Tesla solar roof prices come in cheaper than some had expected

CNBC Business

Tesla solar roof prices come in cheaper than some had expected

Robert Ferris May 11, 2017

Tesla (TSLA) said Wednesday that the first two styles of its solar roof will be priced at about $21.85 per square foot.

That price is slightly lower than the $24.50 per square foot price Consumer Reports had said Tesla would need to meet to compete with asphalt roofs, once savings from electricity bills were factored in over the roof’s expected lifetime.

Many had expressed skepticism that Tesla’s product would be as affordable as the company claimed. But after the release of the pricing, Tesla shares closed up more than 1 percent Wednesday.

Tesla said it is releasing the first two styles of the glass tiles — “black glass smooth” and “textured” versions — out of the four planned styles the company has shown off to the public.

A curved, reddish “Tuscan” style and a style that resembles slate rock tiles are expected “in early 2018,” according to Tesla.

The shingles have three layers — a high-efficiency solar cell, a specially designed film to mask the cell from viewers on the ground, and a top layer of tempered glass. Tesla has said it will sell the roof alongside other products, such as its Powerwall wall battery.

The product will come “with a warranty for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” the company said in a blog post.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk had announced on Twitter Wednesday morning that Tesla would begin selling its solar roof tiles. Musk has previously said that he wanted to do for solar power what Tesla was attempting to do with electric cars — develop an alternative-energy product that would rival or exceed conventional ones in attractiveness and utility.

However, the news comes during an interesting, even trying, time for some U.S. solar companies. A recent report from GTM Research said the second half of 2016 showed the first significant decline for U.S. solar companies.

For Tesla, one of the obvious barriers to achieving that is cost. Previously, Consumer Reports had determined that a textured glass tile solar roof should cost no more than $73,500, including installation, to be competitive with an asphalt roof. That price factors in the about $2,000 a year a household would save on electricity bills in some of the country’s more favorable solar markets, such as California, Texas and North Carolina.

The company also created a “Solar Roof Calculator” that allows customers to gauge the cost of an installation. Tesla plans to offer financing in late 2017, but in the meantime, customers can finance with a personal loan, a home improvement loan, a home equity line of credit, or a second mortgage.

Whether there is demand for a solar roof still remains something of an open question.

“I do think that this is going to be competitive in specific geographic locations, mainly based on costs of electricity,” said ARK Invest analyst Sam Korus, in an interview with CNBC. “The fact that they are starting in California makes perfect sense, since you have a lot of sun and high energy costs.”

Tesla’s recent decision to scrap the door-to-door sales common in the solar energy industry also may end up serving as an advantage, Korus said. “One of the biggest hindrances to residential solar was the cost of selling it and installing it, so getting rid of that door-to-door sales force is definitely a step in the right direction.”

For now, Tesla is taking orders online, but the company has said before that it plans to offer solar products in its stores as well. Customers coming to the stores to buy cars are conceivably already inclined to consider installing solar panels on their homes.

Tesla is not the first company to attempt a solar panel that is integrated into a roof, and recent history is littered with failures, said Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov, in an email to CNBC.

He said companies such as Energy Conversion Devices, Ascent Solar (ASTI), Solarion and MSK were all built on the anticipation that demand for “building-integrated photovoltaics” (BIPV), an industry term for such products, would surge.

But demand did not surge. Energy Conversion Devices was liquidated, Ascent Solar is trading at around 1 cent per share, Solarion was acquired in bankruptcy, and MSK was bought by Suntech, which later went bankrupt, Molchanov said.

Molchanov also said that Tesla’s disclosed numbers are “rule of thumb estimates” that need to be taken with a grain of salt. Costs will always vary depending on the actual roof — which Molchanov said is true of rooftop solar generally.

Also, he added, Tesla’s numbers are projections that will have to be updated once actual manufacturing and installation begins.

“Again, bearing in mind how lackluster BIPV adoption has been historically,” he said, “at this point I wouldn’t expect significant sales until 2020 or so.”

Bloomberg

Tesla’s Solar Roof Sets Musk’s Grand Unification Into Motion

Tom Randall  May 11, 2017

Tesla has begun taking orders for its transformative new solar roof. The pricing is competitive, and it marks the final piece in Elon Musk’s vision for a grand unification of his clean-energy ambitions—combining solar power, home batteries, and electric cars.

“These are really the three legs of the stool for a sustainable energy future,” Musk said. “Solar power going to a stationary battery pack so you have power at night, and then charging an electric vehicle … you can scale that to all the world’s demand.”

Tesla opened up its online store and began taking $1,000 deposits for two of four options unveiled in October: a smooth black glass and textured-glass roof tiles. From most viewing angles, the slick shingles look like standard roof materials, but they allow light to pass through from above onto a solar cell embedded beneath the tempered surface. The first installations will begin in the U.S. in June, though orders are being accepted from countries around the world for 2018.

The cost of Tesla’s solar roof is critical for determining whether it will be a niche product for the wealthy or the key to unlocking a residential solar market that has been slowing in the U.S. The pricing unveiled Wednesday was less than many analysts were expecting, including at Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Consumer Reports. When taking into account the energy savings and lifetime cost of ownership (Tesla guarantees it will outlast your home) it’s an affordable option in many areas of the country.

“The pricing is better than I expected, better than everyone expected,” said Hugh Bromley, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance who had been skeptical about the potential market impact of the new product. Tesla’s all-in cost for active solar tiles is about $42 per square foot, “significantly below” BNEF’s prior estimate of $68 per square foot, Bromley said. Inactive tiles will cost $11 per square foot, and Tesla says to expect an overall average of roughly $22 per square foot.

About That Pricing

Tesla’s solar shingles may open doors to wealthy American suburbs, where aesthetics matter and visible solar panels are sometimes prohibited. But they’re not yet for everyone. The solar roof still comes with a considerable upfront price tag. Replacing the roof of a 2,000 square-foot home in New York state—with 40 percent coverage of active solar tiles and battery backup for night-time use—would cost about $50,000 after federal tax credits. It would pay for itself with $64,000 of energy produced over 30 years, according to Tesla’s website calculator, but that requires a bigger mortgage and some long-term planning.

In this case, a Tesla solar roof is not only more expensive upfront than a traditional roof—contradicting a claim Musk made last year—but it’s potentially more expensive upfront than a traditional roof with solar panels on top, too. That’s because a Tesla solar roof may require more square feet of active solar generation to satisfy the same energy needs as traditional solar panels. Even though the Panasonic solar cells Tesla uses are some of the best in the industry, they must be spaced further apart than on traditional panels to account for the edges of each shingle, BNEF’s Bromley said. Tesla didn’t disclose the electricity output per square foot or the price per watt of power capacity.

All told, Bromley figured, a traditional solar setup might be 30 percent cheaper than the Tesla roof. But Tesla’s will look better and come with a lifetime warranty, whereas normal roofs are typically replaced every few decades. “A 30 percent premium could well be acceptable,” Bromley said, especially for eager customers like Tesla’s car-buyers who are willing to pay $35,000 for a base version of its upcoming Model 3.

An Apple Store for Solar

Tesla has been adopting an Apple Store strategy for solar power since acquiring SolarCity Corp. last year for $2 billion. The idea is to cut down on SolarCity’s high costs of identifying new customers, by attracting them passively through its upscale auto stores in shopping malls and other high-traffic locations. Initial trials found the new strategy was 50 to 100 percent more effective than at the best non-Tesla locations selling SolarCity products. Tesla has already halted SolarCity’s door-to-door sales of solar panels, and over the next six months more than 70 stores will be staffed for solar sales.

Production will begin at Tesla’s Fremont solar plant in California and then shift this summer to its new factory in Buffalo, New York, with additional investments from Tesla’s partner, Panasonic. Musk said initial sales will be limited by manufacturing capacity. As production ramps up into 2018, sales will begin in the UK, Australia, and other locations, along with the introduction of sculpted terracotta and slate versions of the solar roof.

The tempered glass in Tesla’s tiles is designed to conform to the toughest durability standards for both roofs and solar products, according to Tesla. The roof itself is guaranteed to outlast your home, while the power production of the solar cells is covered under a 30 year warranty, according to the company’s website. Glass, as Musk likes to point out, has a “quasi-infinite” lifetime, though the underlying solar cell will degrade over time.

Among other tests, the company shot the tiles with a hail cannon. The video below compares Tesla’s solar tile (left) with traditional commercial slate and terracotta tiles. Each 2-inch hailstone is traveling at 110 miles per hour at the time of impact.

Shots Fired—From a Hail Cannon

The basic premise of Tesla’s strategy is to make solar ownership more attractive and affordable by eliminating the redundancy of installing both a roof and solar panels. Tesla will manage the entire process of solar roof installation, including removal of existing roofs, design, permits, installation and maintenance. The company estimates that each installation will take about a week.

“What is the future that we should have?” Musk asked on a call with reporters. “What do we think the world should look like?”
In the future, he declares, every rooftop should be beautiful, and they all should produce electricity. The pricing must come down further to make that vision a reality. But it’s not so far off, and the price of both batteries and solar cells continues to plummet as those industries scale up globally. If these new solar roof prices are simply Tesla’s opening bid to its early adopters, glass solar shingles may indeed be the asphalt of tomorrow.

