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New York State Sues ExxonMobil for Defrauding Investors Using Climate Change as an Excuse

ExxonMobil Corporation, the largest of the world’s Big Oil companies, is being sued by New York State for using climate change to defraud investors out of billions of dollars.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Irving, TX, United States (4E) – ExxonMobil Corporation, the largest of the world’s Big Oil companies, is being sued by New York State for using climate change to defraud investors out of billions of dollars.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood said ExxonMobil courted investors such as the state’s public pension funds with inaccurate information. ExxonMobil has long claimed it factors in future risks to its business by using a “proxy cost” for the price of carbon. Thiss proxy cost assumed carbon will become more expensive in the future.

In fact, “Exxon repeatedly and consistently underestimated the potential financial risk that increasing climate change regulation posed to its assets and value,” said Underwood.

The state isn’t accusing Exxon of contributing to climate change, although fossil fuels undoubtedly increase global warming. Rather, New York alleges the company didn’t properly calculate how the risks would affect its business.

Underwood is suing ExxonMobil for defrauding investors about the financial risks of climate change and lying about how it calculates potential carbon costs.

The lawsuit accuses ExxonMobil of assuring its investors it uses theoretical prices for carbon in evaluating projects when in fact it often used a lower price or none at all. These theoretical prices range from $20 to $80 a ton depending on the country.

The lawsuit also claims ExxonMobil’s dual accounting calculations had a huge impact on the company’s. It says ExxonMobil’s failure to apply an internal price on carbon at 14 of its oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada caused the undercounting of future greenhouse gas expenses by more than $25 billion over the lifetime of the project.

It also said the firm didn’t apply any such proxy costs to its reserves at Cold Lake, a major oil sands asset in Alberta, “resulting in an overestimation of its projected economic life by 28 years.”

The lawsuit also said “this fraud reached the highest levels of the company,” including former ExxonMobil CEO and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The lawsuit claims Tillerson knew for years the company “was deviating” from public statements and was using two sets of calculations about future regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The attorney general is effectively charging them with keeping two sets of books — one for internal purposes, one for external,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis that conducts research on energy and the environment. “The result is a distortion of the value of the company.”

ExxonMobil spokesman Scott J. Silvestri called the lawsuit meritless. “These baseless allegations are a product of closed-door lobbying by special interests, political opportunism and the attorney general’s inability to admit that a three-year investigation has uncovered no wrongdoing.”

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Environment

World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Company Takes Huge Gamble on U.S.

Danish company Ørsted A/S, the world’s largest offshore wind farm company, has acquired U.S. offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind for $510 million.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Copenhagen, Denmark (4E) – Danish company Ørsted A/S, the world’s largest offshore wind farm company, has acquired U.S. offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind for $510 million.

Deepwater Wind built the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, the only commercial offshore wind farm in the United States. Block Island generates 30 megawatts of wind power.

Deepwater Wind will be renamed “Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind” after its acquisition by Ørsted finalizes before the year ends. It was formerly owned by U.S.-based hedge fund D.E. Shaw Group. Ørsted took complete ownership of Deepwater Wind by acquiring a 100% equity interest.

Ørsted said that Deepwater Wind’s portfolio has a total potential capacity of some 3.3 gigawatts (GW). This includes offshore wind development projects in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland and New York. Orsted’s offshore wind portfolio in the U.S. has a capacity of 5.5 GW.

CEO of Ørsted Wind Power Martin Neubert welcomed the deal. He said the acquisition will create the “number one offshore wind platform in North America.”

Neubert said the deal will merge “Deepwater Wind’s longstanding expertise in originating, developing and permitting offshore wind projects in the U.S., and Ørsted’s unparalleled track-record in engineering, constructing, and operating large-scale offshore wind farms.”

Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, said the company can see a very large industry emerging.

“We believe that, over the next 10 years, we can see 10 gigawatts of offshore wind being built—and we want to be in a good position to take advantage of this growth.”

Ten gigawatts of offshore wind is a massive capacity. Ørsted says it will only have 7.45GW by the end of 2020. That includes offshore wind farms in the UK, Denmark, Germany and Taiwan. Ørsted operates more than 1,000 offshore wind turbines worldwide.

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California will Orbit Small Cube Satellites to Monitor Pollution 24/7

California will become the first state in the Union to launch its own satellites for pollution monitoring.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Sacramento, CA, United States (4E) – California will become the first state in the Union to launch its own satellites for pollution monitoring.

Governor Jerry Brown announced this epoch-making event over the weekend. To get this done, California is partnering with Planet Labs, Inc to develop a customized cube satellites, or CubeSats that will “pinpoint — and stop — destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”

Technical details of the satellites will be announced later but those in the known said the new California satellites will likely be a constellation of 6U CubeSats with instruments to detect certain gases and particulates. An orbit with the satellite passing across the entire state along its north/south axis seems most likely. Multiple satellites in a constellation are very likely.

Design of the satellites will be financed by the Overlook International Foundation and the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. No project costs were revealed, and no launch date has been projected.was announced. But costs will probably run only into the hundreds of thousands of dollars since only small CubeSats will be used.

