Hurricane Harvey Flooding: EPA to Close Houston Lab Amidst Vital Recovery Work

Newsweek

Hurricane Harvey Flooding: EPA to Close Houston Lab Amidst Vital Recovery Work

By Janissa Delzo      September 16, 2017

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Hurricane Harvey—a Category 4 storm—made history as it pummeled Texas leaving behind extensive damage and more than 40 inches of rain. The catastrophic floodwaters are potentially carrying many harms, including bacteria, human waste, and deadly chemicals. To understand exactly what may be lingering in the water, employees at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 Lab in Houston are conducting water tests. But now that lab, which is expected to play a key role in the extensive recovery efforts, may be closing, the Houston Chronicle reports.

When the lease ends in 2020, the 41,000 square foot space that employs about 50 people is expected to shut down and it’s unknown what will happen next, officials of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) told the Houston Chronicle.

Environmentalist and labor union groups protested at a news conference on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. about the Trump administration’s pending decision to cut EPA funding by millions of dollars. The groups cited the important work that the chemists, biologists, and other lab employees are doing regarding Hurricane Harvey. Additionally, they stated that if the Houston lab closed, testing water and soil will be much more complicated, considering the next closest EPA regional lab is located in Oklahoma, 400 miles from Houston. In addition to the Houston-area, the lab also covers other parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

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Houston EPA lab set to close. Some say the lab’s closure is among harmful impacts of the Trump administration’s drive to slice staff and mission in the agency.   houstonchronicle.com

At the news conference, John O’Grady, who works with AFGE representing EPA employees, voiced his concerns about the potential closing.

“We have a laboratory in Houston that is state of the art and is situated directly in an industrial petrochemical complex. And that laboratory is slated for closure. Why? How much money are we going to save with that?” he questioned.

In April the employees were told the building’s lease would not be renewed, Clovis Steib, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees local 1003, told CNN. Employees are still left in the dark about future plans, leaving many worried if they will have a job come 2020.

As the end of the lease gets closer in sight, “the folks in the Houston lab are in limbo; they’re waiting for the shoe to drop. It’s like being on death row,” Steib said.

The scientists at the lab play an important role in ensuring the safety of the millions of people displaced by Harvey, he explained.

“They will be a part of determining when it is safe for storm victims to return to the area, especially neighborhoods near toxic chemical plants and contaminated Superfund sites,” Steib said.

Water testing, organized by The New York Times, found concerning results of what’s lingering in it, including one area in Houston with fecal contamination that’s at a level more than four times considered safe. In the living room of one family’s home, the tests revealed the standing water had E.coli levels 135 times above a safe level. In the kitchen, there was also high levels of lead and arsenic, The Times reported.

Big Oil will have to pay up, like Big Tobacco

CNN

Sachs: Big Oil will have to pay up, like Big Tobacco

By Jeffrey Sachs          September 15, 2017

Story highlights

  • Jeffrey Sachs: Fossil fuel companies will soon face financial reckoning as courts hold them liable for damages caused by climate change
  • Big Tobacco is implicated in causation of health problems — Big Oil will also be a target for civil damages and compensation

Jeffrey Sachs is a professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Here is a message to investors in the oil industry, whether pension and insurance funds, university endowments, hedge funds or other asset managers: Your investments are going to sour. The growing devastation caused by climate change, as seen this month in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, are going to blow a hole in your fossil-fuel portfolio.

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Jeffrey Sachs

Not only will the companies you own suffer as society begins to abandon fossil fuels in earnest, they will also be dragged through the courts here and abroad for their long-standing malfeasance and denial of what they have done to the world.

Climate change deniers, mainly politicians in the pay of the oil industry, protest that there is no proof that destructive storms and floods are the result of human-induced global warming. Who can say that a Hurricane Harvey or Irma wouldn’t have occurred in the past?

Such a defense — the cynical shrug — will not play for much longer, either in the court of public opinion or in courts of law in the United States and abroad. The risks of climate-related disasters are real and rising, and soon it won’t matter politically or legally that any particular event might have occurred even without human-induced global warming.

