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The Myth That Putin Was Bent On Conquering Ukraine

- Mon, 11/27/2023 - 17:23

There is a growing body of compelling evidence showing that Russia and Ukraine were involved in serious negotiations to end the war in Ukraine right after it started on 24 February 2022 (see below). These talks were facilitated by Turkish President Recep Erdogan and former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and featured detailed and candid discussions on the terms of a possible settlement.

By all accounts, these negotiations, which took place in March-April 2022, were making real progress when Britain and the US told Ukrainian President Zelensky to abandon them, which he did.

The post The Myth That Putin Was Bent On Conquering Ukraine appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

ExxonMobil’s Land Grab

- Mon, 11/27/2023 - 16:32

Attacks on Venezuela by the USA and its allies include 930 illegal sanctions that shut the country out from international finance blocking it from buying medicines, food or producing or selling its oil. Also there have been direct and indirect support for coup d’etat attempts, street violence leading to murders and injuries, cyberattacks on its electricity grid, sabotage of oil and infrastructure, financing criminal bands, corruption of officials, assassination attempt against the President and his cabinet, setting up a false presidency, appropriating CITGO oil company and billions of Venezuelan assets in banks, blocking the country from obtaining Covid-19 vaccines during a pandemic, and a brutal attack on the currency.

The post ExxonMobil’s Land Grab appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Australia in the dark on its own fossil fuel emissions, says Superpower Institute

Renew Economy - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 16:30

SuperPower Institute says Australia has little idea of the extent of its fossil fuel emissions and wants to create a state-of-the-art data network.

The post Australia in the dark on its own fossil fuel emissions, says Superpower Institute appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Giving Tuesday 2023

Restore The San Francisco Bay Area Delta - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 16:20

Dear Friends,

This year, I would like to depart from our usual update, and share a very personal story with all of you about what drives my work at Restore the Delta and how my personal story has led to our developing a dynamic young staff working for a sustainable and just future for the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.
– Barbara

Protecting Special Places, a Family Affair 

Until I was 12 years old, I lived on the south shore of Lake Michigan between Gary and Michigan City, Indiana, in a community that is now adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park. That region became a protected national site in 1966 due to the advocacy and local leadership of that community, and in 2019 the Indiana Dunes National Park. 

When I was a young child in the mid 1960s, my parents were volunteers who stuffed envelopes for a local organizing committee to save the Indiana Dunes, the genesis for what is now a protected region for community, recreation, beauty, and environmental restoration, and that is surrounded by family farms on adjacent lands. The humble but persistent effort of my parents was a thread in the cloth woven by the region for the protection of one of this country’s most beautiful wild places adjacent to industrial centers and family farms all integrated. 

I fell in love with the Delta when my family moved to Stockton because while being a vastly different ecosystem, it reminded me of home – a tapestry of urban and agricultural landscapes tethered together by a dynamic, natural, and visually stunning environment. 

My parents were also signature gatherers for petitions for the creation of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. While the Indiana Dunes have always been one of the most beautiful sites in the United States, air pollution caused respiratory illness in our town’s children, and water pollution from the surrounding steel mills made fish consumption dangerous, limiting the amount we could consume from our coho and chinook fisheries, and rainbow smelt runs.

Fishing was a way of life for our family, and so was outdoor daily recreation along the lake, dunes, rivers, lagoons, and forests that surrounded my childhood home, accessible to all people in our community regardless of their background or socio-economic status. Pollution and declining fisheries continue to be a problem for the Great Lakes, as they are in the Bay-Delta estuary, and throughout the world worsening with climate change. But my parents’ efforts helped to slow down fishery decline, improved the health of the fisheries for a number of years, and reduced emissions from the local steel industry to increase public health outcomes in our community.

 The Next Generation is Here

My belief in environmental and community health and in the protection of open spaces, and building the best future possible for the next generation, was formed by my parents’ example. Their work echoes more loudly each day that I work with the next generation Delta leadership.

This is also why I have been fairly quiet in my direct communications with all of you this year. A significant portion of my time in 2023 has been spent training six program managers on what I know about the Delta: California water management, environmental justice, collaboration in working with community partners and tribal governments, social media, traditional media, project analysis and comment letter writing, community emergency response, campaign creation, flood mitigation, fishery science, advocacy, restoration project planning, agriculture economies, interfacing with government agencies, and science literature research.

I have been working side-by-side with our next gen leaders on deep analysis of emerging industries in the Delta like carbon storage and carbon sequestration farming. My daily work has also encompassed training staff on how to respond to the problematic Bay-Delta Plan and even worse Delta Conveyance Project, how to present their case to government agencies, and how to build out a science-based water quality testing program. 

They are learning by doing, while developing an understanding of our organization’s core values of equity and sustainability and how to advance these core values strategically and analytically. Their voices are now front and center. They are leading the effort to protect the Delta for future generations – from sustainable farming to flood protection, from urban water tech to water quality monitoring. They are learning when to be aspirational in their work, and they are learning when and how to speak truth to power to protect community.

Restore the Delta was built brick-by-brick with our Board of Directors, our staff, community, tribal and environmental partners, and you, our valued supporters, to become one of the most trusted entities on Delta matters. In fact, we were identified as the most trusted decision-making body in a regional survey conducted by UC Davis researchers, scoring higher than other non-government organizations, government agencies, and elected officials. We accomplished this recognition because of your generous support and faith in our work over the years.

Our next generation staff is expanding on the sturdy foundation that we have built together — to lead and respond to a future that we cannot fully imagine. Much in the same way my parents set the stage for me with their example of community engagement, we are doing the same with our staff, interns, and next generation leaders in partnering organizations, teaching by example. 

With your continued support, we can empower our next generation leaders to protect and improve the Delta for the future, to deal with environmental complexity, to resist bad plans for water and resource management, and to build healthy communities and genuine sustainable economic opportunity. They are learning when and how to resist the idea of water and resource extraction for special interests at the expense of the region. 

Your year-end gift to Restore the Delta will enable us to expand and solidify the work we started together in 2006 at a kitchen table, with sixty supporters, a laptop, and a cell phone. It will enable us to keep building a top-notch nonprofit organization to advocate for the environmental health and wealth of the region.

We thank you for your continued support. We wish you and your family the most joyous of holidays, and a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous 2024.

With much gratitude,

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla

Executive Director

Restore the Delta

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Top Stories in 2023 From Around Audubon

Audubon Society - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 15:56
During 2023 Audubon worked tirelessly to "bend the bird curve," starting with its launch of Flight Plan, Audubon's new five-year plan to protect birds and their habitats across the hemisphere. But...
Categories: G3. Big Green

Why we need a fossil fuel non proliferation treaty 

Renew Economy - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 14:52

The Australian government has mastered the contradictory dance of committing to net zero while also approving new coal, oil and gas projects. It has to stop.

The post Why we need a fossil fuel non proliferation treaty  appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Works begin on energy precinct combining agrivoltaics, battery storage and hydrogen

Renew Economy - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 14:51

Graphite Energy breaks ground on a $29 million renewable energy and storage precinct in New South Wales, designed to power sustainable agriculture.

The post Works begin on energy precinct combining agrivoltaics, battery storage and hydrogen appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Small modular nuclear reactors: a history of failure

Renew Economy - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 14:30

Dozens of ‘small modular reactor’ designs are being promoted, but precious few will reach construction stage and likelihood of SMRs being built in large numbers is negligible.

The post Small modular nuclear reactors: a history of failure appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Why we need to fight for the “community” in community batteries

Renew Economy - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 14:00

Community batteries are everyone’s favourite whipping boy at the moment, but a trial at Narrabri shows that its the parameters that need to change, not the technology.

The post Why we need to fight for the “community” in community batteries appeared first on RenewEconomy.

A Global Call to Action on Transition Finance

Rocky Mountain Institute - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 13:39

This open letter calling for the increased deployment of transition finance is being released in conjunction with COP28 by RMI on behalf of 11 of the undersigned NGOs. Below, we outline a shared vision for transition finance and call for urgent, mutual action from the financial sector, governments, and issuing entities.

