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The European Pillar of Social Rights: Bridging the gaps or falling short?

European Trade Union Institute - 3 hours 40 min ago
The events surrounding the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) are approaching a conclusion, with an agreement in the Council to be expected in the coming days and the proclamation planned for the 17th of November in Gothenburg. Therefore, the time is ripe to reflect on whether the EPSR, also called ‘the last chance for social Europe’ by some, will deliver what is expected?

Work in the digital economy in 2030

European Trade Union Institute - 3 hours 40 min ago
On 20 and 21 June 2017, the ETUI Foresight Unit organised its first prospective seminar on the theme "Work in the digital economy in 2030". For two days, some twenty researchers, mainly academics but also from trade unions, from different countries of the European Union and experts in the fields of digitisation of the economy met in Brussels, at ETUI's premises, to discuss and debate possible scenarios.

Call for Comments: Paying minimum wage on online labor platforms

European Trade Union Institute - 3 hours 40 min ago
Should online labor platforms have minimum wages? What should they be? How should they be enforced? Should workers on the same platform in different countries have different minimum wages? Are different minimum wage schemes needed for different kinds of platforms?

The return of nuclear nightmares

Rabble - 3 hours 53 min ago
Political ActionPolitics in CanadaTechnologyUS Politics

The first age of nuclear nightmares came in the 1950s and 1960s. They chiefly afflicted the young. Their parents had experienced nuclear realities by way of bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was part of a war, and ended it. It was normalized and rational, though in a basically ungraspable way.

Their kids grew up in a peaceful world haunted by nuclear terrors. Their teachers taught them to "duck and cover" beneath their desks if they saw the nuclear flash. They had nightmares (and waking ones) of it. The only moment of apparent imminence came during the 1962 Cuba Missile Crisis. It all receded gradually, via détente, a non-proliferation treaty and the Cold War's demise.

Now it's back. The minds of the young (in particular) are haunted by nuclear annihilation. If, at this moment, as you're reading, you saw a nuclear flash illuminate the sky, you'd be shattered but not surprised. It's there again as imminent, due largely, but not solely, to Trump. Why not solely? Because generations of earlier leaders failed to act to eliminate those weapons and instead built dazzling models of international relations based on them. Trump has arrived, in a way, to demonstrate the true meaning of their bullshit.

Why especially among youth? They have a future but no (adult) past, and fear they won't live to see it. The rest of us have already had lives we steered ourselves. "Do you think God can exist in a world with nuclear weapons?" asked a millennial -- not hysterically, matter-of-factly. They are a quirky demographic.

Along with daily, waking horrors, come new ways to think about politics. I had a friend, the late Art Pape, who left university in his second year, in 1962, to become Canada's first full time worker for nuclear disarmament. It seemed daring then. Later that image morphed into elderly white people in Birkenstocks demonstrating outside nuclear facilities and looking like Jeremy Corbyn.

Now, remarkably, Corbyn is young again! In a U.K. parliamentary debate on renewing the Trident missile system, he was pilloried by his political and media peers for saying, "I do not believe the threat of mass murder is a legitimate way to go about dealing with international relations."

Another millennial I know was inspired, almost transported, by those words. Corbyn has been saying them in some form for half a century. The respectable voices in politics and public discourse simply snicker at his phrasing. But when the young hear it, in sober, adult forums, it gives them hope: they aren't alone.

In fact, what Corbyn says is entirely sensible, it's pure reason, and when the nuclear flash happens, and the skin is dripping off the faces of vast urban populations, everyone will suddenly get it. The sages of Mutual Assured Destruction will smack their own foreheads and say, "How did we miss that?"

Other signs of anti-nuke renewal? Last summer, almost two-thirds of UN members passed a non-binding ban on nuclear weapons. Did you know there was no such thing? The nuclear non-proliferation treaty way back in 1968 tried to prevent new nukers but left original possessors (the Security Council five plus Israel, with India and Pakistan since) untouched.

There's a hilarious clause by which they're supposed to work "in good faith" to eliminate their arsenals. The new ban is meant to "stigmatize" nuclear weapons, a weird idea. Rape and cannibalism don't need stigmatization (or far less). Chemical and biological weapons and anti-personnel mines are already illegal. The Nobel Peace Prize this year went to the nuke-banning campaign.

The U.S., U.K. and France chorused, "We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party," since a ban "is incompatible with...nuclear deterrence" which makes us so secure. They sounded petulant, like they'd taken Trump lessons.

