Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 5 Posts of 2013 & 3 Conservation Stories to Watch in 2014

The Green Miles & fiancee on top of Mt. Washington
As I head into my ninth year of writing here at The Green Miles, here were the top 5 posts of 2013 at The Green Miles:
  1. Cod Fishermen Are Even More Screwed Than You Thought
  2. Massachusetts Voters Keep Rejecting Wind Turbine Restrictions
  3. What If Your Street Belonged To Kids On Saturdays?
  4. Worcester Official Unleashes Epic Clean Water Whine
  5. Dominion Sale Shows Old Coal Power Plants Are Nearly Worthless
Both my number of posts and overall traffic were at historic lows. Some major life events (getting engaged, preparing to become a first-time dad, buying a home) distracted me from my usual laser-like focus on important things like green deodorant. But it's not just me who's seeing traffic decline - as I wrote this year, it's getting hard out here for a free-range blogger.

So what's on tap for 2014?
  • Will Obama say no to dirty energy? President Obama has shown signs of shaking his previous Yes Man persona by rolling out his climate action plan. But will his administration write strong industrial carbon pollution limits, or let big polluters off the hook? And will he say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline? 
  • Can Congress do anything but cut on conservation? The December budget deal showed signs of promise by loosening the budgetary noose that Congress has put on programs that protect our wildlife, clean air and water and public lands.
  • Immigration reform. It doesn't seem like a conservation issue at first glance. But poll after poll shows Latinos are strong supporters of clean air and water, including climate action. The possibility of millions of undocumented immigrants becoming American citizens and gaining voting rights would nudge the electorate even further towards climate action than it already is. 
Thanks for reading and please keep in touch in the comments section, feedback looking back on 2013 or ahead to 2014 is always appreciated.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Who's Paying Marc Brown to Attack Cape Wind?

Who is Marc Brown, how did he create the "New England Ratepayers Association" out of thin air, and why is he attacking Cape Wind? Check out my new op-ed for the National Wildlife Federation in the Providence Journal.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Signs You Should Stop Thinking About Smart Growth & Enjoy Your Egg Nog

When you see your future mother-in-law's holiday village and think, "Needs more height & density near the train station."

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Real America's Salads Have Been Dead for Months

My fiancee & I got a gift card to Applebee's for Christmas, so I went to America's #1 casual dining restaurant for the first time. We're trying to watch what we eat between holiday gorge-fests, so we both got salads, which was of course a mistake because you don't go to Applebee's for salad, you go there for the cheese dip & pretzel sticks, which is both incredibly delicious and blow-your-hair-back salty.

It was amazing how Applebee's manages to assemble salads with no actual fresh vegetables - bagged greens, dried cranberries, canned red pepper, mandarin orange and corn. In Real America, even if you order a salad, you're getting meat, fried noodles and cheese in heavy sauce - and that meat spent just as long in the freezer as the vegetables were locked in the can.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hottest November Ever

Just in from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center: November was the hottest on record and January-November 2013 has been the fourth-hottest ever, more than a full degree above the 20th century average.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Seven Things Louder Than Our Nearby Wind Turbines

We recently bought a home in Fairhaven, MA about a half a mile away from the town's two wind turbines. There are homes that are closer to the Fairhaven turbines than ours and some of them have legitimate concerns. But "wind turbine syndrome" creator Nina Pierpont claimed symptoms from people who live more than twice as far away as I do, and many members of the anti-wind group "WindWise" live even further away than that.

Here's my list of Things That Are Louder Than Our Nearby Wind Turbines:
  1. Bugs. There's a conservation area next door and in warm weather the bugs are pretty loud from sunset until well into the night.
  2. Birds. They start up around sunrise.
  3. Planes. Lots of small ones heading to New Bedford Regional Airport, occasional big ones going overhead to Logan or TF Green, and the rare military plane out of bases on Cape Cod.
  4. Vehicles. Even though we're on a small side street, we can still hear the distant-but-steady hum of traffic from a nearby main road for 18 hours a day.
  5. Air conditioners. In the summer there's a steady hum of central units from neighboring homes.
  6. Recess. There's an elementary school about a thousand feet away.
  7. A foghorn. The foghorn on the New Bedford hurricane barrier can be heard from two miles away.
  8. The wind itself. If it blows more than 10 miles an hour, it's hard to hear anything else over the rustling trees & leaves.
But there was one night this summer ... when the wind was blowing just the right way ... when the bugs had quieted down ... I woke up in the middle of the night, and went over to the window and leaned in, and thought in the distance I heard a faint noise ... then suddenly I heard a much louder one.

"What the hell are you doing?" my fiancee said. "Come back to bed, weirdo."