Why transition finance matters

Transitioning the entire global economy in line with goals to limit global warming to 1.5°C will require massive capital investment — estimated at roughly $200 trillion to $275 trillion by 2050. While green finance has gained significant momentum, increasing over a hundred-fold in the past decade, uncertainty and debate still exist around the definition and implementation of “transition finance” to decarbonize high-emitting and/or hard-to-abate sectors.

In this crucial decade, scrutiny over industrial and financing activities is rightly increasing to ensure that net-zero objectives are enabled rather than undermined. We believe that transition finance can, if implemented credibly, deliver high impact transition-enabling solutions for high-emitting counterparties and assets, which may otherwise not be eligible for green finance. However, fear of greenwashing accusations, unclear or insufficient policy and regulatory signals, and pressure to reduce financed and facilitated emissions can delay the deployment of credible, transition-enabling capital to the sectors that need it most.

Furthermore, while the economic case for the transition is growing, high capital costs, technology and offtake risks, and a lack of bankable projects across critical technologies are inhibiting much-needed progress. It is in this context we call for further collaboration and action across financial, policy, and corporate stakeholders to mobilize transition finance in pursuit of a rapid, equitable transition.

A common vision for transition finance

There are several frameworks, taxonomies, and principles on transition finance put forth by GFANZ, ICMA, the OECD, etc., however no singular definition exists. The signatories of this letter agree that transition finance can be characterized as:

  • Enabling decarbonization of high-emitting entities and/or hard-to-abate sectors where a credible pathway to 1.5°C-aligned decarbonization exists. This could include financing transition-enabling climate solutions in high-emitting sectors, managed phaseout, or activities that support alignment with 1.5°C pathways.
  • Predicated on the existence of a credible strategy for the issuer to decarbonize over time, in line with science-based pathways for the sector and region, and with consideration of a just transition. This could be featured in a robust transition plan, or demonstrated through engagement, disclosures, targets, and commitments.
  • Tracked via annual monitoring and evaluation, with regular reporting of transition activities and outcomes from agreed baselines. This could include incentives or penalties if transition milestones and/or KPIs are met or missed.
  • Avoiding carbon lock-in. Consideration should be given to the lifetime of the activities and time horizons to ensure that this is not business-as-usual financing that extends the lifetime of high emission assets, pathways, and technologies beyond scenario time horizons.
A clarion call to action

As signatories, we commit to help overcome persistent barriers to transition finance and offer clearer signals, guidance, and support to ensure credibility and real economy impact.

At the same time, we recognize that the energy transition cannot wait for perfect guidance and data. We call on the financial sector to take urgent action now, to unlock transition finance, and we acknowledge the key role that governments, issuers, and borrowers must play as well.

We call for the financial sector to:
  • Develop supportive internal policies and practices – This could include: providing internal guidelines on transition finance; employee training to develop sectoral and regional expertise; providing transparency on lobbying activities and aligning them with net-zero commitments; and implementing clear governance, measurement, monitoring, and reporting structures.
  • Offer and scale transition finance products and services – This could include: increasing financial offerings to transition high-emitting and/or hard-to-abate activities, companies, and sectors; developing and scaling of transition-linked financial products; and seeking out partnerships to de-risk transition opportunities.
  • Engage clients – This could include: engagement and stewardship approaches to support the transition activities of clients; tracking issuer progress; and ensuring consequences if issuers fall short of expectations.
  • Report transition finance activities – This could include: disclosing transition-enabling financing and commitments, enabling activities, managed phaseout transactions, and transition outcomes as part of climate reporting, separate and additional to financed emissions reporting; sharing case studies of transition finance activities to destigmatize and help de-risk future deals; and supporting development and adoption of decision-useful data and metrics.
  • Support a just transition – This could include: outlining and implementing approaches to ensure a just transition in policies, procedures, lobbying, and client engagement; and mitigating any negative social implications of transition investments and financing activities.
We call for governments to:
  • Create enabling policy frameworks – This could include: developing national transition plans to provide strong structural and regulatory guidance to the private sector; fostering research and development for unproven net-zero technologies in hard-to-abate sectors; reducing regulatory barriers to the deployment of transition-enabling technologies and infrastructure; and implementing enforceable regulation to incentivize and standardize disclosure of transition-relevant data, including through corporate and financial institution transition plans.
  • De-risk and allocate transition finance – This could include: incentivizing the mobilization of high-quality transition finance; issuing transition finance via public finance institutions; supporting project pipeline development; and partnerships to de-risk private investment in hard-to-abate sectors.
  • Support a just transition – This could include: encouraging financial institutions and issuers to mitigate negative social implications of their transition investments; and supporting investment and training in affected communities.
We call for issuers and borrowers to:
  • Express demand for transition finance – This could include: engaging with financial institutions to request capital for transition activities; and exploring innovative financing strategies and contracts to access transition-enabling capital.
  • Develop and publish credible transition plans – This could include: adopting sector and regional best practices for developing, executing, and reporting on a plan to transition activities in alignment with a just, science-based, 1.5°C economy.
  • Gain third-party verification – This could include: validating targets as science-based; and third-party assurance on transition plans, metrics, and reports.
  • Identify and report material transition metrics – This could include: identifying core transition-linked, sector-specific KPIs (e.g., transition-related CapEx, OpEx, and/or offtake) and targets over relevant time horizons; and tracking and transparently reporting progress associated with climate targets and transition plans.
  • Engage stakeholders – This could include: communicating and collaborating with investors, employees, communities, and policymakers throughout the development process and implementation of transition plans to ensure that activities are fair, equitable, and just.

Signatories will be in Dubai during COP28 to discuss how key stakeholders can take positive action to scale transition finance together, beginning with the criteria and calls to action listed above. Measures such as these will help create critical guardrails and activity around transition finance, while reducing the risk of greenwashing and facilitating real economy impact.


Ceres, CDP, Climate Bonds Initiative, Climate Safe Lending Network, Climateworks Centre, Environmental Defense Fund, RMI, ShareAction, Sierra Club, World Benchmarking Alliance, WWF International

This call to action is supported by UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry in the UK.

The post A Global Call to Action on Transition Finance appeared first on RMI.

Australia’s largest-ever civil disobedience protest stops half a million tonnes of coal exports

Oil Change International - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 12:23
C: Rising Tide

They are calling it the largest civil disobedience climate protest in the history of Australia.

This weekend, thousands of activists, young and old, from across the country descended on the world’s largest coal port at Muloobinba (Newcastle), on Awabakal and Worimi land and water.

The organizers labeled it a family-friendly event with live music and speeches. The plan also included blockading the plant by a sea blockage by kayak, boat, or even surfboard. It was the first time a blockage was planned overnight.

The protest was a huge success. In the end, some three thousand people prevented coal ships leaving for thirty-two hours and stopped half a million tonnes of coal from being exported.

Some tweets from the action:

THE BIG MOMENT: The community flotilla launches in Muloobinba/Newcastle, Australia, to blockade the world’s largest coal port. If govts wont stop fossil fuel exports, the community will! #PeoplesBlockade #NoNewCoal #MakePollutersPay

— Leigh Ewbank (@TheRealEwbank) November 24, 2023

Incredible turnout in Newcastle at the @RisingTideAus #PeoplesBlockade which is shutting down the world’s biggest coal port!

We want #NoNewFossilFuels a just transition & new green jobs in Australia. Enough of being the world’s 3rd largest fossil fuel exporter! ???@GreenpeaceAP

— Sophie McNeill (@Sophiemcneill) November 25, 2023

We are two hours in – 32 hours actually! of no coal ships leaving Newcastle harbour – this is cop telling us we shouldn’t be on a pontoon earlier – 6 people staying staunch – over 60 arrested so far for blocking shipping channel with @RisingTideAus #PeoplesBlockade #nonewcoal

— & threds (@peacenicsta) November 26, 2023

Defending the planet through civil disobedience: the #PeoplesBlockade of the world's largest coal port, Newcastle Australia @RisingTideAus.