More from Bloomberg.com: Tesla’s Solar Roof Pricing Is Cheap Enough to Catch On

Business Insider

Tesla’s new Solar Roof comes with a warranty that lasts forever

Matthew DeBord, Business Insider   May 11, 2017

Tesla announced on Wednesday that it has begun taking orders for its new solar roof.

The solar tiles that make up the roof were designed to be extremely durable — they’re made of glass, after all.

A new solar roof will also be expensive up front compared to a conventional roof, but Tesla says that it will last for 30 years, the length of a standard US mortgage, or longer.

Much longer.

Tesla has an enormous amount of confidence in its tiles. So much to that the company is offering what it calls an “Infinite Tile Warranty.”

“Made with tempered glass, Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles,” Tesla says on the solar roof site. “That’s why we offer the best warranty in the industry — the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.”

CEO Elon Musk put it more bluntly: it’s “infinity or when your house falls down.”

To prove the toughness of its solar tiles, Tesla fired baseball-size hailstones at its tiles and traditional roof tiles — at 110 mph.

The old-school tiles didn’t make it. The Tesla tiles, according to Musk, laughed off the impact.

Dakota Access pipeline has first leak before it’s fully operational

The Guardian

Dakota Access pipeline has first leak before it’s fully operational

Sam Levin in San Francisco, The Guardian May 11, 2017

Leak raises fresh concerns about hazards to waterways and outrages indigenous groups, who have long warned of threat to environment.

The Dakota Access pipeline has suffered its first leak, outraging indigenous groups who have long warned that the project poses a threat to the environment.

The $3.8bn oil pipeline, which sparked international protests last year and is not yet fully operational, spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, according to government regulators.

Although state officials said the 6 April leak was contained and quickly cleaned, critics of the project said the spill, which occurred as the pipeline is in the final stages of preparing to transport oil, raises fresh concerns about the potential hazards to waterways and Native American sites.

“They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong,” said Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been fighting the project for years. “It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”

The pipeline, scheduled to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois, inspired massive demonstrations in 2016 and was dealt a major blow when the Obama administration denied a key permit for the project toward the end of his presidency. But shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the new administration ordered the revival of the pipeline and worked to expedite the final stage of construction.

The Standing Rock tribe, which has fought the pipeline corporation Energy Transfer Partners and the US government in court, has argued that the project requires a full environmental study to assess the risks of the pipeline. But under Trump, who has close financial ties to the oil company, the project recently completed construction by the Standing Rock tribe’s reservation in North Dakota and has been loading oil in preparation for a full launch.

The April spill, which was first uncovered this week by a local South Dakota reporter, illustrates the need for the more robust environmental assessment that the tribe has long demanded, said Hasselman.

“It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say, ‘I told you so.’ But we have said from the beginning that it’s not a matter of if, but when,” the Earthjustice attorney told the Guardian on Wednesday. “Pipelines leak and they spill. It’s just what happens.”

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, said the spill was relatively minor and was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump.

“It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station,” he said, adding that the company responded immediately and cleaned up the liquid petroleum. The spill occurred inside a “secondary containment area” and there were no environmental impacts, he added.

Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said the spill is another sign that the courts should intervene.

“Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement.

The company and the state made no announcements about the spill after it occurred.

Walsh said the department only releases public notices of spills when there is an imminent threat to a waterway or public health. This was the pipeline’s first spill in the state, he said.

Energy Transfer Partners did not immediately respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. A spokeswoman told the Associated Press that the corporation maintains that the pipeline is safe and that the leak was contained in the proper manner. The Associated Press also reported that no other Dakota Access spills have been documented in any other states.

The company has fought in court to keep information about the status of the project confidential.

Hasselman said these kinds of spills should be immediately disclosed.

“What kind of oversight and accountability is there if no one even finds out about these things until weeks later?”

Related from The Guardian. Keystone XL: Republican ranchers join the fightback in South Dakota. https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2017/may/03/keystone-xl-republican-ranchers-join-the-fightback-in-south-dakota-video

International Business Times

Shock as Dakota Access Pipeline spills oil before it even comes online

Brendan Cole, International Business Times May 11, 2017  

The Dakota Access Pipeline has suffered its first oil leak before it has become fully operational, with indigenous groups saying it shows how much the project threatens the environment.

Although state officials said the spill on 4 April was relatively small and quickly cleaned up, opponents of the project says it raises further concerns about the hazards to Native American sites.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault, said the spills are “going to be nonstop”, the pipeline threatens its water and cultural sites, and the courts should intervene.

“With 1,200 miles of pipeline, spills are going to happen. Nobody listened to us. Nobody wants to listen, because they’re driven by money and greed,” he said.

“Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement.

The pipeline, which will take oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois, got the green light for completion from President Donald Trump.

The project has been beset by protests and a lawsuit by four Sioux tribes wanting to close it. It is set to be fully operational by 1 June.

Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said: “They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong. It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”

However Energy Transfer Partners said that the pipeline is safe and that spilled oil was contained while no other spills have been reported along the pipeline, the Associated Press reports.

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, said the spill was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump, saying: “It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station”.

Elon Musk is about to reshape the solar panel industry with these beautiful roof tiles

Yahoo Business

Elon Musk is about to reshape the solar panel industry with these beautiful roof tiles

Alistair Charlton, International Business Times May 10, 2017

Tesla will begin accepting orders for its innovative new glass solar roof tiles today, 10 May, with UK delivery and installation starting in 2018.

Company boss Elon Musk tweeted the news, adding that the glass roof tiles will only be available in black at launch, with either a smooth or textured finish. Two other finishes, called Tuscan and French Slate, will be available to order in the US towards the end of 2017.

The new solar panels look like regular tiles and cover the entire roof of a house, but are in fact solar panels which gather energy from the sun and store it in a Tesla Powerwall fitted to the side of the building. This can then be used to power the house and take it ‘off-grid’ for some periods of the day.

As the technology evolves it is hoped electricity harvested during the day could be used to recharge a Tesla car each night.

The electric car maker says the tiles should cost no more than fitting a new regular roof, and the main selling point is how they look like regular roof tiles, lacking the ugly aesthetic of traditional solar panels.

Musk said on 10 May: “Tesla solar glass roof orders open this afternoon. I think it will be great,” before adding: “UK delivery and installation next year…black glass smooth and textured will be first. Tuscan and French Slate in about six months…Solar roofs can be ordered for almost any country. Deployment this year in the US and overseas next year.” Musk ended his tweets by confirming to a Twitter user that a corrugated iron option will be coming later.

The CEO, who is also boss of rocket company SpaceX and a tunneling venture called The Boring Company, said he would have more news to share “in about 10 hours”, at roughly 7pm BST.

This news comes just a month after Tesla and Panasonic jointly revealed a new type of solar roof panel. Not as subtle as the tiles discussed today, these panels are larger and sit proud of the roof, but still manage to remove much of the ugliness associated with regular solar panels.

The panels’ design was first developed by a company called Zep Solar, which was acquired by SolarCity in 2013. Solar City, with Musk installed as chairman, was itself acquired by Tesla for $2.6bn (£2bn) in late 2016. They will be constructed at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 facility in Buffalo, New York from this summer, where the solar tiles will also be manufactured later in 2017.

Ohio officials: it will take decades for wetlands to recover after major pipeline fluid spill

ThinkProgress

Ohio officials: it will take decades for wetlands to recover after major pipeline fluid spill

The state has fined the company behind Dakota Access $430,000 for wetlands destruction.

By Samantha Page, Climate Reporter     May 9, 2017

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has told Energy Transfer Partners — the same company building the Dakota Access Pipeline — that it owes the state $430,000 for “inadvertent” damage to pristine state wetlands.

Last month, construction on the 800-mile Rover pipeline discharged more than two million gallons of a clay-like substance used for drilling into wetlands in a rural area about an hour south of Cleveland.

“It’s a tragedy in that we would anticipate this wetland won’t recover to its original condition for decades,” Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told ThinkProgress. “And had [ETP] more carefully followed best practices and been prepared to respond to the bentonite release, this likely would not have occurred on the scale that we are dealing with now.”

Last week, the state sent a proposed order, requiring a contingency plan to prevent future spills and outlining penalties.

At the time, ETP said bentonite is “a nontoxic, naturally occurring material that is safe for the environment” and denied that the discharge was dangerous. The company also contends, according to a letter from the Ohio EPA to federal regulators, that the state lacks the “authority to enforce violations of its federally delegated state water pollution control statutes.” It does not deny that the spill occurred.

The permitting process for pipelines crossing state boundaries is complicated and involves input from states as well as numerous federal bodies, including, depending on where the line goes, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Forest Service, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which serves as the lead agency.

Ohio EPA director Craig Butler has sent a letter to FERC asking for the agency’s support in holding ETP accountable.

