The problem with plastic

Aug 25, 2019

In his op-ed, which shared his thoughts about plastic, Greg Kozera concedes that our country and our world have a lot of problems, but use of plastics is not one of them. According to Mr. Kozera, this is because plastic has many practical applications and plastic waste can be collected and made into useful products. Mr. Kozera has either chosen to ignore the fact or is unaware that 99 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and mostly caused by human use of fossil fuels. The manufacture and use of plastics is a large part of the problem.

According to a report issued in October 2018 by the International Energy Agency, the main driver of the petrochemical industry’s growing climate footprint will be plastics. Plastic chemicals absorb into the body, 96 percent of Americans 6 and older test positive for BPAs, an industrial chemical used since the 1960s to make certain plastics and resins. Because of this and the environmental damage they cause, plastic bottles and plastic shopping bags have been banned in many cities and countries across the globe. Bamboo and hemp are viable alternatives.

It is not surprising that the director of marketing and sales for shale gas companies would put corporate profits before people and the planet. He also implies that “anti-plastic folks” who are willing to use plastic cell phones, solar panels and other plastic products in their daily lives are against plastic being used in modern medical products and equipment. The reality is that most “antis” would argue that plastic, which is made from a finite product (fossil fuels), should be made only for use in critically important items and not as single-use plastic items such as water bottles, coffee cups, straws, cutlery and shopping bags. It is simple enough to replace these most offending plastic items in our daily lives without a lot of time and effort involved. Also it feels empowering to refuse plastic bags at the stores. There is already too much plastic out there. Collecting plastic waste would help clean the environment but let’s strive for less global warming by not polluting in the first place. Seek non plastic alternatives. Everyone should be as much a part of the solution as possible. Reducing and recycling are the strongest weapons against environmental damage. The planet and your health depend on it.

Giulia Mannarino

Belleville

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action to show documentary about ozone layer

Aug 15, 2019

From staff reports

editoral@newsandsentinel.com

PARKERSBURG — A local group dedicated to educating people about the environment and climate change will present the PBS documentary “Ozone Hole: How We Saved the Planet” at 7 p.m. today at First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave.

The documentary will be presented during the regular Third Thursday meeting of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action. An open discussion session will follow.

Third Thursday programs are open to the public and free of charge.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The international treaty protects the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.

“I think we can learn something about working together to avert a potentially catastrophic planetary environmental issue and apply those lessons to the climate crisis we are facing now,” said Dennis Kennedy of Climate Action and a PBS member. “In the 1980s, the planet was in grave danger, not from global warming but from a giant hole in the ozone layer, an atmospheric layer that absorbs most of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light.”

According to the documentary, scientists have determined the cause was seemingly benign CFCs, industrial chemicals used in every-day products from hairspray to deodorant. Ozone filters ultraviolet radiation and its depletion threatens agriculture and ecosystems.

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action is affiliated with 350.org and Citizens’ Climate Lobby and is a Science Booster Club for the National Center for Science Education. The not-for-profit volunteer group also collaborates with other environmental groups on campaigns and events in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Planning for a diverse economy is not anti-coal

First appearing in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Aug 4, 2019

Emmett Pepper

(Last) Tuesday, the legislature ended business and occupation (B&O) taxes for the Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island. Much of the discussion of the bill revolved around the impact of the tax cut ($12.5 million annually), how many jobs are located there (160), and whether other merchant power plants in the state pay B&O taxes (currently, none others do). But there were two delegates — Del. Bill Anderson (R, Wood) and Del. Evan Hansen (D, Monongalia) — who spoke about a much more interesting and important issue: ensuring a just economic transition in West Virginia.

My interest in Pleasants began a few years ago when the plant’s owner, Ohio-based FirstEnergy, filed an application with the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) to require Mon Power and Potomac Edison ratepayers to pay for operation costs of the plant. Up to that point, Pleasants had to compete on the open market, but market analysis showed it was not economical long-term. I was an attorney for two community groups that sought to protect ratepayers from this costly proposal. Our expert estimated that this plant would lose a total of $470 million over the next fifteen years. The PSC required FirstEnergy to bear the market risks of the Pleasants’ future loses, so FirstEnergy withdrew its request. For that reason, I do not expect the $12.5 million tax break will make the plant profitable, but hopefully the tax cut will give Pleasants County more time to plan for the plant’s seemingly inevitable eventual closure due to free market forces.