— David Newheiser (@dnewheiser) November 26, 2023

Amazing scenes as hundreds of vessels block off world’s biggest #coal port at #Newcastle #Australia ?@RisingTideAus? #PeoplesBlockade #NoNuCoal #StopFossilFuels #ClimateCrisis

— Wendy Bacon (@Wendy_Bacon) November 24, 2023

Over a thousand people gathered in Muloobinba/Newcastle to blockade Newcastle Port, the world's largest coal port.

— PEDESTRIAN.TV (@pedestriandaily) November 25, 2023

In total, one hundred people were arrested, including 97 year old Reverend Alan Stuart who said: “I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations.” He became the oldest person ever to be arrested in Australia.

OMG we love you Alan?? ?

97yo Uniting Church minister Alan Stuart talks to the press after becoming the OLDEST PERSON EVER ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN AUSTRALIA at the #PeoplesBlockade, blocking coal ships at the worlds biggest coal port. Take the pledge ??

— RisingTideAustralia (@RisingTideAus) November 27, 2023

Another person protesting was Anjali Beams, a 17-year-old school student from Adelaide who said the country’s “decision-makers have consistently ignored young people’s voices.” Anjali told the BBC: “I will not be complicit in letting my future get sold away by the fossil fuel industry for their profit.”

The protestors have some prominent backers. Australian Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said he planned to be on the blockade last weekend. “Now we need to embrace the importance of protest and civil disobedience. We must come together and fight back,” he said.

There is more from Bandt on Twitter:

We spoke to @Greens leader @AdamBandt about why he thinks joining the #PeoplesBlockade of the world’s biggest coal port is so important#risingtide #greenleft #climateaction #climatejustice

— Green Left (@GreenLeftOnline) November 27, 2023

The demonstrators are demanding that our governments stop allowing new coal projects, and instead tax fossil fuel export profits at 75% to fund community and industrial transition, and pay for climate loss and damage.

You can see why the Newcastle port is being targeted. According to some estimates, coal exported through Newcastle last year was equal to 77% of all Australian domestic emissions. Australia is the fifth-biggest producer of coal.

The Japanese Government and corporate officials have been putting pressure on the Australian Government to continue exporting fossil fuels to the island nation, which imports roughly 70 of its coal from Australia and 40% of its LNG. Japan has also been lobbying Australia hard for a major new gas export development to be given so-called “special treatment” under the country’s revamped emissions reduction policy.

The blockade is taking place amid increasing alarm over the scale and pace of our climate emergency.

Earlier this month, Australia’s Climate Council outlined how climate change was affecting the country’s oceans. According to the Council, “Marine heatwaves have already caused mass deaths of key species along 45 percent of Australia’s coastline.”

The Great Barrier reef has already suffered mass bleaching four times since 2016. And “Parts of the ocean could reach a near-permanent heatwave state by the end of this century, unless urgent action is taken to reduce fossil fuel emissions.”

On a global scale, scientists have warned that we have already passed 2 degrees of warming:

I was nervous posting my graphic showing 2.01°C because breaking 2°C is a huge event and I didn't want to get it wrong.

Then @LeonSimons8 posted the one below from Nov. 17 showing 2.06°C, and it relieved 100% of the stress.

Different data sets, same result. 2°C breached.

— Prof. Eliot Jacobson (@EliotJacobson) November 19, 2023

And unless we radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we are increasingly looking at 3 degrees this century.

Despite our climate emergency, Australia continues to export vast amounts of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. In December last year, the Australia Institute highlighted that the country’s coal export revenue had reached $112 billion in 2021-22, an increase on the previous year of $73b or 186 percent.

There are some small positive signs. Finally, after a lost decade, Australia is taking some steps on climate action, having passed an emissions reduction bill earlier in the year. This will compel the country’s biggest industrial polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent by 2030.

So Australia’s changing climate landscape and intensifying opposition to fossil fuel exports poses huge risks to fossil fuel importers like Japan. The shifting political landscape in Australia reiterates the need for Japan to break its addiction on imported coal and shift rapidly to renewable energy instead.

Over the weekend, a message of solidarity was read out from the Fossil Free Japan Coalition. It said they “stood in solidarity” with those protesting, praising “your commitment to taking peaceful civil disobedience action for climate justice is an inspiration to us all.”

The Fossil Free Coalition added: “Together, we can work towards a fossil-free future that respects our planet, our environment, and future generations.”

The post Australia’s largest-ever civil disobedience protest stops half a million tonnes of coal exports appeared first on Oil Change International.

Giving Tuesday

Skeptical Science - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 07:49

For the first time "in history" we decided to jump on the "Giving Tuesday" bandwagon in order to make you aware of the options you have to contribute to our work!

Projects supported by Skeptical Science Inc.

Skeptical Science

Skeptical Science is an all-volunteer organization but our work is not without financial costs. Contributions supporting our publication mechanisms from our readers and users are a critical part of improving the general public's critical thinking skills about science and in particular climate science. Your contribution is a solid investment in making possible a better future thanks to improving our ability to think productively, leading to better decisions at all levels of our climate change challenge. Please visit our support page to contribute.

Translations of the FLICC-poster

The FLICC-Poster is the result of a successful collaboration between Skeptical Science and our German partner website Klimafakten.  It was first published in May 2020 and has been quite popular in English, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish since then. The creation of additional translations of the poster requires funding for professional design and layout work. You can contribute to that effort via the form provided on this page.

Translations of the Cranky Uncle Game

The Cranky Uncle game adopts an active inoculation approach, where a Cranky Uncle cartoon character mentors players to learn the techniques of science denial. Cranky Uncle is a free game available on smartphones for iPhone and Android as well as web browsers. Even though the translations of the Cranky Uncle game are done by teams of volunteers, each language incurs costs for programming activities to get a language set up in the game. If you'd like to support Cranky Uncle "teaching" his science denial techniques in other languages, please use the dedicated form provided on this page to contribute. Other options to contribute

Another very helpful way to support our work is to provide feedback on our rebuttals and especially the new at-a-glance sections in the basic-level rebuttals we are currently adding. And if you happen to be multi-lingual: we have a lot of content where translations could be updated or created!

Thanks for reading and any contribution you choose to make!

Categories: I. Climate Science

World Appears on Track to Triple Renewable Power by 2030

Yale Environment 360 - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 07:13

At the forthcoming UN climate talks, diplomats will push for a tripling of renewable power by 2030. A new analysis finds the world is likely already on track to hit this goal.

Read more on E360 →

Categories: H. Green News

CPSC Scientific Integrity Plan Has a Screw Loose

PEER - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 05:52

Monday, November 27, 2023
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028

CPSC Scientific Integrity Plan Has a Screw Loose Consumer Product Safety Commission Seeks to Muzzle Its Researchers


Washington, DC —The federal agency charged with developing regulations to protect consumers from unsafe products wants to prevent its researchers from commenting on the adequacy of current safety regulations or recommending new ones, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). If finalized, this restriction within the Scientific Integrity Policy proposed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may severely hamper the scientific work needed to strengthen consumer safety.

As if to underline its centrality, the draft CPSC policy repeats the following prohibition three times in its one-page section entitled “Safeguarding the Free Flow of Scientific Information”:

“CPSC staff must not make or publish statements that might be construed as being judgments of, or recommendations on, CPSC or any other Federal Government policy, unless they have secured appropriate prior approval to do so.”

“The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s mission is to evaluate the effectiveness of current rules on everything from sparklers to space heaters. Barring its technical staff from commenting on these issues makes no sense, and to do so in the name of scientific integrity is downright bizarre,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to how similar language in the U.S. Department of Agriculture policy has been used to block publication of papers on topics such as insecticides’ impacts on pollinator health, due to objections from agribusiness. “As we have seen, this language will be used as a tool by industry to suppress scientific work it does not like.”

