The Delaware City Refining Company, a division of PBG Energy, is asking taxpayers to help it adapt to “tidal encroachment” (a.k.a. sea level rise) after more than 50 years of pumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere. “The extent of the shoreline erosion has reached a point where facility infrastructure is at risk,” states the company’s permit application under the Coastal Zone Management Act. “The refinery is on the waterfront, and rising tides and extreme storms could threaten it,” Adler reports, citing the Sierra Club blog. The company’s adaptation plan “could direct more storm surges toward Delaware City, the adjacent town.”
Climate hawks in the United States have formed a new Super PAC (Political Action Committee) to endorse Congressional candidates who support strong action on climate change. “Every big legislative victory requires lawmakers who will publicly argue for an issue and aggressively push legislation,” Adler explains. Formed to counter Democrats’ timidity on climate change, Climate Hawks Vote developed a scoring system to measure Democratic legislators’ commitment, said founder and Executive Director R.L. Miller. “We’re trusting them to vote as a bloc but they’re not leading on this issue,” he told Grist. “We need to measure public engagement.”
The new carbon pollution rule in the U.S. will inevitably face a series of lawsuits. Grist’s Ben Adler lists five likely legal strategies for the regulation’s opponents: attacking a previous EPA rule on emissions from new power plants, challenging the “outside the fence” approach that allows states to factor in a wider range of emission reductions, criticizing a set of variable targets that recognizes current energy use patterns in different states, opposing state compliance plans, and critiquing any compliance plans the EPA produces on states’ behalf. Ironically, the “outside the fence” strategy and flexible targets are designed to make the rule easier and more realistic for states to implement. “EPA is doing industry a favour by taking into account the prevalence of coal versus other resources,” David Doniger, senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean air program, told Grist.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new greenhouse gas regulation is a good first step, “environmental activists are not overwhelmed with joy at the news,” Adler reports. “Environmental experts generally agree that more ambitious targets are possible, especially if the EPA is going to make the rules extend all the way to 2030.” David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen both called for a tougher standard, even though the EPA’s state-by-state approach follows the broad strategy in a 2013 NRDC proposal.
Urban affairs writer Ben Adler has an interesting take on the mix of new and old buildings that creates a vibrant, successful city. “It’s all about balance,” Adler writes. “A city with nothing but modern skyscrapers would surely lose its aesthetic charm, its creative energy, and its urban vitality. But a city with no new construction risks turning into a museum…frequented only by the rich and tourists.” In a low-carbon energy scenario, both forms of construction play an important part: existing buildings will have to be much more energy-efficient by mid-century, while new structures can and should be at least net-zero, meaning that they produce as much energy as they consume.
On May 6, the U.S. released its third National Climate Assessment, giving it much more prominence than the previous report. The Assessment identified five ways in which climate disruptions lead to injury, illness, and death, according to Adler’s analysis of the 800+-page report: Extreme heat, extreme drought and rainfall, agriculture and food security, insects, and air pollution. “Climate change is not a distant threat; it’s already affecting the U.S.,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “This is the largest alarm bell to date.”