New Jersey Takes a Huge Step Towards Renewable Energy

by George Tahopoulos

On Thursday of this week New Jersey drastically changed its energy sector. They passed two bills that set new goals for increasing the amount of renewable energy that goes into the state. The deal consists of New Jersey saying that by 2030 they will generate 50% of their electricity from renewable energy. The bill was also passed with a 300 million dollar subsidy to the states remaining nuclear power plants which, some environmental groups are not exactly enthused by this because it starts another argument to whether we should move over to nuclear energy even though the danger is high and it is practically impossible to dispose of the waste.

People like Jeff Tittel the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club think that the bill is purely about the subsidy and that the quota set on renewable energy is a diversion to make you not see what is actually going on. In my opinion I believe that by 2030 most of the country will already be on renewable energy so I feel as if the nuclear industry is not mad about the bill being passed.

All of this is of course in response to President Trump taking us out of the Paris agreement. Since then there has been much outrage in the environmental community and senators have started to take matters in their own hands. This is just one of the 14 states whose senators announced that they would uphold the agreement and push forward on their own.

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Natural Gas Politics in Colorado

by Michael Patterson

Government officials in La Plata Country, Colorado are working to address an issue that has residents concerned. Natural gas wells in the region are found to be emitting high amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This discovery came after a 2014 NASA study found that La Plata County had the highest level of methane in the country (Plautz para. 2).

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt has been actively involved with protecting communities from environmental harm caused by these natural gas wells. She approached Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) to get his vote for limiting the use of gas wells in Colorado communities. Senator McCain voted against the removal of the Obama-era rule, which limits the amount of methane being emitted on public land. However, some people have criticized Lachelt for her role in the environmental movement. Some say that her trip to Washington is evidence that she is using her role in public office for personal gain because her trip was funded by an environmental group that she also leads. The issue of oil and politics will be a debate for several years to come.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/la-plata-county-recall-methane_us_5ab12b39e4b0eb3e2b30dd51

New Bill Supports 100% Renewables for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Environmental Digest Blog reports that a new bipartisan bill introduced in both houses of the state legislature seeks to create a plan to make the Commonwealth reliant on 100% renewable power by 2050. Here’s more information on this bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Robb and Senator Charles McIlhinney: http://paenvironmentdaily.blogspot.no/2018/04/bipartisan-senatehouse-bills-would.html

Air Quality in Delaware

by Travis Turner
A recent test done by the American Lung Association discovered that air quality has been decreasing in several parts of Delaware. The three counties all scored poorly on the high ozone days category. Kent county received a C, Sussex received a D, and New Castle received a F. However, both Kent and Sussex received an A for their particle pollution, while New Castle received a D.  Kevin Stewart who is the Environmental Health Director believes these low ratings are due to several main factors. The biggest cause of this is that I – 95 runs right through most of New Castle. Cars, trucks and buses are big contributors to ozone pollution. New Castle is also home to a fairly large commuter work force. Another interesting cause of the pollution can be considered a negative externality. Delaware is located downwind to several high polluting businesses. Since they are not in the state borders, unfortunately there is not much Delaware can do about it.
I believe this air quality issue needs to be addressed on a national level for any significant change to occur. We currently take clean air for granted and we really shouldn’t. There are countries out there who do not have the luxury of clean air. Countries like China deal with smog and acid rain due to their high levels of pollution. Realistically I don’t think we will ever end up in their position, but that doesn’t mean we should not put some effort into improving our current air quality.

Responsibility for Keeping the Chesapeake Bay Healthy in PA Shifts from State to County

According to Lancaster Online‘s Ad Crable there is a policy shift going on in Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County farmers and residents will have a new taskmaster as the state tries a significantly different approach to make up ground to remove nutrients and sediment polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

The state will now rely on private and public sector leaders in Lancaster County itself, hoping for a more cooperative approach to vastly step up removal of the pollutants.

Farm-related runoff of manure, fertilizer and soil, as well as trying to capture stormwater, will be the focal points for the new initiative.

Is this new “localism” a good idea?

https://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-county-leaders-to-take-charge-of-chesapeake-bay-cleanup/article_66efca3c-3d9e-11e8-9731-877c05f4ccb0.html

Scott Pruitt’s Meetings with Campaign Donors

by Shane Pollock

Since taking office in 2017, the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has been reported of meeting with at least 39 of his campaign donors, including major oil, gas, and coal companies, such as Murray Energy. This report comes at a time where Pruitt is facing a lot of criticism for his office’s spending habits. The meetings with past donors have greatly outnumbered meetings with environmental organizations. On top of this, Pruitt has already given speeches at 4 different events planned by the Federalist Society, another one of Pruitt’s donors during his campaign for Attorney General. Pruitt has also been seen touring a coal mine in Wyoming, Arch Coal, which ironically also donated to his campaign in 2014. All of these meetings and events are made public by the EPA, and can be seen here: https://www.epa.gov/senior-leaders-calendars/calendar-scott-pruitt-administrator .

What do you think about Pruitt focusing a lot of his time on past donors of his campaigns? Is it a normal part of politics, or is in inappropriate for a sitting administrator to do? Do you think Pruitt should be more concerned with our environment than maintaining past relationships? Personally, I believe Pruitt is focusing far too much of his time on the wrong industries. With so much attention on the oil & gas industry, how is he benefiting our environment?

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-campaign-donors_us_5acc4525e4b0150d9bfe7820

Is “Localism” the Answer?

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Gracy Olmstead argues that there may be a solution to our fractured partisan politics: localism. She states

at the local level, our interests intertwine: They are practical, achievable, even apolitical.This is localism, a bottom-up, practically oriented way of looking at today’s biggest policy dilemmas. Instead of always or only seeking to fix municipal issues through national policy, localism suggests that communities can and should find solutions to their own particular problems, within their own particular contexts. The best walkability solutions for Washington, D.C., may not work in my town.

Olmstead cites a sustainability case as an example:

Localism manifests itself in a variety of forms. The farmer and author Joel Salatin has seen localism thrive within the sustainable agriculture movement: States like Wyoming and Maine have campaigned for “local food freedom laws,” which enable farmers to sell certain goods to neighbors without as much federal oversight or bureaucratic red tape.

What are other examples related to environmental politics that might be resolved through “localism”?