Unveiled on October 8 and open for public comment through December 4, CPSC is the third federal agency to produce a draft scientific integrity policy under a Biden-directed initiative to Trump-proof government science, following proposals from Health & Human Service and the National Institutes of Health. All three draft policies, as well as the White House “Model Policy” issued earlier this year, contain this same prohibition against scientists making statements that “could be construed as” judgments or recommendations on any federal policy.

Apart from this one provision, the CPSC draft does not contain specific rules on much of anything else, including how allegations of scientific misconduct will be handled, what information about these cases will be disclosed, and the process for clearing scientific research for publication. Instead, the draft indicates that all these specifics will be developed later.

“This proposal is not a coherent policy but a promise to develop a policy later. It is not close to being ready for review,” added Ruch, pointing out the intent of the Biden effort was to “Trump-proof” federal science from overt political manipulation. “Rather than strengthening protections for scientific integrity, these Biden-era policies are a major step backward – they facilitate scientific suppression and offer not a single meaningful protection against political interference.”


Read the PEER comments

View the draft CPSC policy

Look at the range of CPSC research

Compare similar HHS and NIH proposals

Examine the implications of the Biden-sponsored gag order

The post CPSC Scientific Integrity Plan Has a Screw Loose appeared first on

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Why CAPE needs a member-led union, now more than ever

Spring Magazine - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 05:50

It has been a whirlwind month for a federal public service union that usually presents itself as a button-up, no-drama professional association. On November 7,...

The post Why CAPE needs a member-led union, now more than ever first appeared on Spring.

Categories: B3. EcoSocialism

Gold nanoparticles create purple smoke

Mining.Com - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 05:05

Researchers at the University of Bristol have confirmed that spherical gold nanoparticles are responsible for the purple smoke that appears when fulminating gold is detonated.

With this discovery, the scientists have solved a 400-year-old alchemy puzzle.

In a recent preprint, the researchers explain that fulminating gold, which was first discovered by alchemists in the 16th century, is a mixture of a number of different compounds, with ammonia providing the majority of the material’s explosive power.

German alchemist Sebald Schwaertzer noted the unusual purple smoke given off when fulminating gold was detonated in 1585, and the material was later studied by leading figures of chemistry in the 17th and 18th centuries, including Robert Hooke and Antoine Lavoisier.

But while the chemistry of the fulminating gold recipe has been understood for centuries, the question of what produced purple smoke remained unanswered.

It was long supposed, yet previously never proven that the rich purple colour of this cloud was due to it being formed of gold nanoparticles.

“I was delighted that our team has been able to help answer this question and further our understanding of this material,” Simon Hall, senior author of the study, said in a media statement. “Our experiment involved creating fulminating gold, then detonating 5mg samples on aluminum foil by heating it. We captured the smoke using copper meshes and then analyzed the smoke sample under a transmission electron microscope.”

Sure enough, the researchers found the smoke contained spherical gold nanoparticles, confirming the theory that the gold was playing a role in the mysterious smoke.

Having solved one historic scientific puzzle, Hall and his team plan to use this methodology to study the precise nature of clouds produced by other metal fulminates such as platinum, silver, lead, and mercury, which remain an open question.

How to Hold Back a Storm: Financing Critical Infrastructure Projects in the Caribbean

Rocky Mountain Institute - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 05:00

In the rainy season, storms pummel Saint Lucia, a small Eastern Caribbean Island nation. When they hit, the torrential rain and flooding forces local systems to shut down — the aging infrastructure is simply not designed to handle those levels of inundation. This is especially true in the rural areas, where the water systems often shut off during heavy downpours since the water won’t be drinkable from the tap.

When Skeeta Carasco steps out of her home in Dennery, St Lucia, after a storm, she often sees intakes that are clogged or inaccessible due to roads being washed out. Even in urban areas, big storms can bring disaster to the water system. In 2010, when Hurricane Tomas hit, even the heart of Saint Lucia’s economic area was without water for weeks and two intakes were destroyed and had to be rebuilt completely. People desperate for clean water will go to medical centers, only to learn that even hospitals are suffering from a lack of potable water.

A picture of Dennery, St. Lucia, flooding after a storm.

What’s needed, Carasco now knows, after years working with Saint Lucia’s water and energy sector regulator, are investments to climate-proof and harden infrastructure to make it more resilient to storms. The island needs upgrades; increased water storage capacity within water systems; more water treatment and collection systems; improved infrastructure for roads, pipes, and intakes; and a more resilient energy system.

The problem — similar to many other small island states — is a lack of sufficient funding for these critical projects. Because the rainy season is getting less predictable and the impacts more intense, improving the resilience of critical infrastructure is indistinguishable from battling climate change itself. “Climate finance,” Carasco says, “is perhaps the biggest challenge that Caribbean countries and Small Island Developing States face when it comes to mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”

Fortunately, this is exactly what Carasco is there to work on. She’s the first member of a cohort of locally hired, highly trained, dedicated climate finance advisors to be embedded in Caribbean countries with a mandate to develop pipelines of projects  that will help these nations stay strong under the onslaught of climate change.

The Climate Finance Access Network (CFAN), designed and coordinated by RMI, has been around since 2021. Currently there are eight countries in the Pacific with CFAN advisors who, between them, have unlocked $88.3 million in climate financing and have a pipeline of $464 million more.  Now the Network is growing internationally to soon cover a total of 18 small islands governments and regional organizations. Hiring is actively underway for six additional advisors to join Carasco supporting the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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Carasco has been in this role since June. As the inaugural Caribbean CFAN advisor, she is looking forward to welcoming new colleagues and continuing to dig deeper into the work she’s already undertaken. She grew up in Saint Lucia, and lived without access to electricity for the first 16 years of her life. Deeply committed to advocacy for those who have the least, she has seen firsthand the impacts of climate change on aging infrastructure and across agriculture, health, and utility sectors. She understands intimately the need for resources and funding to realize Saint Lucia’s development and sustainability goals.

She has also seen how good intentions can go awry if they don’t take into account the perspectives and insights of the communities they’re designed to serve. She recalls a fisheries complex gifted to a local community by a foreign entity. It was well intended and well appreciated — but unfortunately, no local knowledge was considered in the design of the project. As a result, it was developed without understanding the local currents, causing costs to its maintenance to balloon as the complex is constantly inundated with sand — simultaneously impacting and accelerating erosion on a nearby beach. “Imagine,” Carasco says, “if they had taken into account local and traditional knowledge. Then the gift might have been utilized as intended — as a net benefit to the community and economy.”

This is where key facets of Carasco’s role come into play. Not only does she have deep knowledge herself from living on the island and working in Saint Lucia’s utilities, but she also includes stakeholder consultation as a critical part of her work to design climate finance project proposals. She meets with the engineers, the healthcare workers, the utility representatives, and others across sectors to make sure that critical perspectives are taken into consideration. “I always knew this sort of consultation was important, but it’s never been so evident,” Carasco says. “Bringing those diverse perspectives and knowledge together helps ensure the success of a project.”

“Bringing diverse perspectives and knowledge together helps ensure the success of a project.”


Carasco’s work as a CFAN advisor connects her closely with her RMI colleagues and efforts to mobilize climate finance for truly catalytic change. RMI has established Project Preparation and Development Facilities (PPDFs) in the Caribbean and other regions to help utilities and project developers in the most vulnerable, early stages of clean energy projects, to ensure projects can receive the necessary funding to come on line. Project preparation and development activities include aligning the ecosystem of local partners to ensure project success; facilitating the necessary pre-project development investment tasks including economic analysis, site suitability, and land acquisition; and influencing the necessary policy and regulatory reform needed.

