Graduate student life in a pandemic

Written by Joanne Sims, Virginia Commonwealth University

Good Bye Spring Break, hello social distancing

It was a rare occasion that the news was on in the middle of my spring break. The first COVID-19 cases had just spread to Virginia.  Suddenly the post-midterm peace was pushed aside for a pandemic. 

About a week into “stay at home” my socials became littered with “the earth is resetting itself” type posts about how the oceans and sky were cleaner now that we all stayed inside and it made me a little fearful. Climate change, an issue you can’t see, was still happening whether I went outside or not. Suddenly all my classes were discussing COVID-19 impacts on sustainability practices and public health. 

Jack of all trades! How I became a student, teacher, and caretaker all at once.

I had already planned to go back to my mom’s house for part of the break so I just headed there with way fewer clothes than would eventually be required. My spring break got extended to two weeks when the stay at place order and school cancellations were announced. Thankful for my mother free child care was delivered right at her doorsteps (Me!).

I have two younger siblings, one in pre-school and one in high school. My new role became part time-grad student and substitute teacher. My day consisted of waking up, doing pre-K worksheets, prepping breakfast and lunches, and organizing a schedule of daily classwork for my high school sibling. 

This was my first semester in graduate school, studying sustainable planning. Switching to an online format was… WEIRD. I’ve only done 1 class online before and hated every second of it. Writing memos on environmental impact assessments with Peppa Pig blasting in the background is far from ideal. 

Thankfully most of my professors were pretty chill and the amount of work required this semester was reduced and altered to better fit an online format.  The worst part of virtual learning is honestly discussions on zoom. I used my phone for the first couple weeks because my laptop broke just in time for online classes. Trying to find a time to interject when you can only see a quarter of the class and it feels like your professor is looking right at you is an introvert’s nightmare. 

We had a discussion in my environmental policy and planning class about whether this prolonged isolation will cause a surge in suburban living. The resources strain of urban spawn is less than ideal environmentally, but the idea of having space at a time when parks and other public green spaces are closed is appealing. 

Being at my mother’s house where we have a yard and the ability to not run into anyone was nice at first but something about being able to see and hear people from your 2nd-floor window has a kind of peace to it as well. It is my hope that we’ll see a rise in tiny green spaces, more apartments with courtyards and balconies at least.

I’ve been really thankful that my family has been safe and pretty fortunate so far. My mom’s job actually decreased her hours in order to limit the number of people in the building. They even gave masks to all the employees and their family members. 

I definitely think being in the house with my family, who I normally see a couple of times a month, has been very stressful. Homework and babysitting don’t always agree with each other. I took a short oasis to my apartment to work on the finals. This increase in family time has made me value my peaceful one bedroom. 

One of my biggest concerns during the pandemic has been my grandmother. She doesn’t drive and relies mainly on carpools and public transportation and the majority of her time was spent at church in large group settings. 

I’ve been in charge of ordering all her groceries and working as tech support so she can video call family. Grocery delivery is super easy but she isn’t very adept with technology so a lot of my free time has been occupied with opening facebook’s lives of her pastor. 

My next goal is to get her to figure out how to open Netflix or at least send her some DVDs so she’ll stop impulse buying from catalogs out of boredom. She called asking if I could send her a VHS player so I got my work cut out for me. 

Looking into the future

Prior to the pandemic, I was feeling wishy-washy about my future. I was thinking about leaving graduate school but the state of the economy is making a Masters degree look more appealing. I’ve only been on the job/internship hunt for a couple of months and since COVID I’ve noticed a significant drop in job opportunities. I’m still hopeful but I’m definitely expanding my net to things that weren’t necessarily interesting to me. 

I have a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and I’m not sure how a lot of the non-profit work I’m interested in will be fairing during a recession. An economic downturn won’t help already disinterested people care about the topic of climate change but it should. 

The speed of how quickly things turned from bad to worse with the pandemic can happen with our environment. It also gave me hope, seeing how quickly we’ve adapted to things like social distancing.

Hopefully, this shows people that fast-pace advancements for the health of our country are feasible and that we are resilient when it comes to change. 

Coronavirus and Climate Change

A couple of weeks into the worldwide observance of social distancing practices and pandemic-preempting government lock-downs, miraculous tales of a rejuvenated planet in typically smog-choked, polluted corners of the world began to populate our social media news feeds. Dolphins were frolicking in Venice’s canals again! From India, video footage emerged of a species of civet cat long thought to be extinct, strolling the empty streets of Calcutta like it owned the place. Over Chinese cities, clouds of toxic gas around industrial centers have dissipated, with emissions down at least 25% in February due to efforts to control the coronavirus, and residents can breathe freely for the first time in recent memory.