Tell it to the young, watching through the terrifying prism of Trump. Maybe the next step in nuclear deterrence should be a Trump non-proliferation treaty.

Where does Canada stand? Nowhere. Didn't attend UN sessions or support the ban. Certainly didn't want to irk the U.S. in the midst of our brilliant, sunny effort to cling to NAFTA.

Also: Trudeau's government, for obscure reasons, wants desperately to win a 2019 seat on the Security Council. There it could be a "moderating" voice for causes like global peace. So it declines to speak out on the defining peace issue of the age. You figure it out.

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: National Nuclear Security Administration/Wikimedia Commons

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nuclear arms controlarms raceU.S. politicsDonald TrumpRick SalutinOctober 20, 2017Canada was never a 'nuclear nag'Canada wasn't a 'nuclear nag.' If one were to rank the world's 200 countries in order of their contribution to the nuclear arms race Canada would fall just behind the nine nuclear armed states.U.S. restarts nuclear arms race with massive new weapons programU.S. President Barack Obama recently announced a 30-year, $1-trillion program to modernize the U.S. nuclear-weapon arsenal, also known as the "Trillion Dollar Trainwreck."Canada now a hawk on nuclear arms proliferationCanada's recent failure to step up for the UN vote banning nuclear weapons is just the latest in a series of bewildering decisions.
Categories: Class Struggle

Is It Time to Reassess Current Safety Standards for Glyphosate-Based Herbicides?

Organic Consumers Association - 4 hours 44 min ago

Glyphosate is an active ingredient in a number of commercially available herbicides, including several that are used in concert with genetically modified crops. Methods used in environmental health sciences to examine the potential health effects of chemicals, including pesticides, have undergone substantial changes over the past 30 years. We are concerned that the assays used to assess glyphosate safety, including the toxicity studies requested by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009, may be insufficient to address the full complement of health effects that could be induced by exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs).

Categories: Food and Farming

Is It Time to Reassess Current Safety Standards for Glyphosate-Based Herbicides?

Organic Consumers Association - 4 hours 44 min ago

Glyphosate is an active ingredient in a number of commercially available herbicides, including several that are used in concert with genetically modified crops. Methods used in environmental health sciences to examine the potential health effects of chemicals, including pesticides, have undergone substantial changes over the past 30 years. We are concerned that the assays used to assess glyphosate safety, including the toxicity studies requested by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009, may be insufficient to address the full complement of health effects that could be induced by exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs).

Categories: Food and Farming

Harmony is over its near-death experience

Papua New Guinea Mine Watch - 5 hours 43 min ago

Harmony Gold CEO Peter Steenkamp. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Allan Seccombe | Business Day | 20 October 2017

Harmony Gold’s recovery from a “near-death experience” a few years ago was further evidenced by its bold R4.1bn purchase of a suite of gold and uranium assets from AngloGold Ashanti and positioning the company to make a decision on what to do with the Golpu copper and gold project in Papua New Guinea.

Harmony CEO Peter Steenkamp hailed the purchase of the profitable Moab Khotsong mine and its sister Great Noligwa mine, which was mothballed, along with 70-million tonnes of gold-carrying tailings and the entire Nufcor — SA’s only uranium calcining operation, which treats material from Moab and third parties.

Nufcor is SA’s only uranium calcining operation, which treats material from Moab and third parties.

“When I got the job two years ago, Harmony was in very big trouble. It had very high levels of debt of R5bn, half its market capitalisation.

“It had a near-death experience, but since then we’ve stabilised our production at 1-million ounces a year, a sustainable level, we’ve done good acquisitions at Hidden Valley in Papua New Guinea and now these assets from AngloGold,” Steenkamp said.

Analysts said Harmony was paying a full price for the AngloGold assets, including Nufcor, which Steenkamp said he doubted Harmony would keep considering the prevailing low uranium price of about $20 per pound.

“There is lots of value that can be unlocked, but this will require capital and a bit more risk in terms of mining, as a lot of this upside will come from mining pillars not in the AngloGold plan,” said Nedbank mining analyst Arnold van Graan.

“Pillar mining obviously carries a higher safety risk, but Harmony is expert in pillar mining. From the market’s perspective though, there is probably a perception that the risk increases,” Van Graan said.

While the purchase of the cash-generative Moab puts Harmony in a better position when it comes to deciding on Golpu, Steenkamp sounded an unusually noncommittal note when referring to a great asset and one for which a final feasibility study is under way and due for completion in 2018.

“If we have to put 50% of the capital in we will never have that kind of money.

