Blamed in baby’s death, weakening Gordon spreads rain inland
By JAY REEVES and REBECCA SANTANA
Thursday, September 6
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (AP) — Blamed for the death of a Florida baby and intense wind and rain that pummeled parts of the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, Tropical Depression Gordon weakened Wednesday but still spread bands of heavy rains across a swath of the South as it swirled over central Mississippi.
It promised more of the same on a forecast track expected to take it northeast into Arkansas, which was forecast to get heavy rain from the system by Wednesday night. By Saturday, what’s left of the storm was forecast to hook to the north, then northeast on a path toward the Great Lakes. National Weather Service offices in Missouri and Oklahoma said Gordon’s remnants could add to the rain caused by a frontal boundary already causing heavy rains in parts of the Midwest. Flash flood watches stretched from the Florida panhandle, through parts of southwest Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.
Gordon never reached hurricane strength by the time it came ashore Tuesday night just west of the Mississippi-Alabama line. Its maximum sustained winds reached 70 mph (112 kph). It knocked out power to at least 27,000 utility customers in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. By Wednesday afternoon the numbers were down to about 5,800 in Alabama, 3,000 in Mississippi and a little more than 2,000 in Florida.
Pictures on social media showed damaged roofs and debris-strewn beaches and roads. However, no major damage or serious injuries were reported, other than the one fatality — a baby in a mobile home, struck by a large tree limb in Pensacola late Tuesday.
Neighbors told the newspaper the victim was about 10 months old, but the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the child was 2 years old.
Michael Barradas told The Pensacola News Journal he heard the loud crack and ran out of his mobile home and yelled, “Is everyone OK?’” He says the mother said, “No my baby’s in there.”
Barradas said he ran back in his home to get a flashlight, but by the time he got to the neighbor’s home the baby had stopped crying.
The Escambia County Sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page that responding deputies discovered the child had been killed. Officials haven’t released the child’s identity.
Rain spun around the storm’s center in the Jackson, Mississippi, area Wednesday afternoon. And bands swept up from the Gulf, dropping more rain on northwest Florida — where 10.48 inches (26.6 centimeters) had already fallen at Florida’s Pensacola International Airport by Wednesday morning — through the center of Alabama and into Tennessee.
New Orleans, which had braced for severe flooding, was unscathed. And residents along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which expected a serious hit, were largely spared. A dozen casinos that shut down were allowed to reopen at noon Wednesday. Boaters and fishermen returned to marinas after having fled inland a day before.
“We are happy to report that hotels, casinos, attractions and restaurants have resumed business as usual,” Milton Segarra, CEO of the tourism organization Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, said in a Wednesday news release.
“It was fine, just like a thunderstorm,” said Pascagoula resident Trey Casey, who had been given the day off from work in anticipation of more serious damage.
“This is the price you pay to look at this beautiful water and enjoy the coast,” Pascagoula resident Richard Whitlock said as he raked leaves and branches from his yard overlooking the Gulf.
Driftwood and other debris made for hazardous driving early Wednesday on the causeway to Dauphin Island, Alabama, which was partly flooded by seawater overnight. Siding was peeled off some houses, but Mayor Jeff Collier said “for the most part, we did OK.”
Dominic Carlucci drove back to his home on the barrier island in his Hummer, and found no damage, just a sagging wooden fence. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when Nate, the last hurricane to strike the U.S., came ashore last October in nearby Biloxi, Mississippi. “We’re good,” he said.
A storm surge covered barrier islands as the storm blew through, and some inland roadways were flooded by the rain.
“I just hope I don’t have to throw out everything in my refrigerator when I get home,” said Jerome Richardson, spending the morning at a Mobile Waffle House after losing power the night before at his home.
With Gordon diminishing, there were new tropical weather concerns: Hurricane Florence has formed in the Atlantic Ocean, on a path toward Bermuda, and lining up behind it, another potential storm was likely to form not far off the coast of Africa.
“It’s the peak of hurricane season,” Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. “Now is the time to get your plans all set.”
Santana reported from Pascagoula, Mississippi. Other Associated Press contributors include Stacey Plaisance in Gulfport, Mississipi; Gerald Herbert in Biloxi, Mississippi; Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Jeff Martin and Ben Nadler in Atlanta; Emily Wagster Pettus and Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi; Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina.