“In light of Rover [ETP]’s restarting drilling operations today, and Rover’s position that the state is without any authority to address violations of environmental laws, we are asking FERC to review the matter and to take appropriate action,” Butler wrote Friday.

Butler also pointed out that, in addition to spilling bentonite, the company has engaged in “impermissible open burning,” and air pollution violation. He told the Washington Post that ETP’s response to the violations was “dismissive” and “exceptionally disappointing.”

These are exactly the kind of incidents and actions that worry environmentalists who are trying to stop pipelines going through sensitive areas. ETP’s Rover pipeline is just one of the myriad natural gas and oil pipelines that are under construction in the United States. Improvements in hydraulic fracturing technology and horizontal drilling have spurred a boom in natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale basin under Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, as well as an uptick in Oklahoma and Texas, which were already big oil and gas producers.

When finished, the Rover pipeline will bring 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas each day from the region through West Virginia, Ohio, and Michigan to Ontario, Canada.

Neither FERC nor Energy Transfer Partners responded to ThinkProgress’ request for comment Tuesday.

Related: New gas infrastructure is going to completely undermine U.S. climate goals, thinkprogress.org

Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)

The Nation

Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)

A new study shows how voter-ID laws decreased turnout among African-American and Democratic voters.

By Ari Berman  May 9, 2017

Prior to the 2016 election, Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., a 58-year-old African-American man, moved from Illinois to Wisconsin, which implemented a strict voter-ID law for the first time in 2016. He brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting in Wisconsin, but the DMV in Milwaukee rejected his application because the name on his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway,” the result of a clerical error when it was issued. Holloway ended up making seven trips to different public agencies in two states and spent over $200 in an attempt to correct his birth certificate, but he was never able to obtain a voter ID in Wisconsin. Before the election, his lawyer for the ACLU told me Holloway was so disgusted he left Wisconsin for Illinois.

Related Article

Georgia Can’t Block New Voters From Registering in the Ossoff-Handel Runoff  

By Ari Berman

Holloway’s story was sadly familiar in 2016. According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin. A new study by Priorities USA, shared exclusively with The Nation, shows that strict voter-ID laws, in Wisconsin and other states, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.

The study compared turnout in states that adopted strict voter-ID laws between 2012 and 2016, like Wisconsin, to states that did not.

While states with no change to voter identification laws witnessed an average increased turnout of +1.3% from 2012 to 2016, Wisconsin’s turnout (where voter ID laws changed to strict) dropped by -3.3%. If turnout had instead increased by the national no-change average, we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016.

This reduction in turnout particularly hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The lost voters skewed more African-American and more Democrat. For example, Wisconsin’s 2016 electorate was 6.1% more Republican, and 5.7% less Democrat, than the group of ‘lost voters’. Furthermore, the WI electorate was 3.7% more White and 3.8% less African American than the group of ‘lost voters.’ This analysis suggests that the 200,000 lost voters would have both been more racially diverse and have voted more Democratic.

(Priorities USA is a progressive advocacy group and Super PAC that supported Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012. The study was conducted by Civis Analytics, a data science firm founded by the chief analytics officer for Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.)

Though Wisconsin saw the most dramatic reduction in turnout among voter-ID states, it was reflective of a worrisome broader national trend.

In states where the voter identification laws did not change between ’12 and ’16, turnout was up +1.3%. In states where ID laws changed to non-strict (AL, NH, RI) turnout increased less, and was only up by +0.7%. In states where ID laws changed to strict (MS, VA, WI) turnout actually decreased by – 1.7%.

The drop in turnout in these six states led to 400,000 fewer votes relative to turnout in states where ID laws did not change. In Mississippi, Virginia, and Wisconsin, strict voter-ID laws had an especially pronounced negative impact on African-American voters.

In counties where African Americans make up less than 10% of the population AND there were no changes to voter ID laws, 2016 turnout was up +1.9% from 2012, but in similar <10% African American counties where ID laws changed to be strict, total turnout decreased by -0.7%. In counties where African Americans make up more than 40% of the population, however, 2016 turnout was down -2.2% from 2012 in states where ID laws did not change, but down -5 points in states where ID laws changed to be strict.

The study also compared turnout in Wisconsin to Minnesota, which has very similar demographics but no voter-ID law, and found “turnout in African-American counties dropped off at significantly higher levels than in their Minnesota-counterparts.”

It’s important to note that this study was conducted by a Democratic Party–affiliated group and has not been peer-reviewed or gone through the typical academic vetting process. While some studies have shown big reductions in turnout among minority voters because of voter-ID laws, others have not. But the Priorities USA study is consistent with a 2014 study by the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter-ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee reduced turnout by 2 percent, enough to swing a close election, with the largest drop-off among newly registered voters, young voters, and voters of color.

This study provides more evidence for the claim that voter-ID laws are designed not to stop voter impersonation fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, but to make it harder for certain communities to vote. This matters greatly today, because 87 bills to restrict access to the ballot have been introduced in 29 states this year, including voter-ID laws in 19 states. Arkansas and Iowa have already passed strict voter-ID laws in 2017.

“Americans’ fundamental right to vote is under attack by Republican governors and state legislatures around the country,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “Under the false pretense of combating voter fraud, Republicans are passing laws that make it more difficult and time-consuming for average citizens to participate in the democratic process.”

The EPA isn’t focused on environmental protection. So does it need a new name?

CNN Politics

The EPA isn’t focused on environmental protection. So does it need a new name?

By John D. Sutter, CNN     May 9, 2017

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN who focuses on climate change and social justice.  

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s mission in the era of President Donald Trump seems to have very little to do with, well, protecting the environment.

Consider a few of the most recent news items:

  • EPA head Scott Pruitt recently dismissed half of the members from an important science advisory board; an EPA spokesperson told CNN the agency wants scientists from various backgrounds, including those from industry.
  • The EPA has removed many references to “climate change” on its website, replacing real, science-based information with a note saying the site is “being updated.”
  • And the Trump administration has called for a 31% cut to the EPA’s budget.

Also consider the rhetoric and history of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who let a fossil fuel company essentially write a letter he sent to the EPA when he was Oklahoma attorney general, according to emails released through a public records request. (Pruitt did not comment at the time and an EPA spokesman said the agency would not be commenting).

Pruitt has repeatedly made a mockery of the role of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide pollution in causing global warming, and before he took the helm at EPA, he sued the agency repeatedly in an effort to combat environmental regulations.

“The war on coal is over; the war on fossil fuel is over, ” Pruitt said outside a power plant in April. Never mind that coal and fossil fuels contribute to global warming, which is expected to raise sea levels, worsen droughts, contribute to crop failure and threaten our very existence.

Yeah, none of this looks good. “They are not just isolated acts,” said David Doniger, director and senior attorney of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, an environmental group. “On any one thing, (Pruitt) might have deserved … the benefit of the doubt. But there are so many of these things that there is no doubt where this is headed.”

Rename the EPA?

Given that, it seems reasonable to ask a provocative question: Is the Environmental Protection Agency still worthy of its name? Maybe, given the sweeping changes in the  agency’s apparent focus, the EPA needs a new and more-accurate acronym. I realize that’s an unlikely if not impossible request.

Yes, I would rather see the Environmental Protection Agency simply live up to its mandate. And no, I wouldn’t want the name change to reflect poorly on the EPA as an enduring institution or on its many smart, hardworking scientists and policy experts.

But there is risk in doing nothing.

Namely: We move further into “1984” territory. That George Orwell novel, which is a best seller again these days, highlights the absurdity of government bodies whose names belie their actual purposes.

The fictional Ministry of Truth promotes propaganda, for example. The Ministry of Plenty, oversees rationing programs. The Ministry of Peace, is actually waging war. By continuing to call the EPA the Environmental Protection Agency, we risk further sapping those words of their meaning. We might enter a world not only of “alternative facts” but alternative reality.

‘It was bold’

These shifts are especially troubling when you know the history of the EPA — and its name.

Republican President Richard Nixon chose the name for the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the year of its creation, according to Richard “Pete” Andrews, an emeritus professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I called up Andrews because he is an expert on the history of the EPA and author of “Managing the Environment, Managing Ourselves: A History of American Environmental Policy.”

The agency came into existence, Andrews told me, essentially because of a “nonpartisan outcry” demanding protection for the environment. “Silent Spring “ had highlighted the horrors of DDT and other chemicals in the environment; a river in Ohio caught on fire; Lake Erie was feared “dead.” Something had to be done.

That something, in part, was the EPA. “It was bold,” Andrews said of the agency and its name. Inherent in its creation was a desire to set minimum federal environmental protections so that “if you travel from one state to another you’re not going to endanger your health by breathing the air.”

Pruitt misrepresents this history, Andrews told me, by insisting that the original mandate of environmental law was to give states the power to police themselves. (Pruitt, meanwhile, says he wants to “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.” Let’s assume that’s true. It still wouldn’t be enough in 2017, when climate change is an overarching concern.)

The EPA was cobbled together from other agencies — a clearing house, so to speak, for environmental monitoring, education and regulation. It gained authority through landmark laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. And it showed that the public could drive action.