“If the Papua New Guinea government takes their 30% of Golpu, then we can have a look at what we have.

“Everyone sees Golpu as a threat for Harmony, but it’s not. It’s an opportunity. We could sell right out of Golpu, or we could remain partially in the project or keep our full stake,” Steenkamp said.


Categories: Coal and Mining

Jessica Ernst Videos 2017

Love Leitrim - 6 hours 5 min ago

Jessica Ernst speaking in Glenfarne on Global Frackdown Day 2017

Despite the onslaught of Hurricane Ophelia, Jessica Ernst spoke in Enniskillen on Tuesday night at Fermanagh House. Followng this Jessica travelled to Milton Rooms, Malton, North Yorkshire. Videos of the events have been uploaded to youtube and links are available below.

Enniskillen talk, October 17, 2017, after storm ophelia:
part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCzYcc5Qfas

part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dj-72p6fn8

part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqUnSvcb3wY

part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGB1QVEtw54

Malton England talk, October 9, 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PS_siEUMfo

Trump to Sacrifice 4,500 Acres of Greater Chaco for Fracking

WildEarth Guardians - 6 hours 30 min ago

Conservation Groups Fight to Overturn Plans to Auction Public and Tribal Lands to the Oil and Gas Industry

Additional contacts:
Rebecca Sobel, (505) 216-6826, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
Rebecca Fischer, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org

SANTA FE, NM - Today, in defense of clean air, clean water, healthy communities, and our climate, a coalition of conservation groups called on Trump’s Bureau of Land Management to reverse plans to auction off public and Tribal lands in the Greater Chaco region to the oil and gas industry. The BLM is moving ahead with plans to sell more public and Tribal lands for fracking in the area despite intense opposition from conservation and Tribal interests. 

"Once again, Trump and Zinke have failed the American public by declining to disclose the true costs of fossil fuel development on our communities, air, water and climate," said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. "Under Trump, the BLM’s sole job these days seems to be to grease the skids for the oil and gas industry to frack and industrialize the Greater Chaco Region.”

WildEarth Guardians, joined by the Western Environmental Law Center, Amigos Bravos, Chaco Alliance, Dine Citizens Against Our Ruining Our Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Sierra Club, opposed the BLM and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) plans to auction off 25 parcels containing 4,434 acres of publicly owned land to the fracking industry at the March 8, 2018 oil and gas lease sale.

The leases are located near the homes of Navajo residents and just outside a 10-mile buffer from Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. It’s as if the Bureau of Land Management couldn’t care less about the concerns of the Navajo Nation or any Tribal interests. Trump and Zinke have continued to rubberstamp industry demands to industrialize this sacred landscape in spite of calls from the Navajo Nation and the All Pueblo Council of Governors for a moratorium on fracking in the Greater Chaco region.

“It’s obvious that this lease sale is another slap in the face to the Navajo Nation and New Mexican Pueblos from President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke,” said Nichols. “More importantly, it’s another sign that Trump and Zinke have absolute disregard for American public lands and the cultural heritage they sustain.”

A growing coalition of Indigenous, environmental, and public health groups have called for immediate relief for the area on multiple occasions. While the BLM and BIA intend to develop a new plan to protect Greater Chaco, it’s increasingly clear the agencies may have no intention of following through, effectively breaking their promises to the Navajo Nation and the American public.

 The Greater Chaco area is already besieged by fossil fuel development. The region hosts the nation’s largest methane hotspot as a direct result of oil and gas activities. In 2016, San Juan County received an "F" from the American Lung Association for ground-level ozone (smog) pollution, responsible for over 12,000 asthma attacks in New Mexican children each year. 

On a regular basis there are oil and gas disasters - gas tank explosions, water tank explosions (associated with gas production), ruptures, leaks, spills, earthquakes, and air, soil and water contamination. In July 2016, a well pad near the Nageezi Chapter House exploded and burned for days, killing livestock and requiring local residents to evacuate. 

“While the Bureau of Land Management has admitted new analysis is required to understand the landscape level impacts from fracking in the Greater Chaco region, the agency, abetted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, shamelessly continues to authorize more industrialized fracking development absent that understanding,” added Nichols. “This administration has turned a blind eye to the harms that widespread fracking is causing on our public lands. This latest boilerplate analysis continues the trend of BLM rushing to bend over backwards for industry, rather than performing adequate analyses as required by federal law.” 

A map of the oil and gas leases is available here

A copy of the submitted comments is available here

Categories: Local Watchdog Groups

Kenya’s Electoral Paralysis: A Democratic Cul-de-sac and A Recipe for Violence?