The issue is of probability, not certainty. Of course, there have been weather-related disasters in the past. But global warming makes us more vulnerable to these events. Scientists emphasize that hurricane damage, for example, may rise for three reasons: higher sea levels (due to warming) cause larger storm surges; warmer oceans add energy to hurricanes; and warmer air holds more water vapor that can cause torrential downpours.

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Trump is not changing view on climate change.

Insurance companies know that climate risks are rising, scientists know it, and an increasing number of investors know it. And more of the general public knows it, too.

In climate science, the link between specific events like Harvey and Irma and the general rise in risk due to global warming is called “attribution.” It’s a problem we grapple with in many contexts. When a miner gets lung disease, a homeowner with asbestos insulation develops a rare cancer, or a smoker succumbs to lung cancer, we can never be sure that the particular case was linked to coal dust, asbestos or cigarettes.

But the courts have been ready to read the probabilities, and hold companies liable for damages when the likelihood of causation is high enough.

The courts have also linked liability with the standard of care exercised by the defendant. When a company understands the risks but ignores them, or even worse, lies about them, the court or jury is far more likely to agree to a large claim.

The tobacco companies relentlessly misled the public about their products. Some oil companies have done the same about climate change. ExxonMobil, for example, knew internally for decades that its products contribute to global warming, according to a peer-reviewed Harvard University study published last month, but publicly downplayed the linkages and the resulting risks (Exxon denies this).

The Koch brothers, owners of refineries and oil pipelines, have manufactured doubts about climate science and spent vast sums to oppose decarbonization policies and to elect politicians to do the same.

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Pope Francis slams climate change deniers.

But the science of climate attribution is rapidly becoming more sophisticated, leaving the oil industry more exposed than ever.

Consider, for example, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) project. This is an effort by a consortium of scientific institutions, including the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the University of Melbourne and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

This project has recently shown, that human-induced climate change dramatically raised the likelihood of the record-breaking heat wave in western Europe this summer. The team found that climate change “made the intensity and frequency of such extreme heat at least twice as likely in Belgium, at least four times as likely in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and central England and at least 10 times as likely in Portugal and Spain.”

The project is now analyzing whether human-induced global warming raised the likelihood of the rainfall brought by Harvey.

American politics has long been manipulated by Big Oil, with massive campaign financing as well as backroom lobbying not seen by the public. The federal government and oil states like Texas have been as derelict as the companies, and could well find themselves also as defendants in cases brought by Americans and others who are hit by climate disaster.

Many Caribbean islands were devastated by Irma, and their leaders are appealing for aid. Soon, the cries around the world will change to a call for “compensation” or “civil damages” instead of just aid.

When climate justice comes — and it will — those who have been in denial will pay a heavy price. And those who have invested in companies that behaved recklessly and irresponsibly will share the heavy losses on that day of reckoning.

A New Food Label Is Coming Soon and It Goes ‘Beyond Organic’

EcoWatch

A New Food Label Is Coming Soon and It Goes ‘Beyond Organic’

By Ronnie Cummins      September 14, 2017

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Conscious consumers won’t have to wait much longer for clear guidance on how to buy food and other products that are not only certified organic, but also certified regenerative.

On Wednesday, the Rodale Institute unveiled draft standards for a new Regenerative Organic Certification, developed by Rodale and a coalition of farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, scientists and brands.

When finalized, the certification will go “beyond organic” by establishing higher standards for soil health and land management, animal welfare and farmer and worker fairness.

Organic Consumer Association and our Regeneration International project, fully embrace this new venture to make organic more climate friendly, humane, just and environmentally positive. As we’ve said before, when it comes to food and farming—and as we veer toward climate catastrophe—”sustainable” doesn’t cut it anymore. And certified USDA organic, though far better than GMO, chemical and energy-intensive agriculture, doesn’t go quite far enough.

The standard will be administered by NSF International, an Ann Arbor, Michigan based product testing, inspection and certification organization, and will be open to multiple certification partners, according to Rodale.

