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Media News / Washington Post June 25th 2020

Washington Post ... June 25th 2020

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

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Power plays A federal appeals court upheld the cancellation of a long-disputed federal oil and gas lease in Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine region near Glacier National Park. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled a lower court was wrong to reinstate the lease after the Interior Department canceled it in 2016. The lease was for an area near the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, on sacred land for the tribe, Montana Public Radio reports. The Interior Department building in Washington. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post) “Moncrief Oil and Solenex LLC took the Interior Department to court arguing that the agency lacked the authority to cancel the lease decades after it was issued. The lower court didn’t issue a decision on the agency’s authority, but ruled its delay in granting permission to drill violated federal law and reinstated the leases,” per the report. “The latest appellate court ruling says that delay did not invalidate the Interior Department’s decision to cancel all leases in the area, and remanded the case back to the lower court.' Coronavirus fallout A group of 180 Democrats wants House leaders to invest in the clean energy sector that's facing major job loss. Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) calling for tax credits to be doled out instead as direct payments, the Hill reports. They also requested a delay in the phasing down of tax incentives for renewable energy sources. Arrays of photovoltaic solar panels are seen at the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South in this aerial photo taken over El Centro, Calif. (Bing Guan/Reuters) The letter cites a May analysis that found the sector lost 600,000 jobs, and follows a more recent analysis from BW Research Partnership that the sector has lost more than 620,000 jobs since March. “Investments in clean energy pay back dividends because of the breadth and geography that are impacted – either job losses will devastate the communities we represent, or economic relief for this sector will help them weather this crisis,” reads the letter led by Reps. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.). There are five coronavirus cases among staff at NOAA’s Lakeland, Fla., base. The base is the location of the agency’s “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft, raising questions about whether the cases there will hamper the critical early warning system for storms, Andrew Freedman writes. NOAA Hurricane Hunter research aircraft in a hangar at the Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Fla. (NOAA) “The five positive tests came back Friday, according to a statement from NOAA spokesman Jonathan Shannon. The sick personnel were last in the facility between June 3 and 8,' he reports. “…Keeping covid-19, the disease the virus causes, out of NOAA facilities that are relied upon during hurricane season has been a significant concern going into the Atlantic hurricane season.' The wildfire season is here PG&E Corp. pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges for its part in sparking California's deadliest wildfire. The company admitted fault in the 84 wildfire deaths from the 2018 Camp Fire on the same day that a separate judge said he intends to approve PG&E's reorganization plan as it moves toward a bankruptcy exit, the Wall Street Journal reports. In this Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, a vehicle rests in front of a home leveled by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. (Noah Berger/AP) “PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson entered the guilty pleas for each of the felony counts of involuntary manslaughter, looking at the images of the 84 victims on a screen as Judge Michael Deems recited the counts in alphabetical order,” per the report. “Meanwhile in a separate hearing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco, Judge Dennis Montali said he intends to approve PG&E’s $59 billion reorganization plan, which involves issuing huge amounts of new debt and equity to help pay liability claims related to wildfires,' the Journal adds. ' …The proceedings bring PG&E closer to closing a dark chapter in its history, after fires sparked by company equipment killed more than 100 people and burned more than 15,000 homes in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.” Wildfires are spreading across parts of California and in the desert Southwest. Brush fires prompted evacuations when they broke out near San Luis Obispo in California on Monday. Fires also popped up over the weekend between Phoenix and Tucson. Parts of California and the desert Southwest have experienced little rainfall and high temperatures – conditions ripe for fires, Matthew Cappucci reports. “June is peak fire season in greater Phoenix and central Arizona. The month only averages 0.02 inches of precipitation — barely enough to measure — and afternoon highs top out around 104 degrees on average,' he writes. A brush fire burns above houses near U.S. 101 in Pismo Beach, Calif. (David Middlecamp/Tribune of San Luis Obispo/AP) Global warming watch Farmers and utilities are turning cow manure into energy. Dominion Energy is investing more than $200 million to work with Vanguard Renewables to capture methane from manure from dairy farms in numerous states and turn it into natural gas. “Dominion will own the projects and sell the gas. Vanguard will design, develop and operate the biodigesters. Farmers get paid for hosting the digester and benefit from the byproducts of the process, including heat for their property, livestock bedding and fertilizer,” Jim Morrison writes. The anaerobic digester at the Jordan Dairy Farms Heifer Facility in Spencer, Mass. (Adam Glanzman for The Washington Post) “Why the investment? Poop is a pervasive problem, and a source of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide,” he adds. “Trapping methane, processing it and burning it for energy or selling it to the electric grid is a way to remove it from the atmosphere. It turns manure — a 1,400-pound dairy cow produces nearly 54,000 pounds of it annually — into money… Still, manure is a comparatively modest source of methane from cows.' The Washington area has not yet seen a day with unhealthful air quality this year. That’s the latest on record that this has happened in a calendar year, Jason Samenow reports. The fresh outdoor air and reduced emissions are a result of long-term policies for controlling pollution, but also a result of pandemic-driven shutdowns and economic slowdowns that led to fewer polluting vehicles on the road. “So far in 2020, the air quality index for metropolitan Washington has held in the good (green) range on all but seven days when it was moderate (yellow),” Samenow writes. “There have been no code orange or red days for air pollution.” 26 Comments Share on FacebookShare Share on TwitterTweet Share via Email Dino Grandoni Dino Grandoni is an energy and environmental policy reporter and the author of PowerPost's daily tipsheet on the beat, The Energy 202. Before The Post, he was the climate and energy reporter at BuzzFeed News, where he covered the intersection of science, industry and government. 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