Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Risks in disposing of "dead" solar panels?

Although top national environmental regulators confirmed GenX and related chemical compounds are used to produce solar panel components, they say their research does not prioritize what risks that might pose to the environment and human health.

Peter Grevatt, national director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water in Washington, D.C., recently told Carolina Journal the GenX solar concern “is one that’s in a much broader set of challenges.”

GenX is known to be used in making Teflon film that coats many solar panels. The chemical falls under the larger umbrella of compounds classified as PFAS chemicals.

“There’s literally so many thousands of these compounds, and we don’t have methods to measure most of them. So we are getting up on the research, and trying to figure out ways of identifying what’s out there,” Andy Gillespie, associate director for ecology at EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, told CJ.

Kristina Beasley said that lack of knowledge underscores her concerns. She is among opponents of an expansion plan for the industrial-scale Wilkinson Solar Plant in the Terra Ceia community of Beaufort County. Their opposition is believed to be the first in the state to raise the issue of potential GenX contamination in an N.C. Utility Commission regulatory hearing.

“I definitely think that it is an issue, and further research, I think, should be done,” Beasley said. She said the public doesn’t appreciate concerns about toxic chemicals, fluids, and substances leaking into the soil and groundwater as solar installations age and deteriorate, or suffer damage from windstorms or other disasters.

As CJ pointed out more than three years ago, North Carolina doesn’t have rules for decommissioning solar facilities or a disposal plan for spent panels. Critics worry about potential pollution. Residents consistently have raised fears in town halls and solar plant permit hearings about contamination from compromised solar panels.

But community activists are not the only ones weighing in. Donald van der Vaart, former secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, sees reason for concern given North Carolina’s more than 7,500 solar installations.

“North Carolina’s solar power capacity is now the second highest in the nation. EPA researchers recognize that solar panels may be a source of GenX compounds,” said van der Vaart, a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation. “I would expect Duke Energy and the Public Utilities Commission would want to see test results to protect them from future liability.”

“One line of research that we are doing is looking at material management, end-of-life management, but we’re not yet at the point where we’re doing it product by product,” Gillespie said when asked whether the EPA has concerns about GenX leaching from solar panels.

“Lots of things go to landfills, or go to incinerators, or other things. We’re trying to understand the aggregate risk. We just haven’t gotten to the stage of doing it by many of the thousand different products that these chemicals can be used in,” he said.

“It’s a fair question to ask” about potential environmental and human health impacts from GenX and other PFAS chemicals in solar panels, said U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th Congressional District.

“Obviously I’m aware of the concern, and that’s why I’ve been pushing to get the EPA to quickly get us as much science as possible so that we can determine how much of a concern we have,” Hudson said. “There’s not enough science, clearly.”

Solar enthusiasts contend there is no threat from GenX or related chemicals, while critics fret the wealthy renewable energy industry and its host of lobbyists influence regulators and lawmakers to disregard potential GenX connections to solar panels.

“We’ve got to go where the science is,” Hudson said. “If it’s dangerous then we need to treat it. Prevention, and remediating the problem.”

Hudson, Grevatt, and Gillespie were among EPA, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, federal, state, and local government officials in Fayetteville on Aug. 14 for an all-day listening session Hudson facilitated. The event was designed to update residents on regulators’ efforts to investigate and combat GenX in the groundwater, soil, and air surrounding the Chemours chemical plant here, and to hear their feedback.

“GenX, I know, has been a significant concern for folks in the state of North Carolina,” Grevatt said, “but we’re really focused right now most of all on understanding potential threats to human health, and making sure that communities have the tools they need to address those concerns.”

The EPA plans to issue a toxicity assessment outlining a first-of-its-kind health-risk profile for GenX and PFAS compounds next month. It’s scheduled to release a national management plan by the end of 2018.

The EPA is collaborating with states, academic researchers, industry scientists, and other federal agencies to develop methods and tools for states and local communities to find GenX and other PFAS compounds in the environment.

“Those tools are going to be equally applicable to [assessing solar electric plants] as they will be about looking for GenX in other parts of the environment,” Grevatt said. They won’t be tailored to each specific threat.

Linda Culpepper, interim director of DEQ’s Division of Water Resources, was a panelist at the Fayetteville event. Asked later if she was hearing concerns about GenX in solar panels, she responded: “Just what you’re seeing probably. The same thing in research that people are looking at — as these products degrade over time are there any kind of chemicals coming from that?”


Canada’s Climate Plan In Freefall As Alberta Pulls Out

The Canadian province of Alberta announced Thursday it would pull out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's flagship climate change initiative in protest against a court ruling against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

A court had earlier quashed the government's approval of expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline to the Pacific, siding with indigenous people worried that increased tanker traffic will harm whales along the coast.