These are beautiful images, for all that they play into self-flagellating human narratives. Look how bad we are for the planet, the story goes, but isn’t it amazing how quickly Mother Nature rebounds to a state of pristine, Edenic glory when we leave her alone for a few days! The truly unfortunate thing about each of these stories, though, is that they aren’t true—or at best, they are heavily qualified. Each of the first two links in the previous paragraph leads to an article debunking the associated claim. There were no dolphins in the canals of Venice; the person who took that video of a civet cat in India had mistaken it for an endangered cousin. The third link, a CNN report about lower CO2 emissions and air pollution in China, verifies that these levels are down in Hubei and other areas under quarantine, but with the caveat that, as soon as the economies of these regions start back up, pollution levels will quickly rebound to previous levels, and may even exceed these levels, as the country tries to make up for many weeks’ worth of halted production.

two color-coded maps showing a dramatic reduction in NO2 pollution over industrial northeastern China
reduction in NO2 pollution in China resulting from Covid lock-downs

Although the day may seem far off now, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when COVID-19 is no longer a meaningful threat. Treatments are likely to emerge that reduce the severity of symptoms and the mortality rate, and potential vaccines have already entered human trials, although it will take many months to sufficiently vet and produce these. When that moment comes, surely we will collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Yet we will still be facing record-high annual temperatures, rising sea levels and historically catastrophic weather. There can be no palliative treatment, no vaccine for these. Just as governments worldwide mobilized rapidly to counter the spread of the coronavirus, modern society must reorganize and restructure itself radically if it hopes to withstand the systemic shocks that the effects of climate change are all but certain to augur.

Some argue that the current pandemic is an opportunity to model effective long-term responses to climate change. As with a fire drill, or a dress rehearsal, we are learning first-hand how well we respond to a threat that majorly disrupts the functioning of society, but does not in itself threaten to destroy it. “COVID-19 is climate on warp speed,” says climate economist Gernot Wagner. “Everything with climate is decades; here it’s days. Climate is centuries; here it’s weeks.” Hence, the damage that climate change threatens to wreak will not occur in the span of a few weeks or months. Rather, following the progression of over a century of scaled industrial activity on this planet, these effects will continue to show themselves gradually—yet their impact will be orders of magnitude more profound.

“The virus has shown,” writes journalist Beth Gardiner, “that if you wait until you can see the impact, it is too late to stop it.” This statement is sure to hold true many times over for climate change. Yet in dealing with the current crisis, we seem to have lost sight of the primary threat to humanity’s continued growth and well-being in our time. Just last week, the EPA introduced “drastically relaxe[d]” rules for polluters in the midst of the coronavirus’ spread.

COVID-19 is a global emergency, to be sure, and we are right to focus the majority of our efforts and energies on preventing its spread and minimizing the loss of life that it causes. Nevertheless, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to look further ahead than the end of the quarantine.

portrait of author: young white man with facial hair against white background

Text by Joseph Pickert. See his original blog post here.

From Pipelines to Progress: Joining Virginia Together to Fight Dominion’s Monopoly Powers

Everything we ever thought as possible in Virginia politics is rapidly shifting in the Commonwealth. From the the ballooning number of ACP permits being rejected in court, to the State water control board voting to reconsider the crucial 401 permit for EQT’s Mountain Valley Pipeline, to the State Corporation Commissions rejecting Dominions Integrated Resource Plan for the first time in history, the fossil fuels industry, and Dominion in particular are in full blown panic mode as their longtime role as Richmond’s uncontested power broker is drawing to a close.
Over the past several weeks, CCAN has been hard at work alongside nearly a dozen local and regional grassroots groups to organize a series of events highlighting the Regional Greenhousee Gas Initiative (RGGI). Joining RGGI is one of the primary ways we can continue our momentum against Dominion Energy’s dirty policies – while making them pay for all of the harm that their disastrous policies have incurred in vulnerable communities around the Commonwealth. The series, titled From Pipelines to Progress: Virginia Unites for Jobs, Clean Energy and Social Justice, made its way to Fredericksburg, Richmond, Staunton and Virginia Beach.
Over 200 Virginians came out to attend the series, which featured delegates, councilmen, health care professionals, faith community leaders, advocates for low-income communities, and an activist storytelling training given by the hardworking people over at Progress Virginia. All speakers honed in on one central issue: how absolutely vital it is for Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2019.
In an attempt to greenwash his legacy for higher political aspirations, then-governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Directive 11 in twilight hour of his administration, mandating that the commonwealth link with the RGGI program. This means that Dominion and other big fossil fuels polluters will be forced to lower emissions from power plants — cutting carbon emissions down by up to 30% from these facilities statewide. The problem is, however, that unless Virginia formally joins the program through legislative action, Dominion will be allowed to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars that the program would generate each year.
If the money went back to the Commonwealth it could easily be invested into the communities that are already suffering the most from Dominion’s policies. That means investing in coastal resilience for our vulnerable coastline and into energy efficiency so that low-income residents can save money each month on their already exorbitant energy bills.
To underpin the importance of this, the series included a presentation from CCAN Virginia Director Harrison Wallace. Wallace’s presentation honed in on his own personal story and the urgency for Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). “When it comes to the climate crisis, we are in a speeding car headed off a cliff, and Dominion is at the wheel” said Wallace to packed churches, libraries, and auditoriums across the Commonwealth. “Luckily”, Wallace continues, “we are at a watershed moment.” Dominion sees the writing on the wall, their reign of uncontested rule over Richmond is drawing to a close, and it is up to everyday citizens to stand up and demand they no longer write their own rules at the expense of public health, rate payers, and the climate.

