Appalachian town transitions from coal to tomatoes. Plus the Biden administration issues an executive order to review recent Trump-era EPA regulations. New wind power projects boost local budgets in Wyoming, and the country of Estonia pledges to contribute to the fight against climate change.
Transition of an Appalachian Town, Biden Government to Review Trump Era ETA Regulations, Boost in Local Budgets Due to Wind Power in Wyoming, Estonia’s Pledge Towards Climate Change
APPALACHIAN TOWN TRANSITIONS FROM COAL TO TOMATOES
Inside a sprawling new indoor farm near the small eastern Kentucky town of Morehead, the first harvest of tomatoes is being readied to ship to grocery stores across the country. For AppHarvest, the startup running the farm, it’s the next step in proving a new model for making our agriculture system more sustainable—and a way to bring new jobs to a region that has struggled as the coal industry collapsed.
The 2.76-million-square-foot facility, designed to grow as many as 45 million pounds of tomatoes in a year, uses far less land than traditional farms, and far less water, as it grows the food hydroponically, without soil. All of the water it does use is filtered from rainwater captured and stored on site. It doesn’t require pesticides. Unlike some other indoor farms that use LEDs calibrated to make plants grow, it relies mostly on natural light, saving energy. And while tomatoes are often trucked to the Midwest and East Coast from California or Mexico, the central location in Kentucky can also shrink the carbon footprint of delivery.
“Our big picture thesis is that most all fruit and vegetable production at scale, globally, will end up being grown in a controlled environment,” says founder and CEO Jonathan Webb. Agriculture faces multiple challenges. Climate change is leading to more drought, flooding, and extreme heat. At the same time, as the global population grows, demand is quickly growing. Soil is another challenge, as agriculture is now depleting fertile topsoil so quickly that it could be gone in 60 years. “When we talk about other extractive industries, the one thing we’re not talking enough about is what we’re extracting from our soils, and how badly we’re degrading those soils to a point to whether or not they’re fertile,” he says.
As the company begins to ship its first deliveries to grocery stores, it’s simultaneously building two more farms: another 60-plus-acre facility near Richmond, Kentucky, and a 15-acre indoor farm for leafy greens in the small city of Berea. It aims to add a dozen indoor farms in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia by 2025.
DEEPER DIVE: Fast Company
BIDEN ASKS FOR REVIEW OF TRUMP-ERA EPA ACTIONS
More news on the new administration’s day one executive orders. President Biden issued an executive order to review environmental regulations issued by his predecessor, including over a dozen Environmental Protection Agency actions impacting commercial chemicals and the chemical industry. According to a White House press release, the executive order requires federal agencies to review regulations in order to achieve its focus to ensure public health and environmental protections, as well as strengthen scientific knowledge to address climate change.
Reported by Chemical and Engineering News, the Biden administration distributed a list of specific regulations to review, including a number of controversial Trump EPA safety measures on commercial pesticides and chemicals. The Biden administration will also review the EPA’s regulations for evaluating chemical risks under 2016 revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Climate Daily will be sure to keep you up-to-date on these environmental executive orders set by the Biden administration.
DEEPER DIVE: C&EN
NEW WIND PROJECTS POWER LOCAL BUDGETS IN WYOMING
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Robin Lockman feared the worst for her town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. As the city’s treasurer, she estimated that it might lose up to 25% of its budget as tax revenues stalled and the prices of oil, gas and coal tanked, eliminating money the city typically receives from the state as royalties from the extractive energy industry. So the city did the hard work of laying off 18 employees and cutting funds for travel and training. And then a surprising thing happened: The huge deficit never arrived. In fact, over the summer, the city brought in more tax revenue than the year before.
Between July and September 2020, Cheyenne saw a 20.5% increase in tax revenue compared to 2019. In September alone, the increase was a staggering 83%, or $1.4 million. “I was in shock when I saw it,” said Lockman. She feared the good news was a mistake, so she called the Wyoming Department of Revenue to confirm the numbers. “The tax reported was legitimate, and was due to the Roundhouse Wind Project,” said Lockman, referring to an energy development west of the city. Over the last decade, investors have laid the groundwork for wind farms across Wyoming, which ranks among the nation’s top 10 states for wind capacity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The Power Company of Wyoming, a private company run by the Anschutz Corporation, is developing a facility on Carbon County’s 320,000-acre Overland Trail Ranch, just outside Rawlins.
On land long used for cattle and sheep ranching, in a county named for rich coal deposits, construction crews have built roads and turbine pads for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which will comprise nearly 1,000 wind turbines by 2026. Sixty miles east, Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of the state’s largest utility, has begun erecting 270-feet tall turbines at the Ekola Flats Wind Energy Project. The projects will create local jobs as workers operate and maintain the facilities. “Once the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project is complete, we estimate 114 permanent jobs will be created,” said Kara Choquette, Power Company of Wyoming’s communications director. The Two Rivers and Lucky Star wind projects are expected to generate another 24 long-term operations and maintenance jobs.
People in communities benefiting from the financial windfall of new projects are grateful for those extra dollars this year, one calling the wind industry “the goose that’s laying the golden egg,”
DEEPER DIVE: HCN
ESTONIA PLEDGES TO CONTRIBUTE TO GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHT
The President of Estonia, a country in Northern Europe bordering the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, pledged to contribute to the global flight against climate change through the Arctic Council. Reported by Radio Canada International, Estonia has a long history of polar research, alongside the country’s current scientific research on the resilience of Arctic ecosystems and technological advancements in e-health and clean technology. Recent developments from Estonia’s universities include self-propelled autonomous robots that research marine life cycles.
Organized by Arctic Circle, an Iceland-based non-profit, non-partisan organization, the President of Estonia spoke to international audiences during a live-stream event. Voicing reason to be included in the Arctic Council, the President of Estonia said “we, in our way, are seeking to become observers, to become contributors, to work with the scientific community and the political community to make sure that our Arctic is preserved.”
DEEPER DIVE: Radio Canada International