Pulitzer winning climate news.
facebook twitter subscribe
view counter

Tweets

ICNfreesubscription

KeystoneBeyondPreviewBlock

Donate to InsideClimate News through our secure page on Network for Good.

EagleFordProjectPreviewBlock

BloombergLegacyPreviewBlock

CleanBreakAdAmazon

Guest Writer's articles

Michigan County Embraces Giant Wind Farms, Bucking a Trend

Gratiot County is hoping to have three large-scale wind farms within the next few years, at a time when many communities are imposing moratoria

By M. Lisa Weatherford, Midwest Energy News

Mar 22, 2011
Windmills in Michigan

While many communities are imposing moratoria on commercial wind farms, one mid-Michigan county is putting out the welcome mat to not one but potentially three major wind developments.

The first wind farm, a $440 million project with more than 125 turbines, will be up and spinning in Gratiot County by the end of 2011. Close on its heels are two more projects that are in different stages of development and could bring several hundred additional turbines within the next few years.

Gratiot County is a bucolic rural setting where farming is the primary occupation and barns and silos dot the flat landscape for miles. For the most part, these farmers are welcoming the wind development as a means of income, a way to sustain family farms and as a boon to both the local economic and natural environments.

Welcome Mat Still Out for New U.S. Nuclear Plants

Even environmental activists, who say events in Japan provide an opening to change opinions, do not anticipate opposition to new reactors in the Southeast

By Matthew Bigg, Reuters

Mar 20, 2011
Vogtle Plant Construction

ATLANTA—For much of the world, Japan's nuclear crisis has heightened concerns about nuclear power. But in the U.S. Southeast, where the next set of reactors are planned, the concerns are not so great.

Even environmental activists — those with deep-seated reservations about nuclear safety who say events in Japan provide an opening to change opinions — do not anticipate a radical shift.

No reactors have been commissioned in the United States since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in which a reactor suffered a partial meltdown.

The next four are due to come online in Georgia and South Carolina between 2016 and 2019, pending regulatory approval, in a region that is one of the country's most conservative.

As a result, powerful utility companies play an outsized role in shaping public debate and defusing potential opposition from lawmakers, activists said.

Special Report - Mistakes, Misfortune, Meltdown: Japan's Crisis

An examination of Japan's effort to contain its escalating nuclear disaster reveals a series of missteps, bad luck and desperate improvisation

By Kevin Krolicki, Reuters

Mar 17, 2011
Earthquake damage in Wakuya, Japan.

By Thursday morning the last line of defense came down to this: a police water cannon, a helicopter maneuver designed for wildfires and a race against time to get the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant rewired to the grid.

As a crew of about 100 Japanese workers and soldiers battled to keep a string of six nuclear reactors from meltdown just short of a week into Japan's nuclear crisis, the arsenal of weapons at their disposal remained improvised, low-tech and underpowered.

A police riot control truck was hauled in over uneven roads to keep a spray of water on the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors. In the air above, Japan Self-Defense Forces helicopters made runs with baskets of water in a desperate attempt to cool exposed fuel rods believed to have already partly melted down.

Meanwhile, technicians were dashing to complete what amounts to the world's largest extension cord: an electric cable to connect the stricken plant from the north and allow Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs the plant, to restart critical water pumps taken out by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on the afternoon of Friday, March 11.

An examination by Reuters of Japan's effort to contain its escalating nuclear disaster reveals a series of missteps, bad luck and desperate improvisation.

Japan Accident Shows Dilemma Over Nuclear Plant Sites

Crisis exposes dilemma of whether to build reactors on tsunami-prone coasts or inland sites where water supplies are already unreliable from climate change

Alister Doyle, Reuters

Mar 15, 2011
Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant

Japan's nuclear accident exposes the dilemma of whether to build power plants on tsunami-prone coasts or inland sites where water supplies are unreliable, a problem likely to be aggravated by climate change, experts say.

Many of the world's 442 nuclear power reactors are by the sea, rather than by lakes or rivers, to ensure vast water supplies for cooling fuel rods in emergencies like that at the Fukushima plant on Japan's east coast.

"It's quite a conundrum," said Ian Jackson, a nuclear energy fellow at Chatham House in Britain. "If you are in a geologically stable area, a coastal location is still the best option."

Obama Vows to Dampen Fuel Prices, Calls for Energy Reform

Pres. Obama summoned lawmakers 'to work together' to reduce energy demand and end reliance on oil in order 'to finally secure America's energy future'

By Jeff Mason, Reuters

Mar 11, 2011
President Obama in the Oval Office

WASHINGTON—The United States must reduce its dependence on oil and begin to reform energy policy, President Barack Obama said on Friday, pledging to do all he could to keep gasoline prices low.

Obama, whose prospects for re-election in 2012 may hinge partly on fuel prices and their effect on the economy, said the world could manage oil supply disruptions stemming from unrest in Libya and violence across the Middle East and North Africa.

