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Latest IPCC Report Shows Why New York Must Choose Clean Energy Over Fracking

Kate Sinding

Posted April 2, 2014

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Arriving at the same time as a big-screen film about an epic, world-changing flood described in the Book of Genesis, the almost biblical sweep of gloomy news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change portrays an unfolding global future of drought, floods, faltering crop yields, and wars fought over resources. This latest analysis of climate change may seem at first to focus on regions of our planet far from the Empire State. But make no mistake: This is about us, too.

What the IPCC had to say in this report is that climate change is occurring on all continents and across the oceans. It’s a complex document, but here’s a quick two-page summary of questions and answers. Here’s a 12-minute video with a more graphic look at the existing threats. And here’s a story on it from Politico.

There is good news. This latest document, by the IPCC’s Working Group II, points out not only the scary perils, but the real opportunities for reducing climate-changing emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s what we’re about in New York. Our state energy plan calls for a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy sources, to enable a reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels. And we have been making some progress, as my colleague, senior energy and climate analyst Jackson Morris, outlined last month.

“For two decades, NRDC has worked to scale up renewable energy and energy efficiency in New York State as the key strategy for fighting global warming, protecting public health, lowering New Yorkers’ energy bills and creating jobs,” Morris testified March 6, before the New York State Energy Planning Board in Syracuse.

 “As the result of efforts by many stakeholders and policies adopted by the State, New York State has scaled up its clean energy efforts considerably,” Morris testified. “A decade ago, New York State had just 48 megawatts of wind power; today, after a decade of our successful Renewable Portfolio Standard program, we have 1.8 gigawatts of wind—more than 37 times more than we had—with some of the largest projects located right here in central New York. Just four years ago, New York State had minimal amounts of solar power installed; today, after the first phase of the NY-Sun program, not counting the many installations that occurred in 2013, we have nearly 200 MW and are finally in the top ten states for installed solar. And yet we have far to go before we realize our full potential for clean energy in New York State….”

Though there are ways we could be doing better on efficiency renewables, the state is generally on a good track there. But we could go crashing down a disastrous siding, if New York opts to allow widespread fracking for natural gas. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the concerns expressed by one of the consultants to the state’s Health Department, which is studying the potential health impacts of fracking.

Dr. Nirav Shah, the health commissioner, has not yet said definitely when the study will be done. And we’ve made it very clear that scientific rigor should take precedence over any political consideration—timing or otherwise. We believe that Governor Cuomo shares that science-first view.

Now that he has the state budget behind him, the IPCC report is still fresh news—and a movie about a flood easily led this past weekend in ticket sales over one about a frog—this would be an excellent time for the governor to pivot to talking about energy and climate change.

What we hope he’ll do is offer new assurances about the state’s commitment to increasing the use of clean energy and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. World leaders have to find a way to agree next year on a new climate change pact. New York’s leaders have to do their part right here in the Empire State. They can do so by choosing renewables and efficiency as the preferred alternatives to addressing our energy and economic development needs.

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Michael BerndtsonApr 3 2014 10:16 AM

Speaking of gas and New York City, I noticed that FERC approved (pending other agencies' OK) the Rockaway natural gas delivery pipeline project. Apparently it's to supply gas for Brooklyn and Queens. And not for anything else, such as loading natural gas onto offshore LNG processing boats for overseas sales. I'm also assuming that this project doesn't include repair and replacement of both boroughs 100 plus year old natural gas delivery systems - the street level lines.

Is this gas project all good? Nonetheless, I'm going to assume the project will be the cornerstone upon which Brooklyn/Queens builds a safe, well contained, and clean burning natural gas delivery system.

FERC issues Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Rockaway Delivery Lateral and Northeast Connector Projects (Docket Nos. CP13-36-000 and CP13-132-000)

Karen OrlandoApr 3 2014 04:22 PM

Ms. Sindig- seeing as it is the antifracking movement you are involved in which has led Mr. Berndston to say the extremely convoluted upside down things he has said about the rockaway lateral project why doesn't the NRDC respond to Mr. Berndston and help him out. He seems quite confused about the rockaway project and the proposed LNG import project Port Ambrose as well as well as how the two might be related.

