The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled a new proposal for its first major regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public lands, attempting to address at least a portion of the controversial drilling practice that's unlocked vast new supplies of U.S. oil and gas but has also raised fears about its environmental impact, particularly on local water supplies.
The proposal is softer on energy producers than an initial draft floated by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management last year. Over the past several months, oil and gas executives—including lobbyists for ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and the American Petroleum Institute—have met several times with administration officials, asking them to loosen the rule.
Environmentalists immediately slammed the proposal, saying that it gives far too many concessions to the industry and won’t protect communities from possible contamination of water tables.
"These rules protect industry, not people. They are riddled with gaping holes that endanger clean, safe drinking water supplies for millions of Americans nationwide," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Even in a bitterly divided Capitol, Democrats and Republicans joined together Thursday in a sweeping vote to confirm Ernest Moniz as Energy secretary.
The vote was 97-0.
The vote installs Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor and seasoned veteran of Washington, as the second key member of Obama’s second-term energy and environment team. The Senate last month approved outdoor retailer and conservationist Sally Jewell as Interior secretary.
After boycotting the same confirmation vote a week earlier, Republican senators agreed Thursday to show up for a committee vote on President Barack Obama’s pick to be the nation’s top air and water quality regulator.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 10-8 to move along Gina McCarthy’s nomination as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to the full Senate for a vote.
Republicans, led by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, held up the committee vote for several weeks, saying the EPA hadn’t adequately answered questions about McCarthy’s role as a deputy there. Vitter asked McCarthy a record-breaking 653 questions, out of 1,120 from the committee.
Ninety-seven percent of scientists say global warming is mainly man-made but a wide public belief that experts are divided is making it harder to gain support for policies to curb climate change, an international study showed on Thursday.
The report found an overwhelming view among scientists that human activity, led by the use of fossil fuels, was the main cause of rising temperatures in recent decades.
"There is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary," said John Cook of the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
"There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception," he said in a statement. "When people understand that scientists agree on global warming, they're more likely to support policies that take action on it."
The owner of a crude oil pipeline that runs between Maine and Montreal is asking Vermont environmental regulators to reconsider a ruling that would require a new review under the state's land-use planning law if the company seeks to move Canadian tar sands oil to Portland for possible shipment to markets across the world.
In its motion to reconsider, the Portland-Montreal Pipeline Corp. Pipeline said the coordinator of the District 7 Environmental Commission, who issued the ruling last month, got the facts wrong that she used to reach her conclusion that any effort to reverse the flow would represent a significant change that would require it to be reviewed by the state's land use development law, Act. 250.
Police had a hard time trying to figure out how to get three protestors out of solid cement near Wewoka and Holdenville Tuesday morning.
The protestors are with the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Cross Timbers Earth First.
They put themselves in the cement Monday to protest construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
On the organization’s Facebook page, they say, "A Deputy from the Hughes County Sheriff’s Department is full-force swinging a sledgehammer at one of Holly and Bailey’s lockdown devices. This is VERY dangerous. They are also now using a pneumatic drill.”
Morocco is embarking on the first of a series of mammoth solar plants that in total will raise renewable energy to 42% of its mix by 2020.
The country plans to build five huge solar plants that all come online in 2020, as well as a string of wind farms along the coast.
The first solar project is now under construction - the world's biggest concentrating solar project, Ain Beni Mathar plant. The first 160 megawatt (MW) phase is being built by a consortium led by Saudi developer ACWA Power. It should come online in 2015.
That will grow to 500 MW by 2020, covering 3000 hectares at a cost of $1.4 billion. It will supply electricity to Ouarzazate's 1.5 million residents.
Gov. Jerry Brown sparked controversy Tuesday when he proposed to shift $500 million out of the state's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and loan it to the state general fund as part of the effort to balance the budget.
The money would come from a program to limit carbon emissions by factories and other big polluters. The program allows firms to buy credits to produce more than their share of carbon emissions. The credits can be purchased from the state and other businesses that don’t use their full share.
Lending that money would be “extraordinarily disappointing,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “The governor will be delaying opportunities to use those funds to actually get critical reductions in global warming pollution,” she said.
The U.S. shale boom will send "shockwaves" through the global oil trade over the next five years, benefiting the nation’s refiners and displacing OPEC as the driver of supply growth, the IEA said.
North America will provide 40 percent of new supplies to 2018 through the development of light, tight oil and oil sands, while the contribution from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will slip to 30 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA trimmed global fuel demand estimates for the next four years, and predicted that consumption in emerging economies may overtake developed nations this year.
An Oklahoma City man was arrested Monday after he locked himself to a piece of construction equipment to protest the Keystone XL pipeline.
Bob Waldrop, 60, chose to unlock himself shortly after Holdenville firefighters arrived on the scene. Organizers said he was concerned about his safety as firefighters tried to remove him.
Waldrop subsequently was released from the Hughes County Jail after posting $250 bail.
"All farmers know that if you don't take care of your land, your land can't take care of you. And I'm here today because this pipeline is an enormous attack on the land," he said in a statement posted on the website of environmental group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. "Here in Oklahoma and all the way up the Great Plains and into Canada giant earth-moving machines are destroying ecosystems.