As part of this, Carasco is currently working in collaboration with RMI’s Islands Energy Program on several clean energy projects in Saint Lucia, comprised of eight solar and battery storage microgrids at critical facilities, including water treatment centers. She describes it as an opportunity to build the resilience of institutions and communities that rely on this critical infrastructure, in particular increasing resilience of St Lucia’s main hospital, which serves more than 60 percent of the population. Schools will also benefit, as well as the island’s emergency response coordination, which can be problematic during big storms like Tomas.

Microgrids will not only enhance the resilience of the island’s infrastructure and economy, but will also help lower energy costs. Currently Saint Lucians primarily rely on imported diesel fuel, which is expensive and volatile, heavily impacted by the geopolitical environment. The pressures of fuel prices have contributed to an increased cost of living and crimes of desperation and displacement. But money saved from implementing a distributed, renewable grid can be redirected to social programs.

Carasco’s colleague, Nadia Wells-Hyacinth, the chief economist for the Government of Saint Lucia says that Carasco “has distinguished herself by her expertise, experience, confidence and commitment. We have very high expectations of Skeeta as the first representative of the Caribbean Cohort.” She describes Carasco as an integral member of St. Lucia’s climate finance teams and adds, “We are encouraged by her enthusiasm, commitment and zeal to advance our climate finance agenda.”

While working on funding proposals might seem like just a small piece of the puzzle, Carasco describes the role of a CFAN advisor as “finally connecting the dots.” She is in a position to see the big picture and draw the necessary connections for funders to both meet the needs and enhance impact across projects and sectors.

“CFAN has allowed me to connect the dots between critical infrastructure work, climate resilience, and the needs of communities,” Carasco says. “I am now in the best position to make a difference, because finance is the biggest challenge that Caribbean countries face.”

The post How to Hold Back a Storm: Financing Critical Infrastructure Projects in the Caribbean appeared first on RMI.

IGO backs new CEO Vella after Rio Tinto dismissal

Mining.Com - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 03:45

Australia’s lithium and nickel producer IGO (ASX: IGO) is standing by its decision to appoint Ivan Vella as its chief executive officer, after investigating the circumstances that led Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) to fire him earlier this month.

IGO said Vella, who will assume the top job at the company on Dec. 11, did not follow all appropriate procedure in relation to confidential information under his control. It noted that, based on what is known, no information was compromised as a result of Vella’s actions.

“Throughout the recruitment process, the Board was highly impressed by the alignment of Ivan’s values with those of IGO, and his proven track record as a corporate leader,” IGO’s chair, Michael Nossal, said in the statement. “Upon reviewing the full circumstances of this recent situation, the board continues to have confidence in Ivan’s character.”

Vella has accepted accountability for the policy breach that led to his early departure from Rio Tinto, where he was the head of the aluminum division.

“But having been passionately dedicated to Rio Tinto for over 20 years of my life, I can confirm that there was no mal intent,” Vella noted.

Vella takes the reins at a time when IGO’s nickel business is reeling from the costly takeover of rival Western Areas’ nickel assets and its own Nova nickel-copper-cobalt mine, its flagship operation, depletes faster than expected.

From Trees to Tech and Beyond: Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) in All Its Variations

Rocky Mountain Institute - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 03:00

In our first blog, we defined carbon dioxide removal (CDR) as any human activity that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and durably stores that carbon in geologic, terrestrial, or ocean reservoirs, or in products. We also articulated why we will likely need to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, while also reducing emissions dramatically, across the global economy.

Scaling CDR to meet the demands of the climate crisis is a daunting challenge. But there is good news. There are many CDR approaches, and they rely on different inputs. They can be performed in different locations. They can also benefit from different applications of science and technology. This suggests possibilities for a portfolio of CDR solutions, comprised of different approaches in different locations, that is diversified enough to scale.

In this blog, we highlight the range of known CDR approaches, differences in what they require, and why we must consider all of them to achieve the scale of removals we need.

This is the second in a series exploring the fundamentals of carbon dioxide removal and its essential role in achieving net zero emissions. Check out the first, “Demystifying the need for carbon removal”, here. CDR is more than trees or technology

The best-known CDR approaches are likely trees and direct air capture (DAC). Trees serve as natural carbon sinks by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing that carbon dioxide as biomass. DAC, which pulls carbon dioxide out of the air using fans and materials that selectively bind with carbon dioxide, has recently garnered a lot of media and investor attention.

But there are many other approaches. Carbon dioxide naturally reacts with and is stored by materials that the earth has in abundance, including rocks, water, and a variety of plants besides trees. These reactions can be accelerated in many ways. New approaches and companies are continually emerging, and there is still runway for more innovation.

Figure 1 below illustrates the variety of approaches emerging.

These approaches rely on different inputs, to different extents. They take place on different types of land or bodies of water, require different levels of energy, and utilize different types of technologies.

Three examples below illustrate the wide variety of inputs, locations, and technology applications that different CDR approaches employ.

Example 1: Macroalgae and microalgae sinking

Macroalgae (seaweed) or microalgae (phytoplankton) take up carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis as it grows. Algae can be grown in the ocean or other open bodies of water, or in controlled environments. Experiments are now underway to then sink algae to a depth where it will not decompose, durably storing carbon.

The main inputs required are sunlight, nutrients, and suitable growing conditions. Most of the ocean is deficient in the necessary nutrients to grow algae at scale. But, when these nutrients are made abundant, these aquatic plants have the potential to capture more carbon per square meter than terrestrial ones.

Macroalgae and microalgae are typically grown in the ocean. This setting is critical for both the cultivation of these water organisms, which require large water areas to achieve scale, and the ultimate sequestration of captured carbon dioxide, which requires depths that prevent decomposition.

Several technological interventions could be used to optimize and accelerate algae formation, enable sinking, and measure outcomes. Innovations in biotechnology could be used to stimulate faster algae growth, and the ability to customize algae production by species and location could potentially unlock rapid learning rates for algae-based approaches.

Example 2: Terrestrial enhanced weathering

Terrestrial enhanced weathering (TEW) takes advantage of natural weathering processes by crushing and spreading rocks, more specifically alkaline minerals, and spreading the ground rock on agricultural land or forest floors where these minerals react with carbon dioxide and water. During these reactions, carbon dioxide is converted into dissolved bicarbonate: a stable form of carbon that will not be re-released into the atmosphere. Reactions between weathered minerals and carbon dioxide occur naturally; terrestrial enhanced weathering approaches speed up and scale up this process.

The main inputs for TEW are suitable minerals and the energy required to grind and transport those minerals. The earth has abundant natural minerals, so supply of those minerals is theoretically not a limiting factor in the long term. And although it may seem like grinding and transporting minerals would consume significant energy, the total energy consumption of TEW is small compared to its removal potential. As a result, TEW should be relatively scalable, based on its inputs.

TEW does however require significant land on which these alkaline materials can be safely spread. The most common setting for TEW is on agricultural fields, but there are also plans to disperse these minerals safely in forests or on non-arable lands. In either case, land-use conversion, which would be necessary for other forms of CDR, is avoided. If sufficient land is made available for TEW, it could support widespread deployment.

Technology can also be used to improve several stages of the TEW process. The most important areas for technological improvement are in the sourcing, processing, and dispersal of minerals, and in the measurement of carbon dioxide uptake. Different ways of deploying alkaline materials, mixing them, and measuring them can increase the rate of carbon dioxide uptake, and each of these steps will affect the rate at which TEW occurs. If sufficient land is made available for TEW, it could support widespread deployment.

Example 3: Electrochemical water capture

Electrochemical water capture approaches pump water through a facility that uses electricity to either remove carbon dioxide from the water or change the chemistry of the water, so that it can absorb more carbon dioxide from the air. These approaches enhance the natural ability of our oceans and waterways to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The main input for electrochemical ocean approaches is electricity. These approaches use considerably more energy than either of the two examples above. More than the other two examples, our ability to scale these approaches responsibly and affordably will depend on the speed at which low-carbon energy ramps up around the world.

Because electrochemical water capture approaches rely on the passive absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into water, they are typically sited near large bodies of water such as oceans or lakes. They can be deployed as stand-alone facilities or as add-ons to other facilities that already move water, such as water treatment or wastewater treatment facilities.

