As Trump Moves to Reverse Emissions Policies, States Step In to Advance Them

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Yale 360:Just hours after President Trump’s Rose Garden speech in June announcing plans to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the governors of three states — California, Washington, and New York — announced their remedy. They formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, and called on other states to join them in continuing to push ahead on fighting climate change.  “It only took two nanoseconds,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in an interview with Yale Environment 360. “We heard the president wanted to run up the white flag of surrender. We wanted to send a strong message to the world: We’re not going to surrender.”  The Trump administration was already in the midst of an aggressive effort to roll back nearly every climate change initiative of President Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce emissions from the nation’s electricity sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe responded by ordering state officials to draft a rule to create a cap-and-trade program for carbon pollution from the state’s power sector. “Virginia cannot and will not stand idly by while the federal government abdicates its role,” he said.  In the void created by Trump, states are stepping up to become bigger players in the climate battle, both individually and by joining together. The U.S. Climate Alliance, which has grown to include 14 states and Puerto Rico, plans to collaborate on a broad range of greenhouse gas-cutting initiatives, such as creating new mechanisms for financing clean-energy projects, updating electric grids to better accommodate wind and solar power, improving construction standards to reduce electricity use by buildings, and hastening the transition to electric vehicles. The alliance states also plan to boost communities’ resilience to the more damaging natural disasters that are a consequence of climate change, including mapping the risks posed by sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme precipitation.These efforts will add to momentum already underway in alliance states, such as California’s recent extension of its economy-wide cap-and-trade program and a proposal by nine Eastern states to continue their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) until 2030. RGGI states have cut electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half since 2009, and under the proposal, they would further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.  Without federal leadership, such state-level initiatives have become much more important, both for constraining carbon emissions and for discouraging other countries from following Trump’s lead. “The way I think they’re most significant is as a signal to the rest of the world,” says Robert Stavins, a Harvard University professor of environmental economics. “What would be disastrous is if China, India, and Brazil … decide to be less ambitious, rescind, or drop out.”  More: As Trump Retreats, States Are Joining Forces on Climate Action As Trump Moves to Reverse Emissions Policies, States Step In to Advance Themlast_img read more

Major Texas coal generator concedes ‘coal is on its way out’

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Yahoo Finance:The latest sign that coal is losing its sway in the U.S. power market: Vistra Energy Corp. — one of Texas’s largest power generators and coal plant owners — says that fossil fuel’s days are numbered.“Coal is on its way out,” Vistra Chief Executive Officer Curtis Morgan said during a panel discussion. “More and more plants are being retired.”And Morgan would know. The company has had to close four massive coal plants as their margins were squeezed out of the market by cheaper resources. Renewable energy is replacing them, and Morgan said he sees solar power in particular taking a bigger market share.Solar and wind power together account for a quarter of Texas’s generation capacity and have sent electricity prices plunging below zero on some days.More: Coal ‘on its way out,’ Vistra CEO says Major Texas coal generator concedes ‘coal is on its way out’last_img read more

Zurich Insurance tightens rules for backing coal development projects

first_imgZurich Insurance tightens rules for backing coal development projects FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Insurance Group (Zurich) is accelerating actions to progress towards a low-carbon economy amid an increasing climate crisis. Zurich becomes the first insurance company to commit to targets set in the framework of the UN Global Compact Business Ambition Pledge that aims to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The insurer will also expand its existing thermal coal policy aimed at reducing the use of carbon-intense fossil fuels.“As one of the world’s leading insurers we see first-hand the devastation natural disasters inflict on people and communities. This is why we are accelerating action to reduce climate risks by driving changes in how companies and people behave and support those most impacted,” says Mario Greco, CEO Zurich Insurance Group.As part of Zurich’s Pledge, it is also updating its position on some of the most carbon-intense fossil fuels. In line with Zurich’s prior thermal coal policy, Zurich will engage with both clients and investee companies with more than 30% exposure to thermal coal, oil sands and oil shales in a dialogue over a two-year period with the aim of driving a deeper conversation regarding their credible mid- to long-term transition plans.The updated position outlines that Zurich generally will no longer underwrite or invest in companies that: generate more than 30% of their revenue from mining thermal coal, or produce more than 20 million tons of thermal coal per year; generate more than 30% of their electricity from coal; are in the process of developing any new coal mining or coal power infrastructure; generate at least 30% of their revenue directly from the extraction of oil from oil sands; are purpose-built (or dedicated) transportation infrastructure operators for oil sands products, including pipelines and railway transportation; generate more than 30% of their revenue from mining oil shale, or generate more than 30% of their electricity from oil shale.The company also announces that it will use only renewable energy for power by 2022, and has formally joined the RE100, a global leadership initiative bringing together influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity. In addition, Zurich is taking action to eliminate single-use plastics and reduce internal paper usage by 80%. With extreme weather events already causing devastation around the world, Zurich will also continue to help those communities most impacted by flooding through a program to enhance flood resilience, which has already benefitted 225,000 people across nine countries.More: Zurich signs up to U.N. business pledge to limit global temperature riselast_img read more