Landlocked Alberta in western Canada, which sits on the world's third largest oil reserves, was set to rely on the pipeline to sell oil to Asian markets via the port of Vancouver.

"As important as climate action is to our province's future I have also always said that taking the next step, in signing on to the federal climate plan, can't happen without the Trans Mountain pipeline," Premier Rachel Notley told reporters in a live address Thursday evening.

"With the Trans Mountain halted and the work on it halted, until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan," she said.

Trudeau's government introduced a federal carbon tax earlier this year to curb greenhouse gas emissions, set to rise steadily from Can$10 ($7.50) per tonne this year to Can$50 per tonne in 2022.

"Let's be clear, without Alberta that plan isn't worth the paper it's written on," Notley said.

Meanwhile, Trudeau said in a tweet he confirmed to Notley that his government "stands by the TMX expansion project" and "will ensure it moves forward in the right way".

In addition to Alberta, the provinces of Saskatchewan and Ontario in mid-July announced an alliance against the carbon tax, which they believe is harmful to the economy.

Ontario -- Canada's richest and most populous province -- elected a climate-sceptic prime minister in June, who is working to dismantle climate change policies.


Pro-Nuclear “Fest” in Munich, Germany on October 21!


I’m very happy to invite you to attend a historic, pro-nuclear power demonstration in Munich, Germany, on Sunday, October 21, from 10 am to 4 pm!

The official name of the event is the “Nuclear Pride Fest,” and its founding purpose is to save and expand nuclear energy in Europe. The Fest will be held in Marienplatz, Munich’s central plaza.

We are hoping that people come from around the world to participate in this event, and that hundreds participate from within Europe — including families who work in nuclear power.

Nuclear Pride Fest Weekend will be child-and-family-friendly — with fun things for kids, including face-painting and games, workshops, and child care for parents.

Scholarships to cover the cost of travel are available to pro-nuclear student leaders and activists doing grassroots and social media organizing in their home nations.

For more information about attending or getting involved, please email

If you would like to make a donation to cover the airfare of a pro-nuclear student leader from around the world, please click here.

The event is being organized by independent grassroots civil society organizations but they are are urging families whose members work in nuclear power plants to attend.

The founding Nuclear Pride Coalition members are

Ecomodernist Society (Finland)

Ecomodernist Society (Netherlands)

Environmental Progress (U.S.)

Partei der Humanisten (Germany)

Generation Atomic (U.S.)

Mothers for Nuclear (Switzerland)

Nuklearia (Germany)

Saving Our Planet (France-UK-Norway-Turkey)

Ecomodernist Society (“├ľkomoderne”, Germany)

The Thorium MSR Foundation (Netherlands)

Students for Nuclear (U.S.)

The Nuclear Pride Coalition convened last weekend in Amsterdam. The event opened with its 50-plus participants singing an Elvis song “Can't Help Falling in Love With You,” where the “You” was replaced by a “U” — the symbol for uranium in the periodic table of elements — to anti-nuclear protesters.

The group then gave daisies to the protesters, who are affiliated with WISE International, a group funded by renewable energy interests. In response, the WISE activists smiled and applauded.


A New Report Details How Nonprofits Are Funneling Millions To Democratic Governors To Further Their Global Warming Agenda

Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown’s upcoming global warming activist summit is part of an effort to funnels millions of dollars from nonprofits to state politicians to advance a liberal climate agenda, according to a new report.

Brown’s so-called “Global Climate Action Summit” begins Wednesday and is sure to garner media attention. Its list of speakers includes former Vice President Al Gore, actor Alec Baldwin and former Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, the whole point of the summit is to give politicians and activists a platform on global warming ahead of the November elections.

However, Competitive Enterprise senior fellow Chris Horner wants people to remember one thing about the summit: “this is what activist government for hire looks like, and how it is brought about.”

“Open record productions reveal that this summit is part of a major climate industry that funnels donor money through nonprofit organizations to staff up politicians’ offices,” Horner wrote in a new report published Tuesday.

And what an industry it is, Horner’s report reveals. Democratic state governors hope to mobilize $50 million by 2020 from nonprofits toward promoting liberal climate policies, including meeting the goals of the Paris climate accord.

This is Horner’s second major report on the deep financial ties between wealthy liberal foundations and Democratic state officials in the wake of the 2016 election. In August, Horner released a report detailing how former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal foundation funded attorneys at Democratic state attorneys general offices.

Those findings, based on more than two years of government records requests, backed initial reporting by TheDCNF on Bloomberg’s funding of state attorneys to advance “progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.”

According to Horner, accepting private funds to advance their policy goals bring up serious legal questions as well, including on transparency and gift-giving. It also could upset the checks lawmakers are supposed to have over state executives.