Michael BerndtsonApr 3 2014 05:16 PM

Karen, it's Berndtson not Berndston. I'm sensitive about my last name spelling. Maybe you can put me right side up and on a straightened path, commenter to commenter.

Karen OrlandoApr 3 2014 11:03 PM

Michael- (makes it easier as I might have a better chance of not misspelling)-- I believe I may have seen your name on a certain Shale reporters' blog around the time that this wonderful rumor that Port Ambrose is a secret trojan horse for export got started last summer.

Here is right side up commentor to commentor- The rockaway lateral/northeast connector projects are two projects which combined with a third project basically mostly serve to shift gas supplies that are currently delivered into the area to a new delivery point with a fractional increase in new supply. The supplies that the rockaway project can reroute are currently delivered to long beach long island which is the only place the existing pipe that runs from jersey to long island delivers to.

The Port Ambrose project which is a proposed deepwater port is both floating regasification ships and a new pipeline that will connect with the very same existing pipe that runs from jersey to long island. It just so happens to be that the rockaway lateral and port ambrose connect to the very same 26 inch pipe (or are proposed to.) One project delivers gas into brooklyn (rockaway project) that right now could be delivered to long island and the other will be delivering just about the same amount of gas into Long island (port ambrose).

That's basically what the paperwork give or take says on both projects.

For some reason and I know exactly what it is there have been quite a lot of news reports that instead of talking about the possible connection between the projects I just mentioned talk about how Port Ambrose is surely for export.

Karen OrlandoApr 3 2014 11:24 PM!documentDetail;D=USCG-2013-0363-0866

Michael- If you would like to read the Natural Resources Defense Council's comments on Port Ambrose, they are at the link above. You might notice they mention a potential conflict with the long planned offshore wind farm for the same area but not export.

Michael BerndtsonApr 4 2014 10:11 AM


Excellent reply and very helpful - that is your first reply to my question. I didn't read the last one you made. fwiw, I'm just a curious person out there in internetland and find issues relating to energy and environment (natural and built) very fascinating. So please don't bring others into the depths of my musings. It's not fair to the blog you're possibly referring to, as well as NRDC. They don't know me from Adam. Or Noah for that matter. To stay on topic. btw, is it commentor or commenter? My browser spell check doesn't like the first one.

I'm still a little confused. Are you saying there is or is not a connection between the two projects? In piping and instrumentation (P&I) language, it seems like you said a big pipe will be branching out into two littler pipes (referring to pipe diameter), no? One going one way and another going the other? Given all the public information available to the public via the internet, sometimes information merges and it's unclear. Especially with keyword searches on Google.

One more question. I thought Port Ambrose was a LNG receiving terminal, bringing natural gas to New York City from elsewhere? Again, I'm confused.

If it's helpful, I'll explain my personal philosophy on all of this. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is living like Jeremiah Johnson in the movie Jeremiah Johnson and 10 being an automaton like in the movie Metropolis - I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle, maybe more, maybe less. It's hard to put a number on my feelings for all of this.

Final question. What do you do for a living or what's your career? You seem very passionate on this matter.

Karen OrlandoApr 7 2014 06:05 PM

Michael-- There is a concerted effort by many to describe the port ambrose project as connected perhaps to even the Constitution pipeline or the spectra pipeline and as a vehicle for export. However the facts seem to support that Port Ambrose is exactly how it is described, a delivery project, liquid to gas and the facts also seem to support that Port may be reliant on the Rockaway expansion as well. There are a whole team of activists who appear to have deliberately framed the port ambrose project as an export vehicle which has been picked up unknowingly by other folks.

All of the pipes involved, which are the existing Transco NYLBL which runs from NJ to long island, the Rockaway Lateral which will be constructed off of the NYLBL and the pipe that is proposed to built off of the deepwater port which will connect with the existing pipe are the same size. They are all 26 inch diameter pipes operating at the same MAOP.

My connection to the rockaway project is as a citizen and park user. And I have seen an extraordinary amount of misinformation promoted on this particular project which has bled into misinformation on the Port Ambrose project. The misinformation by some appears to be deliberate and then is picked up by others unknowingly.

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