My Six Speed Transmission

first_imgDuring today’s tempo run, I got to thinking about the topic for my next blog (this itself is a lesson in lack of focus). I always come up with metaphors about how running relates to life. This time I was thinking about how a car transmission and running are quite similar.As I’ve mentioned before, there are three basic components of running. These are speed, strength and endurance. Training consists of a mix of these three components, depending upon what running distance one chooses to excel at. During today’s workout, I checked my mile splits and became frustrated with how much speed I have lost over the last couple of years. So instead of beating myself up over this earth shattering news, I started to shift my thinking about how running is like the gears in a car.Gears one and two are for speed running. I think of these gears as used for those runners who excel on the track or at shorter road races. These gears use a lot of fuel and one is depleted of energy quickly. Using these gears would be like driving a Porsche all the time. Gears three and four are the strength gears. These gears are used for runners who excel at distances from the half marathon up to the marathon distance. These gears still burn a lot of fuel but are more efficient and one can go longer before running out of gas. A good car comparison would be a muscle car like a Mustang or Camaro. Gears five and six are for endurance running. These gears are definitely used for ultra distances. These gears are energy efficient and get good mileage like a Hybrid car.One thing to remember is that you need to practice using all six gears no matter what distance you like to run. You will just need to rely more heavily on one or two sets of gears more than the other. Basically, the longer you want to go the more efficient you need to be. You also have to take into account the weather conditions and your age. This is something I’m becoming more aware of after every speed workout.So in a nutshell, my running career started out as a sexy Porsche and now I’m driving around in a Hybrid. I was never very fast and running speeds are all relative but I’d still like to be able to test drive that Porsche every now and then. So if you fly by me on the road or trail just realize I’m going green!last_img read more

New River Gorge Bridge Day

first_imgFree Fallin’, BASE jumpers highlight Bridge Day in the Gorge.In October of 1980, something incredible happened in West Virginia. Five men donning parachutes walked to the edge of the newly constructed 876-foot-tall New River Gorge Bridge. With policemen, Park Service, and safety professionals looking on in approval, they stepped into oblivion.From these humble beginnings, Bridge Day has grown to over 800 jumps per year and 100,000+ spectators who all come to participate in a celebration of the sport, spectacular fall scenery, and the local community. Although originally started as a way for the general public to walk on the bridge, BASE jumping has taken center stage.Jumpers plunge from diving boards and platforms on the side of the bridge and land in the Fayette Station river access area far below. Safety boats patrol the waters, and spectators can view the whole show from the bridge itself, trails along the rim, or the National Park observation deck at the New River Gorge Visitor Center. It remains one of the most popular legal options for BASE jumping in the U.S., and it shines as an example of how fringe sport enthusiasts and authorities can work together towards a mutually beneficial solution.Summersville local jumper Marcus Ellison has witnessed the spectacle many times since he was a child. There was something about watching people submit to the forces of gravity that resonated with him. At the age of 23, Ellison began skydiving with the intention of moving to the BASE side of the sport. Before he knew it, Bridge Day 2008 had arrived, and he was standing on a platform looking over the chasm with friends and family watching. It was his turn to jump.“It’s a moment of clarity and relaxation,” Ellison explains. “When your feet disconnect from what you are on, there is an unbelievable feeling of release and freedom. That is what I’m after: that instant when you disconnect.”Marcus has disconnected across the country, and has over 300 skydives and nearly 200 BASE jumps to his name. He is drawn to the sport for many reasons, but in no small part because of the dramatic places that it brings him to. His favorite jumps are in massive alpine environments, and are sometimes combined with skiing. This focus on the beauty of the surroundings makes BASE jumping a soulful sport that is more similar to other outdoors pursuits than many think. It doesn’t require the manpower, airline fuel, and permits that skydiving does, and it is almost always a quiet, under-the-radar activity with just a friend or two. Due to the infancy of the sport, the rules of BASE are still being written.Bridge Day is hardly a normal day for these jumpers. In spite of the fanfare, lines, and spectators, it is often the only opportunity every year to reconnect with friends from across the planet. It’s a perfect chance for first-time jumpers to meet and learn from the legends of the sport. Personalities like Red Bull athlete Miles Daisher, oil rig lifestyler Chris McDougall, and wildman Jeb Corliss can be seen in the lineup, and are quick to give high fives and trade stories with aspiring young athletes.Jason Bell, BASE Coordinator for Bridge Day, says that it is without a doubt the best day for skydivers to make their first BASE jump. “We have over 100 first-timers every year, and due to setting, the system that we have developed, and the safety measures in place, it is a perfect way to get into the sport.”Rookies feel confident at Bridge Day for several reasons. First of all, it is the third tallest bridge in the U.S., and the more time that jumpers have to deal with the unexpected, the better. Jumping from a bridge also eliminates the danger of colliding with  a cliff or other standing structures should the jumper spin and open the chute the wrong way. The primary landing area is a deep river, and rescue boats are constantly fishing jumpers out of the water. Finally, there are ambulances and other safety personnel and technology at the bottom, ready to deal with injury. On the logistical side, Bell and his team vet applicants through interview questions, and there are two gear checks for all jumpers before they are allowed to queue up for freefall.While it’s appealing to beginners, advanced athletes can also get excited about Bridge Day 2012, and its newest creation: The Human Catapult. A mechanical engineer by trade, Bell envisioned and designed a mechanism that is capable of launching jumpers 20 feet vertically and 50 feet horizontally over the edge of the bridge during Bridge Day. This addition will augment the already classic launch platform and diving board options for jumpers, and will be mixed in to the other two as participants jump on 20-25 second intervals.BASE jumpers often struggle with being labeled as adrenaline junkies and daredevils. Just like any sport, there are those who take it to its limits, but the vast majority are there for the experience and the camaraderie.  “BASE jumping is what you want it to be,” says Ellison. “It can be the craziest, scariest, most sketchball thing you could ever do, or it can be the foundation for some of the most joyful moments of your life.”Jason describes his personal fascination with the sport, and touches on the fact that it is still an incredible and vivid experience, even after over 500 jumps. “From the powerful acceleration of the jump, to the peacefulness of flying the chute, and finally the satisfaction of landing back on earth, there is nothing else like it. You realize that it is an experience that very few people will have, and it’s almost as if you are privy to a secret.” •DateOCTOBER 20, 2012Hours9:00 AM – 3:00 PMLocationNew River Gorge Bridge,Fayetteville, W.Va.Website [email protected]/TjhUfiOther ActivitiesRappelling, highlining, car show, music, chili/cornbread cookofflast_img read more