When companies like Monsanto and Bayer claim to be “sustainable” and “climate-smart,” those terms lose all meaning. When companies like Ben & Jerry’s, which relies on an industrial dairy system fueled by GMO crops, claim to be “sustainable,” we know that word has been co-opted—and corrupted.

We’ve always supported USDA organic certification—even though the standards are sometimes flawed and sometimes exploited by a few bad actors—because we believe them to be the best way for consumers to avoid pesticides and synthetic ingredients. We’ll continue to fight for stronger, better organic standards, and we’ll hold fast against allowing corporations to weaken or exploit them.

But we also believe it’s time to do better. It’s time to acknowledge the role organic regenerative agriculture plays reversing global warming, by restoring the soil’s capacity to draw down and sequester excess CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s time to acknowledge that organic, regenerative agriculture increases crop resiliency by restoring soil health and biodiversity.

It’s time to recognize that regeneration is the next stage of organic food and farming—and civilization.

This new Organic Regenerative Certification will help consumers identify those products that not only nourish their bodies, but also heal the planet.

While the world is being bombarded by extreme weather events, the Trump administration is attacking scientists and known science.

DeSmogBlog

While the world is being bombarded by extreme weather events, the Trump administration is attacking scientists and known science.

Extreme Weather Pounding the Globe and Trump Attacks Scientists

While the world is being bombarded by extreme weather events, the Trump administration is attacking scientists and known science. #ClimateChange

Posted by DeSmogBlog on Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meet the man on a crusade to clean up the worlds most polluted river.

EcoWatch

Meet the man on a crusade to clean up the world's most polluted river. Read more: http://bit.ly/2wntUpN via Make A Change World #PlasticBottleCitarum

Posted by EcoWatch on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Meet the Brothers Kayaking Down the World’s Most Polluted River

By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib

Super cool!Sam Bencheghib and Gary Bencheghib are about to travel down the world's most polluted river on a plastic bottle kayak to bring awareness to the world's plastic pollution crisis. Read more about the world's plastics crisis: http://bit.ly/2slGAMXvia Make A Change World #PlasticBottleCitarum

Posted by EcoWatch on Saturday, August 12, 2017

We have all heard about the accumulation of plastic pollution in our ocean and the devastating effects it is having on marine life, but very little has been done to stop the plastic from its source.

With more than 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originating from rivers and streams, we have decided to create a shocking visual of the world’s most polluted river, the Citarum in Indonesia, by kayaking down it on two plastic bottle kayaks made from repurposed trash.

We launched Plastic Bottle Citarum to help make people think about the dangers that pollution has on human health. Located in West Java, the Citarum river is the water source for 15 million people for drinking, cooking and bathing.

The two kayaks we are paddling were built by the bamboo experts, EWABI. Each kayak has a bamboo frame and is filled with 300 plastic bottles to keep us afloat, which were collected by our partner, EcoBali, from school groups and waste facilities.

The goal of the expedition is to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and to inspire positive change by documenting some of the incredible and innovative efforts that are fighting the plastic epidemic in Indonesia.

During our expedition, we will be producing a series of five short videos documenting our descent down the river and highlighting the change-makers living on the river who dedicate their lives to cleaning up the Citarum and educating the local community on the impacts of pollution.

Follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram.

India is Building Roads From Plastic Waste

EcoWatch

Rolling down the plastic highway.

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, September 14, 2017

Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin

Associated Press

Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin

Jay Reeves, Associated Press,      September 14, 2017

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IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) — Larry and Elida Dimas didn’t have much to begin with, and Hurricane Irma left them with even less.

The storm peeled open the roof of the old mobile home where they live with their 18-year-old twins, and it destroyed another one they rented to migrant workers in Immokalee, one of Florida’s poorest communities. Someone from the government already has promised aid, but Dimas’ chin quivers at the thought of accepting it.

“I don’t want the help,” said Dimas, 55. “But I need it.”