Opinion: Granite Bridge Support Signals Shifting Attitudes Toward Responsible Energy Development
By Craig Stevens
Early this summer the New Hampshire Senate notched a small but symbolic victory. In a near unanimous vote, lawmakers from both parties endorsed the Granite Bridge Pipeline, a small natural gas line that will connect a storage facility in Epping with two larger existing pipelines. While modest next to the energy development happening nationwide, the project’s early support signals a shift in attitudes toward much-needed pipeline infrastructure.
For years the Northeast corridor has remained a holdout against the United States’ shale boom. Drawing largely from division along political lines, activists have been successful in disrupting infrastructure in the region by implementing a playbook of bureaucratic stonewalling, litigation and protest. Their tactics have disrupted and often derailed critical projects —t he Constitution and Northern Access pipelines in New York, the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline in Massachusetts, and the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines in Appalachia.
The result of this opposition mentality has been a shortage of fuel supplies to homes and businesses in the Northeast, particularly during winter. In New England, which gets half its power from natural gas, prices spiked more than 400 percent during the “Polar Vortex” in 2014. Last winter, gas prices rose more than 60 times recent rates, and Boston had to import liquified natural gas from Russia due to bottlenecks — a first in U.S. history.
A recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found residents in the Northeast pay 44 percent more for electricity and nearly 30 percent more for natural gas, and regional manufacturers face costs that are 64 percent higher than the national average. This economic burden, which owes largely to pipeline constraints, is self-induced. Well-funded opposition campaigns and not-in-my-backyard policies have ensured that the more than 50,000 miles of natural gas pipelines built over the last decade have missed the North Atlantic.
Support for New Hampshire’s Granite Bridge project suggests that the tide is turning — that common sense and economic realities are winning out with voters over the far-left’s hype machine. Residents recognize the value of natural gas, not only as a reliable fuel source but as a means to reduce our carbon footprint. And it comes at a critical time. A study last year found the region could lose nearly 80,000 jobs, more than $4 billion in wages and $7.6 billion in GDP by 2020 if no new pipelines are built.
Granite Bridge’s momentum also has immense implications for the next presidential election cycle. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status positions voters there to shape the national political conversation. That pipeline development is winning bipartisan support within the state — even while hydro-electric, solar and wind projects have been dismissed — should indicate to candidates that supporting America’s energy security is a winning position.
U.S. shale development has spurred a 60 percent increase in domestic oil and natural gas production over the past decade. America is now the largest global producer of oil and gas, which is creating stability at home and equipping policymakers with a powerful geopolitical tool to support our allies and isolate our enemies. And there is no reason every corner of the country shouldn’t benefit from this newfound abundance of homegrown energy.
For too long, environmental activists and dogmatic politicians have succeeded in shutting down prudent, safe infrastructure development across the country — and especially in the Northeast. The cost of their ideological endgame has fallen on the shoulders of everyday, hard-working families and businesses. The support for Granite Bridge Pipeline makes clear voters are seeing past the rhetoric.
Policymakers should take note and see this small but critical project through the finish line.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Craig Stevens is spokesman for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a national coalition focused on promoting infrastructure investments. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
COAL POWER — POINT-COUNTERPOINT
Point: Trump’s Dirty Power Plan Risks Lives to Bail Out the Coal Industry
By Mary Anne Hitt
The Trump administration’s Dirty Power Plan is an illegal giveaway to the struggling coal industry that will result in the deaths of thousands of Americans and exacerbate the worst effects of the climate crisis.
It’s illegally weak and intentionally vague, with no concrete emission reduction goals or standards that would actually require dirty power plants to cut down on dangerous pollution and give us a fighting chance against climate change. Instead, it attempts to throw a lifeline to coal billionaires to keep their uncompetitive plants open longer and ignores the millions of people who suffer through their pollution on a daily basis.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s own analysis shows that the Dirty Power Plan would lead to as many as 1,600 premature deaths every year, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and more than 100,000 missed school and work days annually by 2030. In addition to these life-threatening risks, the Dirty Power Plan also rolls back the historic Clean Power Plan, which was the first U.S. policy specifically geared toward cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants.