Daily Dirt: Outdoor News For April 17, 2013

first_imgYour outdoor news bulletin for April 17, the day Ford unveiled the Mustang for the first time:GSMP’s Newfound Gap Road ReopenedNewfound Gap Road (Hwy 441), that connects Cherokee, N.C. and Gatlinburg, Ten., has been reopened, Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials said, after a landslide on January 16th washed away approximately 200 feet of road. The road reopened Monday morning, almost exactly four months after the landslide. Originally, repairs were expected to take an extra month, but the National Park Service, Federal Highways Administration, and subcontractors were able to complete the road in less than the projected time.Soybeans Threatened by Kudzu-Eating StinkbugsEver since the invasive vine was introduced to the United States from Asia, kudzu has become quite a pest, smothering our native plants and crawling across the southeastern landscape. Looks like kudzu is the gift that keeps on giving: stinkbugs from Asia that feed on the vine have been found in the U.S. The first bug was spotted in Georgia in 2009, but researchers at North Carolina State University have recently discovered that these bugs don’t just have a diet for kudzu. Apparently, the bugs also have an appetite for soybeans, a crop farmers grow in various parts of the southeast. Researchers say this could be bad news for soybeans and to farmers. It’s the circle of invasive life.World: Man’s Best FriendAfter his owner became trapped under an overturned car, Boydy, the Australian kelpie, stayed with his master until help came four days later. Seventy-six year old Herbert Schutz crashed his car into a tree Thursday on his property outside Sydney, Australia and became pinned under the vehicle. When authorities finally found him Monday night, his dog had never left his side. Schutz, who was taken to the hospital with some serious injuries, sad that Boydy saved his life and kept him warm during the nights. Truly man’s loyal friend.Speaking of man’s best friend, our Mountain Dog Photo Contest ends Friday. If you think you pooch could save your life in an emergency, he can certainly win a photo contest, so enter today.last_img read more

Ellijay, Ga.

first_imgPopulation: 1,619Public lands: Rich Mountain Trail, Ridgeway Recreation Area/Bike Trail, Mountaintown Creek Trail, Amicalola Falls, Coosawattee River, Talking Rock Creek, Cartecay RiverOutdoor Highlights: Mountain biking, fly fishing, Appalachian Foothills Parkway, apple pickinglast_img