Dimas is one of millions of Floridians who live in poverty, and an untold number of them have seen their lives up-ended by Irma. Their options, already limited, were narrowed even further when the hurricane destroyed possessions, increased expenses and knocked them out of work.

Not far from Dimas in impoverished Immokalee, located on the edge of the Everglades, Haitian immigrant Woodchy Darius, a junior at Immokalee High School, must decide whether to return to class when school reopens or head to the fields to pick berries once the land is dry enough to work again.

“The rent is $375, and if I don’t have the money they’ll kick us out,” said Darius, 17. He lives in a grubby apartment building with bare concrete floors, burglar-proof doors and cinder-block walls that make it resemble a jail more than home.

The Census Bureau estimates about 3.3 million people live in poverty in Florida — nearly 16 percent of the state’s 20.6 million population. For them, the amusement parks of Orlando or President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach might as well be on Mars.

Many work by the hour in restaurants, gas stations, hotels, stores and other businesses forced to close for days after Irma, depriving them of paychecks. Others are day laborers or migrants who earn money by the pound picking produce that’s sold in stores nationwide. Still others are retirees on fixed incomes or disability checks whose budgets already were tight before Irma.

Fleeing Irma wasn’t an option for those who lacked transportation to get to a shelter, couldn’t afford gas to drive north and couldn’t rent a hotel room. The likely costs associated with cleaning up or finding a new place to live pushed them closer to the edge than ever.

After Irma, Gwen Bush scrambled to find a place just to sleep after flood waters rose around her home.

A security worker for Amway Center in Orlando, Bush hadn’t worked in the days leading up to Irma because concerts and other events had been canceled as the storm approached. It’s not certain when the arena will be open for business, and she was down to her final $10 before the storm.

“I’ve been through some hurricanes and some storms living here but I can say on my life this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Bush, 50, a lifelong resident of Orlando. “How do you recover from this, losing all of your stuff?”

David and Andrea Jewell survive on disability checks and live on a sailboat they bought for $1,000 on eBay years ago. David Jewell, 51, can’t imagine now living on land; both consider the ocean — like the dolphins they watch — their only real neighbors.

After the storm, the Jewells stayed on cots in the gym at a community center in Jacksonville. They tried to figure out if they could get a new boat if theirs was destroyed. Maybe, they decided, they could just cut back on food and find another cheap one with their next disability checks.

“There aren’t any answers,” he said, “so I guess I’ll have to roll with it.”

But in one bit of good news, they later learned from a friend that their boat is still floating.

For some poor people, there’s at least a little upside to the devastation.

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Guatemalan immigrant Aura Gaspar totaled up storm-related expenses of about $600 while using a twig-fired grill to stew chicken on her front stoop in Immokalee; she has three school-age children to feed and a 2-week-old baby.

But Gaspar said husband Juan Francisco got a job cleaning up storm debris in the Fort Myers and Naples area. He needed to get busy, she said through a translator: Their storm preparations cost nearly twice as much as his weekly pay of $320.

“We had to prepare the house so it would protect us,” said Gaspar, 28.

Beside his ruined Immokalee mobile home, Dimas is trying to get back on his feet, but it’s tough.

Dimas earns a meager living cooking hamburgers and chicken in a food truck parked by his home, and some customers already have returned — he said he sold all 40 of the hamburgers that were still safe to cook Tuesday.

Dimas needs to replace the income from his rental trailer, already condemned after being split open by the wind. Dimas had used that money to help feed his two teenagers and pay for the rescue inhalers he needs for his asthma. Losing it will only make it harder for Dimas to do what he says is one of his favorite things — providing free or cut-rate food to those who have even less.

Coping with Irma’s aftermath is only making life tougher for people with little who live in places including unincorporated Immokalee, said Dimas.

“A lot of people work. They work hard here. They don’t ask for nothing. They just go to work, come home and something like this happens, it’s ….,” Dimas said. “I don’t know what to say.”

He stopped talking and turned away to keep from crying.

Associated Press writers Terrance Harris in Orlando and Claire Galofaro in Jacksonville contributed to this report.