The North Star - 6 hours 36 min ago
Police disperse NASA protestors in Nairobi CBD, Oct 7. Source; Reuters On August 8, almost 19.6 million Kenyans went to over 40,000 polling stations across the country to exercise their democratic rights enshrined in the new constitution to elect their counties and national leaders. Rancid electoral campaign rhetoric had preceded the elections as the international […]
Categories: Class Struggle

Signs of lasting trauma in people evicted to make way for giant mine in Ecuador

Papua New Guinea Mine Watch - 6 hours 40 min ago

Shuar women have been the sole residents of Tsuntsuim since most of the men have gone into hiding following warrants for their arrest after they fought against eviction from the village. Photograph: Kimberley Brown

Battles with the government and army over land and mining rights has caused indigenous Shuar people long-term psychological damage, report says

Kimberley Brown | The Guardian | 17 October 2017

Months after they were evicted from their homes to make way for a mine, almost half the population of an Ecuadorian village is suffering from psychological damage, experts have said.

Psychiatrists found 42% of the indigenous Shuar people of Tsuntsuim village suffering from mental health problems and trauma. Many of the villagers had been involved in violent confrontations with Ecuador’s military as they were removed from their homes.

The mental ordeal has manifested itself in depression, severe headaches, insomnia, tremors and tachycardia (a racing heart rate). Trauma caused by the displacement and anxiety about what would happen to them next were the main triggers for these symptoms, said the authors of the report, which was released by a group of doctors, psychiatrists and indigenous rights activists.

Children were particularly traumatised by the noise of the helicopters and drones that had circled overhead during the eviction, according to medical researchers.

Residents said the soldiers destroyed crops and set animals loose. “They were left without any kind of economic or food options and were pushed into forced migration,” said Fernanda Solíz, one of the report’s authors and a doctor with the Movement for the Health of the Peoples of Latin America. “This is a process of impoverishment and a loss of subsistence and sovereignty.”

People began returning to their homes in Tsuntsuim in May, five months after they were forcibly removed, when military and police abandoned their posts there. Photograph: Kimberley Brown

Tsuntsuim is one of the latest communities affected by Ecuador’s mining industry, which is being promoted as necessary for growth in the developing nation. According to Ecuadorian law, everything in the ground belongs to the state. The money earned from extracting its bounty – be it minerals or petroleum – funds public services.

But researchers say the opposite is true. “This development model impacts communities,” said Erika Arteaga, a doctor with the Latin American Association of Social Medicine (Alames), a co-author of the report. “The mine displaces people, and the impact is direct. It’s this industry that makes children lack nutrition.”

The territorial conflict around Tsuntsuim peaked in August 2016 when those living in the Shuar village of Nankints were forcibly evicted from their homes by the army because they were living on the site for the planned San Carlos Panantza copper mine.

Ecuadorian government officials claim the Shuar had no land rights and were living there illegally, while the Shuar community claim the region as part of their ancestral land.

After the eviction, residents made several attempts to re-enter Nankints leading to an aggressive standoff with the authorities in December 2016. The then president, Rafael Correa, called a state of emergency in the province of Morona Santiago and sent in extra forces, who raided homes and made several arrests in Tsuntsuim, where most of the people from Nankints had fled. Nankints is now a military protected mining camp, surrounded by barbed-wire fencing.

“We suffered a lot,” said Maria Natalia Nankamai, who was chased out of both Nankints and Tsuntsuim. “The kids were screaming when the helicopters flew overhead, but we couldn’t do anything.” She stayed with relatives for months before moving back to Tsuntsuim in May.

Shuar children who returned with their families play in Tsuntsuim. Photograph: Kimberley Brown

The Shuar have been resisting major development projects in the area for more than 10 years – not only to save their homes but also because they have begun to benefit from mining for gold on a small scale.

Guillermo Nayash, a local resident, said artisanal mining allows him to work independently and under better conditions than working in a large mining company, or doing manual labour in the cities.

But small-scale mining continues to be controversial among community members – many believe the rights of nature and sustainability should come first.

Tensions in the region have recently subsided as the Panantza copper mine project has stalled. The Shuar hope they can reach a deal with the new government of Lenín Moreno – who became president in May – to stop its development.

The Ecuadorian government did not respond to a request by the Guardian to comment.


Categories: Coal and Mining

The U.S. could have avoided Puerto Rico’s water crisis

Grist - 7 hours 22 min ago

The numbers associated with the current situation in Puerto Rico, one month after Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory, are baffling.