“Nixon was seeing a mob coming at him — and jumping in front of it and calling it a parade,” Andrews said, referring to the first Earth Day demonstrations, which also occurred in 1970. “He had no prior background in this. But he saw this was a big issue and so he seized it.” If only the same could happen with Trump and Pruitt.

‘Department of Catastrophic Myopia …’

Out of curiosity, I asked Twitter and my newsletter subscribers to suggest a few (more accurate?) names for the Trump-and-Pruitt-era Environmental Protection Agency.

Among the most interesting: the Exxon Protection Agency; the Coal and Oil Management Agency, or COMA; the Environmental Destruction Agency; Enrich Pruitt’s Allies; and the Department of Catastrophic Myopia Fueled by Anti-Scientific Foolishness, or DCMFASF for short.

I don’t particularly want to see the EPA renamed DCMFASF. I’d like to see Trump learn from the public the way Nixon did. I’d like to believe the agency can return to its mission of protecting public health and the environment at a time when climate change policy, especially, is critical to the very future of humanity.

I bet Trump saw footage of the thousands of protestors who gathered at the People’s Climate March in Washington DC recently, demanding an end to the fossil fuel era.

And I hope he and Pruitt are aware of the history of EPA overhauls. Doniger, the director and senior attorney from NRDC, told me this moment feels chillingly similar to the start of President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Reagan appointed Anne Gorsuch –mother of Trump’s Supreme Court justice pick, — as his first administrator of the EPA.

“She cut the budget and dismantled the laws, fired the scientists — or at least ignored them, etc.,” Doniger said. “What happened with Gorsuch is that she got about two years into this mission of destroying the agency and there was a broad rebellion that manifested in the media and in public opinion and in the Democratically-controlled Congress,” he continued. After “a number of scandals, Reagan sacked her,” Doniger said. (Her obituary in the Washington Post says she “resigned under fire. “)

This history shows that the public — and the courts — still matter. The very creation of the EPA, remember, emerged from public outcry. Yes, things can change. But if they don’t, the EPA’s name should.

I Am Proud to Be a Chicagoan

Natural Resources Defense Council

I Am Proud to Be a Chicagoan  

By Henry Henderson      May 7, 2017

In this moment where the Trump administration seems adamant about abdicating their responsibilities to protect the nation and the world against the ravages of climate change, state and local action has become all the more essential.

And in this moment, I am proud to be a Chicagoan.

The city has been a clean energy leader for a long time. From its early development of a Climate Action Plan, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star Partner Award—the first given to a municipal government—for the incredible energy efficiency gains made through the Retrofit Chicago program. I am proud to say Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC has been a partner in Retrofit Chicago’s commercial building initiative for years, helping to transform massive buildings that make up the Loop’s glittering skyline into a carbon crunching tool to take on climate change. And Chicago was one of the first municipal governments to join the City Energy Project—which helped to develop a bevy of key energy efficiency policies to help ensure the Windy City continues to shrink its carbon footprint.

But a new website shows a different facet of Chicago’s leadership: ClimateChangeIsReal.org.

That site ensures that the climate data that the Trump Administration scrubbed from the EPA website remains available to the public and scientists around the world. As a seeming war on science moves forward in Washington, DC, Chicago ensures that decades of essential data can continue to inform the researchers seeking to understand and find solutions to climate change. Coming on the heels of Illinois’ groundbreaking and powerful Future Energy Jobs Act, this region brings a new level of meaning to the “think globally, act locally” mantra.

Henry Henderson is director of the Midwest program at Natural Resources Defense Council.

EcoWatch

EPA Fires Scientists

By Climate Nexus

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cleaned house on its scientific review board last week, dismissing at least five scientists on its 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors.

The scientists, including professors of natural resource sociology, told multiple outlets they were surprised to receive notices that they would not be asked to renew their tenure on the board, especially after being assured in January that they would retain their positions through the new administration.

A spokesperson for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the New York Times that the agency was considering filling the vacancies with representatives from industry the EPA regulates, in order to include members who “understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.”

Concerned current board members told the Times that the dismissals could be seen as a “test balloon” for further political moves against science.

Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University and one of those dismissed, said, the cuts “just came out of nowhere.”

“The role that science has played in the agency in the past, this step is a significant step in a different direction,” he said. “Anecdotally, based on what we know about the administrator, I think it will be science that will appear to be friendlier to industry, the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and I think it will be science that marginalizes climate change science.”

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the dismal of the scientists “is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda.”

What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development—you have to see all these things as interconnected.”

For a deeper dive: New York Times, Washington Post, Science, Greenwire, Politico Pro

EcoWatch

Elevated Cancer Rates Linked to Environmental Quality  

By Lorraine Chow

With the Trump administration slashing environmental regulations and House Republicans passing their controversial health care bill last week, this new study might put you on edge. Researchers have found a link between environmental quality and cancer incidence across the U.S.

“Our study is the first we are aware of to address the impact of cumulative environmental exposures on cancer incidence,” said Dr. Jyotsna Jagai of the University of Illinois, who led the research team.

For the study, the researchers cross-referenced the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program’s state cancer profiles with the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) and determined that the average cancer rate in roughly 2,700 counties was about 451 people in every 100,000 between 2006 and 2010.

But in counties with poor environmental quality, the researchers found a 10 percent higher incidence of cancer cases—or an average of 39 more cases per 100,000 people. The higher numbers were seen in both males and females, especially prostate and breast cancer.

The authors noted that prior studies on the environment’s effect on cancer usually focus on specific environmental factors, such as air, water, land quality, sociodemographic environment and built environment.

However, the current study examines how cancer development is dependent on the totality of exposures we face, including social stressors.

“This work helps support the idea that all of the exposures we experience affect our health, and underscores the potential for social and environmental improvements to positively impact health outcomes,” Dr. Jagai said.

“Therefore, we must consider the overall environment that one is exposed to in order to understand the potential risk for cancer development.”

The experts warned that recent legislative proposals could jeopardize research on the links between cancer and the environment. This includes measures attempting to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and efforts to nullify the federal collection of geospatial data, or the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017.

“H.R.861, which was introduced on February 3, 2017, to ‘terminate the Environmental Protection agency’—the source of the environmental data used in the study by Jagai [and colleagues]—will have severe repercussions on the scientific community’s ability to produce this type of valuable research,” Scarlett Lin Gomez, PhD, MPH, research scientist from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and colleagues wrote in a related editorial.

U.S. Steel Chemical Spill Exceeds Allowable Limit by 584 Times

By Lorraine Chow

A U.S. Steel plant in Portage, Indiana spilled nearly 300 pounds of a cancer-causing chemical into Burns Waterway last month, documents from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) revealed.

The release of hexavalent chromium was 584 times the daily maximum limit allowed under state law, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported, citing the documents. The plant is permitted to release only a maximum of 0.51 pounds daily.

The toxic industrial byproduct was made infamous by the environmental activist and 2000 movie of the same name, “Erin Brockovich. ”

The leak occurred between April 11 and April 12 and forced the closure of several Lake Michigan beaches and Indiana American Water’s intake in Ogden Dunes. Burns Waterway is a tributary that flows into Lake Michigan, a drinking water source for nearby Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Following the spill, U.S. Steel has committed to sampling and monitoring lake water on a weekly basis to ensure it is safe through the swimming season, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson said. The discharge was reportedly caused by a pipe failure.

Sam Henderson, a staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, denounced the spill.

“If U.S. Steel had set up its system responsibly, it wouldn’t have been possible for a single mechanical failure to dump nearly 300 pounds of hexavalent chrome into Lake Michigan,” Henderson told the Times of Northwest Indiana.

“Spills like this show that U.S. Steel isn’t taking that responsibility seriously. Industry needs to step up.”

The chemical spill highlights concerns over the Trump’s administration’s proposed cuts to abolish the Integrated Risk Information System, the EPA office working on hexavalent chromium standards in drinking water. The cuts would also affect funding for scientific reviews of toxic chemicals and decrease the EPA’s enforcement of environmental laws.

Henderson noted that IDEM’s budget “has been slashed to the bone, and we see the consequences of that in accidents like these.” IDEM is Indiana’s agency charged with protecting the state’s environment and human health.

“Now we face the risk that EPA will be severely cut back as well,” Henderson said. “If those cuts go through, nobody will be minding the store. And if nobody’s minding the store, it’s inevitable that spills like this will become more common.”

Cindy Skrukrud, clean water program director for Sierra Club Illinois, added that U.S. Steel’s spill “illustrates the need we have for a robust EPA to prevent and respond to situations like this.”

“We cannot bear cuts to the EPA staff and to its programs that protect the Great Lakes from pollution and cleanup legacy contamination sites. We are all depending on the EPA as we seek answers to the remaining questions about the impacts of the spill on the aquatic life in Burns Waterway,” Skrukrud continued. “As potential penalties are considered, they should include funding for restoration projects in and near the impacted areal.”

U.S. Steel said last month it takes all incidents “very seriously” and are “fully committed to researching and taking corrective actions to prevent a future occurrence.”