The action doesn’t stop now. As the speakers stressed, it is more important than ever for Virginians to continue the momentum that we have gained and take the power back from Dominion Energy. That means coming to Richmond this January and speaking with your legislator about the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. They need to understand that Viginia needs to formally join RGGI immediately as Virginia’s first step of many towards 100% renewable energy.
See you there!


STATEMENT: Governor Northam Fails to Protect Citizens of Union Hill

Community Leaders Accuse Dominion Energy of Blatant Environmental Racism Over Controversial Compressor Station for Fracked Gas

RICHMOND, VA — Today, the Northam administration removed two members of the Air Pollution Control Board from their posts before a crucial vote on the gigantic and deeply harmful Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in Buckingham County, Virginia. These members were a part of a crucial bloc of votes which led to stronger environmental protections in recently the re-proposed Carbon Reduction Plan and they both showed concern about the permit for the Buckingham compressor station. The proposed 54,000-horsepower compressor station — situated a short distance from the homes of the descendants of freedmen in the community of Union Hill — would run 24 hours a day and constantly fill the community with loud noise that is comparable to a jet engine. Facilities like this pollute the air with nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter and are linked to severe respiratory and cardiovascular ailments, as well as cancer. This compressor station is needed to keep gas flowing through Dominion’s controversial $7-billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Since the day this project was announced, community advocates in Union Hill have sounded the alarm on environmental justice concerns. Scores of concerned citizens have rallied and protested across the state in opposition of these projects. Hundreds turned up in Buckingham County to give public comment against the project. Thousands more sent written comments to the DEQ which requested the agency deny the permits. Yet no matter how many Virginians said this was a bad idea, Dominion continued pushing for this location. The Union Hill community is a rural, low-income, mostly African-American community where residents are less likely to have the resources to pursue legal challenges.
Even though Mr. Bleicher and Mrs. Rubin both had terms that were set to expire in June, their roles would have extended indefinitely if the Northam administration had not taken action.
This decision comes just weeks after the world’s top scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire warning sounded the alarm bells for the world to move away from dangerous fossil fuels at a rapid pace.
Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director of CCAN, stated in response:

“We are shocked and incredibly disappointed that the Northam Administration is terminating the terms of Air Board members Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher. This deeply controversial move comes just weeks before a crucial vote on the Buckingham Compressor Station for fracked gas. The people of Union Hill and Buckingham County deserve a fair hearing from the full board. This decision will rob them of that opportunity. Governor Northam has now officially taken ownership of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and ownership of this compressor station, a facility which involves strong elements of environmental racism. The governor must understand that with today’s action, the public will now hold him responsible for all the future harm to water, the climate, farmland, and human life that now could come to Virginia.”

Offshore Wind Energy is a Breeze: Environmental & Wildlife Impacts

By Chloe Taylor, Katrina Vaitkus, Zachary Felch, Justin Stacey, Miranda Mlilo, Amanda Speciale, Katie DeVoss

Chloe Taylor, Katrina Vaitkus, Zachary Felch, Justin Stacey, Miranda Mlilo, Amanda Speciale, Katie DeVoss

Who we are:
We are a group of University of Maryland students majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. For our senior capstone project, we are researching the impact of offshore wind energy to help CCAN prepare for the upcoming public comment period for the proposed Ocean City US Wind Project. We will be creating a series of blog posts to provide information about different aspects of offshore wind and its impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, the economy, and wildlife. This is the last of our three part series.