More than 2.5 million residents are still without power. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is able to offer 200,000 meals to Puerto Ricans daily — but it needs to feed 2 million people. Perhaps most baffling, or at least exasperating, President Donald Trump gives himself a perfect 10 for his response to the storm’s aftermath.

One of the most pressing issues on the island is access to clean water. Officials estimate that more than 1 in 3 residents in Puerto Rico doesn’t have it. Aid agencies on the ground say the number is closer to 1 in 2. Families are drinking water contaminated with sewage and dead animals. Others are drawing from toxic Superfund sites. There have been at least 10 cases of leptospirosis from drinking contaminated water — and officials are investigating four deaths which may have been caused by waterborne bacteria.

Simply put, this is an ongoing public health crisis.

Puerto Rico was in a tough spot before Maria tore through the Caribbean island. Economic and political factors complicated disaster response: The territory was already facing a debt crisis. And limited local resources and poor roads made it difficult to get supplies to storm survivors.

But aid agencies and relief experts believe the current predicament could have been avoided. There are international standards and a clear blueprint for how to get safe water to people after a disaster. But so far, the federal response has failed in providing both immediate help and longer-term solutions — and part of the reason for that could boil down to discrimination.

“We’re a very capable nation, yet we don’t seem to have deployed our capabilities in this instance,” says John Mutter, a Columbia University professor and international disaster relief expert. “This isn’t rocket science. We know what we’re supposed to do. The fact that we’re not doing it needs explanation.”

According to the relief organization Oxfam, the minimum standards for disaster response have not been met. The aid group follows Sphere minimum standards — a set of universal benchmarks for humanitarian responses established in 1997 — which require, for instance, four gallons of water to be provided per day per person for bathing, cooking, and drinking. The water should be delivered in safe containers through water trucks, water bladders, or filters. And initial assistance is supposed to arrive within three to five days after a disaster.

In this case, there has not been enough overall coordination of relief, according to Martha Thompson, Oxfam America’s program coordinator for disaster response in Puerto Rico. Truck deliveries of bottled water are sporadic, and she says that the military has sent water trucks to several sites without providing clean containers to safeguard the water.

U.S. Northern Command, which is coordinating the military’s aid efforts in Puerto Rico, confirmed reports that people are using potentially contaminated containers — often washed out detergent bottles — to collect water. In response, it’s distributing five-gallon collapsable buckets to residents to avoid the possibility of clean water being contaminated by dirty receptacles.

“The military is focused on delivering safe and drinkable water,” says Navy Lieutenant Sean McNevin. “We are very concerned about the safety of Puerto Ricans affected by the hurricane and we’ll make those recommendations and adjustments to what we deliver based on what we know on the ground.”

According to Peter Gleick, a climate and water scientist with the Bay Area public policy nonprofit the Pacific Institute, the U.S. government could have taken steps prior to or immediately after Maria hit Puerto Rico to speed up recovery. Within days of the storm’s landfall, Gleick recommended that the United States quickly move military assets, like desalination units that pull salt out of ocean water, to the islands.

I urge the U.S. to send an aircraft carrier to Puerto Rico for the airstrip, but especially the #water desalination capacity

— Peter Gleick (@PeterGleick) September 22, 2017

He adds that there should be more aggressive water testing to assure residents that they are using safe water sources. “The idea that there are communities forced to take water from wells on Superfund sites is completely inexcusable,” Gleick says.

On Thursday, CNN reported that Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech environmental engineer who ran tests on the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, had concluded that samples taken from wells at the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site, near Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan, were safe to drink.

Still, residents searching for water on toxic sites or relying on bottled water are the sort of problems the aid community says should have been dealt with long before the one-month mark. Recovery efforts should be transitioning into more sustainable long-term solutions.

“It’s unacceptable that people are still depending on water bottle deliveries for day-to-day survival,” says Oxfam’s Thompson, adding that people continue to fear that future shipments won’t arrive.

By now, what’s needed are water filters and solar-powered generators that communities can use to run pumps to access wells. There also needs to be significant improvement to the territory’s municipal water system, which wasn’t in great shape before the storm hit.

Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council published a report that found that Puerto Rico had the highest rate of drinking water violations of any state or territory in the United States.

“There’s a question as to whether or not the population was receiving safe drinking water before the storm,” says Adrianna Quintero, NRDC’s director of partner engagement. “So we can only expect that it’s going to be worse post-storm.”