Trail Mix: The Barter Theater Jams in January

first_imgBen Sollee plays January Jams in Abingdon’s Barter Theater on Friday.I have been fortunate to attend many wonderful dramatic productions at the venerable Barter Theater in Abingdon. Virginia’s official state theater, the Barter opened in 1933 with a peculiar caveat – if patrons couldn’t afford the 35 cent admission price, they could barter their way in with homegrown produce. It was a win/win situation – locals got to see the plays and the actors were plied with farm fresh vittles. While I have never been lucky enough to trade a few tomatoes or cucumbers for a seat inside, I have happily taken my seat to watch the cast of the Barter Theater perform some incredible plays – To Kill A Mockingbird, Tarzan, and A Christmas Story are but three of the shows I have seen there.Despite my familiarity with the comfortable confines of the Barter Theater, I was unprepared for what I experienced last weekend. For lack of a better term, the Barter was rockin’.For the last three years, a concert series – January Jams – has taken up residency at the Barter when the theater’s cast takes the month off from performing. Promoted by the town’s Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and the Abingdon Main Street program, January Jams has brought some tremendous artists to perform in the theater. Last year, among others, Marty Stuart, Iris Dement, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Jason Isbell were on the bill. This year’s line up has been similarly impressive – Jill Andrews, formerly of the everybodyfields, and David Bromberg have already performed, while Mavis Staples and Greensky Bluegrass have shows upcoming.Last Saturday night, it was only fitting that the iconic Barter Theater played host to a collection of icons. The Blind Boys of Alabama, an unparalleled institution in gospel music that has been touring for much of the last seven decades, along with rising blues star Jarkeus Singleton, took the near capacity crowd on a spiritual journey of the music of the Deep South. This was my first time attending a January Jams show and I was much impressed with how this classic theater morphed into a first class music room. Without a doubt, the Barter ranks up there with some of my favorite theaters around the region, which includes the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, the Paramount Centre in Bristol, and the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville. The Barter is intimate, bordering on cozy, with just 500 seats, the sound was great, and the theater has already developed a reputation for supplying artists with warm and appreciative audiences.Sara Cardinale, as the town of Abingdon’s Special Events Coordinator, has been instrumental in the development and growth of January Jams. To her, the concert series is a special event that serves dual purposes.“Here at the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, we believe that a good community event is a good tourist event. An event that makes the community happy will make a tourist happy. The goal is to have more feet on the street.”Cardinale was effusive when talking about getting live music in the Barter Theater.“The Barter Theater puts on over one hundred shows a year, but January is their time to rehearse for next year, so there aren’t any shows going on. We decided to try to keep something happening in the theater, and that is how January Jams was born. Not having to drive to Asheville to hear great live music is pretty excellent, and the caliber of musicians who have come and been delighted by our little town is awesome.”Brent Treash, an Abingdon resident and avid live music fan, echoes these sentiments.“January Jams has quickly become woven into Abingdon’s social fabric. Enthusiastic crowds are able to see legendary musicians perform in a historic theater that rarely hosts live music. Because Abingdon is now embracing live music, I get to see these amazing musicians playing virtually on my back porch.”This weekend, January Jams wraps up its month of shows with two tremendous offerings. On Saturday, the aforementioned jamgrass heavyweights Greensky Bluegrass and Virginia folk rockers The Last Bison will play.On Friday, noted folkie cellist Ben Sollee, along with David Wax Museum and Cereus Bright, will perform.Ben Sollee is a native Kentuckian, having been born in Lexington, and he began playing the cello in high school. His career, much like contemporaries like Bela Fleck and Chris Thile, has been wide and varied, and Sollee’s sound is difficult to pigeonhole. Sollee draws from a vast array of influences, and you are just as likely to hear him accompanying the Charlotte Ballet or find scoring films or riding his bike – while toting his cello on a trailer – like he did on the way to perform at Bonnaroo in 2009. Sollee has been a member of both the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour house band and Abigail Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet, has performed in vaunted concert halls around the world, including Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center, and has an impressive collection of releases to his credit.Trail Mix and the January Jams promoters are happy to give you a shot at taking in the show of Friday for free. All it takes is a simple email. Hit me up at [email protected] with an email and put BEN SOLLEE in the subject line. A lucky winner of two passes will be chosen from the emails received by noon on Friday.last_img read more

BRO ATHLETES: Remembering A.J.