HURRICANE NEWSLETTER – Get the best of the AP’s all-formats reporting on Irma and Harvey in your inbox: http://apne.ws/ahYQGtb

Mars Inc. Promises $1 Billion Investment in Climate Change and Sustainable Supply Chain

TriplePundit….people, planet, profit

Mars Inc. Promises $1 Billion Investment in Climate Change and Sustainable Supply Chain

by Leon Kaye, Climate and Environment        September 7, 2017

http://cdn.triplepundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Mars-Headquarters.jpgMars & M&Ms North American Headquarters  J Stephen Conn, Flickr

As the current presidential administration seeks to reverse all and any policies enacted during the Obama years, businesses have made it clear that they will fill in the vacuum, whether the problems are related to immigration, race relations or climate change. The questions that arise, of course, include: just how big are these challenges and are they even remotely achievable?

To that end, Grant Reid, CEO of the food giant Mars Inc., has stepped into the climate debate with a warning to the business community that turning away from the Paris global climate agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been “nowhere near enough.” Reid made his comments as business and government leaders arrive in New York for the UN’s General Assembly and Climate Week.

Reid and Mars say they are backing up their words with action as the company promises to invest approximately $1 billion in its “Sustainable in a Generation Plan.” The program lasers in on three areas where the $33 billion says it can foster the changes Reid says are necessary on some of the world’s largest challenges, as defined by the SDGs. In sum, Mars says its evolved sustainability agenda is about people, the planet and . . . people’s health.

When it comes to the planet, Mars’ focus on environmental sustainability is hardly new. In recent years, the company insists it has bolstered its anti-deforestation policy, while  its United Kingdom operations reportedly run 100 percent on clean energy technologies such as wind power. On this side of the pond, Mars says its renewables portfolio in the U.S. is now enough to offset the company’s power needs to make all of its M&M’s in the U.S. And in the next several years, Mars says it will focus even more on issues such as climate action, water stewardship and land management. Furthermore, the company has a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across its entire value chain by 67 percent by 2050 – a considerable expansion of its GHG goals made in previous years.

Like any multinational, Mars has a complicated supply chain that crosses many borders. The company said it is working on fine-tuning the traceability of many of its ingredients, including palm oil and cacao. Now Mars says it will build upon its efforts to improve the lives of smallholder farmers by including one million people in its long term plan to boost incomes, improve its human rights performance and open up more opportunities for women. Examples of this work include the launch of the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming to accelerate sustainability and poverty reduction across its supply chains as well as the Farmer Income Lab, which the company describes as a “think-do tank” focused on eradicating smallholder poverty.

Finally, Mars is working on widening its portfolio of more nourishing foods. Its “Nourishing Wellbeing” program seeks to integrate science, innovation and marketing in an attempt to reach out to billions of people – and incidentally, their pets as well. This builds upon the company’s efforts on what it says are a focus on food safety and security.

In a public statement, Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability and Health and Wellbeing Officer of Mars said:

“We know we cannot grow and prosper unless the planet, people and communities on which we rely are healthy and thriving. Doing what’s right, not just doing better, is at the very core of our new plan. It’s about pushing the boundaries and extending our bold ambitions across our extended supply chain. When we do that, and when others join us, only then will we have the greatest impact.”

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com.

 

Map: where Western wildfires have made the air outside too dangerous to breathe

Vox

Map: where Western wildfires have made the air outside too dangerous to breathe

Particulates from smoke have drastically impacted air quality in areas of several states.

by Casey Miller and Umair Irfan    September 13, 2017

Unusually bad wildfires have been blazing in the Western United States, leaving areas across Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Wyoming choking on harmful levels of smoke and shrouded in a cloudy haze.

Fire officials anticipate some relief this week as a weather system is expected to bring rain to some of the smoldering states. But the fires will also continue to burn through dry woodlands.

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A map of large fires across the United States National Interagency Fire Center

“We’re expecting another day or two of warm conditions that could keep the fires a little bit active, particularly across the Northwest and the Rockies, and also some breezy conditions in Montana that are pushing fires around,” said Ed Delgado, the national program manager for predictive services at the National Interagency Fire Center.