Possible plant closures relate directly to the speeches that caught my ear on Monday. Longtime Republican Delegate Bill Anderson not only spoke strongly in favor of the tax break, but also about the importance of planning for the future of this state. He said he believed the legislature had a responsibility to better understand energy market forces and “manage it in such a way that, as the transition occurs in the future — and economic forces are going to drive this transition whether we like it or not — we can move to mitigate the trauma upon the citizens of this state.” Freshman Democratic Delegate Evan Hansen similarly spoke of a “just transition.” He said that, while it is difficult to talk about, we need to think about ways to diversify the economy so we are not as dependent on a few industries, as coal continues to decline in prominence relative to other energy sources.

Diversifying our economy is not anti-coal. It is not anti-anything. It merely means that we as a state should be saying “yes” to more small business economic development and should give more opportunities in a wider array of sectors. What happens to the coal industry depends on factors that are far beyond the control of even the state government. But the state government does have the opportunity to make small, simple changes to help catch us up to other states in small business growth.

I’m familiar with the energy efficiency industry. Our state regulatory environment is ranked 49th in the nation for being energy efficient. For example, very few governmental entities monitor or reduce their energy use, which would save taxpayers money, and our utilities’ energy efficiency programs are lagging or nonexistent. Creating jobs through improving our building stock (paid for through savings on utility bills) makes our homes and businesses more comfortable, more affordable, and safer. There are, I’m sure, many other examples of businesses that could grow here with a few tweaks by state and local governments.

I am hopeful that forward-thinking legislators like Bill Anderson and Evan Hansen will inspire others in government to work together to catch up with our neighbors in economic diversification. We shouldn’t wait until a coal plant or mine closes to create jobs in our communities — we need to start making them now.

***

Emmett Pepper is executive director of Energy Efficient WV, in Charleston.

Climate change no laughing matter

Appearing in The Register-Herald (Beckley, WV):

Tuesday August 6, 2019  GUEST COLUMN by Angie Rosser, executive director of WV Rivers Coalition

The July 26 editorial in the Register-Herald, The Temerity to Address Climate Change, was a breath of fresh air. It is, indeed, time for political leaders at every level of government to follow Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, in acknowledging that the science of human-caused global warming and the resulting, unfolding climate crisis has long been settled.

Although scientific models vary on the pace of change, there is no dispute that change is already underway. To call the fact of rising Earth temperatures mythology, as did Delegate Marshall Wilson on the House floor, is little different from saying the Earth is flat.

Most legislators know it is ridiculous to agree with Mr. Wilson. Still, many remain silent. Climate deniers have become partisan political stand-ins who use words like “science” and “global warming” as fighting words to win points with the industries that support them. We can almost imagine them joking behind closed doors at the audacity to make such statements. But this isn’t funny. This is no laughing matter.

Real laughter is the sound of a young girl landing her first brook trout in the Williams River in the West Virginia highlands, backed up in harmony by her granddad, hooting, “Atta girl!”

Trout fishing is part of life in our state, from growing up to growing old. Rising temperatures are already impacting brook trout. This is due in part to their reliance on coldwater streams, and in part to their inability to compete with the non-native species that thrive in warmer waters. If we don’t stand up and face facts with policies, West Virginians will be robbed of their birthright. Our state fish, the brook trout, could disappear in a generation.

Laughter is the sound of teenagers horsing around in the Elk River, with their towels spread across the rocks along the bank. Some states brag about shopping malls; we have rivers as our playgrounds. Now, increasingly, those rivers are prone to more flooding and have become a danger to downstream communities. The type of storms predicted in the 1970s have become today’s reality. Storms are bigger, sometimes bringing a month of rainfall in an hour. If we don’t enact policies now to slow and halt global warming, future generations could see rivers only in two stages: floods and dries.

Laughter is the sound of lovers of all ages reveling in the romantic views of the hardwoods above the New River ablaze in the colors of autumn. Yes, even love could change – not to mention our leaf-peeping tourist economy. According to some models, pine and scrub oaks will replace many of the eastern hardwoods common throughout West Virginia. What kind of West Virginia would this be then?

We have to get down to business at all levels of government. For local government, this begins with simple steps like committing to cut energy and fuel use. For our governor and legislature, let’s start by investing in transitioning into our future economy. We just gave a power plant $78,000 per job it purported to save (if for only a few years). Our government could surely spend a similar amount of money to begin now to help those workers transition to new employment when those jobs are lost.

At the federal level we need leadership to stand up and be counted, to make sure West Virginia is not left behind as the economics of energy production accelerate the country toward renewable sources.