first_imgAlmost home after a week away. One more plane ride. One more sequence of filing in, sitting down, cramming myself into a seat and descending into a book or phone or conversation until we touch back down. The tires hitting the pavement triggers everyone to pull out their phones and reconnect with the world. Reflexively, knowing our travel day was nearing an end I did the same. When I did, whistles and bings greeted me but one stood far above the rest in the priorities of my mind. As everyone stood up around me I felt like I was sinking through the floor. I felt many of the stages of grief when you learn something tragic. Denial, confusion; a rapid succession of emotion in a context where we are encouraged to be as robotic as possible. My friend, my competition, was no longer.AJ Linnell, this message from a mutual friend informed me, had been killed in a plane crash just the night before, and as details were coming available the news was spreading. The death of anyone can be tragic but is seems especially so when it happens to someone in the prime of life, or someone who genuinely cherished life itself. AJ and I were friends, but friends made unlikely circumstances. I spent 2013 and 2014 building up for and competing in the National Ultra Endurance mountain bike series, and because God blessed me with a few loose screws I had chosen to do so aboard a single speed MTB. I mean these hundred mile races aren’t hard enough right? The competition in the SS category is no joke. Singlespeed riders have been known to stick it in the top 5 pretty regularly in these races, occasionally even taking the overall win. These are hard hard men. AJ was one of the hardest.Born in the high western mountains he was as rugged and tough as the West itself. Lean as a wild horse and strong as an ox, AJ was known to out climb the strongest riders in any race. His home in the Tetons gave him super at heal climbing lungs and adapted him to endurance riding like nothing else. When the trails were covered in snow AJ worked as a mountain ski guide; regularly climbing, skinning, and traversing above two miles high. Heck, even compared to my low mountain living AJ was training when he was sleeping! When I entered into the series as a relative newcomer AJ was one of the mighty competition who caused me to lose a little sleep. He was absolutely the most capable and in some ways intimidating competition an endurance MTB racer could face.TG 100 Lean-2As the season progressed and my fitness showed itself, a serious throw-down was brewing in the NUE. I would win a race in the east, AJ would win out west. I would come home with a top 3 overall and SS win, AJ would do the same. Any plans to walk away with the title and a free lunch were long since dreams. As the season passed the halfway mark and results had begun to tighten up the scoreboards I was sitting in a precarious lead. With only three events left in the NUE series calendar make every start counted. Pierre’s Hole 100 outside of Jackson Hole WY, The Hampshire 100 in NH, the Shenandoah mountain 100 (my “home” race) and the season finale at Fools Gold in Dahlonega GA were all that remained. The series plays out with a best of 4 results format where Fools Gold is a tie breaker. I had planned to go to New Hampshire for the Hampshire 100 and let AJ take the win at Pierres Hole to then meet down at Fools Gold for a serious series showdown. If he won at Pierre’s hole he would carry three wins and a second, and if I won New Hampshire 100 I would be sitting on 4 wins with Shenandoah still in the tank to cover any drama that ruled out a win at Hampshire. Three wins could still give AJ the win if he won at Fools Gold, since that would give him a fourth win and the tie breaker. Not a comfortable position for either of us. But I was about to make a bit of a risky move, show a few cards, and possibly win the series in one big play.My wife Emily and I stepped off a plane in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to crystal clear skies and dry thin mountain air. We had just gotten married on the coast of North Carolina and to say we had done anything resembling training in the last two weeks would have elicited a hearty laugh from both of us. Rental car keys in hand, we loaded the car and headed through the Teton Pass to Grand Targhee Resort and the Pierre’s Hole 100. If I could beat AJ here I would steal a win from him, eliminating his ability to gather enough wins to contend a series title at Fools Gold. If I lost I would still have Shenandoah to tune up my fitness and over a month to focus my training to take him down on more familiar territory in the wilds of North West Georgia.AJ 1Everything felt very alien out west; very brilliant, open, and clear. The short pre-ride of some of the lower singletrack revealed pretty good legs for wedding, airports, and long hours in the car the past few weeks. I was excited to toe the line the following day and a little pleased with the excitement and drama my unannounced arrival had caused. Normally this is AJ’s race. He lives in Victor ID, about 20 minutes by car from the start line of the Pierre’s Hole 100. His climbing lungs would be at home where mine would be drying up trying to exact what little air and moisture these mountains had to offer. A hard and fast start as I chased the skinny mountain goats up the first slopes of the fire road climb that served as a prologue to the three 33 mile loops we would complete through the Teton pass. I was climbing well, enthusiastic that I had dusted AJ so quickly on the climb, then like the Road Runner going into slow motion all of the sudden the wind left my sails. forward motion seemed to become backward as AJ caught me in his sights and rode up to my wheel. We chatted a bit as I let off the throttle in an immediate effort to control any damage I had done. Climbing steadily but suffering more than I wanted I eventually topped out at almost 11,000 feet before entering the “Thirty-Eight Special” trail descent. Early into the second of 38 switchbacks right smack in the Tetons I saw AJ’s green kit flashing off the the side of the trail. I saw him fighting a flat tire and said a small prayer of thanks that this lap at least I would be allowed to ride in the lead. I hammered the 38 special descent, throwing my Pivot LES SS into  catalog cover worthy bermed corners. Almost at the finish of the first lap AJ finally bridged