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Economy

New England Will Soon Be Coal-Free

On shuttered coal plants, New York’s congestion charge, and Volvo’s last diesel car

New England Will Soon Be Coal-Free
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Flood watches are in effect for the eastern half of North Carolina • Egg-sized hail smashed car windshields in eastern China • Europe is forecast to be unusually warm through April.

THE TOP FIVE

1. New England to shutter last remaining coal plant

New England will soon follow the Pacific Northwest in becoming a coal-free region. Granite Shore Power, which owns the region’s last-remaining coal plant, said it will close Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire, by 2028 at the latest. The move is voluntary, but is part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over the facility’s excessive particulate matter emissions. Granite Shore Power says it will transform the plant, as well as Schiller Station in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, into a “renewable energy park.” “The end of coal in New Hampshire, and for the New England region as a whole, is now certain and in sight,” said a statement issued by Tom Irwin, the vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation in New Hampshire. “Now we must vigorously push for the phaseout of other polluting fuels like oil and gas.” New Hampshire will be the 16th state to go coal free.

2. Louisiana to get direct air capture hub

The Department of Energy is giving the green light to Project Cypress, a cluster of facilities in southwest Louisiana that will filter carbon dioxide directly from the air and store it underground. The agency will award the project $50 million for the next phase of its development, which will be matched by $51 million in private investment. But there is a long road ahead: The project’s four implementation phases will take several years, and members of the surrounding community near Lake Charles (home to some of the most contested energy projects in the country) are skeptical the project will benefit them. Once it’s fully operational, Project Cypress is designed to capture 1 million tons of carbon from the air per year. Louisiana alone releases more than 200 million tons annually. “Even if we scale this up, we'd have to scale it up orders of magnitude higher than will ever be possible,” one Louisiana activist told Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo.

3. New York’s MTA paves the way for congestion pricing

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a plan to start charging drivers $15 for entering Manhattan below 60th Street, “the most congested district in the United States.” The congestion charge is expected to result in 100,000 fewer cars entering that region every day, reducing gridlock and improving air quality. Research shows that low-emission zones and congestion charging zones, which have been rolled out in other cities across the world, are associated with health benefits, including lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

MTA

New York would be the first city in the United States to implement such a program, but the plan faces challenges from six lawsuits that need to be settled before it can go ahead. “I’m keeping my champagne on ice until the lawsuits are resolved (which stopped a version in 1980) and no acts of Congress passed to block it (which stopped tolls on East and Harlem river bridges in 1977) and the first car is charged,” traffic analyst Sam Schwartz toldGothamist.

4. Biden administration finalizes crackdown on methane from oil and gas

The Biden administration finalized a rule yesterday requiring oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions from their operations. The rule “will hold oil and gas companies accountable” by tightening restrictions on gas flaring on federal lands and requiring producers to find and prevent leaks. “By setting a ceiling on how much gas companies can vent and flare without paying royalties, the new rule is expected to generate more than $50 million in additional payments to the federal government each year,” The Washington Post reported. “It will also conserve billions of cubic feet of gas that might otherwise have been vented, flared, or leaked.”

5. Volvo builds its last diesel car

Volvo

You’re looking at the last diesel car Volvo will ever make. The XC90 SUV rolled off the line at the carmaker’s plant in Torslanda, Sweden, this week, and will head straight to a museum, “where it will be on display for anyone wanting to ponder the noxious emissions of yore,” wrote Jennifer Mossalgue at Electrek.

As recently as 2016, diesel vehicles accounted for half the company’s sales. Noting the surprising speed of the EV revolution, Volvo credited “tightening regulations around tailpipe emissions, as well as customer demand in response to the climate crisis.” Volvo plans to be all-electric by 2030, “making it one of the first legacy carmakers to do so,” Mossalgue said.

THE KICKER

“The fact that we can say, ‘Look, this is slowing down the entire Earth’ seems like another way of saying that climate change is unprecedented and important.”–Duncan Agnew, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, whose new research suggests climate change might be affecting global timekeeping

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

Technology

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U.S. manufacturers are racing to get into the game while they still can.

Sodium-ion batteries.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Peak Energy, Natron Energy

In the weird, wide world of energy storage, lithium-ion batteries may appear to be an unshakeably dominant technology. Costs have declined about 97% over the past three decades, grid-scale battery storage is forecast to grow faster than wind or solar in the U.S. in the coming decade, and the global lithium-ion supply chain is far outpacing demand, according to BloombergNEF.

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Current conditions: Heavy rains triggered a deadly landslide in Nepal that swept away 60 people • More than a million residents are still without power in and around Houston • It will be about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Berlin on Sunday for the Euro 2024 final, where England will take on Spain.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden administration announces $1.7 billion to convert auto plants into EV factories

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Politics

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Anything decarbonization-related is on the chopping block.

Donald Trump holding the IRA.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration has shoveled money from the Inflation Reduction Act out the door as fast as possible this year, touting the many benefits all that cash has brought to Republican congressional districts. Many — in Washington, at think tanks and non-profits, among developers — have found in this a reason to be calm about the law’s fate. But this is incorrect. The IRA’s future as a climate law is in a far more precarious place than the Beltway conventional wisdom has so far suggested.

Shortly after the changing of the guard in Congress and the White House, policymakers will begin discussing whether to extend the Trump-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of 2025. If they opt to do so, they’ll try to find a way to pay for it — and if Republicans win big in the November elections, as recent polling and Democratic fretting suggests could happen, the IRA will be an easy target.

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