I'm not trying to mock those with legitimate concerns - turbines should be sited using the best available science, like the American Wind Energy Association's Wind Energy Siting Handbook.

I'm trying to mock our elected officials in places like the State House, Plymouth and Fairhaven who tie themselves into pretzels trying to please every anti-wind activist - no matter how many miles those activists live from an actual turbine - even though Massachusetts voters know that in this life, there are some noises up with which you must put.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Graphic: Wind Turbine Syndrome is Bizarro Snake Oil

Ketan Joshi just shared this graphic of just 87 of the 216 symptoms that wind turbine opponents attribute to "wind turbine syndrome." Like bizarro snake oil, it's the cause of whatever ails you:

Via Grist via Donald Trump who cannot be bothered reading what he tweets

Northeast Climate Change Compact Keeps Proving Carbon Cap and Trade Works Really Well

Commitment to Clean EnergyThe U.S. Senate Republican minority used the filibuster to block the majority from passing a carbon cap and trade program in 2010, because FREEDOM, or something. So a group of Northeast states went ahead with it anyway and it continues to prove cap and trade works really, really well:
Massachusetts and eight other states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is the nation’s first “cap-and-trade” program. Power plants in the RGGI states must purchase “allowances” that allow them to emit carbon dioxide. The states auction off these allowances and use the proceeds for public purposes, especially investments in energy efficiency, which create jobs and keep energy spending local.

The revisions to the Commonwealth’s RGGI program, as well as similar changes in the other eight states, will lower the existing “cap” on power plant emissions in the RGGI states from the current level of 165 million tons per year to 91 million tons per year starting in 2014. The cap will then be lowered by 2.5 percent each year thereafter until 2020. This reduction will ensure that in 2020, power plant emissions from these nine states will be half of what they were in 2005, when RGGI was initiated.

The lower cap is also expected to generate an estimated $350 million in additional revenue for the Commonwealth by 2020. These revenues will be invested primarily in programs to improve energy efficiency in Massachusetts’ municipalities, businesses and residences, which will, in turn, reduce energy costs and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
$350 million in revenue for Massachusetts alone? I wonder how much his state would be raking in if Gov. Chris Christie hadn't pulled New Jersey out of the program. What's the opposite of fiscal conservatism? Christie's pander to the Tea Party was that.

But cap and trade is supposed to bankrupt families and leave children shivering in the dark ... uh, right?
Before making these revisions, the RGGI states conducted extensive modeling on the impacts of these changes on consumers. The modeling shows that the impacts of the reduced emissions cap will be very modest, less than one percent in consumer bills. The average Massachusetts residential customer’s monthly electric bill of $72 will rise by 39 cents; the average commercial customer’s monthly bill of $455 will rise by $3.89; and the average industrial customer’s monthly bill of $6,659 will rise by $83.
A little over a penny a day to curb superstorms like Sandy and make sure we pass on a stable climate to our children and grandchildren? Seems like the biggest doorbuster bargain of the holiday season.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Philly's Free Parking Problem

Philadelphia only charges residents $35 a year for one unlimited on-street parking sticker - just 10 cents a day.

In a related story, Philadelphia has no money for schools.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Privatized Oil Profit and Socialized Risk, As Explained by Pipeline Safety Official

Arkansas Tar Sands SpillWant to know why oil companies can turn billion dollar profits and leave taxpayers at risk of oil spills? Listen to what Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) official Bill Lowery told DeSmogBlog's Julie Dermansky, keeping in mind he's supposed to be one of the good guys:
At a Public Safety Trust conference on Nov. 21, Lowery was asked, "Knowing what you know about the problems in the Keystone XL's construction, what would you do if your house was in its path?"

His answer: "Here is what I did when I bought my house — I looked on all the maps, I looked for all the well holes. I found there is nothing around me but dry holes and no pipelines. And it's not because I'm afraid of pipelines, it's not because I think something will happen. It's because something could happen. ... You're always better off, if you have a choice...."

He trailed off before finishing his sentence, but added that, "If I was building a house, I wouldn't build it on a refinery, ... I wouldn't build it on a pipeline, because they're all industrial facilities. That's just the reality."
Again, this is a federal pipeline safety official saying he wouldn't let his family live next to an industrial oil facility - yet the agency he works for permits those same facilities near residential areas like an over-eager third base coach waving runners home. This is how the deck gets stacked in favor of Big Oil and against the average citizen.

As I often ask, where's the Tea Party outrage? If the Tea Party is really about looking out for the little guy against Big Government Tyranny, shouldn't they be furious that pipeline safety agencies are letting oil companies build facilities in our communities that they wouldn't accept in their own backyard?