Archive for March, 2011

What do we want? Wind Power! When do we want it? Now!

Posted on March 22, 2011. Filed under: Events, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Yesterday, some of the Clean Currents team joined CCAN, Sierra Club, MDLCV and hundreds of union workers in a rally to support Governor O’Malley’s Maryland offshore wind act (HB 1054/SB 861). The environmental contingency led by CCAN, organized by the docks for pep talk from Keith Harrington of CCAN and John Congedo, President of AC Wind. AC Wind has signed a lease on a factory in Salisbury, MD, where it promises to employ hundreds of workers to manufacture compoments for the offshore wind turbines. Congedo spoke of his emergence from retirement to start a company that will help America move towards a clean energy future. His decision came after a conversation with his daughter who asked him what he was doing to fix the problems his generation was responsible for exacerbating. He’s working in the wind industry because “wind power works”.

Energized by these speeches, we marched up to lawyers mall, gathering more supporters with our chants of “Wind Power! Now!” Hundreds of union workers were already rallying on the mall. The message was clear, their members need jobs now. With over 85,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the state of Maryland in the last two decades, offshore wind presents a unique opportunity to gain some of these jobs back and put people back to work. A true opportunity for a blue-green alliance.

Here are some more shots from the rally:

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CCAN is planning another rally with Governor O’Malley at 2 PM on Wednesday, March 23rd.

WHAT: Wind press conference with Governor Martin O’Malley
WHERE: Annapolis City Dock, Alex Haley Memorial (same spot as Monday)
WHEN: Wednesday March 23, 2:30PM
WHO: Speakers including Governor Martin O’Malley, Jim Strong of the United Steelworkers, Mike Tidwell of CCAN, Brad Heavner of Environment Maryland and more…
WHY: Because the bill may be voted on Thursday or Friday and we need to keep on being as big and visible as possible. The Governor needs your support once more!
RAIN OR SHINE: There will be tents set up on site, but bring an umbrella!

 Contact Keith for more details.

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Biking 300 Miles for The Climate!

Posted on March 17, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Hi everyone! Kristin Schulz here – Clean Currents’ Residential Outreach Coordinator.
 
On behalf of Clean Currents and with the future of our beautiful planet in mind, I have decided to participate in this year’s Climate Ride – a 300 mile bike ride from New York City to Washington DC! The event is helping raise money and awareness to support the environment. Although it will definitely be a challenge (I’m no cyclist…yet) – I’m excited to take this on because it will be an incredible adventure and a wonderful way to support a better environment. 

A couple weeks ago I started training – I’ll have to be able to complete 60 miles each day for 5 days! The journey will take place May 13th-17th, so I’m working hard to get ready. My rides have been fun so far since I’m meeting some of the other climate riders and discovering beautiful trails around Washington, DC.
 
This is going to be an unforgettable experience so I want to share my stories with you along the way. I’ll be representing Clean Currents the entire way by tweeting and blogging throughout the ride. Follow me @cleancurrents and get updates from all the riders at http://www.climateridelive.org/ and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/climateride.

My fundraising goal is $2,400. Proceeds from the Climate Ride support important projects at a collection of nine organizations focused on green jobs, clean energy, climate education, and bicycle infrastructure. Any support you can give would be greatly appreciated! See my donation page: http://climateride.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&eventID=501&participantID=1216
 
Hope you enjoy following me on my ride!

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Inside Scoop on This Congress and The Climate

Posted on March 15, 2011. Filed under: Events, News, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today, Clean Currents hosted another free, educational webinar. Check out the PowerPoint presentation and feel free to comment:  Inside Scoop on This Congress and Climate Change.

Three fabulous speakers joined us to lend their insights on what to expect from the 112th congress on legislation and policy related to climate issues.

Nancy Gonzalez of the Alliance to Save Energy outlined the political climate in the House and the Senate including the new members of committees with the power to influence energy legislation. Despite the bleak outlook for progress on energy issues with the current congressional makeup, Nancy noted the effectiveness of momentum on the grassroots level and encouraged expansion of local initiatives. 

Jason Kowalski of 1Sky provided a number of powerful images demonstrating how the US’s politics and the coal industry are intimately intertwined. Jason reinforced the concept of effective grassroots activism by discussing a few strong examples, while also mentioning their limitations in competing with well-financed attack campaigns.  