back up to me. I was riding well but knew that the second time up this climb I was going to be at a disadvantage.As AJ and I rode together on the low singletrack slopes of the Tetons we chatted like a group ride. We talked about our families, our love of the outdoors. Two competitors doing our best to not show any cards we joked about wildlife and laughed at how we were “just riding along.” But as the altitude again started to take its toll on me AJ could see I was fighting to stay in front only to not cede the position. I was quietly hoping I could at least get into the singletrack again before him. As a rider not accustomed to being passed mid race I took it a little hard when AJ finally asked if he could come around. Like a gentleman after a short pause in our conversation he simply asked if it was “alright if (he) come around?” A question I had waited for but hoped not to hear I paused and finally said “yeah man, get it up here…” then did my best to pick up the pace and pray he backed off. But my petty attempt at acceleration probably did more harm than good. I can remember seeing AJ dance on the pedals as he pedaled away from me. Wondering how this altitude could have done me so wrong. AJ went on to finish so far ahead of me I was a little embarrassed. He beat me by almost 50 minutes that day. On his home course, in the mountains he loved so much, anybody could see he was the unquestionable champion. This was his race, his mountains, and he had put himself into a position to win the NUE series. I took the lesson to heart, trained my tail off, and won the finale at the Fools Gold 100 by half an hour but the whipping I got by AJ at Pierre’s Hole is one of my favorite stories to tell about AJ. While it hurts my pride it shows the quality of the competition in the NUE series, and the quality of the competitors themselves. His podium that day showed the biggest smile Ive seen in a long while, and he earned it. Later that day sitting over a cold beer in the warm sun of the high mountains AJ could only talk about how much fun that was, not rub the win in my face or talk about his huge margin of victory. Just positivity.When Emily and I arrived in the Tetons, I received a message from AJ offering to provide any beta we needed for the race or for the area. He gave us a killer restaurant recommendation, chatted tire choice and gearing with me and offered to bring any spare gear we weren’t able to bring with us. AJ earned our friendship with that move. For the first time he and I had raced each other head to head I was floored. In the modern era of sport competitors are trained to “hate” the competition. How many football movies have we all seen where the “other” team is shown as the bad guy; morally inferior to the true champion Hollywood wants us to cheer for. As a racer sometimes its very easy to take this approach because it gives training and racing an extra focus and edge. You gotta want to beat that guy and sometimes positioning the competition as “the bad guy” in your mind is an effective way to do so. But no matter how I tried after this encounter I couldn’t make AJ into the bad guy I had to beat. I couldn’t make the good vs evil narrative stick in our competition. Fast forward to 2015 and the early phases of the NUE series. Gerry Pflug, legend of the endurance racing scene and SS superstar had retired from racing. Gerry had won the last 5 NUE SS and AJ was experiencing the warmest and driest winter in a long time. AJ was going to get out on the bike earlier than ever. He was primed for a killer year. When we met at the first NUE race at True Grit in Utah AJ was sitting on great form. I came away from True Grit in 1st but with only a 15 minute or so gap on AJ. No one will ever know how AJ would have done the rest of the season but it gives me chills to think about the great competition we would have been able to have.IMG_5060In the immediate days after AJ’s tragic accident there was an outpouring of support for him and his family. Donations topped 20k before his wife Erika finally asked for those donations to go to other causes. Stickers were made in the shape of an SS cog with AJ’s initials. Hats, t-shirts, wrist bands, you name it they were made to benefit some cause close to AJ’s heart. Several of the SS family donned specially made “Linnell 15” jerseys at the next round of the NUE at the Cohutta 100. That race goes down in my book as one of my all time favorites. Standing in the pouring rain at 7 A.M. in all black with AJ’s name on my back, I had no idea how the day would go, but the rain eventually stopped, the sun came out, and I worked hard to come across the line 1st overall—one of only 3 riders to ever do so. AJ’s name and memory fueled so many fires and still continues to motivate riders all over the country. His life was too short but it gives me goosebumps to think of the impact he clearly had on the world around him. AJ Linnell left the world a better place than he found it. And you don’t see that every day.So where does this all fit in with me? I learned a lot from AJ, especially since his death. Take care of the people you love. Be good to those around you. In a world where we are all captive audiences to bad news, go out your door and be a force for change. Make the world you want to live in. AJ’s strength and physical toughness was only eclipsed by his kindness and the way he loved to share his passion with others. He loved the mountains, and loved sharing them with others. He was a city councilman, actively moving within his home in the Tetons to create the place he knew it could be. He was an amazing husband. Erika’s strength immediately after his passing is a testament to their love, which was deep and strong. The two of them connected and stood together in ways that speak volumes.AJ’s kindnesses towards me on and off the race course is something I will never forget. Some single-speed rides lately I’m finding it really easy to channel the kind of stoke AJ lived. I’m seeing that smile a lot, feeling the love for those around me, and wishing more than anything that I can live the way AJ did and leave the world a better place than I found it. AJ wasn’t just another rider to leave in the dust. He was the kind of rider who teaches you lessons and makes you a better person just by being in the peloton. So here’s to toughening up a little, caring a little more, and living more like AJ.last_img read more