Although offshore wind is relatively new technology, there is significant evidence proving that offshore wind farms do have a positive impact on the local environment. The negative impacts caused by offshore wind farms are short-lived, as seen at multiple European offshore wind farms such as Horns Rev, Nysted, and Egmond aan Zee. Many scientists currently studying the environmental impacts of offshore wind have found that there is a net positive environmental effect resulting from the existence of these farms.
Environmental Impacts
The development of the offshore wind farm in Ocean City, Maryland will cause some immediate negative impacts from physical disturbance of the local habitat as well as noise pollution both above and below the surface of the water. However, multiple studies conducted on several active European offshore wind farms (Offshore Wind Farm Egmond aan Zee, Horns Rev) have shown that most, or all, of these negative side effects subside over time, eventually becoming negligible. These studies have also shown that there are many positive environmental impacts which occur as a result of the introduction of the wind farm into the ecosystem. These can include, but are not limited to, creation of habitat for wildlife species, increased total biomass, and increased biodiversity.
Although there will be significant modification of the local environment, this will create room for growth in both species richness and diversity. Sites typically chosen for wind farms have naturally occurring sandy sediments. In order to support the wind turbines, large rocks will be introduced to build up the foundation and to increase stability of the monopiles. These large substrates create new habitats for many species of fish and invertebrates. Thus, despite initial disturbance, operating wind farms are capable of supporting many organisms. Benthic communities and aquatic vegetation have found the large substrates around the monopiles to be particularly useful as sites for colonization.
Some images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth Observatory have shown sediment plumes resulting from the flow of water around the monopiles of wind turbines carrying disturbed fine-grained sediments with the current. These plumes can be up to 30 meters wide and several kilometers long. However, increased turbidity in the waters near operating wind farms has proven to subside and to have negligible impacts on local wildlife. After five full years of operation, Egmond aan Zee wind farm in the Netherlands showed zero negative impact on the benthic communities within the wind farm site resulting from increased sediment flow.
Marine Species Impacts
Marine organisms face several negative impacts from the creation of wind farms including increased noise pollution. However, the benefits that come from the creation of the wind farm outweigh the negative effects. The noise levels created by fully operational offshore wind farms have shown minimal long-term disturbance of organisms within the local area, however knowledge on this topic is lacking and requires further study over longer periods of time. However, the most dramatic noise pollution occurs during pile driving, but it is not a long-term impairment. One Dutch study showed an increase in the detection of dolphins inside the wind farm area as opposed to outside sampling sites. This same study also reported the return of seals to the area following completion of construction.
According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the noise generated by an active turbine may be audible to marine mammals from just over 40 miles away. Ongoing research explains methods that can be used to significantly reduce the impact of noise on the surrounding environment.
Following the construction of wind farms, each turbine may support marine wildlife on a large scale. Each wind turbine is able to support up to four metric tons of shellfish that attracts other marine wildlife to the area, similarly to that of an artificial reef. The wind farm will then attract a wide range of organisms to the area due to the newly available habitat and resources. The higher abundance of smaller organisms will attract larger predatory organisms to the wind farm and create a healthy marine ecosystem that may not have been as abundant or productive pre-construction.
The increased biodiversity provides marine mammals with high food availability, encouraging them to return to the area in higher abundances than pre-construction. The increase in food availability resulting from the physical structures of the turbines will provide an overall benefit to marine organisms and their ecosystem.
Avian Species Impacts
The proposed wind farm in Ocean City will be positioned in the path of the Atlantic Flyway, a major migration pattern for birds along the east coast of North America. Birds that fly along the Atlantic Flyway may include the bald eagle, golden-winged warbler, and piping plovers. This causes fear that there will be increased bird strikes during the annual migration. There have been several studies to quantify the estimated rate of impact of the proposed wind farm in Ocean City, which has proven to be minimal. In fact, wind farms cause fewer bird deaths than other anthropogenic factors. One of these studies found that, “wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while fossil-fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh.” This data was collected from land based wind farms, where the abundance of birds and bats is much higher than on the coast. As such, the strikes from offshore wind farms would be much lower comparatively to the land farms and other types of energy production. Another study conducted at an offshore wind farm called Horns Rev located in the North Sea found minimal bird collisions with the turbines based on observation and modeling.
Furthermore, few species fly far enough off the coast for the wind farm to interfere with their normal flight pattern. Local bird species who do not necessarily use the Atlantic Flyway for their migration were found to be in higher abundance near the wind farms because of the higher localized biodiversity. Cormorant and seagull populations actually increased in the wind farm area. Additionally, the birds inhabited the area for longer periods of time than previously measured and would nest on the turbines. Birds that are migrating along the Atlantic Flyway are likely to have few strikes and perhaps even use the wind farm for an intermediate point for rest and a source of nutrition. The presence of a wind farm in this area would provide a beneficial site for resting, socialization, and foraging.
Based on findings and information from currently active wind farms, the overall environmental impact of offshore wind in Ocean City will be positive. The area will experience a decrease in carbon emissions resulting from increased biodiversity because of creation of new habitat and food sources, as well as increased total biomass. While wildlife may be negatively affected during construction and servicing of turbines, these effects tend to be short-lived and have shown minimal or no long-term negative impacts on behavior or physiology of species present. Current knowledge of offshore wind has provided a lot of insight into the potential issues which may be faced during construction and implementation, making it possible to anticipate and preemptively act to mitigate any negative effects. Thus, serious environmental harm can be avoided while taking advantage of the benefits of clean energy.