Given that the consumption of electricity is the most significant input to these approaches, it is also the biggest opportunity for gains through technology. Technological advances in membrane materials, design, flux, and durability can all improve the energy efficiency of achieving carbon removal through these methods.


Clearly, CDR is more than just trees or DAC fans. There are a range of approaches that require different inputs, locations, and advances in science and technology. This is good news for the global effort to scale CDR to over a billion tons per year, because it suggests that we can build a global portfolio that is diversified enough to reach that scale.

RMI is currently tracking 32 distinct CDR approaches. We expect new ones will emerge. In our next blog, we will introduce the full set of 32 approaches and our approach to categorizing them for coordinated and efficient research, development, and deployment, as we seek to achieve our climate goals.

The post From Trees to Tech and Beyond: Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) in All Its Variations appeared first on RMI.

The libertarian developer looming over West Maui’s water conflict

Grist - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 01:45

Just weeks after the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history ripped through the coastal town of Lāhainā, Native Hawaiian taro farmers, environmentalists, and other residents of West Maui crowded into a narrow conference room in Honolulu for a state water commission hearing. 

The chorus of criticism was emotional and persistent. For nearly 12 hours, scores of people urged commissioners to reinstate an official who had been key to strengthening water regulations and to resist corporate pressure to weaken those regulations. One after another, they calmly and deliberately delivered scathing criticism of a developer named Peter Martin, calling him “the face of evil in Lāhainā” and “public enemy number one.”

One person summed up the mood of the room when he said, “F— Peter Martin.”

More than 100 miles away on Maui, Martin followed parts of the hearing through a livestream on YouTube. Despite the deluge of criticism, he wasn’t upset. He wasn’t even surprised. After nearly 50 years as a developer on Maui, he’s used to public criticism.

“When you’re around a gang of people, a mob, the commissioners just listen to the mob, they don’t listen to reasoned voices,” Martin told Grist. “I’m not comparing these people to Hitler; I’m just saying Hitler got people involved by hating, hating the Jews.” 

Martin, who is 76, has long been controversial. He moved to Maui from California in 1971 and got his start picking pineapples, teaching high school math, and waiting tables. Before long, he began investing in real estate. His timing was perfect: Hawaiʻi had become a state just 12 years earlier, and Maui’s housing market was booming as Americans from the mainland flocked there. By 1978, local headlines were bemoaning the high price of housing, and prices only went up from there.

Developer Peter Martin West Maui Land Company displays a map during an interview with Grist reporter Anita Hofschneider. Cory Lum / Grist

Developer Peter Martin told the New Yorker that protecting water for Native Hawaiian cultural practices was “a crock of shit,” and that invasive grasses and “this stupid climate change thing” had “nothing to do with the fire.”

A bible stands on top of a stack of papers next to West Maui Land Company developer Peter Martin. Cory Lum / Grist

Martin points to a map of West Maui, indicating an area where he hopes to build homes. Next to him is his Bible, which he often quotes in conversations and emails. Cory Lum / Grist

Developer Peter Martin West Maui Land Company points to development locations on a map of west Maui during the interview. September 18, 2023. Cory Lum / Grist

Over the last five decades, Martin has made millions of dollars off this real estate boom, building a development empire on West Maui and turning hundreds of acres of plantation land into a paradise of palatial homes and swimming pools. He owns or holds interest in nearly three dozen companies that touch almost every aspect of the homebuilding process: companies that buy vacant land, companies that submit development plans to local governments, companies that build houses, and companies that sell water to residents. His real estate brokerage helps find buyers for homes built on his land, and he’s even got a company that builds swimming pools. 

Companies associated with Martin own more than 5,500 acres of land around Lāhainā, according to an analysis of county records, making him one of the area’s largest private landowners, and his web of businesses wields immense influence in West Maui, which is home to about 25,000 people. He drives his white Ford F-150 around the island with a large, black Bible on the center dashboard and peppers his conversations and emails with quotes from Scripture or libertarian economist Milton Friedman. He once served on the Maui County salary commission, where he helped determine pay for elected officials and county department heads, and he has donated $1.3 million to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a libertarian think tank that has fought Native Hawaiian sovereignty. So extensive is the reach of his land empire that the command center for the response to the August wildfires is located on land owned by a company in which he has a stake.

Grist / Clayton Aldern / Camille Fassett / Caleb Diehl

Development on Maui, where the median home price now exceeds $1 million, often sparks controversy, and Martin is far from the only builder who has inspired opposition. But his staunch ideological commitment to free market capitalism and Christianity, coupled with his companies’ persistent pushback against water regulations intended to protect Native Hawaiian rights, has evoked particularly passionate distaste among many locals. “F— the Peter Martin types,” reads one bumper sticker spotted in Lāhainā. 

And that was before the wildfire. Just two days after the outbreak of a blaze that would go on to kill 100 people, fueled in part by invasive grasses on Martin’s vacant land, an executive at one of Martin’s companies sent a letter to the state water commission. Glenn Tremble, who works for West Maui Land Company, wrote that the company’s request to fill its reservoirs on the day of the fire had been delayed by the state. He also asked the commission to loosen water regulations during the fire recovery. 

“We anxiously awaited the morning knowing that we could have made more water available to [the Maui Fire Department] if our request had been immediately approved,” he wrote.

Residents of Martin’s West Maui developments have gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean — and now many also look out on the burned remains of Lāhainā. Cory Lum / Grist

Tremble’s letter implied that a state official key to implementing local water regulations — and the first Native Hawaiian to lead the state water commission — had impeded firefighting efforts. He soon walked back the claim, but his first letter had immediate effect. The state attorney general launched an investigation into the official, the governor suspended water regulations, and the official was temporarily reassigned. Critics saw it as an attempt to capitalize on the grief of the community for profit.

It didn’t help that within weeks, when the Washington Post asked about the role the invasive grasses on Martin’s land played in the deadly wildfire, Martin said he believed the fire was the result of God’s anger over the state water restrictions. 

Most people in West Maui get water from the county’s public water system. But Martin-built developments such as Launiupoko, a community of a few hundred large homes outside of Lāhainā, draw their water from three private utility systems that he controls, siphoning underground aquifers and mountain streams to fill swimming pools and irrigate lawns. More than half of all water used in the Launiupoko subdivision, or around 1.5 million gallons a day, goes toward cosmetic landscaping on lawns, according to state estimates. Just over a quarter is used for drinking and cooking. 

The scale of this water usage is stunning: According to state data, Launiupoko Irrigation Company and Launiupoko Water Company deliver a combined average of 5,750 gallons of water daily to each residential customer in Launiupoko, or almost 20 times as much as the average American home. The development has just a few hundred residents, but it uses almost half as much water as the public water system in Lāhainā, which serves 18,000 customers. 

Grist / Clayton Aldern / Camille Fassett / Caleb Diehl

Martin says he didn’t set out to make Launiupoko a luxury development, but that its value spiked after Maui County imposed rules that limited large-scale residential development on agricultural land. Martin’s development was grandfathered in under those restrictions, and demand for large homes drove up prices in the area. He says criticism of swimming pools and landscaped driveways is rooted in envy. 

“People come over and make their land beautiful by using water,” he said.

Martin also maintains that there’s more than enough water for everyone, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Annual precipitation around Lāhainā declined by about 10 percent between 1990 and 2009, drying out the streams near Launiupoko, and now Martin sometimes can’t provide water to all his customers during dry periods. The underground aquifer in the area is also oversubscribed, according to state data, with Martin’s companies and other users pumping out 10 percent more groundwater than flows in each year on average. Climate change could exacerbate this shortage by worsening droughts along Maui’s coast: Projections from 2014 show that annual rainfall could decline by around 15 percent over the coming century under even a moderate scenario for global warming. 