Ashes to Ashes | How a Tennessee Tragedy Transformed the Energy Landscape of the Southeast

first_imgAs the plane circled over the 2008 coal-ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee, at Christmas, photographer Dot Griffith focused on the task: Take aerial shots of the damage unleashed by a failed dam at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power plant on Dec. 22. More than a billion gallons of dark gray, toxic slurry had swept out of an 84-acre containment pond, rolled across the countryside and spread into the Emory River. “I wasn’t sure what we were going to see that day,” she says. “It was just so vast.”The enormity of the spill didn’t hit Griffith until she scanned the final images, she says. Two photos in particular still linger in her mind, despite the passage of seven years: In one wide-frame photo, a Christmas wreath hangs on the door of a 2-story white farmhouse that lists to one side. The deserted home is dwarfed by the acres of sludge surrounding it. In another image, yellow bulldozers looked like kids’ toys set in a sea of dark mud, and the sludge darkens the river.When coal is burned, it emits airborne toxins like sulfur dioxide and also leaves behind a concentrated residue containing such toxic substances as arsenic, mercury, chromium and selenium. Typically washed out into containment ponds, the ash is referred to in the utility industry as coal combustion residuals (CCRs). Some of it can be recycled, used as a lightweight component of bowling balls or concrete, for example. But most of it ends up stored in ponds that were built at least half a century ago, well before Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 and long before state and federal regulators started requiring liners and other measures that prevent seepage into nearby streams, groundwater, rivers and bays.TVA_Spill-7 (1)When the old dam at Kingston broke, sludge that was up to six feet deep blanketed nearly 400 acres of land. The force of the deluge knocked homes off their foundations and stopped a train on the tracks. The material poured across the land and into the Emory, spreading many miles downstream in a gray wash before most of it sunk to the bottom.It was the worst CCR spill in the history of the United States. But in a way, Kingston helped move the Southeast away from getting most of its electricity by burning coal.“It’s sad, but a big disaster tends to bring attention to an issue,” says Katie Hicks, assistant director of Clean Water for N.C.’s Asheville office. Kingston and the 2013 spill on the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina, demonstrate that CCRs should be stored in lined or otherwise encapsulated areas. The goal is keeping the concentrated toxins well away from waterways, groundwater and drinking sources, says Hicks.TVA_Spill-13Industry leaders and policy makers have taken note. In the years since Kingston, hundreds of coal-fired plants have been closed across the country. Environmental groups have banded together, collecting data on contamination linked to coal ash, publishing their findings and filing lawsuits. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted stricter rules for coal ash. And in North Carolina in 2014, legislators passed the Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA).The only such law in the Southeast, the legislation was spurred by the nation’s second largest coal-ash spill — the Dan River release of 24 million gallons of toxic sludge from a broken pipe at a shuttered Duke Energy power plant. CAMA requires Duke, the country’s largest utility, to fast-track pond cleanup and mitigate the problems caused by them, such as contaminated drinking wells.Meanwhile, market forces have helped shift the tide as well. Global demand for coal has fallen sharply in the past few years. Four of the top-five coal producers have declared bankruptcy, most recently, Alpha Natural Resources in Virginia and Arch Coal Inc. in Missouri. Natural gas production and use is on the rise. And alternative, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have become more cost effective.“We’re on the cusp of a transition of how we get our energy in the Southeast,” says Kelly Martin, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club in North Carolina and Florida. “Getting coal offline is big, … and clean energy is coming online. It’s increasingly cheaper to build solar plants and bring in wind power.”But will the changes happen soon enough?Ground Zero: Water QualityWhile Griffith documented the disaster from the air, her longtime friend Donna Lisenby was on the ground at Kingston — or, more exactly, she was on the water. Now the Clean and Safe Energy Campaign Manager for the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York-based international nonprofit, Lisenby paddled the Emory River in 2008. She surveyed the damage up close and cobbled together a research team.Donna Lisenby investigates a coal power plant in GeorgiaDonna Lisenby investigates a coal power plant in Georgia“I asked Dr. Shea Tuberty [of Appalachian State University] to test samples I collected, and he assembled a research team,” says Lisenby. “For the next two years, we investigated the short- and long-term impacts of the world’s largest coal-ash spill,” she says. “What we [confirmed] was that coal ash is full of heavy metals, and it impacts the wildlife and the water.”The team gathered and published water-contamination results sooner than state and federal authorities, information that was critical in helping the public know “that coal ash was bad,” says Lisenby.The work and the mission gained international attention, too, culminating in Clean Coal? Water Pollution at the Light Switch, a documentary directed by Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter, Alexandra.Two years later, fellow waterkeeper Hartwell Carson asked Lisenby to help research and document water pollution coming from coal-ash containment ponds in North Carolina, her home state. The duo led a multiday trip on the French Broad River, focused downstream of Duke Energy’s coal-ash containment ponds in Asheville. There was a visible discharge coming from at least one pipe, Lisenby says, and small streams nearby appeared to drain from the containment area into the river. “We pulled samples of water, fish and sediment,” she says.The tests, run by a federally certified, Asheville lab, Pace Analytical Services, showed toxin levels that exceeded EPA or North Carolina regulations. The goal, says Lisenby, “was to inform the public what’s happening with their water.”Test resultsMixed with water, coal ash contains a concentrated “suite of toxins” that can leach into nearby waterways and ground water, says Lisenby. The Kingston spill provided researchers with a chance to document and study its effects on water quality and aquatic life.Two weeks after the Kingston disaster, Dr. Tuberty joined Lisenby on the Emory River, where dredging and other cleanup projects were underway. He sampled fish and other aquatic life. The section of the river near the power plant “is deep, [with fewer] species than further downriver,” says Tuberty. “But there should have been crawfish.”Lisenby-7There weren’t. Not surprisingly, many species of invertebrates, fish and crawfish were buried by the sludge, he recalls. Sampled fish showed abrased gills and high levels of toxins, particularly selenium. “It’s a trace element that accumulates in the body, especially in the ovaries and in [fish] eggs,” says Tuberty.High levels of selenium cause deformities in fish, he explains. Nicknamed “shellcrackers,” redeared sunfish nibble on bugs and eat fingernail clams, a river-bottom species that was particularly impacted by the settled coal ash sludge at Kingston, Tuberty says. In tests done in the years since the big spill, he’s found similar toxicities near coal-ash impoundments across North Carolina.Tuberty’s team sampled quarterly at Kingston through 2010. “It proved really difficult to find crawfish even two years later,” he says. Toxicity in the fish, which move around and thus may not have been as harmed as less mobile or far-ranging aquatic life, peaked after about one and a half years, says Tuberty.The Kingston spill provided valuable “source-in-time data, because the acute effects of the toxicity can be measured right away, and long-term effects can be tracked over time,” Tuberty continues. “These spill events are catastrophic enough to catch people’s attention [and] take the mask off of coal,” he says.The effects of leached coal ash