Offshore Wind Energy is a Breeze: Economic Benefits

By Chloe Taylor, Katrina Vaitkus, Justin Stacey, Zachary Felch, Amanda Speciale, Katie DeVoss, and Miranda Mlilo
Who we are:

Left to right: Chloe Taylor, Katrina Vaitkus, Zachary Felch, Justin Stacey, Miranda Mlilo, Amanda Speciale, and Katie DeVoss

We are a group of University of Maryland students majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. For our senior capstone project, we are researching the impact of offshore wind energy  to help CCAN prepare for the upcoming public comment period for the proposed Ocean City US Wind Project. We will be creating a series of blog posts to provide information about different aspects of offshore wind and its impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, the economy, and wildlife. This is the second of our three part series.

There seems to be a common misconception that offshore wind energy might hurt Ocean City’s economy. This could not be further from the truth! In fact, research suggests that an offshore wind farm may actually bolster very important sectors of the economy such as tourism, real estate, and job creation.
Tourism and Real Estate
Many polls have surveyed beachgoers and gathered data about their vacationing preferences after the theoretical construction of offshore wind turbines. The results were generally positive for offshore wind, and showed either no change in beach preferences, or an increased likelihood that tourists would visit the area. For example, one Goucher poll from fall 2017 surveyed Marylanders to find out how the proposed offshore wind project would impact whether they choose Ocean City as a vacation destination. Out of 671 Marylanders, 75% of people said that the offshore wind farm would make no difference about where they choose to vacation. Additionally, 12% said that the presence of a wind farm might make them more inclined to visit, out of curiosity and interest.
This sentiment was further emphasized by Jessica Willi, Executive Director of the Block Island Tourism Council who stated that after the construction of the Block Island offshore wind farm, “We’ve definitely seen more people on the island that have come just to see the wind farm; we’ve had businesses sprout up on the island, boats taking people out just to see the wind farm.”
Additionally, a French study found that turbines will bring an increase in biodiversity and wildlife. This will expand the tourism market, bolstered by the desire to view, learn about, and interact with wildlife through activities like observational boating and diving around turbine foundations!
Furthermore, it is unlikely that there will be any negative impacts on real estate prices. While there is no existing data regarding real estate impacts from offshore wind farms, there are studies from onshore facilities located close to homes indicating that real estate will not be affected. Since offshore wind farms are located several miles off of the coast and have negligible visibility, data showing no effect from turbines located close to homes onshore would likely support a lack of impact for offshore turbines far from homes and other properties.  In fact, benefits from tourism and lower electricity costs might even increase property values.
A 2013 study by Ben Hoen and colleagues found no statistical evidence that wind turbines affected nearby home prices in either the post-announcement/pre-construction or post-construction period. They found that while sale prices might temporarily decrease following the announcement of construction, labeled the “anticipation effect,” these decreases will wear off following construction.
Job Creation
US Wind plans to invest millions of dollars into Baltimore’s industrial and manufacturing sector. This substantial investment into the local economy is the root of the job opportunities for the city from the offshore wind project. Revitalization of the manufacturing industry could lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs in the greater Baltimore area, contributing to the 3,580 jobs the Public Service Commission of Maryland has required US Wind to create in the state. At every step of the process, employment opportunities abound. Skilled workers from numerous disciplines are essential to upgrade the facilities at Tradepoint Atlantic (at Sparrows Point) and other locations. An independent study for the Department of Energy forecasts the creation of up to 600 jobs and 33 million dollars in compensation during this stage alone. After the improvements are complete, over 150 tradespeople will likely be employed at the fabrication facility constructing steel jacket foundations — these jobs will continue even after the Maryland offshore wind project is complete as the East Coast’s offshore wind industry grows. Such professions can pay over 20 dollars an hour.
Not only does Baltimore stand to gain significant employment opportunities, so does Ocean City. As the closest city to the project, there is a unique chance to participate in the construction and upkeep of the wind turbines. Specialized workers from crane operators to electricians may be called on to help in the construction of the turbines while receiving payment upwards of 25 dollars an hour on average, if not more. Perhaps the most interesting job prospect is the chance to become employed as wind turbine service technicians. With a lifespan of 25 years, the turbines will require constant check ups and maintenance by locally-based technicians. Community colleges and technical schools are the key to getting a foot in the door with a 2-year degree or 1-year certification in the field. With a 96% job outlook in the coming years, the time is now to enter the profession.
Economic Benefits in Maryland
This project will also generate millions of dollars for Maryland’s economy, providing more jobs and emerging business investments. Maryland created the Maryland Offshore Wind Business Development Fund to encourage future project development. US Wind is required to contribute $6 million to this fund between 2017-2019, which will help other businesses emerge and profit within this novel industry. US Wind has pledged to invest 26.4 million dollars in upgrades to the Tradepoint Atlantic port facility, and an additional 51 million dollars in another steel facility, further solidifying their commitment to the local economy and job growth. US Wind is required to spend at least 19% of total development and construction costs within Maryland. Their studies estimate this in-state expenditure to be $610 million during development and construction, and another $744 million (valued in 2017 dollars) in the operation phase. This offshore wind farm will provide millions of dollars to the state’s economy and help advance business interests.
In addition to these state benefits, Marylanders do not need to fear exorbitant electricity costs. There may be some concern over how the state will offset the costs to build the project, such as raising the price of electricity. However, Maryland law prohibits residential rates from exceeding an additional $1.50 per month (valued in 2012 dollars) through 2040. For businesses and other non-residential payers, this increase is less than 1.4% annually. While this is a small increase, it is still advantageous to build the wind farm, as it helps the state comply with its renewable energy standards. Additionally, the cost of electricity should decrease over time as this project encourages future offshore wind projects in the pipeline. In one National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, they found the cost of electricity in the mid-Atlantic will decrease through 2027 with the installation of offshore wind projects currently in the pipeline. Compared to 2015 prices, the data reflect a 41-52% cost reduction in 2027 per megawatt hour to the mid-Atlantic! Thus, constructing this project will only have small rate increases to Maryland ratepayers, but will decrease future regional energy costs while meeting our renewable energy goals.
In conclusion, offshore wind has the potential to increase tourism and property values in Ocean City. The project will create jobs, stabilize electricity rates, and increase Maryland’s Taylor x revenue. Stay informed, get involved, and let our government know that you support offshore wind in the state of Maryland!