On Tuesday, NIFC was reporting 62 large fires across nine Western states that had already taken more than 1.6 million acres. And 2017 is on track to be one of the worst years for wildfires in the US on record, with a total of 8.1 million acres burned as of September 12 — already well above the annual to-date average of 6 million acres for the past decade.

For residents of some areas of California, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Montana, the worst threat from the fires is lingering poor air quality that may take up to a week to disperse. You can use this map to zoom in on which towns have it worst.

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The Environmental Protection Agency measures the harm from wildfires with its Air Quality Index, as shown here.

The math is a little convoluted, but the index allows regulators to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health risks across different pollutants like ozone and sulfur dioxide.

The six categories for the Air Quality Index range from “good” (“It’s a great day to be outside.”) to “hazardous” (“Avoid all physical activity outdoors.”). As you can see, air in some parts of Montana has reached that worst-case, “hazardous” level.

Unfortunately, smoke from wildfires poses a threat even in small quantities, and can cause harm even to people hundreds of miles away from the nearest flames.

Wildfires can loft bits of dust and carbon into the jet stream, but health hazards emerge when the local weather conditions bring these particles back down to ground level, which is why specific local air quality monitoring and forecasts are so important.

The smallest particles are the biggest concern.

EPA regulates PM2.5, which refers to particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. Wildfires directly create these particles as they torch plains and forests.

“Generally, we think that the smaller it is, the more likely it is to make you sick,” said Jia Coco Liu, a postdoctoral researcher studying air quality after disasters at Johns Hopkins University.

These particles penetrate deep into lungs causing inflammation, asthma attacks, and over the long-term, cancer.

Even in tiny concentrations, measured in micrograms per cubic meter, particulates can increase visits to the emergency room, especially for the elderly and people with chronic breathing problems.

“My research shows that when pollution is very high, over 37 [micrograms per cubic meter], we start to see health consequences,” Liu said.

Officials don’t have many options to help people get fresh air under smoke and haze. “Other than staying indoors, it’s pretty hard to do, because you can’t stop breathing,” Liu said.

Overall, this fire season is far worse than officials expected. “We had a very wet winter and spring, but that was pretty much erased in July when we had a very strong heat wave in the West that dried this out very, very quickly,” Delgado said.

As average temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, health officials are bracing for more wildfires scorching wider swaths of Western lands, leading to more coughing, wheezing, heart attacks, and deaths.

But on Tuesday fire officials had at least some good news to share for the regions blanketed by smoke: Almost half of ongoing wildfires didn’t gain any ground yesterday.

“Basically, it’s late in the year, so generally we’re in the wind-down mode,” Delgado added.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags

Bloomberg

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/iWyP5q.jwJbI/v0/-1x-1.jpgPhotographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

By Ari Natter       September 12, 2017

From Climate Changed

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that former President Barack Obama’s goal of slashing the cost of solar power has been achieved early, taking credit for milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power.

“With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Simmons previously worked for the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research and has said that solar and wind “is more expensive and will increase the price of electricity.” The group called for the abolition of the office Simmons now heads. And President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal called for cutting solar energy funding within the Energy Department by 71 percent to $70 million.

The Energy Department announced that the average price of utility-scale solar dropped to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, which Obama had set in 2011 as the goal for his “SunShot” program. That program, which provided research funding and other support aimed to reduce the total cost of photovoltaic energy by 75 percent by 2020.

“I don’t know why they are touting it,” Jack Spencer, vice president of the Heritage Foundation and a former member of Trump’s Energy Department transition team, said in a phone interview. “I think it should be abolished right away as should all government subsidies.”

Instead, the department announced $82 million in new funding for solar research, with the majority directed toward concentrating solar, which uses mirrors instead of solar panels. And Trump’s team has set a new solar goal of its own: lowering the cost of utility-scale solar power further, to 3 cents by 2030.

“As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the secretary’s priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy,” Simmons said.

The Energy Department press office didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.