Indeed, it is time to get serious. Climate change is no laughing matter. Earth’s rising temperatures are already impacting West Virginia. The pace of change is picking up. Our political leaders must get real about the science that puts West Virginia in a losing position. We must step up now to have a fighting chance to beat this in a way that we all win, before it’s too late.

Angie Rosser is the executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and restoring West Virginia’s exceptional rivers and streams. www.wvrivers.org.

An ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy policy

Jul 27, 2019

By David E. Ballantyne

I have, in the recent past, heard many people express the phrase; “I believe in an all of the above approach to energy policy.” It is mostly those persons who self-identify as Conservatives who use this phrase. I fall into that group. I support the phase. It is catchy and somehow “all-American.” How could anyone NOT support such a democratic and capitalist view?

However, I think it important to “unpack” this phrase and define terms as it applies to energy and energy public policy. “All-of-the-Above” implies all of the various commercial, exchangeable forms of energy; coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind. These compete in the marketplace. Your light bulb shines just as bright regardless of which of these “sent the electrons your way.” Consumers evaluate energy primarily on price and reliability; but, they rarely know where the energy truly comes from.

On the other hand, when added all together (transportation, residential heating/cooling, industrial, and all other), energy is a substantial cost to the consumer. However, with the advent of global climate change, there are big differences in the environmental impact among these sources of energy. This difference in climate impact is only recently being understood — related to climate change emissions. Nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind have no climate impact, while coal, oil and natural gas have substantial climate impact. Do we care?

Large and growing segments of the population do care where their energy comes from, including Conservatives. So, how does public policy offer the principles of free enterprise, free & fair trade, let the market decide, don’t pick winners and losers, each paying their fair share, no barriers to trade plus no inappropriate incentives and subsidies, avoiding plus paying for the damage they are doing to the environment? This is a difficult challenge. What is the role of government in public policy to assure the preceding benefits of orderly markets — globally?

A growing majority of Americans plus countries globally are encouraging adoption of “carbon picing.” The principal cause of global climate change is CO2 in the atmosphere. Economists plus climate scientists agree that carbon pricing allows us all to “vote our pocketbook.” CO2 is impartial. Once it reaches the atmosphere it doesn’t care where it comes from. Do you care? If you care, don’t buy it. If you don’t care or can’t avoid it, go ahead. History and experience indicates that carbon pricing, together with rebate/dividend of the revenue to all citizens is the most effective way to encourage innovation, substitution, avoidance and overall reduction in CO2 emissions — globally.

Economists forecast that two-thirds of the US population will receive more in dividend of their share in the carbon fees paid than they will pay in higher carbon prices. There are bills pending in the US congress for various forms of a climate change solution. Most of these include carbon pricing and dividend. We strongly need a climate solution. It�s time for bipartisan bargaining.

David E. Ballantyne is a ember of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action and co-leader of the Marietta Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action sets Earth Day events

Apr 18, 2019

From staff reports

editoral@newsandsentinel.com

PARKERSBURG — Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action has announced plans for Earth Day events.

Activities include the presentation of the National Geographic documentary, “Paris to Pittsburgh,” 7 p.m. today in the fellowship hall of the First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave.

Climate Action will have a display at the Marietta Earth Day Celebration 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Armory Square.

On National Earth Day, Climate Action will have a table at Earth Day on Monday at West Virginia University-Parkersburg where it also will sponsor a 1 p.m. showing of “The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilization?”, a film looking at economist David Fleming’s answers to creating a resilient, thriving world.

Climate Action’s Third Thursday programs are open to the public and free of charge.

Wake up to the reality of climate change

Apr 17, 2019

As we approach Earth Day on April 22, I am thinking about the first Earth Day as a teach-in by Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin to draw attention to what was happening to our earth after a huge oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1969; the burning of the Cuyahoga River; the smog in our large cities, etc. On Dec. 2, 1970, the Nixon administration signed into law a newly formed agency of the federal government, which was to improve water treatment plants, set standards for vehicle emissions, reduce automobile pollution, seek regulations concerning the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes, clean up the foul air and water, etc.

Well, 49 years later and many more oil spills, contaminated water in Flint, Mich., and West Virginia as well as many other states — we are going backward especially since Jan. 20, 2017. With the more intense storms, droughts, fires, you would think people would begin to put two and two together that the climate is changing.

Why won’t people accept the findings of scientists? Why won’t Catholic Christians especially in this area listen to the Pope, who is a scientist and representative of the founder of the Catholic Church? In 2015 Pope Francis invited all to “care for our common home” in his encyclical, “Laudato Si.” When the current president visited the Pope, he was presented with a copy of the encyclical.