Offshore Wind Energy is a Breeze: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By Chloe Taylor, Katrina Vaitkus, Justin Stacey, Zachary Felch, Amanda Speciale, Katie DeVoss, and Miranda Mlilo
Who we are:
We are a group of University of Maryland students majoring in Environmental Science and Policy. For our senior capstone project, we are researching the impact of offshore wind energy for CCAN to help prepare for the upcoming public comment period for the proposed Ocean City US Wind Project. We will be creating a series of blog posts to provide information about different aspects of offshore wind and its impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, the economy, and wildlife. This is the first of our three part series.

Chloe Taylor, Katrina Vaitkus, Justin Stacey, Zachary Felch, Amanda Speciale, Katie DeVoss

Greenhouse gas emissions are the most significant driver of climate change. These emissions increase atmospheric temperature, correlating to climate change events such as sea level rise and increased frequency of extreme weather. Not only do these emissions create climate change, but they also pose serious public health risks, specifically to those with poor respiratory health, due to their contribution to air pollution and air quality.
Renewable energy is a solution to combat the problems from greenhouse gas emissions. Supporting renewable energy initiatives and projects can decrease greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons per year. Currently in the state of Maryland, we emit 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, and 17 million metric tons of these alone are from the energy sector. Despite this high number, only 10% of energy generated is renewable. The offshore wind project proposed off of the coast of Ocean City, Maryland may be the solution we are looking for. Not only will it help decrease Maryland’s total emissions by millions of metric tons per year, but it will encourage more renewable energy development.
Currently, wind energy accounts for 1.4% of renewable energy in Maryland, from 191 MW of onshore wind, providing for 49,000 homes. The offshore wind project proposes 250MW of wind power, therefore this could more than double the amount of wind power Maryland uses. American Wind Energy estimates that in 2017 wind energy avoided a total of 189 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the US , reducing 11% of all US power emissions. In addition to carbon dioxide emission displacement, wind also avoided 188,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 122,000 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions. This major cut alone prompted an estimated $8 billion in public health savings due to better air quality and less pollution.
The offshore wind project could bring many benefits to the state of Maryland and help to decrease emissions on both the state and global scale. Shifting towards renewable energy is important not only for protecting our environment, but also for protecting our own health. Stay informed, get involved, and let our government know that you support offshore wind in the state of Maryland!

Sign this petition to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management urging them to approve offshore wind in Maryland!