and sulphur dioxide emissions accumulate over time and can be found hundreds of miles away from a power plant, says Tuberty. He often goes fly-fishing on Wilson Creek below Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina’s high country. “It’s as natural an environment as you can get,” says Tuberty. For the last few years, he’s been taking North Carolina students there as part of the Summer Ventures in Science and Mathematics. Teams of kids do research projects and problem-solving exercises. At Wilson Creek, says Tuberty, participating students have documented acidic levels that are dangerously low for aquatic life, as well as high concentrations of sulphates — two markers of air pollution from coal-fired power plants, he says.Although federal regulations and North Carolina’s 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act have helped reduce sulphur dioxide emissions in the region, contamination can still be found at such pristine sites as Wilson, he says. “How long will it take to recover?”Proactive or Reactive?After Kingston, the next turning point for regional environmentalists came via a lawsuit they filed against the state of North Carolina and Duke Energy about two years after Lisenby and Carson gathered data from the French Broad and drinking wells located near coal-ash ponds. “The rules are there,” says Julie Mayfield, co-director of Asheville-based nonprofit MountainTrue (formerly the Western North Carolina Alliance). The U.S. Clean Water Act requires states and utilities to clean up the source of contamination, she says.To file the suit, MountainTrue joined forces with a host of regional waterkeeper organizations, as well as the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, but Mayfield credits Lisenby and Carson with doing the groundwork for the case. “We read [the law]. Our interpretation required Duke Energy to clean up the source,” says Mayfield. Lisenby and Carson’s work showed there’s “no question that wherever there are coal ash ponds, there’s … water pollution,” she says. “When the Dan River spill happened, no one could sweep it under the rug.”The environmental coalition won in trial in 2013 but lost on appeal the next year, she reports. Duke and state officials argued that CAMA made the findings moot — the new law mandated the clean up called for in the suit, Mayfield says. Nonetheless, other environmental groups are applying similar tactics across the Southeast, the rest of the country and around the world, she says. “It’s going to take that kind of collaboration to keep moving forward.”Duke Energy counters that it’s been proactive, not reactive. “We’ve been excavating ash from the Asheville plant since 2007 and providing it to the Asheville Regional Airport as part of a structural fill project at the taxiway,” says spokesperson Catherine Hope Butler. That fill site is lined and covered.The company is also removing ash from its W.S. Lee and Riverbend plants, she continues. It has implemented a dam-safety program since Kingston and has plans “to begin excavation at Dan River and Sutton.” Duke is also continuing to research the beneficial uses of recycled CCRs, says Butler.Years ago, fellow Duke spokesperson Lisa Parrish adds, the company “looked around the corner” at market changes and started closing coal-fired plants. “We’ve retired half of them since 2011,” she says. The company has also set in motion plans to switch to natural gas, including a new plant at Asheville in the next few years. “We’ve modernized our fleet [and] closed old plants, some built in the 1940s,” she continues.Parrish adds that last April, Duke Energy’s Carolinas division produced more electricity from natural gas than coal — a first for the company.Market forces have helped in the push away from coal, and natural gas does burn cleaner, but concern for the environment and public calls for alternative, non-fossil-fuel sources are also driving the changes, says Martin. Southern Co. — which owns utilities in Alabama, Georgia and Florida — plans to import wind power from the Midwest to the Southern states. Thanks to decreases in the cost of wind power, that’s a potentially cheaper option than running a fossil-fuel plant, she says. And more states than ever before allow residential solar installations to be financed in ways that defer the upfront costs; this lets more people take advantage of the clean power source, Martin continues.“There’s a rapidly changing energy landscape in the Southeast,” she says. But Duke’s modernization plan “isn’t so modern; it doesn’t include enough renewables,” she says.The Sierra Club would like to see more effort and emphasis on energy efficiency, says Emma Greenbaum, organizing representative for Beyond Coal in North Carolina. “These are things we know how to do,” she says. Duke Energy is the nation’s largest utility; if it were more proactive, other utilities would take notice and follow suit, she argues. “Duke could implement energy efficiency on a scale that would make a difference.”Otherwise, “it’s an opportunity lost,” says Greenbaum. The Bigger PictureIn addition to her photography work, Griffith has served on the board of Appalachian Voices, a regional nonprofit focused on environmental issues from one end of the Blue Ridge to the other. She’s traveled throughout the region, photographing mountaintop removal in Virginia and coal-ash contamination in Wilmington, N.C. Griffith has also traveled the world, often with Lisenby, to document the global effects of burning coal for fuel. Her work has given her a big-picture view.“I’ve had a chance to see the mountains [in Virginia and West Virginia] that have been blown up and turned into mesas,” says Griffith. “In China, in particular, you see these huge [power plant] stacks with black soot coming out of them and all the people below, raising their gardens, despite what we know about the hazards,” she continues. “It’s so obvious that our planet is being spoiled.”Amelia Shenstone, campaigns director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, outlines some “good first steps” for changing the picture. “Gulf Power came to the table, ready to talk constructively about ways to clean up their [Florida] coal ash,” she says. The utility, a subsidiary of Southern Co., announced plans to move stored CCRs away from the Appalachicola River and the nearby bay, “where there’s a chance for catastrophic failure.” The area is famous for its fresh oysters.Gulf Power’s proposal “is the first real coal-ash cleanup plan in Florida,” says Shenstone. “We hope all utilities in the South will take the most proactive steps to clean up their coal ash, prevent the next spill and prevent toxins from leaking into our groundwater and drinking water.”About 40 percent of the electricity produced in the Southeast comes from burning coal, Shenstone continues. In America, coal use has been declining, while natural gas is rising. “Natural gas has its own problems, [and] overreliance on any one source is risky,” she says. SACE advocates for efficiency and renewable sources — “squeezing more out of our current generation of power sources and investing now in wind and solar.”Clean energy and energy-efficiency initiatives can provide jobs; renewables are increasingly cheaper and competitive with fossil-fuel sources; and some utilities have started offering incentives that encourage customers to shift their use of electricity away from peak, high-load times of day, Shenstone explains.“We are absolutely calling for some existing coal-fired power plants to be shut down, and we definitely should not build new ones. They’re the technology of yesterday, no matter how the industry spins it. If we’re going to move toward renewables, we need to start investing in them now.”In the meantime, the EPA stopped short of declaring coal ash a hazardous waste, but it has put forth new water-quality guidelines and a Clean Power Plan for cutting “carbon pollution from existing power plants.” North Carolina legislators, however, have proposed a bill that could make it more difficult for public advocates and environmental groups to push the state for action on such problems as coal ash contamination, says Hicks. And an ongoing statewide evaluation of residential water wells near coal-ash ponds has indicated contamination in a majority of cases.Hicks calls on the power of collaboration to keep “fighting this battle … over the next decade. Regular people can raise up their voices and say, ‘We want clean water and clean air.’”[divider]Related Articles[/divider]last_img read more