“With science still under attack—we’re under attack by a lot of people, including Donald Trump—and with the climate threat growing, we’re going to launch a satellite—our own damn satellite to figure out where the pollution is and how we’re going to end it,” said Brown.

California’s satellite fleet will be used by the state’s Air Resources Board to complement existing climate observatories. It will precisely locate the “point source” of pollutants it observes as they are emitted. This real-time detection will allow California authorities to control these pollution sources more effectively.

Data collected by the satellite constellation will be shared with the public through a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund. Planet Lab will develop and operate the satellites.

“These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “They won’t cut emissions by themselves, but they will make invisible pollution visible and generate the transparent, actionable, data we need to protect our health, our environment and our economies.”

EDF is launching its own satellite to that end (MethaneSAT), but will also be collaborating with California in the creation of a shared Climate Data Partnership to make sure the data from these platforms is widely accessible.

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Major Shifts in Global Freshwater Uncovered by NASA

Human mismanagement of scare freshwater resources is having a huge impact on the growing scarcity of this vital source of life across the globe.

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Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Human mismanagement of scare freshwater resources is having a huge impact on the growing scarcity of this vital source of life across the globe.

In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists combined an array of NASA satellite observations of the Earth with data on human activities to map locations where freshwater is changing around the globe and why. The study published today in the journal Nature found that Earth’s wet land areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting drier due to a variety of factors, including human water management, climate change and natural cycles.

A team led by Matt Rodell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, used 14 years of observations from the U.S./German-led Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft mission to track global trends in freshwater in 34 regions around the world. Researchers used satellite precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project, NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat imagery, irrigation maps, and published reports of human activities related to agriculture, mining and reservoir operations. Only through analysis of the combined data sets were the scientists able to get a full understanding of the reasons for Earth’s freshwater changes, as well as the sizes of those trends.

“This is the first time that we’ve used observations from multiple satellites in a thorough assessment of how freshwater availability is changing everywhere on Earth,” said Rodell. “A key goal was to distinguish shifts in terrestrial water storage caused by natural variability — wet periods and dry periods associated with El Niño and La Niña, for example — from trends related to climate change or human impacts, like pumping groundwater out of an aquifer faster than it is replenished.”

Freshwater is found in lakes, rivers, soil, snow, groundwater and ice. Freshwater loss from the ice sheets at the poles — attributed to climate change — has implications for sea level rise. On land, freshwater is one of the most essential of Earth’s resources, for drinking water and agriculture. While some regions’ water supplies are relatively stable, others experienced increases or decreases.

“What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change,” said co-author Jay Famiglietti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which also managed the GRACE mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We see a distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter — those are the high latitudes and the tropics — and the dry areas in between getting dryer. Embedded within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.”

Famiglietti noted that while water loss in some regions, like the melting ice sheets and alpine glaciers, is clearly driven by warming climate, it will require more time and data to determine the driving forces behind other patterns of freshwater change.

“The pattern of wet-getting-wetter, dry-getting-drier during the rest of the 21st century is predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models, but we’ll need a much longer dataset to be able to definitively say whether climate change is responsible for the emergence of any similar pattern in the GRACE data,” said Famiglietti.

The twin GRACE satellites, launched in 2002 as a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), precisely measured the distance between the two spacecraft to detect changes in Earth’s gravity field caused by movements of mass on the planet below. Using this method, GRACE tracked monthly variations in terrestrial water storage until its science mission ended in October 2017.

The GRACE satellite observations alone couldn’t tell Rodell, Famiglietti and their colleagues what was causing the apparent trends. “We examined information on precipitation, agriculture and groundwater pumping to find a possible explanation for the trends estimated from GRACE,” said co-author Hiroko Beaudoing of Goddard and the University of Maryland in College Park.

For instance, although pumping groundwater for agricultural uses is a significant contributor to freshwater depletion throughout the world, groundwater levels are also sensitive to cycles of persistent drought or rainy conditions. Famiglietti noted that such a combination was likely the cause of the significant groundwater depletion observed in California’s Central Valley from 2007 to 2015, when decreased groundwater replenishment from rain and snowfall combined with increased pumping for agriculture.

Southwestern California lost 4 gigatons of freshwater per year during the period. A gigaton of water would fill 400,000 Olympic swimming pools. A majority of California’s freshwater comes in the form of rainfall and snow that collect in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and then is managed as it melts into surface waters through a series of reservoirs. When natural cycles led to less precipitation and caused diminished snowpack and surface waters, people relied on groundwater more heavily.

The team’s analyses also identified large, decade-long trends in terrestrial freshwater storage that do not appear to be directly related to human activities. Natural cycles of high or low rainfall can cause a trend that is unlikely to persist, said Rodell. An example is Africa’s western Zambezi basin and Okavango Delta, a vital watering hole for wildlife in northern Botswana. In this region, water storage increased at an average rate of 29 gigatons per year from 2002 to 2016. This wet period during the GRACE mission followed at least two decades of dryness. Rodell believes it is a case of natural variability that occurs over decades in this region of Africa.

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