Sadly, it was not read by the president and he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. The Environmental Protection Agency, under this administration, is rolling back regulations on air and water quality, as we have seen devastating hurricanes hitting the east coast, Puerto Rico, Florida, Alabama, and now the widespread flooding in the breadbasket of our country.

Many of our senators and representatives applaud the rollback so fossil fuel companies can make more money.

People wake up. Scientists say we have 12 years to make a difference. People make fun of the Green New Deal Proposal. In what kind of world do you want your children and grandchildren to exist?

The United Nations’ weather agency says extreme weather last year hit 62 million people worldwide and forced two million people to relocate as man-made climate change worsened.

The theme of Earth Day 2019, which is Protect our Species, “grew out of the recognition that human activities (climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution, and pesticides) are the leading causes of what Elizabeth Kolbert calls the Sixth Extinction, which may well be our own.”

Margaret Meeker

Williamstown

WVU-P Ecohawks to host Earth Day event

Apr 16, 2019

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s student environmental group, the Ecohawks, will host an Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 22 in the College Activities Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The Ecohawks will teach local elementary school children the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling. There will be reading and coloring stations, tree and vegetable seedling giveaways, educational games and a Smokey Bear meet-and-greet.

“We have an obligation to take care of the world we share,” said Ecohawks adviser Valerie Keinath. “The WVU Parkersburg Ecohawks hope to inspire and encourage others to find beauty in nature and become more conscious about their environmental impact as to preserve that beauty.”

Other individuals, groups and organizations providing environmental resources and materials are Friends of the Lower Muskingum, Keep Wayne Wild, author Callie Lyons, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, pollinator garden specialist Rebecca Phillips, Raccoon Creek Conservation group (AmeriCorps) and the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Guests will have the chance to view screenings of “The Toxic Tour” presented by Lyons and “The Sequel” presented by the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action Group.

For more information, contact Valerie Keinath at vkeinart@wvup.edu or 1-304-424-8327.

Humans drive climate change

Apr 14, 2019

A study out in March in the British peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change showed that anthropogenic (human-caused) global climate change is a virtual certainty. Global scientists are 99.9999 percent sure, according to the study, that humans are the cause of global climate change, leaving only a one-in-a-million chance that we are not the cause. This is referred to as attaining the “gold standard” of certainty. Study lead author Benjamin Santer with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory stated “. . . the narrative out there that scientists don’t know the cause of climate change is wrong.”

This “gold standard” of certainty is a measure normally reserved for particle physics, such as the certainty of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle confirmed in 2012. Technically speaking, the scientific conclusion is stronger than a one-in-a-million chance. This result reaches what is referred to as the 5-sigma confidence level. This means that if the result were due to chance and the experiment determining its cause were repeated 3.5 million times then it would be expected to see the strength of the conclusion in the result no more than once. In short, five-sigma corresponds to a probability of about 1 in 3.5 million that global warming is not human-caused.

Bottom line: the discussion has moved past questions about whether global climate change is happening and whether it is caused by human beings. The answer to both is unequivocally and emphatically yes. The next logical question pertains to urgency, though that has been answered as well. For example, to quote from the Center for Climate and Security:

“The Trump Administration alone has issued three Worldwide Threat Assessments that acknowledge the security risks of climate change, three Department of Defense reports on climate change, three GAO [Government Accountability Office] reports on climate and security, and a USAID report on global fragility and climate risks. All have been produced through comprehensive processes with rigorous reviews. President Trump also signed into law a 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that stated: Changing climate is a ‘direct threat’ to U.S. national security. Further, at least twenty-one senior defense officials during the current Administration have publicly highlighted the security risks of climate change, including the former Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The time to act is right now and the best way to act is through a Green New Deal, which represents a number of solutions that combined reach the scale of the problem. Let’s get to work addressing this dire, global issue and ignore the climate deniers and climate delayers with their heads in the sand. Posterity will judge us by what we do right now!

Eric Engle

Chairman

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action

Fourth annual W.Va. Solar Congress coming to Charleston

  • By Clint Thomas Metro staff
  • Apr 11, 2019

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The fourth annual West Virginia Solar Congress will meet from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in downtown Charleston.

The West Virginia Solar Congress is a free, public conference designed for solar energy supporters from around the Mountain State to learn and share information. Along with a series of presentations and policy topics regarding solar technology, the event will conclude with a participatory open forum for all attendees to discuss priorities and opportunities in West Virginia.

The Solar Congress agenda includes:

9:30-10 a.m.: Registration. Breakfast will be provided.