The beaches and water intake reopened on April 17 after EPA water samples detected no levels of hexavalent chromium.

However, last month the National Park Service staff said they were concerned about the long-term potential impacts to beach users’ health, wildlife and other park resources.

“Lake currents and waves have the ability to move this hazardous material onto park beaches at a later date,” the park service said in a news release.

Officials said that periodic beach patrols will be looking for evidence of fish kills or other environmental damage.

 

Environmental Defense Fund

5 Life-Saving Environmental Rules Industry Just Ask Trump to Attack  

By Keith Gaby

The Trump administration has already cancelled or sought to undermine 23 rules that protect our health and environment—including limits on toxic waste coal companies dump in rivers and regulations promoting more fuel-efficient cars.

But the administration is hungry for more, so it’s asked companies, trade associations and lobbyists to suggest other rules they’d like the president to roll back.

Part of this wish-list process is being done in public and some, of course, is happening in private meetings. Rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has a whole “wish list” docket of its own, seem to be a particular target.

Here are five of the most brazen industry wishes submitted so far:

  1. Coal tar: Trade association wants to end health studies.

The Pavement Coatings and Technology Council—a trade association for the paving industry—doesn’t want research into the health dangers of the black top on which your children play foursquare.

It also doesn’t want the government to study the impact of coal tar on “freshwater sediment contamination, indoor air quality, ambient air quality and effects on aquatic species.”

  1. Leaky oil and gas drill sites: Trade groups don’t want to fix them.

Trade associations representing the oil and gas industry, including The Independent Petroleum Association of America, have filed comments attacking Clean Air Act standards requiring energy producers to take cost-effective steps to reduce methane and other air pollution.

  1. Roofing fumes: Companies want no restrictions.

The National Roofing Contractors Association, a trade group representing roofing companies, doesn’t want smog-forming chemicals restricted, saying such regulations “have been burdensome to our members.”

  1. Cancer-causing lubricants: Manufacturers say they should still be used.

No, not that kind of lubricant. The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association complained that the newly established chemical safety law may require its members to find replacement products for materials known to cause cancer in humans.

  1. Toxic pesticide: Chemical manufacturer wants ban removed.

Don’t try to pronounce chlorpyrifos, just know this pesticide hurts kids’ health. That’s what the EPA had concluded last year, and proposed banning it after years of research showing that it causes developmental problems in children and that there are alternatives.

That is, until Pruitt came along, and under pressure from the manufacturer, ignored his own scientists and rejected the proposed ban, saying it needs more study.

Why This Wish List Should Be Taken Seriously

The Trump administration seems to view all health and environmental safeguards as potentially suspicious. That’s in spite of strong data showing that environmental rules actually help the economy—by preventing illness, missed school days, worker absence, productivity problems and early death.

President Trump, who encountered these safeguards as impediments to building hotels faster and cheaper, promised to rid the government of 75 percent of rules that get in industry’s way.

With an EPA administrator more eager to please his boss than to protect Americans’ health, it’s now our job to fight back and protect our kids.

Keith Gaby is senior communications director for climate, health and political affairs at Environmental Defense Fund

 

DeSmog Blog

690,000 Contiguous Acres in Alaska May Soon Be Open to Fracking  

By Steve Horn

Hydraulic fracturing’s horizontal drilling technique has enabled industry to tap otherwise difficult-to-access oil and gas in shale basins throughout the U.S. and increasingly throughout the world. And now fracking, as it’s known, could soon arrive at a new frontier: Alaska.

As Bloomberg reported in March, Paul Basinski, a pioneer of fracking in Texas’ prolific Eagle Ford Shale, has led the push to explore fracking’s potential there, in what’s been dubbed “Project Icewine.” His company, Burgundy Xploration, is working on fracking in Alaska’s North Slope territory alongside the Australia-based company 88 Energy (formerly Tangiers Petroleum).

“The land sits over three underground bands of shale, from 3,000 to 20,000 feet below ground, that are the source rocks for the huge conventional oilfields to the north,” wrote Bloomberg. “The companies’ first well, Icewine 1, confirmed the presence of petroleum in the shale and found a geology that should be conducive to fracking.”

Why the name “Project Icewine”? “Everything we do is about wine,” Basinski told Alaska Public Radio.  “That’s why it’s called Icewine. Because it’s cold up here, and I like German ice wine.”

Geographical Terrain

A report by DJ Carmichael, an Australian stockbroker firm, notes that the Project Icewine oilfield is located in close proximity to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which flows from northern to southern Alaska and is co-owned by BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Drone footage, taken in 2016 by a company owned by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign manager, Steve Wackowski, shows a fracking test well being drilled for Icewine 1.

According to an Austrian Securities Exchange filing, in April of this year, 88 Energy and Burgundy Xploration began pre-drilling procedures for Icewine 2, a second fracking test well. In the filing, which also noted receipt of a Permit to Drill from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 88 Energy said it expects to begin “stimulation and production testing” in June or July.

When all is said and done, the two companies may soon have a plot of land 690,000 contiguous acres in size, according to the Securities Exchange filing. A May 3 Securities Exchange filing noted that 88 Energy is still on schedule for Icewine 2.

Tax Subsidies

In a February 2016 research note, the Australian investment company Patersons Securities Limited noted that the 88 Energy-Burgundy Xploration joint venture is the beneficiary of a tax subsidy system put in place by the Alaska Legislature.

“In an effort to encourage exploration activity in order to ultimately promote an increase in oil production in Alaska and maintain the financial viability of the [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System], the State Legislature passed the More Alaska Production Act in April 2013,” reads the research note. “The Act effectively eliminated the progressive production tax on oil production and replaced it with a flat rate of 35 percent. In addition, companies like 88E operating above 68 degrees North latitude would qualify for a combined cash rebate on exploration of 85 percent for all qualified expenditure until 31 December 2015, reducing to 75 percent for the period ending 30 June 2016, and 35 percent thereafter.”

The More Alaska Production Act was so controversial that it came up for a referendum during the 2014 election cycle. This effort to overturn the law was defeated 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent after industry power players such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP spent roughly $13 million on an advertising blitz to fend off the ballot initiative.

In its 2013 annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, ConocoPhillips said the legislation has helped the company’s corporate bottom line.

“Following the April 2013 enactment of revised oil tax legislation, MAPA [More Alaska Production Act], we have increased our exploration and development investments and activities on the North Slope by adding rigs and progressing new development opportunities,” wrote the company. “We will continue to work with co-owners to identify additional opportunities to increase our investments in Alaska.”

Oil and Money

Fracking is a capital-intensive procedure, made all the more so given northern Alaska’s isolated geographical location and its Arctic drilling terrain.

Perhaps in a nod to this, the GOP-dominated Alaska Legislature attempted to offer $430 million worth of tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry in the fiscal year 2017 budget. That was vetoed by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an Independent, meaning the industry only got its statutory limit of $30 million in subsidies.

Patrick Galvin, chief commercial officer for Great Bear Petroleum, formerly served as petroleum land manager for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and commissioner for the Alaska Department of Revenue. When Walker vetoed the $430 million proposed subsidy, Galvin publicly criticized him.

“What seems to have developed in this particular moment is the governor having to kind of take hostages in order to get the legislature to act on what he wants them to act on with regard to a fiscal plan,” Galvin told Alaska Public Radio. “It has an impact down the chain for all of the business that company wanted to do and they were expecting to get these payments and now they’re basically stuck waiting to see when the state will ultimately pay its bill.”

Galvin’s company also drilled fracking test wells earlier in the decade but has yet to commercialize the technique. Great Bear previously estimated it could frack 200,000 barrels of crude per day by 2020 and 600,000 barrels per day by 2056, though it appears a long way from reaching those aspirations.

Another tax subsidy fight in Alaska is currently underway over the proposed Alaska House Bill 111, which passed 21-19  in the Democratic-controlled House and awaits a Republican-controlled Senate vote. The state bill—opposed by Conoco Phillips, BP, Great Bear Petroleum and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association—would essentially undo the tax subsidy in place under the More Alaska Production Act, while also forcing the oil and gas industry to pay more taxes to fill the state’s coffers.

In the end, tapping Alaska’s shale resources via fracking, not unlike the attempts to drill for its Arctic oil, may come down to a simple issue of money. Whether enough cash will flow to the 49th state to make fracking a commercial-scale endeavor remains to be seen.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

 

Chicago Mayor Recoups Climate Change Data Deleted from EPA Website

By Cassie Kelly   May 7, 2017

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his own ideas about the Trump administration taking down important climate data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

This weekend, Emanuel posted the scrubbed data on the City of Chicago’s official website to preserve the “decades of research [the agency] has done to advance the fight against climate change. ” Emanuel said he plans to develop the site further in the coming weeks.

“While this information may not be readily available on the agency’s webpage right now, here in Chicago we know climate change is real and we will continue to take action to fight it,” Mayor Emanuel said.