The island’s current safe water shortage is closely tied to power outages, says Peter Gleick. With more than 70 percent of the island lacking power, he says, wastewater treatment and water delivery systems have stalled out.

“This isn’t just a water problem,” Gleick says. “It’s an energy problem.”

Ultimately, Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory might be behind its slow recovery. As part of the United States, the island hasn’t seen the type of international aid that an independent developing country might receive. And yet Puerto Ricans have had to assert their U.S. citizenship to a federal government that allocates them no say in the electoral college or a Congress representative who can vote on legislation.

“There’s this idea that these are not American citizens who are going through this, which is blatantly false,” Quintero says. “I think there’s an element of discrimination there.”

According to Columbia’s Mutter, FEMA’s response to hurricanes Harvey in Houston and Irma in Florida seemed to show that it had learned its lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Critics attributed the agency’s slow response to the 2005 storm and the resulting humanitarian emergency in part to the fact that they affected a primarily black and poor population.

“Now it just seems like they’ve forgotten their lessons,” Mutter says about FEMA. “It seems callous, but it looks like maybe they don’t care as much about Puerto Rico.”

FEMA did not respond to requests for comment.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló seemed to agree with Mutter when he met with President Trump in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “Give the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico the adequate resources,” Rosselló pleaded. “Treat us the same as citizens in Texas and Florida and elsewhere.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The U.S. could have avoided Puerto Rico’s water crisis on Oct 20, 2017.

Categories: Green News

Sandy 5 Years Later: Is the Northeast Closer to Grid Resilience?

Greentech Media: Headlines - 7 hours 35 min ago

In the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Northeastern states published resilience reports, action plans and infrastructure goals galore. The storm was devastating, but next time, they said, they’d do better. 

Five years later, the recovery effort shows rebuilding takes serious time. After Sandy, "resilience" became a buzzword and a promise to ensure the grid could stand up to nature’s perils. But with recent disasters in the Caribbean, the Southeast and California, it’s becoming even clearer how much work remains to build that newer, sturdier grid.

“The whole hardening arena becomes a lot more complicated and a lot more important going forward,” said Miki Deric, managing director of utilities, transmission and distribution at Accenture, who worked with utilities on post-Sandy recovery in Connecticut. “With the increased frequency of these large events, there’s a constant reminder that there’s a need to do this.”

A time of introspection

In October 2012, after leaving a path of destruction in the Caribbean, Sandy knocked out power for 8.5 million people in 21 states. The storm topped off months of extreme weather events beginning with Hurricane Irene, which caused 4 million people in the U.S. to lose power.

The “unprecedented weather” pushed cities and states to rethink how they had delivered electricity for a century. In the Northeast, especially, Sandy compelled hard-hit states like Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to take a hard look at resilience.

According to Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, it was a time of introspection.

“The board, along with the industry across all the sectors, all of which were impacted, really turned inward to consider what measures had to be addressed,” he said.

The strategies that resulted from this stock-taking largely fell into two categories: microgrids and grid hardening. 

According to GTM Research, in the year after Sandy, states dedicated $56 million to microgrids, with Connecticut spending nearly all of those funds. In 2014, Northeastern states spent $84 million.

Through Q3 2017, the Northeast accounted for the majority of microgrid capacity with 33 percent of the 2,045 megawatts in the U.S. The region also accounted for 27 percent of built microgrids, falling just behind the Southwest, which has a sizable number of military microgrids.

Since 2013, the Northeast has constructed 35 microgrids, with at least one in nearly every state. In 2012, Connecticut passed a law setting aside over $30 million in grants and low-interest loans for microgrid development. The state had one microgrid before the storm; now it has eight. New York went from 10 before to 17 after. New Jersey jumped from three to seven. 

In 2014, New York announced a prize initiative to develop community microgrids. This year it chose 11 projects that will advance to feasibility studies. Three to five should be built between 2018 and 2020, said GTM Research grid edge analyst Colleen Metelitsa, who expects those to be relative boom years for Sandy-inspired microgrids coming on-line.

“A lot of money has been allocated, but not many of the microgrids have actually been built with post-Sandy funding,” said Colleen Metelitsa. “What we’ve seen in Connecticut, for example…a lot of these funds are still there, and a lot of those projects even from round one still haven’t been commissioned. A lot of them are moving forward, but it’s a slower process than everyone has been expecting.”

Some are coming on-line, though, such as New York City’s Marcus Garvey Village Microgrid, part of an affordable housing complex.