In response, the state water commission has intervened to stop Martin and other developers from overtapping West Maui’s water, setting strict limits on water diversion and fining his companies for violating those rules. Last year, the state took full control of the region’s water, potentially jeopardizing the future of Martin’s luxury subdivisions and making it harder for him to build more in the area. 

Now, though, Martin is poised to play a key role as West Maui recovers from the Lāhainā wildfire, which destroyed 2,200 structures, including six housing units Martin had developed. Nine of his employees lost their homes. As of early November, more than 6,800 displaced people on Maui remained in hotels or other temporary lodging. Millions of dollars in federal funds are expected to flow into the state for reconstruction. Martin, with his dozens of development companies and thousands of acres of vacant land, is perfectly positioned to build new homes. And his concerns about water regulations slowing development may find a more sympathetic audience as local officials seek to address a post-fire housing crisis.  

Moreover, he is itching to build. Before the fire, county and state officials were shooting down most of his new building proposals amid a concern about overdevelopment, even the ones that Martin pitched as affordable workforce housing. Martin thinks he can mitigate West Maui’s fire risk and its housing crisis by getting rid of the barriers that prevent developers like himself from building more houses with irrigated farms and green lawns. 

“What I just want is the water to be able to be used on the land, which God intended it to,” he said.

Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko doesn’t know what deity Martin is referring to. 

Ke Akua is a God of love and restoration and abundant life,” he told the water commission during September’s hearing, using the Hawaiian word for God. Palakiko had flown to Honolulu with many other Maui residents to urge the state officials to uphold their responsibility to protect water.

Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko kneels next to a taro plant on his family farm. The starch is a traditional part of the Native Hawaiian diet and is also spiritually important: Indigenous histories describe Hawaiians as being descended from the plant, known as kalo. Cory Lum / Grist

Palakiko doesn’t take his land, or water, for granted. He was a teenager in Lāhainā in the 1980s when his family started getting priced out by rising rents. That’s when his dad remembered that his own father had once shown him the family’s ancestral land in nearby Kauʻula Valley. According to Palakiko’s grandfather, the family had been forced out by the Pioneer Mill sugar plantation, which had diverted the Palakikos’ water to irrigate crops. Palakiko’s family still owned the title to the land, and his father was determined to find a way to reclaim it.

First they cleared brush by cutting firebreaks and burning the overgrowth, controlling the flames with five-gallon buckets of water hauled from a nearby river. Once they had opened enough land to build a house, the Palakikos worked out a deal with Pioneer Mill to restore free water access to their property, connecting their home to the plantation’s water system with a series of 1½-inch plastic pipes. 

Access to that water meant that the Palakikos could live on their ancestral land for the first time in generations. Back then, Palakiko says, their property felt isolated from Lāhainā, accessible only by old cane field roads that could take 45 minutes to reach town. But the family didn’t mind. It was enough to be able to stay on Maui when so many other Native Hawaiians were forced by economic necessity to leave. 

That isolation didn’t last. In 1999, Pioneer Mill harvested its last sugar crop, ending 138 years of cultivation in Lāhainā. The abandoned fields turned brown and Palakiko heard that the company was selling off thousands of acres. Where once the Palakikos had seen Filipino plantation workers tending to crops, they noticed fair-skinned strangers and surveyors exploring the fallow grounds. 

The Palakikos soon realized that the land was now in the hands of Peter Martin, who had joined other local investors to buy everything he could of the old plantation land. These new owners soon subdivided the land and sold parcels at ever higher prices as demand for the area known as Launiupoko kept increasing. It didn’t matter that the area was zoned for agriculture: Like many other developers, Martin took advantage of a legal provision that allowed homeowners to build luxurious estates on such land as long as they did some token farming of crops like fruit or flowers, no matter how perfunctory it might be.

Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko walks walks through his family’s land in West Maui, which they’ve owned since before the U.S. overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Their farm relies on water from Kauaʻula Stream, from which Martin also pulls water. Cory Lum / Grist

By the time Martin finished the development, which included around 400 homes on around 1,000 acres, he was diverting almost 4 million gallons from the stream every day, according to state data, almost as much as the 4.8 million gallons Pioneer Mill had diverted each day before it shut down.

Some days the Palakiko family would wake up to find no water running through the pipes. By the afternoon, puddles along the stream would evaporate and fish would flop on the hot rocks, suffocating. It wasn’t just the Palakikos who were suffering, but the whole river system: As Martin diverted water from the mountains, the waterway dried up farther downstream, threatening the native fish and shrimp that lived in it. Palakiko appealed to Martin’s new water utility, Launiupoko Irrigation Company, but he said the company was hostile. First it tried to shut off the water the family had been receiving through plastic pipes, then asked the family to pay for water they’d always drawn for free, only relenting after the Palakikos fought back.

In addition to diverting water away from Native Hawaiian families, Martin has tried to force some from their land. In 2002, his Makila Land Company filed a so-called “quiet title” case against the Kapus, another farming family whose land borders the Palakikos, seeking to claim a portion of the family’s ancestral land as its own. This legal strategy, which allows landowners to take control of properties that may have multiple ownership claims, later gained notoriety when Mark Zuckerberg used it to consolidate his holdings on Kauai.

Water gushes behind Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko on its way to his family’s taro patch, known as a loʻi. Farther behind him is a stretch of dry, invasive grass, similar to the grass that fueled the Lāhainā fire. Cory Lum / Grist

When the Kapus fought back, the company kept them in court for almost two decades, appealing over and over to gain the rights to a 3.4-acre parcel. The situation between Martin and the Kapu family became so tense that in 2020, Martin sought a restraining order against one member of the family, Keeaumoku Kapu, accusing him of “verbally attack[ing] me with an expletive-laced tirade” and blocking Martin’s access to the disputed land. The court imposed a mutual injunction against Martin and Kapu later that year; two years later, Kapu finally prevailed in court and secured the title to his property.

Martin’s companies filed multiple quiet-title lawsuits over the years as Martin sought to consolidate control of the land around Launiupoko. Just after it began litigation against the Kapus, Makila Land Company made a similar claim against a neighboring taro farmer named John Aquino, seeking to seize a portion of the land belonging to Aquino’s family. The company won the slice of land in an appellate court in 2013, but the Aquino family stayed put. Police arrested Aquino in 2020 after two of Martin’s employees drove a semi onto the land; Aquino had smashed the truck’s windows with a baseball bat. Makila later filed a trespassing lawsuit in 2021 against Brandon and Tiara Ueki, who also live near the Kapus. The parties agreed to dismiss the case the following year after an apparent settlement. More recently, Martin has fanned even more frustration by selling properties with contested titles, prompting at least one ongoing legal battle.

The offices of West Maui Land Company, the firm at the center of Peter Martin’s development enterprise. The company has been the subject of multiple lawsuits in the wake of the August wildfire.
Cory Lum / Grist

Meanwhile, Martin and his fellow investors sought to expand to other parts of West Maui with several large-scale developments in areas along the coastline. In one instance, he and another pair of developers named Bill Frampton and Dave Ward proposed building 1,500 homes, including both single and multifamily housing units, in the small beachfront town of Olowalu, even though water access in the area is minimal and rainfall is declining. The developers later scrapped the project following protests from environmental activists, but in the meantime, Martin sold off a few dozen more lots in Olowalu, where he has a home. He also created another utility, Olowalu Water Company, to supply homes in the area with stream water.

Hawaiʻi, like most of the Western United States, allocates water using a “rights” system: A person or company can own the right to draw from a given water source, often on land they own, but they can’t own the water source itself. In states like Oregon and Arizona, this system has led to conflicts between settlers and tribal nations, but in Hawaiʻi the law provides explicit protection for Native Hawaiian users. State law stipulates that traditional and cultural uses, such as taro farming, “shall not be abridged or denied.” In times of shortage, Native users have the highest priority.