Pictures Retrieved From:

Truth to Power: How we Educated our Local Officials on the Issue of Climate Change

Written by Pam Dehmer from Harford County Climate Action
Our group aims to lessen Harford County’s carbon footprint and adapt to the effects of climate change. We started in October 2014 right after the People’s Climate March in NY. Seeing passionate activists from around the world gave us hope that change was possible. That’s why, over the past four years, we have been working to educate the local community about the causes and impacts of climate change.
However, there is a dangerous strand of climate change denial running through our community. On February 13, the retiring County Council President Mr. Slutsky ended a public meeting by spouting a number of misinformed opinions about global warming, including calling climate change a hoax.
We could not let this go without responding. So 16 of us spoke out at the next County Council public meeting. Each person took a point made by Mr. Slutsky and explained why his statements were false. At the end of the session, two HCCA members and a scientist spoke privately with Mr. Slutsky and arranged a meeting with him the following week. During that meeting, two citizens discussed the climate change subject again trying to inform our council president. Even though Mr. Slutsky was not convinced, he offered HCCA the opportunity to speak at a public meeting to educate the public.
So this was our chance to educate the rest of our local officials! Under the guidance of our leader, Tracey Waite, six of us worked hard to create a presentation. It took hours and hours of research, discussion and fine-tuning as we were given a time limit of just twenty minutes. We met and rehearsed four times in order to make sure the presentation was concise, accurate and informative.
On April 17, we made the presentation at the public, televised, County Council meeting. At the end, all six council members affirmed their support for HCCA and our mission to educate!
While we were pleased that we turned a negative into a positive, this is not the end of the story. Verbal support for our group does nothing in reducing Harford County’s carbon footprint. We are now asking the County Council to form a panel with stakeholders from the local community to find ways to drastically expand clean energy in our state and eventually achieve a 100% renewable energy future.
There are many towns and cities that are committed to this goal and we must do this now. As Bill McKibben said, “Winning slowly is the same as losing.”

Top 5 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Miracle Ridge this Summer

In July, I joined activists, advocates, and property owners in Bath County to experience the pristine beauty of Miracle Ridge.
The ridgeline, named by property owners Bill and Lynn Limpert, can only be fully appreciated by visiting it in person. From the pure waterways from which the county derives its name, to the grand trees that outdate our country’s government, even one afternoon on Miracle Ridge will drive home the sheer absurdity of Dominion’s plan to blow up this ridgeline at taxpayers’ expense, just to ensure an windfall of profits in the years to come.
Here are four reasons why you need to come visit Miracle Ridge this summer:
1) Build relationships with the people that are being asked to sacrifice their land
A visit to Miracle Ridge is more than just a camp. It is a way to connect with the Limpert family and the greater Bath community. On my first official full day at the camp neighbors came from miles away to share stories on the Limperts’ north-facing front porch and talk with the media.
One couple, Jeannette and Gary, have roots extending in the community as deep as the trees themselves. They met in Bath County many years ago when Gary came to Jeanette’s house to clean her chimney. But Jeannette’s family tree extends in Bath back to 1792. Her ancestors fought for freedom and independence in the Revolutionary War. Now, she finds herself in a battle for the freedom and independence from the extractive fossil fuels industry that seeks to take the land that has been in her family for so many generations.
2) Hike Miracle Ridge
Every day upon awakening in Bath County I had the opportunity to hike Miracle Ridge. Just sixty seconds into my first hike I could see why the ridgeline is so deserving of its grand namesake. It is a nature lover’s dream.
On Saturday, Mike, Bill, Sam, Jarrod and I walked to the top of the Ridge all the way to the National Park service road. Along the way we encountered centuries-old sugar maple trees, heard the calls of numerous rare birds, and embarked on a search for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. This bumble bee is officially listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with climate change and increased exposure to disease has caused the bee’s population to plummet by 90% since 1990. There have been a number of Rusty Patched Bee sightings on Miracle Ridge, which if proven could prove tremendous in the fight against the ACP.
Experiencing this in person is a glaring reaffirmation that Dominion’s plan to blow Miracle Ridge by the equivalent of a two-story building is nothing short of radical and extreme.
3) Swim in some of Virginia’s most pristine water
Just down the mountain from Miracle Ridge are a number of the fresh mineral water springs from which the Bath County has received its namesake. Renowned for its healing properties, the pristine water attracts travelers and tourists from all over the continent every year.
The pure nature of the water is due to the high concentration of Karst – one of mother nature’s most powerful water filtration systems. This geological typography is characterized by a network of caves, fissures, sinkholes, and underground streams and is prone to sinking.
Many experts point to constructing the proposed pipeline of cause as a reason for alarm, as industrial-scale construction and ridgetop removal could potentially have irreversible negative impacts on the local waterways.
4) Make connections with other like-minded activists
Activists and advocates from all across the region are coming to Miracle Ridge to make a stand.
Saturday afternoon our group was joined by two activists: Holden and Gabriella who organize against the ACP in North Carolina and heard about the encampment on Facebook. Over dinner that evening we shared strategies of what was working in each of our states and reaffirmed our commitment to defending Miracle Ridge and all lands threatened by pipelines until the very end.
5) Meet Ona for herself
One of the most humbling experiences about a visit to Miracle Ridge is an opportunity to meet with Ona, the 300-plus-year-old sugar maple that has been likened to a piece of art and is making waves all across the region.
“Ona,” an ancient Hebrew name meaning “graceful,” could not have a more appropriate from one of the most visually striking features on Miracle Ridge. Standing at a jaw-dropping 60-feet with a 15-foot circumference, you can feel Ona’s magnetic presence as soon as you stand up to her. This tree, which outdates Dominion and the fossil fuels industry itself is now being threatened to be cut down to make way for a violent pipeline that will lock us into fossil fuels extraction for another generation. One trip to Miracle Ridge will reaffirm everything that we are being asked to sacrifice for Dominion’s profits and will reaffirm why we will need to continue to fight even harder in the weeks and months to come.

