WASHINGTON—Regulators said on Tuesday they have asked Chesapeake Energy to give information on any hazardous substances released by a Pennsylvania natural gas well that blew out last week.
The regional U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked for details, including sources of the discharge and the extent of environmental damage.
"We want a complete accounting of operations at the site to determine our next steps in this incident and to help prevent future releases of this kind," said Shawn Garvin, the EPA regional administrator.
The EPA said it requested the information on Friday about fluids used at the well in hydraulic fracturing, which is also known as fracking. Pennsylvania is taking the lead in investigating the blow out (read EPA's letter to Chesapeake).
Chesapeake said it intends to comply with EPA's request and has already communicated with the agency about its response to the incident. Chesapeake is one of the gas producers that voluntarily reveals the fracking fluids it has used at completed wells (see FracFocus, chemical disclosure registry).
Cuts in carbon emissions by developed countries since 1990 have been canceled out three times over by increases in imported goods from developing countries such as China, according to the most comprehensive global figures ever compiled.
Previous studies have shown the significance of "outsourced" emissions for specific countries, but the latest research, published on Monday, provides the first global view of how international trade altered national carbon footprints during the period of the Kyoto Protocol.
Under the protocol, emissions released during production of goods are assigned to the country where production takes place, rather than where goods are consumed.
Campaigners say this allows rich countries unfairly to claim they are reducing or stabilizing their emissions when they may be simply sending them offshore — relying increasingly on goods imported from emerging economies that do not have binding emissions targets under Kyoto.
Midwest farmers — and the land on which they rely — have prospered in recent years, even as the U.S. endured a financial crisis and economic recession.
And for better or worse, agriculture has built its good health on the fortunes of energy.
While rising global demand for food — particularly from densely populated and growing countries such as India — gets a chunk of the credit, this newfound prosperity is closely linked to the U.S. government's backing of corn-based ethanol. Farm incomes and farmland values have surged as the ethanol industry emerged and then swelled in the past decade, creating a new form of steady demand for corn and hastening the rise in value of the soil in which it grows.
Additionally, some in farm country are squeezing even more from their land by making swaths of it available for wind turbines, an emerging energy sector.
SARKOY, TURKEY—The fight to stop the global oil industry exploring the pristine deep waters of the Arctic has been dubbed the new cold war, and early on Friday it escalated as environmental activists from 12 countries occupied the world's second largest rig on its way from Turkey to Greenland to drill among the icebergs.
The protesters found the 52,000-ton semi-submersible at around midnight, steaming due west at a stately six knots in the sea of Marmaris, heading for the Dardanelle straits and the open Mediterranean. It took four more hours for Greenpeace to bring in its inflatables and a further 50 minutes in the choppy moonlit sea to intercept it.
Even from three miles away, the Chinese-built mobile rig, which specializes in drilling in extreme environments, looks huge. From 100 feet away in the pale dawn light it is a 15-storey industrial castle, bristling with cranes, derricks, gangways, chains, spars, girders, pipes, helipads and radar. Just 10 years old, it is already rusting and its paintwork is streaked from years of drilling in harsh west African, north Atlantic and Asian waters.
The Greenpeace boats approached the vessel cautiously in the three-foot swell, like fleas to the backside of an elephant. At exactly 5.31 AM, the 11 climbers began to leap on to its hull and headed for a ladder. The plan was to stop the vessel in its tracks not by taking over the bridge, but by radioing the captain and asking politely. Fat chance.
The worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history spurred federal regulators to overhaul safety rules, but critics say gaps remain that could leave America's coast vulnerable to another disaster.
A year after BP Plc's underwater Macondo well ruptured and sparked an explosion that killed 11 rig workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Interior Department's offshore drilling arm is still rolling out new regulations to address key risks.
"We do not plan to fail," said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the new regulatory agency that grew from the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which was overhauled after being widely criticized as inept.
After the Obama administration called a months-long full-stop on new U.S. deepwater drilling to review safety rules, regulators have begun issuing permits that include new plans for deepwater operators to have access to spill-containment systems that could cap a runaway well.
Critics say the potential remains for another spill.
CHICAGO — A long-stalled Chicago ordinance that could force the city’s two aging coal-burning power plants to greatly reduce emissions or shut down now has enough backing to pass at the city council’s next meeting. But proponents aren’t declaring victory yet.
