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Offshore Oil Platform in Gulf of Mexico Fire Kills One Worker, Injures 45

Apr 1, 2015
(Fuel Fix)

A fire on a Pemex offshore platform in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche Wednesday killed at least one worker, injured 45 and forced evacuation of 300, according to multiple media reports.

The platform off the southeastern coast of Mexico is owned by state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, which said on its website that one worker was dead and that it was battling the fire with eight firefighting vessels.

Obama Administration OKs Arctic Lease Sale, Shell's Drilling Plans on Track

Apr 1, 2015
(Fuel Fix)

The Obama administration reaffirmed a 2008 government auction of Arctic drilling rights on Tuesday, delivering a major victory to Shell Oil Co. as it aims to resume exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

In validating the seven-year-old auction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed that the Arctic "is an important component of the administration’s national energy strategy."

"We remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration offshore Alaska," Jewell said in a statement. "This unique, sensitive and often challenging environment requires effective oversight to ensure all activities are conducted safely and responsibly."

U.S. to Submit Climate Change Plan to UN; Most Others Delay

Mar 29, 2015
(Reuters)

The United States will submit plans for slowing global warming to the United Nations early this week but most governments will miss an informal March 31 deadline, complicating work on a global climate deal due in December.

The U.S. submission, on Monday or Tuesday according to a White House official, adds to national strategies beyond 2020 already presented by the 28-nation European Union, Mexico, Switzerland and Norway.

Together, they account for about a third of world greenhouse emissions. But other emitters such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Australia say they are waiting until closer to a Paris summit in December, meant to agree a global deal.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to EPA Power Plant Regulations

Mar 25, 2015
(Guardian)

The US supreme court is taking up a challenge by industry groups and Republican-led states that want to roll back Obama administration environmental rules aimed at reducing power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants that contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in a case about the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to take action against coal- and oil-fired power plants that are responsible for half the nation’s output of mercury. The EPA’s rules on emissions of chromium, arsenic, acid gases, nickel, cadmium as well as mercury and other toxic substances is supposed to begin taking effect in April, and be in full force next year.

The court is to decide whether the Clean Air Act requires that costs be a factor in the initial decision on whether to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants, or whether health risks are the only consideration. The EPA did factor in costs, but only at a later stage when it wrote the standards that are expected to reduce the toxic emissions by 90%.

The costs of installing and operating equipment to remove the pollutants before they are dispersed into the air are hefty – $9.6bn a year, the EPA found.

But the benefits are much greater, $37bn to $90bn annually, the agency said. The savings stem from the prevention of up to 11,000 deaths, 4,700 nonfatal heart attacks and 540,000 lost days of work, the EPA said. Mercury accumulates in fish and is especially dangerous to pregnant or breastfeeding women, and young children, because of concern that too much could harm a developing brain.

A disproportionate share of the 600 affected plants, most of which burn coal, are in the south and upper midwest. Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette, representing 21 states at the supreme court, said the law requires the EPA to take account of costs before deciding whether to step in. The states and industry groups also said the agency overstated the benefits of reducing mercury emissions.

Oil Giant BP Drops Membership With ALEC

Mar 23, 2015
(National Journal)

Major oil-and-gas corporation BP announced Monday it is parting ways with the American Legislative Exchange Council, marking just the latest—and likely most significant—departure of a blue-chip company from the conservative group in recent months, National Journal has learned.

A BP spokesman confirmed that the company had chosen to not renew its membership in ALEC, a controversial coalition of corporations and state legislators that actively opposes environmental regulations, at the end of the year.

"We continually assess our engagements with policy and advocacy organizations, and based on our most recent assessment, we have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC," the spokesman said.

Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Low for Winter Maximum

Mar 19, 2015
(Guardian)

Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said on Thursday that at its peak the ice covered just over 14.5m sq km of the northern seas. This was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous lowest maximum in 2011.

The peak occurred on 25 February, which the NSIDC's senior research scientist Ted Scambos said was "very early but not unprecedented."

Climate change is driving declining ice coverage in the Arctic, with a recent study found it has also become significantly thinner, down 65% since 1975.

Scambos said northern oceans have progressively warmed because of climate change. This winter, the warmer seas combined with mild weather to create exceptionally poor conditions for the annual freeze.

"[The record low extent] is significant, in that it shows that the Arctic is being seriously impacted by our warming climate," said Scambos. "In general, sea ice retreat has proceeded faster than modelling expects in the Arctic, although models are catching up."

Obama to Order Cuts in Federal Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mar 19, 2015
(New York Times )

President Obama will sign an executive order on Thursday to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions, a White House official said, his latest use of presidential power to address the root causes of climate change.

It is part of Mr. Obama’s effort during his last two years in office to use an expansive interpretation of his presidential authority to counter strong opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress to enacting climate legislation.

Having failed during his first term to push a cap-and-trade bill through Congress, Mr. Obama has begun a systematic effort to regulate pollution through the existing Clean Air Act, advancing new rules on emissions from cars and trucks, power plants and oil and gas wells.

U.S. Catholics Lead in Concern About Climate Change, Says Yale Study

Mar 19, 2015
(Reuters)

Pope Francis might be preaching to the choir on climate change when he releases his environmental- and sustainability-focused encyclical later this year.

A study released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has found that more Catholics in the United States are worried about global warming than other Christian groups and they are more supportive of policy action to reduce the effects of climate change.

The findings come as Pope Francis has taken a strong stance backing action on climate change, saying it is largely a man-made problem and that it risks the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.

Canada Regulator Probing TransCanada Over Safety Allegations

Mar 19, 2015
(Reuters)

Canada's energy regulator is investigating up to a dozen new allegations of natural gas pipeline safety-code violations at TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO), according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

The regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), and the company confirmed an investigation is under way but offered few details of the allegations.

It marks the second time in recent years the regulator has probed safety practices at Canada's second-largest pipeline company following complaints by a whistleblower.

Documents reviewed by Reuters showed the allegations include faulty or delayed repairs, sloppy welding work and a failure to report key issues to the regulator.

House Passes Bill to Ban EPA 'Secret Science'

Mar 19, 2015
(The Hill)

The House passed a bill Wednesday that aims to increase public scrutiny of the scientific research behind Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Passed 241-175, the GOP bill would prohibit the EPA from using so-called "secret science" to justify its rules.

Instead, the EPA would have to make public the details of all the research upon which its rules rely. If a rule's science isn't made public, the EPA would not be allowed to write the rule.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman. It answers a common GOP claim that the EPA uses "secret science" that prevents the public and the agency’s opponents from criticizing research.

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