That project includes 300 kilowatts of lithium-ion battery storage and is fueled by 400 kilowatts of solar PV and a 400-kilowatt fuel cell system. A New City Energy Efficiency Corporation loan financed the project and L+ M Development Partners and Demand Energy, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power, will share revenue and cover the debt. 

This summer, the New Jersey BPU approved feasibility study funding for 13 town center microgrids that would connect multiple buildings with critical infrastructure such as water and wastewater facilities, shelters and some commercial buildings. Using a $400 million Federal Transit Authority grant, the state is also working on the NJTransitGrid, which would keep transit lines into New York on-line using a dedicated natural gas plant and transmission lines. 

Many of the Northeast’s microgrids still rely on fossil fuels or combined heat and power systems. In the future, more clean energy is the goal.

“That’s really what we’d like to see, is the mix of traditional electric generation and renewables all in one place,” said Mroz.  

Hardening the defenses

In the event of another huge storm, microgrids will allow certain segments of cities and states to island from the main grid, but governments and utilities say they’ve also made strides in reducing the vulnerability of the overall system.

New York City worked with utility Consolidated Edison on prioritizing certain hardening measures, said Susanne DesRoches, deputy director for energy and infrastructure in the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resilience. 

That collaboration led to efforts such as the hardening of 16 substations and five generating stations, selective undergrounding in areas like Staten Island, reinforcing transmission towers, installing submersible transformers and network protectors, and reducing feeder segment sizes so that a single failure can affect only up to about 500 customers. 

In New Jersey, the BPU approved $1.3 billion in infrastructure hardening and storm mitigation projects. Public Service Enterprise Group, a utility, set aside $3.9 billion over 10 years to implement smart grid technologies, strengthen distribution infrastructure and underground strategic areas. Atlantic City Electric worked on automated sectionalization and reclosers at 33 of its substations. Other utilities including Jersey Central Power & Light and Rockland Electric also installed reclosers. 

Many of these efforts have been made possible by the formation of green banks.

Connecticut created the country’s first green bank the same year Sandy hit by leveraging public funds to raise private capital. New York created its bank one year later with $210 million in initial funds meant to supplement private investment for clean energy projects. New Jersey’s bank, funded with $200 million from its federal community development block grant, focuses specifically on resilience.

A playbook for other regions

The progress post-Sandy hasn’t been perfect, and many have criticized it as unacceptably slow-moving. But what has been accomplished has become even more significant recently, as potential examples for areas suffering from recent disasters.

“They have a difficult task ahead of them, particularly the islands,” said Mroz. “There are some things you just can’t prepare for, but I think it’s incumbent on the industry and regulators to prepare and test their systems [and] think about what worst-case scenarios might be.”

Preparing systems for a climate-changed future will take even more work on the parts of system regulators. If Sandy forced utilities and governments to reckon with the reliability of their systems, the spate of recent hurricanes, flooding and fires raise even more questions about resilience -- and whether it's possible to build a grid that can stand up to super-strength natural disasters.

“We can continue to harden these things, and they’re going to do better in these storms,” said Deric. “But there’s never going to be a point where you’re not going to have damage in a storm like Harvey or Irma or Sandy. I just don’t think that’s a reality.”

For now, there's more work to be done on just baseline resilience for Sandy-stricken states. Though the areas most affected by the storm possess the will and momentum to harden infrastructure, tangible progress shows resilience is easier said than done. 

“The reality of it, when we look at infrastructure projects, is that we’ve hardly had any infrastructure projects completed,” said Ceci Pineda, resiliency training and policy coordinator at Good Old Lower East Side, a community housing organization. “When you look at the Lower East Side, a third of the buildings are in construction, a third are in procurement, another third are in the design phase.”

But Pineda notes that after Sandy, GOLES has been able to build relationships and networks with city agencies to prepare for the next storm. In that sense, governments have come to a different understanding on collaboration and what it means to rebuild after a disaster. 

“That’s the broader sense of what resiliency is,” said Mroz. “To think about not just the immediate response, but how you recover from an event and deal with it.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

FERC Signs Off on Two More Rover HDDs

NGI Shale Daily - 8 hours 8 min ago
FERC on Friday authorized Rover Pipeline LLC to resume horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at two additional locations where work had been stopped following an April drilling fluids spill near the Tuscarawas River in Ohio.

After decades of trying, petro-companies are one step closer to drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

Grist - 8 hours 26 min ago

This week, Senate Democrats failed to strip a line from the Republican’s budget that would encourage people to pump up and burn all of the hydrocarbon beneath the refuge.