The new page highlights NOAA records on global warming, basic information on what climate change is, the impact that it will have on things like farming and human health, and what citizens can do to reduce their emissions. It even has a section linking to the president’s Climate Action Plan, which as of right now, doesn’t lead anywhere but a blank page that says “stay tuned.”

The Trump Administration has shown it is not making climate action a priority and is leaning toward withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

“The Trump administration can attempt to erase decades of work from scientists and federal employees on the reality of climate change, but burying your head in the sand doesn’t erase the problem,” Emanuel said.

Fracking’s Dark Secret

Dr. David Suzuki   May 7, 2017

We’ve long known extracting oil and gas comes with negative consequences, and rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, increases the problems and adds new ones—excessive water use and contamination, earthquakes, destruction of habitat and agricultural lands and methane emissions among them.

As fossil fuel reserves become depleted, thanks to our voracious and wasteful habits, extraction becomes more extreme and difficult. Oil sands mining, deep sea drilling and fracking are employed because easily accessible supplies are becoming increasingly scarce. The costs and consequences are even higher than with conventional sources and methods.

Fracking involves drilling deep into the Earth, and injecting a high-pressure stream of water, sand and chemicals to break apart shale and release gas or oil. In British Columbia, politicians tout liquefied natural gas as an economic panacea, a product we can export around the world to create jobs and prosperity at home. More than 80 percent of BC’s natural gas is fracked, and as fracking increases, the percentage rises.

Of the many problems with the industry, methane emissions from fracked and conventional operations are among the most serious. Methane is at least 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas over the short term. Researchers estimate it’s responsible for 25 percent of already observed climatic changes. One difference between methane and CO2: Methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time—around a decade, compared to many decades or centuries for CO2.

Methane’s relatively short lifespan means reducing the amount entering the atmosphere will have major and rapid results. Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to address climate change. The technology to do so already exists. It’s absurd that the industry is leaking the very resource it wants to sell.

Methane comes from a number of sources, including animal agriculture and natural emissions. Global warming itself means methane once trapped in frozen ground or ice is escaping into the air.

The oil and gas industry is one of the major emitters. A field study by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University found methane pollution from BC’s oil and gas industry is at least 2.5 times higher than BC government estimates.

In 2015 and 2016, foundation researchers joined St. Francis Xavier University’s Flux Lab under the supervision of David Risk, an expert in measurement, detection and repair of fugitive emissions. Using gas-detection instruments mounted on a “sniffer truck,” they traveled more than 8,000 kilometers in northeastern BC. They found methane emissions from BC’s Montney region alone are greater than what the provincial government has estimated for the entire industry! (Montney represents about 55 percent of BC’s oil and gas production). David Suzuki Foundation senior scientist John Werring followed up on and corroborated that research by measuring point-source methane emissions from more than 170 oil and gas sites.

The research, available in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, found Montney operations leak and intentionally release more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually—equivalent to burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal or putting more than two million cars on the road. Half of all well and processing sites in the region are releasing methane.

This research shows that the oil and gas sector is the largest source of climate pollution in BC, surpassing commercial transportation—and it contradicts claims that natural gas or LNG is a clean fuel or that it’s useful to help us transition from other fossil fuels.

Given these results and other studies—including one in Alberta that found the amount of methane leaking from Alberta operations in one year could heat 200,000 homes—it’s time for all levels of government to get industrial methane emissions under control.

Beyond existing commitments to reduce methane emissions by 45 percent, governments must work to eliminate them from this sector by 2030, with strong regulations, monitoring and oversight. We need better leak detection and repair, improved reporting and enforcement and methods to capture emissions rather than burning them.

Climate change is a serious issue, and methane emissions are a significant contributor. Getting them under control is a quick, cost-effective way to help address the problem. What’s stopping us?

 

Wind Industry Just Chalked Up Strongest First Quarter in 8 years

American Wind Energy Association    May 7, 2017

America’s wind power workforce installed 908 utility-scale turbines in the first quarter of 2017, totaling 2,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity. This is the wind industry’s strongest start in eight years, according to a new report released Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, in releasing the U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2017 Market Report. “Each new modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so the turbines we installed in just these three months represent nearly 40,000 job years for American workers.”

The early burst of activity reflects how 500 factories in America’s wind power supply chain and more than 100,000 wind workers are putting stable, multi-year federal policy to work. The industry is now in year three of a five-year phase-down of the Production Tax Credit, and Navigant Consulting recently forecast a strong 2017 for wind power, similar to 2015 and 2016.

New wind turbine installations in the first quarter spanned the U.S. from Rhode Island and North Carolina to Oregon and Hawaii. Great Plains states Texas (724 MW) and Kansas (481 MW) led the pack.

Texas continues as the overall national leader for wind power capacity, with 21,000 MW installed, enough to power more than five million average homes. North Carolina became the 41st state to harness wind power, bringing online the first wind farm to be built in the Southeast in 12 years.

Horace Pritchard, one of nearly 60 landowners associated with the North Carolina project, explained what it means to him and his neighbors: “Farms have been growing corn, soybeans and wheat for a long time here, and the wind farm revenue means a lot of families are protected from pricing swings, floods or droughts going forward. We’re just adding another locally-grown crop to our fields, with very little ground taken out of production, and the improved roads really help with access. So it’s a great fit here.”

Expanding wind farms continue to benefit rural America, since more than 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural communities. According to AWEA’s recently released 2016 Annual Report, wind now pays more than $245 million per year in land-lease payments to local landowners, many of them farmers and ranchers.

Along with rural benefits, American wind manufacturing facilities remain busy in the first quarter as projects continue to be built. With 4,466 MW in new construction and advanced development announcements recorded in the first quarter, the near-term pipeline has reached 20,977 MW of wind capacity. That’s about as much as the entire Texas wind fleet’s existing capacity.

Demand remained strong in the first quarter. There were 1,781 MW signed in long-term contracts for wind energy, the most in a first quarter since 2013. Utilities and Fortune 500 brands frequently use these long-term contracts, called Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), to purchase wind energy. Home Depot and Intuit, maker of TurboTax, both signed up for wind power this quarter, joining a host of Fortune 500 companies like GM, Walmart, and Microsoft that are buying wind energy for its low, stable cost.

In addition to leading brands, low-cost wind power reliably supplies a growing number of cities, universities, and other organizations—including the Department of Defense. This quarter, a Texas wind farm came online to supply a PPA with the U.S. Army. Powering a military facility demonstrates that wind power is ready to reliably serve our most vital electricity needs, boosting American energy security in more ways than one.

What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know

CBS News 60 Minutes

What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know

Correspondent Lesley Stahl,  May 7, 2017   

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/

At 97, Ben Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive and he has a far-reaching message for today’s world

  • Twenty-two SS officers responsible for the deaths of 1M+ people would never have been brought to justice were it not for Ben Ferencz.
  • The officers were part of units called Einsatzgruppen, or action groups. Their job was to follow the German army as it invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and kill Communists, Gypsies and Jews.
  • Ferencz believes “war makes murderers out of otherwise decent people” and has spent his life working to deter war and war crimes.  

CBS News

It is not often you get the chance to meet a man who holds a place in history like Ben Ferencz.  He’s 97 years old, barely 5 feet tall, and he served as prosecutor of what’s been called the biggest murder trial ever. The courtroom was Nuremberg; the crime, genocide; the defendants, a group of German SS officers accused of committing the largest number of Nazi killings outside the concentration camps — more than a million men, women, and children shot down in their own towns and villages in cold blood.

Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive today. But he isn’t content just to be part of 20th century history — he believes he has something important to offer the world right now.

27-year-old Ben Ferencz became the chief prosecutor of 22 Einsatzgruppen commanders at Nuremberg.

“If it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war.”

Lesley Stahl: You know, you– have seen the ugliest side of humanity.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: You’ve really seen evil. And look at you. You’re the sunniest man I’ve ever met. The most optimistic.

Benjamin Ferencz: You oughta get some more friends.

Watching Ben Ferencz during his daily swim, his gym workout and his morning push-up regimen is to realize he isn’t just the sunniest man we’ve ever met — he may also be the fittest. And that’s just the beginning.

Ferencz made his opening statement in the Nuremberg courtroom 70 years ago. Ben Ferencz in court: “The charges we have brought accuse the defendants of having committed crimes against humanity.”

The Nuremberg trials after World War II were historic — the first international war crimes tribunals ever held. Hitler’s top lieutenants were prosecuted first. Then a series of subsequent trials were mounted against other Nazi leaders, including 22 SS officers responsible for killing more than a million people — not in concentration camps — but in towns and villages across Eastern Europe. They would never have been brought to justice were it not for Ben Ferencz.

Lesley Stahl: You look so young.

Benjamin Ferencz: I was so young.  I was 27 years old.

Lesley Stahl: Had you prosecuted trials before?

Benjamin Ferencz: Never in my life. I don’t—

Lesley Stahl: Come on.

Benjamin Ferencz: –recall if I’d ever been in a courtroom actually.

Ferencz had immigrated to the U.S. as a baby, the son of poor Jewish parents from a small town in Romania. He grew up in a tough New York City neighborhood where his father found work as a janitor.