The ordinance must first pass a joint committee hearing Thursday. And if the full city council does vote it into law when it meets May 4, it would likely face a legal challenge which even its most important council backer says could render it “largely symbolic.”
LOS ANGELES, CA.—California Governor Jerry Brown could still make changes to the state's ambitious plan for a greenhouse gases market, the state's climate change regulator said, even as she battles a lawsuit that could delay the program's start next year.
The lawsuit, as well as complex technical issues and the distraction of a political fight over the state budget, are all obstacles for the most populous state to get its greenhouse gases market off the ground.
California is the last hope of U.S. environmentalists to revive a national climate change agenda. The state plans to set a limit on emissions and let factories and power plants trade rights to pollute. The hope is that the most efficient will profit from their knowledge and new industries will emerge.
If it succeeds, the plan known as cap-and-trade could spread to other states. Similar legislation failed in the U.S. Congress and many hope national leaders would reconsider if California does well.
"Golden Sun" is a Chinese solar subsidy scheme, set up with the primary objective of preventing the closure of 10,000 domestic solar PV businesses during the early days of the financial crisis. But the system has lacked rigorous oversight. Moreover, small and medium-sized firms that have rushed to take advantage of the subsidies risk being burned by the project that promised to save them. In this report, Yuan Ying — winner of the "biggest impact" category at the 2011 China Environmental Press Awards — investigates.
At the end of March 2010, the second round of bidding for China's Golden Sun scheme came to a close. Since then, close to 10 billion yuan worth of subsidies has been paid by the Chinese government to the domestic solar photovoltaics (PV) industry. Almost all the money in the scheme has now been allocated.
In July 2009, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Science and the National Energy Board launched the Golden Sun Demonstration Project. Under the scheme, the government said it would pay 50 percent of the investment for qualifying solar-power plants and transmission and distribution projects. For projects in remote regions not connected to the grid, the subsidy would rise to 70 percent. Today, subsidized schemes in planning have reached around 642 megawatts.
This round of subsidies can be seen as the Chinese state's strongest ever show of support for the solar PV industry.
When Golden Sun first started, an application round was launched in each province, stirring a frenzy of activity. According to the terms of the policy, each province was allowed to apply for financial support for a maximum of 20 megawatts of solar power, but this was not strictly adhered to. Shandong, for example, applied for finance for more than 100 megawatts, while large solar companies such as the Yingli Group put forward projects of up to 50 megawatts.
In the midst of the "first-come, first-serve" boom, businesses engaged in false bidding and used low-quality products.
On July 8, 2010, as the temperature in downtown Decatur, Alabama, climbed to a sweltering 98 degrees Fahrenheit, operators at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant a few miles outside of town realized they had only one option to avoid violating their environmental permit: turn down the reactors.
For days, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which owns the nuclear plant, had kept a watchful eye on the rising mercury, knowing that more heat outside could spell trouble inside the facility. When the Tennessee River, whose adjacent waters are used to cool the reactors, finally hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit and forced Browns Ferry to run at only half of its regular power output, the TVA hoped the hot spell would last just a few days.
Eight weeks of unrelenting heat later, the plant was still running at half its capacity, robbing the grid of power it desperately needed when electricity demand from air conditions and fans was at its peak.
The total cost of the lost power over that time? More than $50 million, all of which was paid for by TVA's customers in Tennessee.
Increased tourism is threatening to exacerbate coastline erosion and loss of wetlands in poorer countries already suffering from global warming hazards. But a rising number of eco-conscious travelers are forcing some in the tourist industry to change their ways.
"Our typical client is well-educated and aware of climate change," said Derek de la Harpe, the corporate sustainability officer of Wilderness Safaris, a tourism outfit based in Botswana.
The luxury safari tour group operates 70 lodges and camps in Botswana and six other southern African countries. (Includes correction, 4/21/2011)
In Botswana, the sensitive Okavango Delta, one of the largest freshwater swamps in the world, faces unknown risks both from decades of rising temperatures as a result of global warming gases and the footprint of the 120,000 safari-goers who visit every year.
Largely in response to market demand, Wilderness Safaris has built two solar-powered camps there and is retrofitting sites that are large consumers of fossil fuel electricity, de la Harpe told SolveClimate News.
In popular ecotourism hotspots like Belize, where tourism accounts for 20 percent of the economy, the issue of greener tourism has become so prominent that a state policy is underway.