In 2018, the state water commission imposed so-called “flow standards” on several West Maui streams, capping the amount of water that Launiupoko Irrigation Company and Olowalu Water Company could divert at any given time. Palakiko had mixed feelings about this: He didn’t want to cede more control over the water that his family had used for generations, but it felt necessary in order to ensure someone could hold the companies accountable.

Even after these rules took effect, though, Martin’s water utility companies violated them dozens of times. When the state threatened to fine the companies, Launiupoko Irrigation Company stopped taking water from its stream completely. Residents of the lush Launiupoko subdivision soon had to ration irrigation water, and the Palakikos lost their access altogether. Their pipes stayed dry for more than a week until a judge ordered Martin’s company to turn on the tap back on.

As the state cracked down on stream diversions, Martin sought to secure more water by tapping an aquifer beneath Lāhainā. Here again, he was accused of infringing on Native Hawaian cultural resources: When his West Maui Construction Company started digging a ditch for a water line in 2020, it excavated an area that contained Native Hawaiian burial remains, triggering protests. Five Native Hawaiian women activists climbed into the company’s ditch to stop the construction project and were arrested. A judge later found the company broke the law by starting construction on the water line without all the requisite permits.

West Maui Land Company has been struggling in recent years to secure approval for new developments. The wildfire could now spur a surge in housing construction on Maui. Cory Lum / Grist

The new restrictions started to hamper Martin’s development activities. Last year, his Launiupoko Water Company applied to the state’s utility regulator for permission to deliver water to a new area near Lāhainā. The company said it had agreed to supply a nearby landowner with potable water for 11 new homes, and told the state it needed to increase its groundwater pumping by at least 65,000 gallons per day. The regulator rejected the expansion plan, saying the company had omitted “basic information” about where it would get this new water. The landowner that would have received the water was another company in which Martin has an ownership stake.

Even as his companies’ plans faced headwinds, Martin continued to benefit. He loaned Launiupoko Irrigation Company a total of $9 million in recent years as the company tried to expand its Lāhainā well system, charging 8 percent interest. The company tried in 2021 to secure a bank loan for the project, but three banks turned it down, with one noting that the company’s “interest payments to Pete” were “substantial.”

Glenn Tremble, a top executive at West Maui Land Company, the company at the center of Martin’s development empire, said in response to a list of questions that Grist’s statements were “generally false and often libelous.” Tremble noted that Martin has built affordable housing units on West Maui and donated to churches. He said that Martin is “well positioned to assist with recovery and efforts to rebuild.” 

If Martin’s track record with water and land made him infamous in Lāhainā, it also invigorated local support for even stricter water controls. Palakiko’s long campaign for more attention to the region’s water problems finally bore fruit last year when the state designated West Maui as a “water management area.” Instead of just setting limits on how much water Martin’s companies could take from West Maui streams at any given time, the state water commission announced that it would revamp the area’s entire water system, giving highest priority to Indigenous cultural uses like taro farming. That may mean limiting access for Martin’s luxury developments, though Tremble disputes this.

“We’ve heard a lot from the community about the development of West Maui Land’s holdings in Launiupoko,” said Dean Uyeno, the interim chair of the state water commission, about the decision. “To continue building in these types of ways is going to keep taxing the resource.” The question, Uyeno said, is whether developers “can … find a way to [be] building more responsible development that balances the resources we have.”

A worker checks on a water well that serves one of Martin’s housing developments in West Maui. Cory Lum / Grist

Martin thinks the argument that water is a scarce resource is a “red herring.” He argues that the market is calling for more housing, not more water for native fish that rely on the streams.

“All the people [who] ever come to me say, ‘Peter, can you get me a house? I want a place to live,’” he said. “They don’t go, ‘Oh, I wish I had [shrimp] for dinner.’ That’s not what people tell me. They say, ‘Can’t you give me some house, some land?’ I go, ‘I’d love to but the government won’t let me.’”

In the days before the wildfire, Martin’s executives worked long hours in his West Maui Land Company office filling out 30 state applications justifying their current water usage and seeking more, in accordance with the state’s revamp of the area’s water system. They submitted the applications just days before the state’s August 7 deadline. The day after the deadline, Lāhainā burned. 

To Martin, this is not a coincidence. He believes the state water commission’s efforts to more strictly regulate water enabled the fire by preventing more construction of homes with irrigated lawns — in other words, more development would have made West Maui more resilient to fire. The day before the water commissioners met in September, he wondered if the commissioners would acknowledge their responsibility for the wildfire deaths and regretted not pushing harder against their restrictions.

“I feel I actually have blood on my hands because I didn’t fight hard enough,” he said.

Developer Peter Martin told Grist that concern about invasive grass fueling wildfires is a “red herring,” and asked, “How could this stuff that’s 8 inches, or 10 or 12 inches, or very low on the ground be the culprit?” Cory Lum / Grist

There’s no evidence that the state management rules, which are still in the process of going into effect, had any bearing on the fire. When Grist relayed this argument to the interim leader of the state’s water commission, he was stunned.

“That actually leaves me speechless,” said Uyeno. “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Palakiko and his family spent the day of the fire watching the smoke rising from the coastline, watering the grass on their property and praying the winds wouldn’t shift, sending the flames their way. Five years earlier, another fire fueled by a passing hurricane had burned down two homes on their land. 

That day, their prayers were answered. But when Palakiko’s son, a firefighter, came home shaken from his shift fighting the blaze, the family realized that the West Maui they had known their whole lives was gone. 

Two days later, Palakiko received another shock when he read Tremble’s letter accusing Kaleo Manuel, the deputy director of the water commission, of delaying the release of firefighting water. The letter argued that Manuel had waited to release water to West Maui Land Company’s reservoir until he had checked with the owners of a downstream taro farm. That farm belongs to the Palakikos. 

The company’s allegations were explosive. The state attorney general launched an investigation and requested that the commission reassign Manuel, who had been instrumental in establishing the Lāhainā water management area and was the only Native Hawaiian to ever hold that position. Governor Josh Green temporarily suspended the rules that limit how much water Martin’s companies and other water users can draw from West Maui streams. The state later reinstated Manuel and restored the rules. In a statement to Grist, Tremble said he respects Manuel’s “commitment and his integrity” and said that “the problem is the process, or lack thereof, to provide water to Maui Fire Department and to the community.”

A reservoir owned by one of Peter Martin’s water utilities in the hills outside Lāhainā. The reservoir delivers water to a subdivision built by another of Martin’s companies. Cory Lum / Grist

While there was no evidence that filling the reservoir would have stopped the fire from destroying Lāhainā, and firefighting helicopters wouldn’t have been able to access the reservoir due to high winds on the day in question, there’s a growing consensus among scientists in Hawaiʻi that one factor in its rapid spread was the proliferation of nonnative grasses on former plantation lands — including lands that Peter Martin owns. 

Before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, before the dominance of the sugar industry allowed plantations to divert West Maui’s streams, Hawaiian royalty lived on a sandbar in the midst of a large fishpond within a 14-acre wetland in Lāhainā, which was known as the Venice of the Pacific.

After plantation owners diverted streams for their crops, the royal fishpond became a stagnant marsh, and later was filled with coral rubble and paved over. Now, Palakiko imagines what it would be like if the streams were allowed to resume their original paths: what trees would grow, what native grass could flourish, what fires might be stopped. He doesn’t think this vision is at odds with the need to address Maui’s housing crisis.

For Palakiko, the fight over the future of water in Lāhainā is about more than just who controls the streams in this section of Maui. It’s also in some ways a referendum on what future Hawaiʻi will choose: one that reflects the worldview of people like Palakiko, who see water as a sacred resource to be preserved, or that of people like Martin, who sees it as a tool to be used for profit.

To Martin, such a shift is unsettling.

“I mean, for a hundred years, you could take all the water, and all of a sudden these guys come in, and say, ‘Oh, you can’t take any water,'” Martin said. “And they made it sound like I’m this terrible person.”

This story has been corrected to reflect the updated death toll provided by Maui County.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The libertarian developer looming over West Maui’s water conflict on Nov 27, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News


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