Benjamin Ferencz: When I was taken to school at the age of seven, I couldn’t speak English– spoke Yiddish at home. And I was very small. And so they wouldn’t let me in.

Lesley Stahl: So you didn’t speak English ’til you were eight?

Benjamin Ferencz: That’s correct.

Lesley Stahl: Could you read?

Benjamin Ferencz: No, on the contrary. The silent movies always had writing on it. And I would ask my father, “Wazukas,” in Yiddish, “What does it say? What does it say?” He couldn’t read it, either.

But Ferencz learned quickly. He became the first in his family to go to college, then got a scholarship to Harvard Law School. But during his first semester, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and he, like many classmates, raced to enlist. He wanted to be a pilot, but the Army Air Corps wouldn’t take him.

Benjamin Ferencz:  They said, “No, you’re too short. Your legs won’t reach the pedals.” The Marines, they just looked at me and said, “Forget it, kid.”

So he finished at Harvard then enlisted as a private in the Army. Part of an artillery battalion, he landed on the beach at Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Toward the end of the war, because of his legal training, he was transferred to a brand new unit in General Patton’s Third Army, created to investigate war crimes.  As U.S. forces liberated concentration camps, his job was to rush in and gather evidence. Ferencz told us he is still haunted by the things he saw. And the stories he heard in those camps.

Benjamin Ferencz: A father who, his son told me the story. The father had died just as we were entering the camp. And the father had routinely saved a piece of his bread for his son, and he kept it under his arm at… He kept it under his arm at night so the other inmates wouldn’t steal it, you know.  So you see these human stories which are not — they’re not real.  They’re not real.  But they were real.

Ferencz came home, married his childhood sweetheart and vowed never to set foot in Germany again.  But that didn’t last long. General Telford Taylor, in charge of the Nuremberg trials, asked him to direct a team of researchers in Berlin, one of whom found a cache of top-secret documents in the ruins of the German foreign ministry.

Benjamin Ferencz: He gave me a bunch of binders, four binders. And these were daily reports from the Eastern Front– which unit entered which town, how many people they killed. It was classified, so many Jews, so many gypsies, so many others–

Ferencz had stumbled upon reports sent back to headquarters by secret SS units called Einsatzgruppen, or action groups. Their job had been to follow the German army as it invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and kill Communists, Gypsies and especially Jews.

Benjamin Ferencz: They were 3,000 SS officers trained for the purpose, and directed to kill without pity or remorse, every single Jewish man, woman, and child they could lay their hands on.

Lesley Stahl: So they went right in after the troops?

Benjamin Ferencz: That was their assignment, come in behind the troop, round up the Jews, kill ’em all.

Only one piece of film is known to exist of the Einsatzgruppen at work.  It isn’t easy viewing…

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, this is typical operation.  Well, see here, this– they rounded ’em up. They all have already tags on ’em. And they’re chasing them.

Lesley Stahl: They’re making them run to their own death?

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes. Yes. There’s the rabbi coming along there. Just put ’em in the ditch. Shoot ’em there. You know, kick ’em in.

Lesley Stahl: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

This footage came to light years later. At the time, Ferencz just had the documents, and he started adding up the numbers.

Benjamin Ferencz: When I reached over a million people murdered that way, over a million people, that’s more people than you’ve ever seen in your life, I took a sample. I got on the next plane, flew from Berlin down to Nuremberg, and I said to Taylor, “General, we’ve gotta put on a new trial.”

But the trials were already underway, and prosecution staff was stretched thin. Taylor told Ferencz adding another trial was impossible.

Benjamin Ferencz: And I start screaming. I said, “Look. I’ve got here mass murder, mass murder on an unparalleled scale.”  And he said, “Can you do this in addition to your other work?” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “OK. So you do it.”

And that’s how 27-year-old Ben Ferencz became the chief prosecutor of 22 Einsatzgruppen commanders at trial number 9 at Nuremberg.

Judge: How do you plead to this indictment, guilty or not guilty?

Defendant: Nicht schuldig.

Benjamin Ferencz: Standard routine, nicht schuldig.  Not guilty.

Judge: Guilty or not guilty?

Defendant: Nicht schuldig.

Lesley Stahl: They all say not guilty.

Benjamin Ferencz: Same thing, not guilty.

But Ferencz knew they were guilty and could prove it. Without calling a single witness, he entered into evidence the defendants’ own reports of what they’d done. Exhibit 111: “In the last 10 weeks, we have liquidated around 55,000 Jews.”  Exhibit 179, from Kiev in 1941: “The city’s Jews were ordered to present themselves… about 34,000 reported, including women and children. After they had been made to give up their clothing and valuables, all of them were killed, which took several days.” Exhibit 84, from Einsatzgruppen D in March of 1942: Total number executed so far: 91,678. Einsatzgruppen D was the unit of Ferencz’s lead defendant Otto Ohlendorf. He didn’t deny the killings — he had the gall to claim they were done in self-defense.

Benjamin Ferencz: He was not ashamed of that. He was proud of that. He was carrying out his government’s instructions.

Lesley Stahl: How did you not hit him?

Benjamin Ferencz: There was only one time I wanted to– really. One of these– my defendants said– He gets up, and he says, “[GERMAN],” which is, “What? The Jews were shot? I hear it here for the first time.”  Boy, I felt if I’d had a bayonet I woulda jumped over the thing, and put a bayonet right through one ear, and let it come out the other. You know? You know?

Lesley Stahl: Yeah.

Benjamin Ferencz: That son of a bitch.

Lesley Stahl: And you had his name down on a piece of—

Benjamin Ferencz: And I’ve got– I’ve got his reports of how many he killed. You know? Innocent lamb.

Lesley Stahl: Did you look at the defendants’ faces?

Benjamin Ferencz: Defendants’ face were blank, all the time. Defendants– absolutely blank. They could– like, they’re waiting for a bus.

Lesley Stahl: What was going on inside of you?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of me?

Lesley Stahl: Yeah.

Benjamin Ferencz: I’m still churning.

Lesley Stahl: To this minute?

Benjamin Ferencz: I’m still churning.

All 22 defendants were found guilty, and four of them, including Ohlendorf, were hanged. Ferencz says his goal from the beginning was to affirm the rule of law and deter similar crimes from ever being committed again.

Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

“War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.”

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

So Ferencz has spent the rest of his life trying to deter war and war crimes by establishing an international court – like Nuremburg. He scored a victory when the international criminal court in The Hague was created in 1998.  He delivered the closing argument in the court’s first case.

“If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid.”

Lesley Stahl: Now, you’ve been at this for 50 years, if not more. We’ve had genocide since then.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: In Cambodia—

Benjamin Ferencz: Going on right this minute, yes.

Lesley Stahl: Going on right this minute in Sudan.

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: We’ve had Rwanda, we’ve had Bosnia. You’re not getting very far.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, don’t say that. People get discouraged. They should remember, from me, it takes courage not to be discouraged.

Lesley Stahl: Did anybody ever say that you’re naive?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course. Some people say I’m crazy.

Lesley Stahl: Are you naive here?

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.

Ferencz is legendary in the world of international law, and he’s still at it. He never stops pushing his message and he’s donating his life savings to a Genocide Prevention Initiative at the Holocaust Museum. He says he’s grateful for the life he’s lived in this country, and it’s his turn to give back.

Lesley Stahl: You are such an idealist.

Benjamin Ferencz: I don’t think I’m an idealist.  I’m a realist. And I see the progress.  The progress has been remarkable. Look at the emancipation of woman in my lifetime. You’re sitting here as a female. Look what’s happened to the same-sex marriages. To tell somebody a man can become a woman, a woman can become a man, and a man can marry a man, they would have said, “You’re crazy.” But it’s a reality today. So the world is changing. And you shouldn’t– you know– be despairing because it’s never happened before. Nothing new ever happened before.

Lesley Stahl: Ben—

Benjamin Ferencz: We’re on a roll.

Lesley Stahl: I can’t—

Benjamin Ferencz: We’re marching forward.

Lesley Stahl: Ben? I’m sitting here listening to you. And you’re very wise. And you’re full of energy and passion.  And I can’t believe you’re 97 years old.

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, I’m still a young man.

Lesley Stahl: Clearly, clearly.

Benjamin Ferencz: And I’m still in there fighting.  And you know what keeps me going? I know I’m right.

Produced by Shari Finkelstein and Nieves Zuberbühler.

Indiana Governor Deals Death Blow to State’s Solar Industry

EcoWatch

Indiana Governor Deals Death Blow to State’s Solar Industry

By Jeremy Deaton and Laura A. Shepard  May 3, 2017

In Indiana, solar employs nearly three times as many people as natural gas, according to the Department of Energy. You might think, given the numbers, that legislators would want to protect the state’s nascent solar industry.

You would be wrong.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed a bill Tuesday that shreds incentives for rooftop solar, delivering a blow to solar installers and their customers.

Currently, if rooftop solar owners generate more electricity than they use, the power utility will buy the excess power at the retail rate—around 11¢ per kilowatt-hour. This practice is known as net metering. Under the new law, the utility would buy the excess power at a little more than the wholesale rate—around 4¢ per kwh.