Ted Glick from The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) gave us an update on both regional and federal environmental legislation. In Maryland, the focus is on passing the Offshore Wind bill. In fact, you are invited to attend the rally in Annapolis on March 21st to support the bill:  https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/423/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=66884. Despite a short legislative session, Virginia could be making headway on both solar and offshore wind. In DC, CCAN is working to get the Cap & Dividend approach passed on the federal level. 

At first glance, one may not expect much in the way of climate legislation from the current Congress, but these groups highlighted that groups and individuals can still make a difference in pushing through environmentally friendly policies – especially on the local level. To learn more about these organizations and how to get involved in their grassroots initiatives, visit:
http://ase.org
www.1sky.org
www.chesapeakeclimate.org

Clean Currents is also supporting grassroots initiatives via our Green Neighborhood Challenge. Contact Kristin Schulz at kschulz@cleancurrents.com to learn how to get your group involved!

 To sign up for Clean Currents’ wind powered electricity option and to learn more about our Green Neighborhood Challenge, visit: www.cleancurrents.com.

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Pepco’s Reliability Woes

Posted on March 14, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

It’s not news to Maryland and DC residents that Pepco’s service reliability has been subpar lately. Both Maryland and DC customers have lost power during rain and snow storms, as well as those unexplainable and maybe even more frustrating “blue sky” outages. Pepco leadership has admitted to these failings after reports ranked the utility near the bottom for both relaibility and customer service.

The Maryland Public Service Commission released an independent consultant report this month that showed the deterioriation in reliability goes back to 2004, when Pepco failed to make distribution grid improvements after Hurricane Isabel. This same report concluded that Pepco’s own reliability plan was thrown together hastily without much thought or analysis.  Pepco has denied this claim and has faulted dense tree cover for much of its reliability woes. However, as this insightful Washington Post analysis from December 2010 points out, the argument does not excuse poor performance, as utilities in cities with similar or denser tree cover have been able to provide much more reliable service to customers.

Frustration over Pepco’s performance has been a growing concern for citizens and lawmakers in DC and Maryland. In Maryland, numerous open letters to Pepco as well as ads targetting the utility appeared on the campaign trail this fall. Governor Martin O’Malley released his letter to Pepco executives in January.

During this session, the Maryland General Assembly,  led by legislators from Montgomery County, is taking a serious look at bills that would hold Pepco and the other utilities in the state to a higher standard for reliability and service. As of this writing, there are at least three bills in play that would do something to help beleaguered consumers.

HB 391/SB 692 – The House version’s  (HB 391) chief sponsor is Montgomery County Delegate Brian Feldman (D-15). Most of the other MoCo legislators are on board with this and it was a O’Malley Administration priority. The Senate version is sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mac Middleton (D-Charles County). Many MoCo Senators are on board as well. This bill would require Pepco and the other utilities to achieve certain minimum performance standards or face serious penalties from the Public Service Commission. The bill would strive to put Pepco and the other utilities at the top of the class, rather than the bottom, nationally.

HB 1171/SB 749 – The House version is sponsored by House Economic Matter Committee Chair Dereck Davis (D – Prince George’s) and the Senate version by Senator Roger Manno (D-19), a Montgomery County legislator.  This bill also requires the utilities to report on their performance, though in a slightly different way than the other bill. It looks at the effect on income lost for businesses, hardship for the elderly, and other factors.

HB 1278 – This bill only has a House version, sponsored by Montgomery County Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20). It would prevent Pepco and the other utilities from charging customers for times when the power was out. It provides a real financial incentive for Pepco and others to do a better job, while protecting consumers from paying for something they shouldn’t have to pay for.

These bills are all good efforts at addressing the serious problems in the Pepco and Delmarva service areas in particular. Let’s hope they pass, because the record shows the utilities need to improve a lot. The chart below illustrates average reliability of the various service areas in Maryland as measured by the System-Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) and the System-Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI). Pepco and Delmarva have the highest results in each category.

