich the oil and gas industry.  This includes 45 votes to weaken environmental, public health, and safety requirements applicable to the oil industry, 38 votes to prevent deployment of clean energy alternatives, and 12 votes to expedite review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • The full report is available here.
  • A comprehensive list of all anti-environment votes in the 112th Congress is available here
  • A list of all votes related to the oil and gas industry is available online here.

In 1957, as the first commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. opened, another NAS study targeted the high-level nuclear waste issue for the first time. High-level waste — the “spent fuel” left over after nuclear reactors process uranium for electricity — should be moved away from nuclear reactors as soon as possible and stored deep in the ground, preferably embedded into salt. New Mexico, the study mentioned, could provide storage in the caverns of its potassium-rich salt mines.

Moving a nation’s accumulated nuclear waste to one spot — or even a few centralized spots — would be expensive. And it would involve complicated cooperation among nuclear companies that typically operated independently. So for two decades, almost nothing happened. Without serious political pressure, nothing would happen. But few people knew or cared enough to force legislative action.

Two essential Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulations to protect children, seniors, the infirm, and others from air pollution are under attack from the coal industry and many utilities.


Today more than 130 coal companies, electric utilities, trade associations, other polluting industries, and states are suing the EPA in federal court to obliterate, undermine, or delay these essential health protection standards. A parallel effort is underway to block the mercury reduction rule in the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it this week. This CAP investigation found that these utilities were responsible for 33,000 pounds of mercury and 6.5 billion pounds of smog and acid rain pollution in 2010 alone.


Two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion in 2010, BP will begin (with Obama’s approval) to accelerate drilling operations in even deeper waters off U.S. shores. BP, a foreign company, is the largest lease holder of U.S. oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re investing over $40 billion over the next ten years in exploitation additional oil exploration, atop billions already invested in wells.

More at Rigzone. Follow Climate Adaptation.

As North Carolina lawmakers prepare to pass a bill as soon as this week legalizing fracking for natural gas, they got a visit from a former Texas mayor who shared his cautionary tale about the serious problems the industry brought to his small town.

Calvin Tillman was elected mayor of Dish, Texas — a community of about 200 residents 25 miles north of Fort Worth — in 2007, at a time when fracking was booming in the area. Dish sits atop the Barnett Shale, which is one of the largest natural gas fields in the United States. Ten massive pipelines run through the town, carrying about a billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Tillman spent much of his time in office fighting to regulate the gas companies, which transformed his once-quiet community into a noisy, polluted industrial center. He finally moved away last year after his two young sons began waking in the middle of the night with severe nosebleeds that the family believes were related to toxic air emissions from the drilling operations.

Before Tillman left, he offered to rent his home to a gas company executive so they could see what it was like to live in the industry’s midst.

"None took me up on it," he says.

Tillman, who appeared in the award-winning fracking documentary "Gasland," now works with a nonprofit group he founded called ShaleTest, which does environmental testing for lower-income families and communities affected by natural gas drilling. He visited North Carolina this week to talk about his experiences, meeting with about a dozen state lawmakers.

"I want to let everybody know there’s more to this than they’re being told by the industry," he says.

Entergy Corp shut its 793-megawatt Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan on Tuesday due to leakage from a refueling water tank, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a report.

The company is in the midst of cooling down the reactor in order to make repairs to the refueling water tank, company spokesman Mark Savage told Reuters.

He said that the plant would return to service once repairs were completed, although he did not provide a length of time for the outage.

The tank was believed to be leaking from several locations,the company told the NRC.

The event had no impact on the health and/or safety of the public, the report said.