RSVP today to join us at Miracle Ridge!

“No Pipeline Summer” update: The fight that binds us

Written by Samuel Wright
We are in the midst of a powerful summer of resistance.
So far, dozens of people dedicated their time and energy so far by coming out to the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert to camp or hike in the beautiful old-growth forests in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We’ve been sharing skills, stories, and knowledge, while simultaneously forming invaluable connections with one another. As this fight continues these bonds we have will prove to be a dynamic force that can not only energize ourselves but those around us.
With this in mind, I wanted to share some updates from the camp this weekend for those of you who were not here but have been previously and those who may have hopes of coming out to join.
On Friday, the day did not begin to start until the late afternoon. Because it was later in the day the campers who did arrive immediately hiked out to the Miracle Ridge campsite to set up their tents. As tents were erected and the sun slowly retreated behind the ridges in the distance giving off ethereal rays of oranges and reds, campers came onto the porch and talked into the night. The day ended with a few of us looking at the stars, locating both the Big Dipper and the north star and then calling it a night.
On Saturday, we got an early start with a hike that took us all the way to an forest service road high up on Jack Mountain located directly behind Bill and Lynn’s house. As a few of us would come to learn that this forest service road we were standing on was the same one on which Dominion is threatening to build an access road. This road would undoubtedly disrupt the land and the ecosystem around it. Specifically, as we learned, an endangered habitat of Rusty Patch Bumblebees.

Photo taken by Jared Couch. Campers on forest service road

After that those of us on the hike came back down to the house and within an hour of returning we were met with a handful of community members from surrounding areas of Bath County. Some — like Gary and Jennette Robinson, and Lee and Linda Brauer — came from short distances like Little Valley, while others — like Ann Bryan and Barry Marshall — came from a few miles farther (Burnsville, and Williamsville). As folks continued to trickle in at their own pace, Ann Bryan performed a Peace and Harmony ceremony for everyone on the porch which included deep breathing, and long periods of meditation.
Ann Bryan conducting the peace and harmony ceremony.

After the Peace and Harmony ceremony Sandy Hausman of NPR came by and interviewed a few of the surrounding county members to document stories around the pipeline in Bath County and this current encampment. I can’t describe to you how poignant some of these stories were and how important it is to come and witness and hear firsthand those who are impacted by this highly destructive and extractive infrastructure. It has not only deepened my understanding of why we are fighting Dominion and the fossil fuel industry but it was grounding to be in the presence and listen to such powerful narratives.

Once the interviews ended Sandy Hausman, Bill, Lynn, myself and a few campers did a big tree hike and viewed Miracle Ridge. Before Sandy and a few of the community members left, we all gathered around the No Pipeline Banner (hung across two trees as you arrive at the Limpert’s) and took a group photo. Once the crowd dispersed a few of us went our separate ways and gathered back on the porch later in the night as a few more campers trickled in from North Carolina and shared their stories as we ate food and conversed.
Bill Limpert is interviewed by Sandy Hausman during the Big Tree Walk. Photo by Jared Couch.

Bill and Lynn Limpert leading the big tree hike. Photo by Jared Couch.

On Sunday, we had a pretty lax day as  most campers began to pack up and leave in the morning. Before that though our Director Mike Tidwell and VA Organizer Jamshid Bakhtiari took campers over to Ona and gave them a chance to have their picture taken with the big trees.
I know this is only a small window into the emotive experiences shared this weekend, but It is my hope that you take some solace in these photos and stay in the loop with the encampment as it continues!

If you haven’t come out to camp yet, we’d love to have you! RSVP at this form today.

To campers who have come and still want to help there are many ways you can contribute! First and foremost, tell your friends about your experience, tell them to come out and arrange carpools to the encampment this summer.
Then, you can bring your experience back home and inspire others to have the same. Call or write a letter to Governor Northam and tell him about your experience here and how this pipeline is not needed and to take the necessary steps to stop it. Donate to Interfaith Action for Climate Justice online. Finally, if you have the time come and volunteer with us at the camp! If you felt moved to be here this summer and join the pipeline resistance in Bath County email me on how you would like to help here at the camp this summer!
Either way, I hope to see you out here again very soon!