The Dirty Power Plan is also an economic loser, which EPA has no choice but to acknowledge. The agency added up all of the costs and benefits of the proposal and determined that, even under the most optimistic scenario, our nation would lose between $2 billion and $11 billion each year in net benefits by replacing the Clean Power Plan with the Dirty Power Plan. This figure is all the more amazing given that EPA used a flawed accounting trick to underreport the Clean Power Plan’s climate benefits by at least 90 percent to 95 percent — at the same time the western United States battles unprecedented wildfires linked to climate change.
The Clean Power Plan would have reduced electric-sector carbon pollution by 32 percent, prevented 90,000 asthma attacks per year, and avoided 3,200 premature deaths per year by 2030. All told, EPA estimated that the Clean Power Plan would have provided up to $45 billion in climate and public health benefits a year even after taking into account compliance costs. The program would also have helped drive the rapid expansion of affordable clean energy industries like solar, wind and energy efficiency, while encouraging important solutions to economic and environmental justice issues that have long plagued our energy sector.
In contrast, the Dirty Power Plan’s anemic measures are widely considered to be an act of desperation by fossil fuel billionaires, many of whom conspicuously supported Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, to beat back competition from cleaner, cheaper energy competitors like renewables. Since Trump’s election in 2016, more than three dozen coal plants have retired due to local communities standing up to plant owners and demanding cleaner air and water, as well as electricity customers’ increasing preference for solar and wind.
Based on 2016 emissions estimates, these coal plant retirements have stopped the equivalent of 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being pumped into our atmosphere. In fact, with half the nation’s coal plants already slated to retire, we are on track to meet the pollution reduction targets of the Clean Power Plan a decade ahead of schedule, thanks to affordable renewables and a decade-long grassroots campaign to replace coal plants with clean energy.
The Dirty Power Plan ignores these important trends and instead asks states to set their own policies, while doing little to prohibit powerful fossil fuel groups from helping set weak pollution standards that will likely be struck down in court. While the Trump EPA is clearly doing the bidding of the very coal industry executives who used to sign acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s paychecks, this rollback simply doesn’t meet EPA’s legal obligation under the Clean Air Act.
Instead of standing up for millions of Americans whose health and well-being are threatened by air pollution and the climate crisis, Trump and Wheeler are joining hands with callous corporate polluters and telling them they will not get in their way.
This Dirty Power Plan is yet another example of the Trump administration’s failure to protect public health, and it confirms its commitment to do everything the fossil fuel industry asks of them. That is why we are committed to fighting this rollback, continuing to replace coal plants with clean energy, and working for real climate action now.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mary Anne Hitt is senior director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Counterpoint: Affordable Clean Energy Rule — Improving the State of Play
By Betsy B. Monseu
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation to replace the prior administration’s Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule is another step in the right direction for federal regulatory reform. A brief review of the CPP frames the issues and puts the new EPA proposal in context.
The CPP was a sweeping effort to transform how electricity is produced and distributed in our nation. It was unprecedented in scope and reached well beyond EPA’s authority. With this rule, EPA as environmental regulator would have inappropriately taken on the role of energy regulator. CPP compliance would have come at a severely high cost to the economy and burdened consumers with double-digit electricity price hikes. According to a report by Energy Ventures Analysis, Americans would pay an additional $214 billion for electricity by 2030.
The CPP departed entirely from EPA’s prior regulations for emissions at individual power generating units under the Clean Air Act. It would have applied instead to the entire electric grid, thereby casting aside decades of precedent in implementing and enforcing power sector emissions standards.
In policy terms, the CPP was a nationwide strategy to force the power sector away from coal, treat natural gas as a transition fuel, and rely too heavily on energy efficiency and renewable energy to provide on-demand 24/7/365 electricity to American homes and businesses.
More than half the states and a host of others filed legal challenges to the CPP. The Supreme Court demonstrated its own serious concerns about the rule in early 2016 by taking the extraordinary and unprecedented step of suspending it before the lower court had even made a decision in the case.
In the context of the CPP’s problematic cost, regulatory and legal issues, the Affordable Clean Energy proposal is a major improvement.
The ACE rule returns EPA to a reasoned regulatory approach aligned with its historical interpretation and application of the Clean Air Act. This includes an “inside the fence line” basis for determining the Best System of Emissions Reduction (BSER) for greenhouse gases. The BSER will apply to individual electric generating units, rather than the entire electric grid as the CPP’s BSER was inappropriately designed to do.
