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Train Derailments Raise Concerns About Volatility of Alberta Tar Sands Crude

Mar 11, 2015
(Globe and Mail)

Two trains that derailed and caught fire in Northern Ontario were carrying crude from Alberta’s oil sands, suggesting concerns about the volatility of oil-by-rail shipments cannot be limited to the Bakken crude that was involved in the Lac-Mégantic tragedy and a spate of other major accidents.

The Ontario derailments of Canadian National Railway trains come after a series of conflagrations involving crude drawn from the Bakken formation, which straddles North Dakota, Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Bakken crude is widely believed to be more volatile than conventional oil and operators in North Dakota will soon be required to take extra precautions to reduce its volatility.

At least six trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and caught fire since the 2013 accident in Lac-Mégantic, which killed 47 people.

Group Wants Investigation Into Whether Fla. Banned Climate Change Talk

Mar 11, 2015
(AP)

Did Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration ban state environmental scientists from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in their work?

Scott says no, but some former employees say supervisors forbade them from using the terms — a striking charge in a U.S. state considered by climate scientists to be one of the most at risk of damage due to sea rise and stronger storms in a warming climate.

Now, an environmental group is asking for a state investigation to get to the bottom of it.

Oil Train Derails and Catches Fire in Ontario, Heightening Safety Fears

Mar 9, 2015
(Globe and Mail)

A second fiery derailment near a Northern Ontario community is adding to concerns that federal rail-safety regulations – brought into effect after the 2013 tragedy in Lac-Mégantic – do not go far enough in addressing the dangers of shipping crude oil by rail.

The accident, which occurred early Saturday morning, marks the second time in less than a month that a Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil has derailed and caught fire near the community of Gogama, Ont. Between 30 and 40 tank cars went off the tracks less than four kilometers from Gogama, about 100 kilometers south of Timmins, causing a massive blaze that was still burning Sunday afternoon.

Obama Notes Concerns Over 'Dirty' Keystone Oil Sands Extraction

Mar 7, 2015
(Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama amplified the concerns of environmentalists about the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Friday and repeated his own reservations the project would have few benefits, but said he has not made a decision on the project.

Obama, explaining the debate over the pipeline to a group of students, described concerns about the "extraordinarily dirty" extraction methods for Canadian oilsands - a description the Canadian government has long argued is unfair.

"The reason that a lot of environmentalists are concerned about it is the way that you get the oil out in Canada is an extraordinarily dirty way of extracting oil, and obviously there are always risks in piping a lot of oil through Nebraska farmland and other parts of the country," Obama told students at the town hall event.

Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails Near Illinois City and Catches Fire

Mar 6, 2015
(AP)

A freight train loaded with crude oil derailed in northern Illinois on Thursday, bursting into flames and prompting officials to suggest that everyone with 1 mile evacuate, authorities said.

The BNSF Railway train derailed around 1:05 p.m. in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand. A cause for the derailment hadn't yet been determined. No injuries were reported.

Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said at a news conference late Thursday, adding that the suggestion to evacuate was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment.

Senate Fails to Override Obama's Keystone Veto

Mar 4, 2015
(The Hill)

The Senate failed to override President Obama’s veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, falling five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed in a 62-37 vote.

It's the first time Congress has voted on whether to override Obama’s veto, and could be a sign of things to come with Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.

Nine Democrats voted with Republicans to override Obama: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Michael Bennet (Colo), Tom Carper (Del.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).

Bank of England Warns of Huge Financial Risk From Fossil Fuel Investments

Mar 4, 2015
(Guardian)

Insurance companies could suffer a “huge hit” if their investments in fossil fuel companies are rendered worthless by action on climate change, the Bank of England warned on Tuesday.

"One live risk right now is of insurers investing in assets that could be left 'stranded' by policy changes which limit the use of fossil fuels," said Paul Fisher, deputy head of the bank’s prudential regulation authority (PRA) that supervises banks and insurers and is tasked with avoiding systemic risks to the economy.

"As the world increasingly limits carbon emissions, and moves to alternative energy sources, investments in fossil fuels – a growing financial market in recent decades – may take a huge hit," Fisher told an insurance conference. He said there "are already a few specific examples of this having happened," but did not name them, and added that it was clear his concerns had yet to "permeate" the sector.

The new warning from one of the world’s key central banks follows a caution from its head Mark Carney that the "vast majority of [fossil fuel] reserves are unburnable" if climate change is to be limited to 2C, as pledged by the world’s governments. The bank will deliver a report to government on the financial risk posed by a "carbon bubble" later in 2015.

"It is encouraging to see this major central bank seeing the need to move with the times and understand its role in dealing with one of the major challenges facing our economies today: climate change," said James Leaton, research director at the Carbon Tracker Initiative. “We hope to see other financial regulators around the world responding in a similar fashion and collaborating on this issue."

A series of analyses have shown that most existing reserves of fossil fuels cannot be burned without blowing the safe budget for carbon emissions. A study in January indicated that 80% of coal reserves, half of gas and a third of oil would have to stay in the ground. But companies spent $670bn (£436bn) in 2013 alone searching for more fossil fuels, investments that could be worthless if action on global warming slashes allowed emissions.

Europe Releases Vision for Paris Climate Change Deal

Feb 25, 2015
(RTCC)

The European Commission has outlined its vision of a UN climate change deal, set to be signed off this December in Paris.

A document released today says governments should target greenhouse gas emission cuts of “at least” 60% on 2010 levels by 2050, with countries belonging to the G20 taking the lead.

Europe's own initial contribution will be 40% carbon cuts on 1990 levels of by 2030, a decision backed by member states last October and set to be confirmed in March.

The proposed climate pact, due to be settled in Paris, should be in the form of a legally binding Protocol agreed under the UN, says the Commission.

IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri Resigns

Feb 24, 2015
(Guardian)

The chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, resigned on Tuesday, following allegations of sexual harassment from a female employee at his research institute in Delhi.

The organisation will now be led by acting chair Ismail El Gizouli until the election for a new chair which had already been scheduled for October.

“The actions taken today will ensure that the IPCC’s mission to assess climate change continues without interruption,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which is a sponsor of the IPCC.

Pachauri, 74, is accused of sexually harassing a 29-year-old female researcher shortly after she joined The Energy and Resources Institute. Lawyers for the woman, who cannot be named, said the harassment by Pachauri included unwanted emails, text messages and WhatsApp messages.

Pachauri, one of the UN’s top climate change officials, has denied the charges and his spokesman said: “[He] is committed to provide all assistance and cooperation to the authorities in their ongoing investigations.” His lawyers claimed in the court documents that his emails, mobile phone and WhatsApp messages were hacked and that criminals accessed his computer and phone to send the messages in an attempt to malign him.

In his letter of resignation to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, he said: “The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which under the current circumstances I am unable to provide.”

Pachauri thanked the thousands of scientists who had worked for free on the IPCC’s reports and made an “unmatched contribution to global society.” He added: “I will continue to [work on climate change] assiduously throughout my life in what ever capacity I work. For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than my mission, It is my religion.”

Dem Wants Disclosure of Funding Behind Climate Testimony

Feb 23, 2015
(The Hill)

The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee is pressing university heads to disclose documents that would reveal the extent to which faculty received compensation from industry when researching climate change. 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) released letters on Tuesday that were sent to seven different university presidents requesting information pertaining to specific professors that testified before Congress on climate change.

The letters ask for documents that reveal "sources of external funding," such a consulting fees and promotional considerations that professors receive. 

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