10-10:20 a.m.: Opening remarks by Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia Program Director Autumn Long.

10:30-11:20 a.m.: The first session of breakout presentations, which includes:

• Option 1: Introduction to Solar PV

Participants will be told about the basics of solar PV technology and ways to reduce their energy costs by going solar. They will also have an opportunity to join the Charleston-Huntington Solar Co-op and become a member of Solar United Neighbors. Long will oversee this program.

“Our solar co-ops are essentially local buying clubs that folks can join to go solar together with our assistance and guidance,” Long explained last week. “As a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people go solar, join together and fight for their energy rights, our co-ops are free to join, with no obligation to go solar.”

Long said the Charleston-Huntington Solar Co-op will be open to residents and businesses throughout the Kanawha Valley and Metro Valley region.

“We provide a series of free public education opportunities throughout the co-op area,” she said, “and once at least two dozen people have joined the group, we solicit bids from local solar installers to service the co-op. Co-op members select a single installer to service everyone in the group, so everyone receives the same competitive pricing and high-quality equipment options. We are there every step of the way to serve as a consumer advocate and help our co-op members navigate the entire process of going solar.”

• Option 2: Capturing the Solar Dollar: Sustainable economic development opportunities in West Virginia from investments in solar.

From locally owned business and employment opportunities to large-scale corporate investment in the state, participants will learn about the economic development opportunities solar can provide for West Virginians. Joey James of Downstream Strategies and Hannah Vargason of Natural Capital Investment Fund will be the session leaders.

11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: The second session of breakout presentations, which includes:

• Option 1: Electric Vehicles and Driving on Sunshine: Turning light into light speed

Electric cars and solar-powered homes have arrived in West Virginia. West Virginia Electric Auto Association President Marty Weirick will lead this program, joined by Robert Fernatt, a solar homeowner, electric-vehicle driver and advisory board member of the Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia, will discuss the technologies.

• Option 2: Solar Policy Priorities for West Virginia

James Van Nostrand, director of the West Virginia University College of Law Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, will conduct this program. He will discuss pro-solar policies from around the nation that could be beneficial in West Virginia, including the West Virginians for Energy Freedom campaign to legalize power purchase agreements for on-site, renewable energy-generation facilities in the state. Long will also take part in the program.

12:30-1:20 p.m.: Lunch and informal networking. During this time, a solar trivia game will be played and electric vehicles will be on display outside the Coliseum and Convention Center’s main entrance.

1:30-2:20 p.m.: The third session of breakout presentations will get underway, including:

• Option 1: Energy Efficiency for the Home and Business

Energy efficiency in conjunction with renewable energy generation will compound savings, can minimize upfront system costs and will improve the comfort of the home. In this presentation, Xavier Walter, co-director of Energy Efficient West Virginia, will explain how energy efficiency bridges the gap between energy production and consumption while ensuring adequate indoor air quality and reduced reliance on the power grid.

• Option 2: Solar + Storage

Residential and commercial energy storage systems are becoming more common and affordable. Participants will learn how battery storage works and how it interacts with the energy produced from solar. Long will conduct this program.

2:30-3 p.m.: Solar owner panel discussion

Local solar owners will share their experiences of going solar at their homes. Speakers will include Paul Hayes of Marmet, Robin Blakeman of Huntington, Robert Fernatt of Falling Waters and Steve Wellons of Charleston.

Hayes said he became involved with the Solar United Neighbors co-op in Kanawha County because, “I wanted to be able to predict my costs for my energy use and that was one way to do. If I have solar, a certain percentage of my bill will be taken care of because of the power I get from the sun.”

Hayes said the installation of 36 solar panels on the hillside behind his Marmet home was completed three-and-a-half years ago.

“When they built my project, I said I didn’t want a power bill.”

He said his panels provide approximately 70 percent of his overall energy use. “The reason for that is twofold,” he said. “When you get solar panels, they told me, you often pay more attention to how much energy you’re using and you’re able to decrease the amount, because you’re more mindful of what you’re using. Secondly, if you have it for 100 percent of your energy, that increases the price significantly.”

Hayes said he has witnessed a surge in solar as a more common energy source in the Mountain State. “I see a lot more solar in West Virginia than in some states in the West even,” he said. “A lot of people are curious about it, and some people have made the step towards it. I just encourage people to understand when the price of their energy goes up, my prices are not increasing.”

3-3:30 p.m.: Open forum, facilitated by Long.

4:30-6 p.m.: Post-Congress Happy Hour.

To RSVP for the Solar Congress or read more about the gathering and the organization, visit www.solarunitedneighbors.org