He said he was prepared to tap U.S. strategic oil reserves quickly if necessary, though he declined to say what price oil would have to hit in order to trigger such intervention.

The White House has emphasized repeatedly that Obama is aware of the strain that rising fuel prices place on Americans' budgets. The White House rejects criticism from Republicans that its policies have led to less domestic oil production — a theme that may surface in the 2012 campaign.

Water Checks Deficient at Canada Oil Sands: Report

An Alberta government-sponsored scientific panel has backed claims that oil sands development is polluting waterways, and urges more stringent monitoring

By Jeffrey Jones, Reuters

Mar 10, 2011
oil sands mining Sunco

CALGARY, ALBERTA—A government-sponsored scientific committee studying water monitoring in Canada's oil sands has backed assertions that multibillion-dollar energy developments are polluting waterways and it urges more stringent oversight.

The report by the independent scientists, appointed by Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, said an incendiary study by water ecologists last year appeared to be right in its contention that toxic substances downstream from the developments do not occur naturally.

An industry-funded body had long said heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic aromatic compounds, or PACs, found in the Athabasca River watershed north of Fort McMurray, in northern Alberta, occurred naturally as bitumen leached into the river.

EU Commission Report Urges 25% Carbon Emissions Cut by 2020

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, fended off intense pressure from lobbyists who opposed raising the target from 20 percent

By Fiona Harvey, Guardian

Mar 8, 2011
EU climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard

Europe's climate chief has beaten off intense lobbying from businesses to secure a key victory in the battle over greenhouse gas targets.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, published on Tuesday afternoon her long-awaited report into how the EU can toughen its climate targets in a cost-effective manner, with a proposal that the EU could raise its current targets on emissions cuts from 20 percent emissions cuts to 25 percent cuts by 2020.

Despite pressure from business groups to remove the proposal, and retain a clear commitment to stick at the lower 20 percent target, it remained in the final draft of the "roadmap to 2050," seen by the Guardian ahead of publication.

Decades After Spill, Exxon Valdez Case Back in Court

An Alaska environmentalist is seeking to persuade a federal judge to compel Exxon to pay an unpaid $92 million claim, plus another $23 million in interest

By Yereth Rosen, Reuters

Mar 6, 2011
oil spill cleanup Exxon Valdez
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA— More than two decades after the Exxon Valdez supertanker struck a reef and unleashed the nation's biggest tanker spill, a lingering legal dispute about the disaster was back in court on Friday.

At issue in a U.S. District Court hearing in Anchorage is an unpaid $92 million claim by the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Alaska for what they consider long-term environmental damage unexpected at the time of the grounding.

The claim was made five years ago under a special "reopener" provision of the governments' 1991 civil settlement with Exxon, in which the oil company paid $900 million.

That money was paid over a decade into a trust account that funds environmental restoration projects and scientific work.

But persisting environmental impacts prompted the federal and state governments to present the reopener bill to Exxon Mobil, Exxon Corp's successor.

As U.S. Moves Ahead with Nuclear Power, No Solution for Radioactive Waste

A pair of legal actions against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raises fresh questions over how and where to store the nation's growing nuclear waste

By Abby Luby

Mar 3, 2011
Three Mile Island nuclear station

President Obama has won wide bipartisan support for his determination to revive American nuclear power — a low-carbon energy solution that electric utilities and conservatives can support.

But a pair of legal actions last month could complicate matters for Washington by forcing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to address a longstanding and almost intractable problem: How and where to store the highly radioactive waste.

For many, the separate suits by state attorneys general and environmental groups raise fresh questions over why America is pouring billions into a nuclear renaissance with no long-term strategy for handling waste from the nation's existing facilities.

"The waste problem is the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry," said Daniel Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a California-based nuclear watchdog.

Trial Begins for Activist Accused of Crashing Utah Drilling Auction

Tim DeChristopher, who bid $1.7 million for oil and gas leases he couldn't pay for, faces up to 10 years in prison in a trial expected to end Thursday

By Bibi van der Zee, Guardian

Feb 28, 2011
Tim DeChristopher speaking to the media

Editor's Note: In advance of Tim DeChristopher's trial, SolveClimate News conducted exclusive interviews with the environmental activist on why he chose to cross legal boundaries. The seven-part video series can be viewed here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

The trial has begun of a U.S. activist accused of sabotaging an oil and gas land auction by bidding $1.7 million for land parcels that he could not pay for. Tim DeChristopher, whose case has attracted support from high-profile environmentalists including actor Daryl Hannah and environmentalist Bill McKibben, faces up to 10 years' jail if found guilty.

At an auction in Utah on 19 December, 2008 — the last before the end of George Bush's term in office, and seen as a gift for the oil and gas industry — 130,000 acres of land near pristine areas of Utah such as Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument were due to be sold off.