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June 30, 2016
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Mixed Greens

A policy puzzle

There’s a network of renewable energy mavens at work across New York State, pouncing on each new official plan, hoping for wise energy policy and formulating thoughtful responses shared through the public comment process. Everyone sprang into action on April 19 when the New York State Public Service Commission issued “The Clean Energy Standard,” a staff white paper that outlines strategies for meeting renewable energy goals laid out in the New York State Energy Plan.  Read more

Citizens at work

On April 27, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced plans to expand air-quality monitoring near shale-gas compressor stations. The announcement came just five days after the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) published a report on the results of EPA air monitoring around a Williams Central natural gas compressor station in Brooklyn Township, Susquehanna County.  Read more

A question of values

Climate scientists and economists have developed some pretty good models for calculating the economic impact of climate change and the cost of delayed action. A 2014 meta-analysis of 16 peer-reviewed studies by the White House Council of Economic Advisors projected that the cost of mitigating climate change increases by 40% for each decade of delay in meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.  Read more

Out of sight, out of mind

The trend in consumer protection seems to be “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” For example, look at Senate Bill 2609, nicknamed the DARK Act (“Denying Americans the Right to Know”), legislation that would void state laws passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine that require labeling of genetically modified foods, and would even make it illegal to label products GMO-free until guidelines are developed at some unspecified future date. Last week the Senate Agricultural Committee approved the bill for a full vote.  Read more

Hinges of destiny

In 2011 and 2012, the towns of Bethel, Forestburgh, Highland, Lumberland and Tusten in New York State enacted zoning laws banning a host of environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure related to gas drilling. It was the culmination of five years of sustained citizen effort to educate ourselves and persuade our town officials that we had the authority and the obligation to take action.  Read more

A world of possibilities

Opportunities for solar development are evolving so rapidly In New York State, it’s hard to keep up with all of the initiatives on offer. According to NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, solar is expanding in New York at three times the national rate of growth.  Read more

Operating on faith

During the 20 years I lived in Manhattan, I cherished what I came to call the Christmas truce. Whether it was the excessive holiday decorations, the ubiquitous Christmas carols or simple nostalgia, the bustle of the holidays seemed to bring a softening of the protective urban shell, as if the season allowed us be the nice, trusting people we always knew we were.  Read more

Turning the tide

I felt relief and gratitude last Friday when President Obama rejected the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. After years of debate about TransCanada’s proposed 1,179 mile pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil (also called bitumen or heavy sour crude) from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast, the President stated decisively that the project was not in the best interests of the U.S., either economically or environmentally.  Read more

Tricks and treats

Like a child’s haul of candy on Halloween, the environmental news over the past few months has been a mixed bag. First the treats, starting with the news that 36 companies around the world have pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy, some as soon as 2020. Last month nine additional companies took the pledge, including Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Proctor & Gamble and Starbucks. The pledge, called RE100, was introduced by The Climate Group, an international non-profit, to highlight the investment that forward-looking companies are making in addressing climate change.  Read more

Timeless

Last month I finally found the time to visit Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1936 masterpiece in western Pennsylvania. I’ve been looking at pictures of this famous house since I was in my twenties, so I thought I knew what to expect and how I would feel about it. But, like many iconic places, this one defied my expectations and delivered a more complex and visceral experience than I had anticipated.  Read more