Brown’s summit is just one example of the coordination between Democratic governors and liberal foundations. The summit “is just one component of a sprawling enterprise that underwrites ‘support functions’ for politicians to advocate the parties’ aligned policy agenda,” reads Horner’s report.

Horner noted that global warming activists not only bankrolled the $10 million summit, but also provided a “handful of senior, full-time, and off-the-books staff members to Governor Brown,” according to a copy of his report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Activists Are Accusing Gov. Brown Of Being A Hypocrite On Oil Drilling)

President Donald Trump’s 2016 election forced environmentalists and monied liberal donors out of the realm of federal policy, so they took their money to the states where Democratic politicians railed against the new administration’s rolling back of Obama-era policies.

In one instance, the Hewlett Foundation hired former Obama administration climate change envoy Jonathan Pershing to “place climate and energy policy staff members in governors’ offices, where they would be running the money and at least in one instance the hiring process through the World Resources Institute (WRI),” according to emails obtained by Horner.

However, Brown is not the only governor to take advantage of private funding of his climate agenda, Horner noted. The report cites many emails between officials in the offices of Governors Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of New York as well.

Inslee’s office, for example, described one former Obama State Department staffer “as our refugee from Kerry’s office at State” that “Pershing at Hewlett is paying … to work in our shop for 12 months.”

Horner points also points to Democratic governors’ use of a “secretariat” model to “to run a politician’s climate-policy campaign.” In the case of Democratic governors, the “secretariat” was the United Nations Foundation (UNF), which was founded by media mogul Ted Turner in the 1990s.

UNF houses the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA) that Brown, Cuomo and Inslee are a part of along with other state governors. While USCA is not a legal entity, it’s being used to advance the goals of the Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw from in the next couple years. USCA is also supported by the Hewlett Foundation, Energy Foundation and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Horner said Democratic governors’ offices “spent hundreds of hours of taxpayer time interviewing and negotiating with representatives of 501(c)3 nonprofits that could serve as pass-through entities for placing ‘staff’ in the governors’ offices, recruiting and liaising with donors, and developing the proposals to present to donors to fund the scheme.”

Nonprofits competed with one another to get the approval from Brown and others to house USCA. One top aide to Brown wrote in an email “that the nonprofit that wins the contract was to act purely as a vendor of ‘back-office host support functions’ to the officeholders.”

“A key function of the Secretariat was to hire staff members for the governors.” Horner wrote, noting that former Obama administration officials were a favorite. “This practice represents having outside parties hire staff members selected by governors for whom their legislatures have not authorized or have appropriated funds. They use their offices in service of the donors and of the advocacy groups’ and politicians’ aligned agenda.”

UNF also helped Brown’s office hire executives for the upcoming climate summit. Their jobs ad said the employees would work for UNF and be “seconded to the office of the Governor of California.”

“The Brown-led Summit is a major effort by elected officials to effectively move the politicking and media spectacle up in the calendar and to run an expensive PR/political campaign (using state offices) to make climate an issue for the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, by hosting what is—by all appearances—a governmental conference,” Horner wrote.


Trump Is Taking Another Crack At Dramatically Weakening Obama-Era Methane Rules

The Trump administration is trying for the third time this year to weaken environmental rules his predecessor crafted to regulate methane emissions, The New York Times reported Monday.

The EPA will soon make public plans to lessening the impact of a rule requiring companies to monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents cited in the report. The Interior Department will also release a final version of a draft rule repealing a restriction on the venting and “flaring” of methane.

Former agency officials criticized the mood. “They’re taking them down, one by one,” =top climate and clean-air regulator during the Obama administration, told reporters. Methane is more than 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, despite making up only nine percent of all greenhouse gasses.

Energy analysts, meanwhile, praised the rule. (RELATED: Trump Guts Obama-Era Methane Rules To ‘Allow Job Growth In Rural America’)

Former President Barack Obama’s methane rule “was the definition of red tape. It was a record-keeping nightmare that was technically impossible to execute in the field,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies based in Colorado. The fracking industry is one Colorado’s main economic engines.

EPA’s new rules would weaken a 2016 rule requiring oil and gas drillers to perform leak inspections every six months on drilling equipment, as well as repair leaks within a month. The amendment would lengthen that to once a year in most cases, the report states. It would also increase the amount of time a company could wait before repairing a methane leak from 30 to 60 days.

President Donald Trump has sought ways to ding several of Obama’s major environmental regulations. The agency proposed repealing a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes in July. The EPA, under the guidance of former Administrator Scott Pruitt, proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution with a weaker one that would free up coal power plants to produce energy through looser regulations.

EPA officials believe the new rule would recoup the costs the Obama-era regulation imposed on oil and gas companies. The regulation would have cost companies about $530 million throughout the next five years. Trump’s new rule would save the oil and gas industry $484 million by the same year.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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