Never mind that it’s also the largest block of undeveloped wilderness in the United States and an important home for many species, including a major caribou herd. The Gwich’in people, who depend on caribou, have opposed drilling, but the Inupiat on the coast have mostly supported it.

If this feels a bit like Groundhog Day, you’re not wrong. Back in 2005, we wrote, “Haven’t we heard this same alarm sounding before? — this time advocates on both sides of the issue agree: Congress is closer than ever before to green-lighting oil and gas drilling in one of the largest remaining undeveloped wild areas in the United States.”

The Department of Interior recommended opening the area to oil drillers in 1987, and it has been an intermittent battle royale for environmentalists ever since. Consider this the bell for the next round.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline After decades of trying, petro-companies are one step closer to drilling in the Arctic Refuge. on Oct 20, 2017.

Categories: Green News

Bacanora secures environmental permit for Sonora project in Mexico

Mining.Com - 8 hours 50 min ago

Shares in lithium exploration and development company Bacanora Minerals (TSX-V, LON:BCN) got a boost Friday after it announced it had received environmental approval from the Mexican government for its Sonora project.

The permit lets Bacanora go-ahead with its 35,000tpa (tons per annum) lithium carbonate operation, following comprehensive studies carried out over two years.

“Government approval for the environmental impact statement is the latest key requirement that is now in place at Sonora,” chief executive Peter Secker said in the statement.

The permit lets Bacanora go-ahead with its 35,000 tonnes per annum lithium carbonate operation in Mexico.

“One-by-one we are ticking off our checklist ahead of our goal of developing Sonora into a world class lithium operation,” he noted.

Share in the company climbed on the news in London, closing Friday 3.23% higher at 84.14p. Year-to-date the stock in up more than 20%.

The permit acquisition is one of Bacanora’s latest milestone in the past two years. In 2015, the firm and its joint-venture partner Rare Earth Minerals (LON:REM) signed a conditional agreement with Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) to supply the electric cars and energy storage products company with lithium hydroxide from the Sonora project.

In May 2017, the company secured a $11 million investment from Blackrock. And earlier this year, it inked a long-term supply deal with Japan’s Hanwa Corporation, which will see the Tokyo-based trader acquire up to 100% of the output coming from Sonora.

Frequently referred to as "white petroleum," lithium drives much of the modern world, as it has become an irreplaceable component of rechargeable batteries used in high tech devices and electric cars.

The lithium market, while still relatively small — worth about $1bn a year — is expected to triple in size by 2025, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs.

The commodity has attracted increasing interest from investors, not only in Latin America, where the world’s largest deposits are located, but also in other places such as the UK.

The post Bacanora secures environmental permit for Sonora project in Mexico appeared first on MINING.com.

Categories: Coal and Mining

Shares in Quebec junior surge on Michigan reserves update

Mining.Com - 8 hours 52 min ago

Shares in Highland Copper Company Inc (TSX-V:HI) surged on Friday after the company announced a 46% increase in resources at its Copperwood underground copper and silver mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

During afternoon trade the Quebec-based junior was exchanging hands for $0.16, up 18.5% on the TSX Venture Exchange, in more than double usual trading volumes. Highland Copper is now worth $73.5 million.

In a statement Highland Copper said the measured and indicated resources at Copperwood in Gogebic County are now estimated at 42.5m tonnes, grading an average of 1.59% copper and 3.9 g/t silver.

Copperwood's contained metal hosted in sediments in the historic district – responsible for some three-quarters of US copper output in the 1800s and early part of the last century – swells to 1.5 billion pounds of copper (680,000 tonnes) and 5.4 million oz of silver.

A feasibility study completed in 2012 estimated construction costs of $213.5 million and according to the company it has enough cash to complete a new study by the second quarter of next year. Highland Copper also owns the nearby past producing White Pine project with historical resources of 1.7 billion pounds of copper.

Private equity firms Greenstone Resources and Orion Mine Finance respectively hold 17.6% and 14.6% of the stock while Osisko Gold Royalties owns a 15.8% stake.

The post Shares in Quebec junior surge on Michigan reserves update appeared first on MINING.com.

Categories: Coal and Mining

Permian Leads Declines As Rig Pullback Continues; U.S. Drops 15

NGI Shale Daily - 9 hours 33 min ago
Driven by declines in the Permian Basin and Haynesville Shale, the U.S. rig count fell by 15 for the week ended Friday, nearly doubling the already steep eight-rig loss from the week before, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc.

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