The ACE rule focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through power plant efficiency improvements. Importantly, it addresses the New Source Review pre-construction permitting program that has been a barrier to improvement projects at power plants. The regulatory uncertainty associated with the administration of the NSR program has caused delays and added cost to the process. This has increased risk and inhibited investment in plant modernization, including for improving efficiency and emissions. The ACE rule will provide an avenue for investment without automatically triggering expensive and burdensome NSR provisions.
The ACE rule recognizes not only the role of states but their unique circumstances. It will rebalance federal-state regulatory relationships and give states the responsibility to establish performance standards and plans.
As for costs, the ACE rule will save $300 billion to $500 billion in annual compliance costs, according to the EPA. The agency has also estimated replacing the CPP with ACE will result in $3.4 billion in net benefits.
What about carbon-dioxide emissions? EPA estimates the ACE rule may reduce U.S. power sector carbon-dioxide emissions by 34 percent from 2005 when fully implemented. EPA has noted that the United States leads the world in lowering carbon-dioxide emissions, having reduced energy-related carbon emissions by 14 percent from 2005 to 2017 while such emissions in the rest of the world grew by 21 percent.
Coal is key to maintaining a competitive fuels marketplace with a diverse set of generation resources. It helps keep electricity prices stable and affordable for U.S. consumers, supports grid reliability and resilience, and provides energy security for our nation. The ACE rule is a step toward retaining coal plants, whereas the CPP would have shuttered them and squandered many of the emissions reductions investments — totaling $120 billion — already made. Those investments have reduced sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions by 93 percent per kWh through 2017.
The United States has more coal reserves than any other country. Beyond the United States, the amount of coal resources globally is greater than oil and natural gas combined. BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 reports that coal’s share of the global power sector at 38 percent has not changed in two decades. That is because of coal’s availability, affordability and accessibility.
Coal is an important global energy source, and power plants choosing it continue to be built. Any future focus on emissions reductions including for carbon dioxide must extend beyond the ACE rule for the United States and use available coal technology solutions for worldwide application.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Betsy B. Monseu is chief executive officer of the American Coal Council. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
OPINION: Coming Apart? Maybe Not
by Mel Gurtov
Day by day the Trump administration is coming apart. Revelations abound about the dysfunctions of the Trump team, about Trump’s ignorance and incompetence, and now about a “resistance” group in the White House that is actively countering Trump’s “amorality” and “erratic” leadership style. Donald Trump surely can’t last much longer. Or can he?
We might all be guilty of wishful thinking here. Yes, between Bob Woodward’s Fear and Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous’ assault on Trump’s character, you would think any normal leader would decide that enough is enough. But Donald Trump isn’t a normal leader with normal emotions. As Woodward reports, he believes in never taking a backward step, never apologizing, never showing weakness. He’s like Hitler in his bunker—except that Trump won’t commit suicide.
More importantly, Trump hasn’t been mortally wounded by any of the books about him. Nor has the anonymous op-ed really exposed new and terrible things about Trump’s character that we didn’t already know. In fact, the op-ed supports Trump in two ways. First, the writer claims that some officials are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda.” S/he acknowledges that Trump has delivered on key campaign promises beloved to both his base and Republicans in Congress: “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” What the writer, possibly a senior intelligence official, most resents is Trump’s performance in foreign affairs, such as his embrace of dictators, his trade policy, and treatment of allies—in short, his unfitness to be a commander in chief. Major defects, to be sure, but evidently not serious enough for the writer to resign in protest.
Second, Trump, with help from Steve Bannon, has consistently maintained that a “deep state” has been undermining his presidency since day one. Now along comes a “senior official” whom Trump can say proves the existence of the deep state, giving life to Woodward’s stories about other officials who have all along engaged in acts of bureaucratic sabotage. Trump’s cry of “treason” may seem credible to many.
When the smoke clears for the umpteenth time in this absurd presidency, we may find ourselves still at square one, hoping for electoral victories in November and the start of impeachment proceedings in January. We’re no closer than we were a few days ago to mass White House defections, Congressional Republicans turning on Trump, or people in “the base” suddenly realizing what a jerk they elected. Meanwhile, Brett Kavanaugh is a day closer to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, many children remain separated by ICE from their families, shootings continue unabated, and bad news mounts on climate change. So let’s get back to work.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.