Average Reliability Results (2005-2009)

Distribution Territory SAIFI (Measures Frequency of Interruptions) SAIDI (Measures Duration of Interruptions)
Allegheny 1.09 3.28
BGE 1.49 4.09
Choptank 2.16 3.94
Delmarva 2.23 5.73
Pepco 2.14 5.70
SMECO 1.15 2.57
Source: MD Public Service Commission via Fiscal Note HB 391

Other proposals in the Maryland General Assembly suggested everything from moving utility lines underground to getting rid of Pepco altogether (WaPo features a great overview of these suggestions here).

On the local level, Montgomery County Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich have all recently commented on Pepco’s performance. Councilmember Elrich has even suggested replacing Pepco with a Public Power Utility. Such a utility is owned by the public (the government) and is therefore hopefully more mindful of stakeholder (public) interests instead of being narrowly focused on investor profit.

In DC, Councilmember Mary Cheh has been a vocal supporter of increased regulation and reliability standards for Pepco. In January, Cheh introduced legislation to the Council to improve Pepco’s reliability.  As she explained last month on an appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, she believes the DC Public Service Commission should be much more vigilant in regulating Pepco’s reliability than it has been in the past and that Pepco’s investors, rather than ratepayers, should pay for the penalities Pepco accrues during outages.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Pepco’s reliability challenges and the legislative response. Hopefully it will result in more than just another “5-point, 10-point, 16-point plan”

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What’s that Oily Taste?

Posted on March 9, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

 

The recent unrest in the Middle-East has helped push oil futures to multi-year highs.  After getting used to seeing gasoline prices in the mid-$2/gallon range, I was shocked to see my local Exxon selling premium gasoline at just under $4/gallon!  I thought to myself, “thank goodness I don’t own a car” and I kept walking.

But oil’s influence and reach goes far beyond just refined gasoline.  Per capita, Americans use more oil than people in any other country – about twice as much as Europeans.  Similar to our national addiction to fast food, our addiction to oil has many negative consequences.  The difficult thing is, an addiction to junk food has conspicuous symptoms for the individual like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, whereas an addiction to oil has much less apparent and more dispersed consequences.

A shockingly high percentage of everything that we use, consume, and rely upon on a daily basis is either produced from or powered by fossil fuels and their byproducts – all of which grow more costly as the price of oil rises.  Every stage of a product’s life-cycle, from production, to transportation & distribution, to delivery & consumption require energy and ingredients to make the product — and an ever-present ingredient in our products and a majority of what powers us is oil or other fossil fuels.

Because we don’t see or know how much energy goes into the products and services that we purchase and consume, we’re shielded from knowing the full extent of our personal energy demands — and unprepared when rising oil prices increase the cost of everything else.

While I’m hoping that we don’t find ourselves in a tight economic bind due to spiraling consumer prices; perhaps coming to a shared realization that we are all interconnected and that our daily economic choices have real consequences, could help us in the long run.

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How Clean is Waste-to-Energy Incineration? Updated 3-16-11

Posted on March 8, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

And the answer is…not as clean is its proponents would like you think. Today, SB 690 is being heard in the Maryland General Assembly. This bill proposes that Waste-to-Energy (WTE) be considered a Tier 1 Renewable Resource in the State of Maryland. Currently wind, solar, qualifying biomass, small hydro, certain methane and a few other resources are considered Tier 1 resources. WTE is a Tier 2 resource along with large scale hydro.

According to the fiscal note on SB 690, though WTE electricity has a favorable emissions profile compared to oil and gas fueled power plants, 

 “MSW [Municipal Solid Waste] incinerators are significant contributors to the environmental deposition of mercury dioxin, furan, and other toxic materials and organic compounds.”

Changing WTE from Tier 2 to Tier 1 will not only incentivize WTE incineration, but will also increase the supply of Tier 1 RECs, thus bringing down the value. A lower Tier 1 REC value will decrease the payback for Tier 1 projects (like the proposed Maryland offshore wind project) and will also make it economically viable for utilities to pay the Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) instead of purchasing RECs.

Check out Clean Currents testimony opposing SB 690 here: SB 690 WTE Testimony Clean Currents 

Update March 16, 2011 : SB 690 has passed the Senate. Its crossfile in the House, HB 1121 is currently being discussed. Contact your delegate TODAY to tell them you oppose HB 1121! Lookup your delegate here.

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