CHPE breaks ground, a new home for the Kanien’kehá:ka Mohawk, and 7,002 green jobs
This week's Digest, a roundup of climate news from the rural Catskills and the rest of New York.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Got news tips? Stories we should be discussing in class? Thoughts on what would make this newsletter more useful to you? Talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
GETTIN’ CHIPPY: Construction officially began on the Champlain Hudson Power Express on Wednesday, in the little Canadian town of Whitehall. When complete, CHPE will serve as a 339-mile-long extension cord running underground and along the bottom of the Hudson River, bringing Canadian hydropower into New York City.
With few transmission lines connecting it to clean power sources, and little space to build new renewables, New York is deeply dependent on gas-powered electricity, and even more so in the wake of the recent shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County. CHPE (pronounced “chippy”) is one of three main approaches currently underway to clean up the city’s power supply, along with the upstate Clean Path transmission project and offshore wind.
The project has a long and fraught history in the Hudson Valley region. Riverkeeper, an important local environmental nonprofit, switched sides recently to fight the project — but not before landing a board seat on a $117 million trust fund set up to address the environmental impacts of construction. I wrote about CHPE’s tradeoffs, and the fierce infighting it has sparked among environment and climate advocates, in a story for The River this spring. Here’s a good one from the Huffington Post’s Alex Kaufmann, too.
(Shoutout to the CHPE source who asked why my editor didn’t send me to the groundbreaking ceremony eight hours away in rural Canada. Bless, it’s so cute that you guys think newspapers have money. I don’t even get a free subscription. —Ed.)
NICE TIMING: There’s a new paper out in Environmental Science and Technology that estimates the social costs and benefits of the CHPE project. Bottom line: Researchers found that the project decreases social costs by about $13.2 billion between now and 2050. About a third of that comes from decreases in early deaths in downstate areas with greater proportions of Hispanic and Black residents, which currently bear much of the burden of air pollution from gas-fueled power plants in New York City.
The relationship between rates of local air pollution and rates of premature death in communities is pretty tight, as study after study has found since Harvard’s Six Cities report upended the environmental health world in 1993. Researchers on the CHPE study were able to use that tight correlation to come up with an estimate for how many early deaths the project will prevent: 306.
MUST READ: Have you heard of John Droz, Jr.? He’s a real estate developer who literally wrote the playbook on how to stop the building of solar and wind energy in little rural communities across America, and he has the ear of people at Heartland and the Cato Institute.
Reporter Michael Thomas has been digging into Droz’s work as part of an ongoing project on the dark-money campaigns, fossil-industry FUD, and viral propaganda efforts that are flowing into fighting renewable energy development at the community level. Another banger from Thomas’s new newsletter, Distilled: A co-reported story with Emily Atkin on the deep-pocketed fossil fuel interest group that’s using the Endangered Species Act to try to stop offshore wind projects.
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