Articles You Might Have Missed

Around the world people are taking the initiative to mitigate climate change. Here are some good news briefs compiled by the Climate Issue group of the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom.

EPA Sets New Standards for Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency released long-awaited proposed standards for cancer-causing “forever chemicals” in drinking water. Once finalized, the standards will force states to begin the arduous and expensive process of cleaning their water supplies of some of the class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. This marks the first time the EPA has proposed enforceable drinking water limits for PFAS, which are commonly known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down over time and can remain in the environment for years on end.

The proposed limits would cap two common types of PFAS contamination — the chemicals PFOA and PFOS — in drinking water at just 4 parts per trillion. That’s a significant reduction from the level the EPA suggested was safe as recently as 2016, when the agency put out a health advisory that suggested 70 parts per trillion as a maximum level for those types of PFAS in drinking water. This week’s announcement signals that federal regulators’ understanding of the health impacts of exposure to these chemicals is rapidly evolving and that the EPA now appears to believe that virtually no quantity of the chemicals is safe for human consumption.

There are more than 12,000 chemicals under the PFAS umbrella, some used more widely than others. In total, the rule would apply to six commonly used types: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFBS, PFHxS, and GenX. Besides limiting PFOA and PFOS to 4 parts per trillion, the remaining four types of chemicals would be restricted based on their combined effects. The agency is now soliciting feedback from the public on the proposed rule and aims to finalize it by the end of the year.

In recent years, as the EPA mulled over how strict to make its PFAS standard, some states — including Alaska, Massachusetts, and Vermont — chose to move forward without the agency and propose or set their own limits on forever chemicals. The federal rule would supersede any state limits that clock in above 4 parts per trillion.

The Inflation Reduction Act’s Time Has Come

$450 million dollars will be available from the Biden administration to build renewable energy on the land covering old coal mines. Imagine windmills swirling in the breeze off the thousands of acres of old stripped coal mines. The United States is leading the way by implementing funds from the Inflation Reduction Act, which will award this money to developers who will build these renewable products. This will have an enormous effect on the revitalization of some of our poorest counties.

A Major Victory for West Virginia and Climate

“A U.S. appellate court panel on Monday unanimously struck down a key water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a nearly completed fracked gas project long opposed by people living along the over-300-mile route through Virginia and West Virginia. 

Three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated a Clean Water Act certification from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), without which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot allow ongoing MVP construction at stream  and wetland crossings. 

The certification had reflected the department’s conclusion that MVP’s activities during the pipeline’s construction would not violate the state’s water quality standards. Disagreeing with that determination, landowners and members of various environmental organizations in the state petitioned for this court’s review of the department’s certification. In their review, the court agreed. “We find the department’s justifications for its conclusions deficient and vacate the certification.” 

“West Virginia communities have endured Mountain Valley Pipeline’s damage to their water resources and environment for far too long,” said Anne Havemann, Chesapeake Climate Action Network general counsel. “We’re in a climate crisis and need to stop digging the hole deeper. It’s time to move away from polluting fracked gas infrastructure projects such as MVP that harm our rivers and streams, rip through private property, and contribute to climate change,” Havemann said, “and move towards clean, renewable energy.” 

by Jessica Corbett/2023 Common Dreams

Rural Areas Get Economic Boost From Wind Turbines

On a list of the 10 U.S. counties with the biggest increases in gross domestic product (GDP) between 2019 and 2021 — many in rural areas of Texas, Colorado and South Dakota — there’s a common theme. Seven have seen major wind farm construction. One Texas county’s GDP increased from $128 million to $235 million.

Happily, some of the money is being invested into public spaces, like recreation centers and swimming pools. But not everyone is a fan: there’s resistance from people who don’t like the turbine aesthetic. Others think renewable energy companies shouldn’t get tax breaks. Still, another report found that, by 2030, wind and solar power combined could add up to $60 billion for areas that desperately need it. “We’re just a poor West Texas county,” said one official from a Texas county on that top 10 list. “We don’t get much economic stimulation here. We’re tickled pink.”

Wind farms sometimes generate complaints about their appearance and noise, and some critics object to the subsidies and tax abatements that local officials grant them. Some states have made it easier for local governments to block wind and solar projects, while others allow state regulators to approve sites. 

In rural areas such as Coke County, where ranchers’ herds are suffering from drought and oil production is dwindling, wind farms are generating cash to fix roads, recreation centers, senior centers, swimming pools and other aging infrastructure, Spain said. 

That’s how Coke County is planning to spend the $787,500 annual payment it will get from the Aviator Wind Farm for the next 10 years, a negotiated payment during which the wind farm will pay no property taxes on the turbines. Aviator, which has 191 turbines, started operating in 2020 with Facebook (now Meta) and McDonald’s agreeing to purchase its electricity. 

That might be less than property taxes would have brought in, but the reality is “if you don’t give them the (tax) abatement, they’ll just move on to the next county,” Spain said. 

“The incentive is to use it for one-time capital costs,” Brunner said. “It doesn’t work well for buying books, recurring things.” Texas is especially generous to wind farm operators because it allows them to put their full value on the property rolls, making it easier to borrow money, even as it allows them to defer paying taxes on that value, he said. 

Revenue is especially thorny due to its eventual effect on taxpayers and rural communities who will have to make up the difference, Evans said.

In Coke County, Spain said he’s not sure what to expect when the negotiated payments end. After 10 years, much of the taxable value of the turbines will be depreciated, or written off, he said. Are you going to hire somebody and then, what, fire them in 10 years?” he said. “You have to be careful what you spend this money on.”

However, royalty payments to landowners, usually farmers or ranchers, do continue and can help them buy equipment, install irrigation or build homes, said Sarah Mills, senior project manager at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. 

Coke County’s expenditures are typical of how counties are using their payments, said Eric Brunner, an economics professor at the University of Connecticut who studies the economic impacts of wind farms on local governments. 

“For communities that want to go all in on agriculture, wind fits well,” Mills said. “For those that want to see a bunch of residential development or have economies based on tourism and the landscape, they may need to look more closely.”

January 18, 2023 Stateline, An Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trust  

Bookmark the permalink.