The bill is an improvement on a previous version that would have required rooftop solar owners to sell all of the power they produce at the wholesale rate and buy it back at the retail rate—effectively treating homeowners both as power plants and consumers. But, the new version restricts solar in other important ways:

  • It ends net metering for new customers after 2022.
  • It ends net metering for existing customers who replace or expand their solar system after 2017.
  • It empowers utilities, with the approval of the regulatory commission, to charge rooftop solar owners an additional fee for “energy delivery costs.”

Additionally, the bill may be interpreted to end net metering for homeowners who lease their panels or subscribe to a shared solar array—what’s known as community solar.

“It’s somewhat ambiguous in the current legislative text, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the intent of the language,” said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute. “This bill is obviously an attempt to derail the rapid growth of rooftop and community solar in Indiana.”

Students at Purdue University installed solar panels on this Lafayette home. Purdue University

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the public vehemently opposed the bill. “Ask Republicans, ‘What kind of feedback are you getting from your constituents?’ They’ll tell us that they have gotten dozens and dozens of calls opposing the bill, but zero supporting the bill.”

Still, Indiana legislators have been trying to stifle the growth of solar for years. A 2015 bill would have radically scaled back net metering, but advocates defeated the legislation. This time, they weren’t so lucky.

“A lot of representatives that I know didn’t listen to the people and that’s a bummer,” said Paul Steury, a solar installer at Indiana firm Photon Electric. Steury said the law strips away incentives for rooftop solar, which could put a dent in sales. “I feel solar is the future, and we need to think more about the future.”

Clean energy has also become a significant source of jobs in Indiana. While coal is the biggest source of electricity in the state, renewables employ far more people. Coal power generation employs roughly as many people as solar. The wind industry employs more workers than either power source, in large part through manufacturing and construction.

Employment numbers for power generation in Indiana. Department of Energy

But utilities see a threat from rooftop solar, which lets customers buy less power from the grid. Utilities contend that net metering is unfair to ratepayers who don’t own solar panels. Rooftop solar owners get to sell their surplus power to the grid without paying for transmission lines or other infrastructure needed to deliver that power to homes and businesses in the community.

But proponents of rooftop solar say it’s a net win for the grid. Owners absorb the infrastructure cost of generation, through the panels and installation, and they deliver their surplus power to customers nearby, minimizing the volume of electricity lost in transmission.

Perhaps the biggest benefit for the grid is that solar output peaks in the middle of the day, when demand for electricity is at its highest. When demand spikes, grid operators turn to small, gas-fired power plants that sell the most expensive electricity. Rooftop solar offers a cheaper, cleaner alternative.

Indiana solar jobs by county. SEIA

Among customers, net metering is exceptionally popular. “We definitely pay a lot less,” said Indiana rooftop solar owner Lanette Erby. “I would say that our bills are coming in at about 60 to 80 percent less than what they were, and that was over the winter obviously, when we’re using a lot more electricity to heat and do things like that.”

“We’re currently on an inverter with the electric company, but obviously if the net metering bill were to go through, we would be purchasing battery back ups. That’s where we’re at,” said Erby. “The same kind of legislation killed the solar industry in a couple of other states … which is terrible because it’s creating so many jobs.”

In 2015, Nevada changed its rate structure so that utilities would pay rooftop solar owners at the wholesale rate—as opposed to the retail rate—for their surplus power. That same year, Arizona levied a $50 monthly charge on rooftop solar customers, purportedly to cover transmission costs. In November, Florida voters narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have severely restricted rooftop solar. Advocates say policies like these pose a distinct threat to solar jobs.

In his 2017 state of the state address, Gov. Holcomb committed to creating jobs and supporting small businesses, which he called “the heart and soul” of Indiana’s economy. He said of the new measure, “this legislation ensures those who currently have interests in small solar operations will not be affected for decades.” But advocates see the law as a clear threat to solar installers, many of which, like Photon Electric, are small businesses.

Erby said the measure marks a departure from a “truly free market.” She added, “We are actually considering moving out of state. My parents want some help back in Pennsylvania and the laws are a little more lax there.”

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

The History Of The Kentucky Derby And Black Jockeys

Always Dreaming wins the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

Yahoo News     May 6, 2017

Jockey John Velazquez guided Always Dreaming (5) across the finish line to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.

International Business Times

The History Of The Kentucky Derby And Black Jockeys

Katherine Mooney, International Business Times  May 6, 2017

When the horses enter the gate for the 143rd Kentucky Derby, their jockeys will hail from Louisiana, Mexico, Nebraska and France. None will be African-American. That’s been the norm for quite a while. When Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921.

It wasn’t always this way. The Kentucky Derby, in fact, is closely intertwined with black Americans’ struggles for equality, a history I explore in my book on race and thoroughbred racing. In the 19th century – when horse racing was America’s most popular sport – former slaves populated the ranks of jockeys and trainers, and black men won more than half of the first 25 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. But in the 1890s – as Jim Crow laws destroyed gains black people had made since emancipation – they ended up losing their jobs.

From slavery to the Kentucky Derby

On May 17, 1875, a new track at Churchill Downs ran, for the first time, what it hoped would become its signature event: the Kentucky Derby.

Prominent thoroughbred owner H. Price McGrath entered two horses: Aristides and Chesapeake. Aristides’ rider that afternoon was Oliver Lewis, who, like most of his Kentucky Derby foes, was African-American. The horse’s trainer was an elderly former slave named Ansel Williamson.

Lewis was supposed to take Aristides to the lead, tire the field, and then let Chesapeake go on to win. But Aristides simply refused to let his stablemate pass him. He ended up scoring a thrilling victory, starting the Kentucky Derby on its path to international fame.

Meanwhile, men like Lewis and Williamson had shown that free blacks could be accomplished, celebrated members of society.

‘I ride to win’

To many black Americans, Isaac Murphy symbolized this ideal. Between 1884 and 1891, Murphy won three Kentucky Derbys, a mark unequaled until 1945.

Born a slave in Kentucky, Murphy, along with black peers like Pike Barnes, Soup Perkins and Willie Simms, rode regularly in integrated competition and earned big paychecks. Black jockeys were even the subjects of celebrity gossip; when Murphy bought a new house, it made the front page of The New York Times. One white memoirist, looking back on his childhood, remembered that “every little boy who took any interest in racing…had an admiration for Isaac Murphy.” After the Civil War, the Constitution guaranteed black male suffrage and equal protection under the law, but Isaac Murphy embodied citizenship in a different way. He was both a black man and a popular hero.

When Murphy rode one of his most famous races, piloting Salvator to victory over Tenny at Sheepshead Bay in 1890, the crusading black journalist T. Thomas Fortune interviewed him after the race. Murphy was friendly, but blunt: “I ride to win.”

Fortune, who was waging a legal battle to desegregate New York hotels, loved that response. It was that kind of determination that would change the world, he told his readers: men like Isaac Murphy, leading by example in the fight to end racism after slavery.

Destined to disappear?

Only a few weeks after the interview with Fortune, Murphy’s career suffered a tremendous blow when he was accused of drinking on the job. He would go on to win another Kentucky Derby the next spring, riding Kingman, a thoroughbred owned by former slave Dudley Allen, the first and only black man to own a Kentucky Derby winner. But Murphy died of heart failure in 1896 at the age of 35 – two months before the Supreme Court made segregation the law of the land in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Black men continued to ride successfully through the 1890s, but their role in the sport was tenuous at best. A Chicago sportswriter grumbled that when he went to the track and saw black fans cheering black riders, he was uncomfortably reminded that black men could vote. The 15th Amendment and Isaac Murphy had opened the door for black Americans, but many whites were eager to slam it shut.

After years of success, black men began getting fewer jobs on the racetrack, losing promotions and opportunities to ride top horses. White jockeys started to openly demand segregated competition. One told the New York Sun in 1908 that one of his black opponents was probably the best jockey he had ever seen, but that he and his colleagues “did not like to have the negro riding in the same races with them.” In a 1905 Washington Post article titled “Negro Rider on Wane,” the writer insisted that black men were inferior and thus destined to disappear from the track, as Native Americans had inevitably disappeared from their homelands.

Black jockey Jimmy Winkfield shot to stardom with consecutive Kentucky Derby victories in 1901 and 1902, but he quickly found it difficult to get more mounts, a pattern that became all too common. He left the United States for a career in Europe, but his contemporaries often weren’t so fortunate.

Their obituaries give us glimpses of the depression and desperation that came with taking pride in a vocation, only to have it wrenched away. Soup Perkins, who won the Kentucky Derby at 15, drank himself to death at 31. The jockey Tom Britton couldn’t find a job and committed suicide by swallowing acid. Albert Isom bought a pistol at a pawnshop and shot himself in the head in front of the clerk.

The history of the Kentucky Derby, then, is also the history of men who were at the forefront of black life in the decades after emancipation – only to pay a terrible price for it.

Katherine Mooney, Assistant Professor of History, Florida State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.