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Keystone XL Could Mean More Global Warming Emissions Than Estimated, Study Says

Aug 10, 2014
(Los Angeles Times)

Building the Keystone XL pipeline could lead to as much as four times more greenhouse gas emissions than the State Department has estimated for the controversial project, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change that relies on different calculations about oil consumption.

Emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide became central to the Obama administration’s review of a federal permit for Keystone XL, after the president announced in June 2013 that he would let the project proceed only if "it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

Fracking Waste Tainted Groundwater and Soil at 4 Pennsylvania Sites

Aug 6, 2014
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Leaks of fracking waste water from three impoundments in Washington County have contaminated soil and groundwater, prompting the state to issue a violation notice at one site and increase monitoring and testing at another.

John Poister, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said the problems at three of Range Resources Inc.'s nine Washington County impoundments have raised concerns and increased regulators’ scrutiny. The impoundments store flowback and waste water from multiple Marcellus Shale well drilling and fracking operations.

"We have had some discussions with Range about its impoundments," Mr. Poister said. "We are looking at them and discussing things with them."

Drilling Company Owner Gets 2-Plus Years for Dumping Frack Waste in River

Aug 6, 2014
(Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The owner of a Youngstown oil-and-gas-drilling company was sentenced Tuesday to 28 months in prison for ordering employees to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River.

U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent also fined Benedict Lupo, 64, of suburban Poland $25,000. Nugent rejected defense attorney Roger Synenberg's request for home detention and a harsh fine.

Synenberg said Lupo is frail and extremely ill, as he requires dialysis treatments daily and suffers from chronic pain and diabetes.

Beijing to Ban Coal Use to Curb Air Pollution, State Media Says

Aug 5, 2014
(Reuters)

Beijing will ban coal use in its six main districts by the end of 2020, state media cited the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau as saying, as the Chinese capital steps up efforts to combat air pollution.

Beijing and the surrounding area in China's northeast is often wreathed in noxious smog, which has been cited as a factor in high rates of lung cancer.

Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan districts will all stop using coal and coal products and shut down coal-fired power plants and other coal facilities, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

Colorado: Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives Called Off With Last-Minute Deal

Aug 4, 2014
(KUSA)

Environmentalists and the governor's office struck a last-minute deal to withdraw all proposed ballot initiatives to restrict fracking for the November election, defusing a political time bomb that had driven a wedge between liberal and pro-business Democrats.

The deal, which Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) has been attempting to broker for months, avoids a costly campaign battle over the issue and the potential of more restrictive measures against oil and gas drilling in the form of a ballot question.

Farming Practices and Climate Change at Root of Toledo Drinking Water Pollution

Aug 4, 2014
(Guardian)

The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Water problems in the Great Lakes – the world’s largest freshwater system – have spiked in the last three years, largely because of agricultural pollution. Toledo draws its drinking water from Lake Erie.

Residents were warned not to drink the water on Saturday, after inspectors at the city’s water treatment plant detected the toxin known as microcystin. The toxin is produced by microcystis, a harmful blue-green algae; it causes skin rashes and may result in vomiting and liver damage if ingested. It has been known to kill dogs and other animals and boiling the water does not fix the problem; it only concentrates the toxin.

The current bloom of microcystis is concentrated in Maumee Bay in Lake Erie’s western basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A second, smaller bloom has appeared in Sandusky Bay.

The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.

The US government banned phosphorus in laundry detergents in 1988. That stopped the algal blooms for some time. But they came back to the Great Lakes in force in 2011 – forming a green scum that covered 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq miles) of water at its biggest extent – in the worst algal bloom in recorded history.

Scientists attribute the comeback in large part to changes in farming practices, including larger farms and different fertiliser practices, which send heavier loads of phosphorus into the lakes.

In the 1960s and 1970s, before the ban on phosphorus in laundry detergents, the main sources of phosphorus in Lake Erie were urban and industrial waste. Now it’s farming, which accounts for the vast majority of the phosphorus entering the lake through the Maumee River.

An Ohio state government task force found that Lake Erie received the most phosphorus of any of the Great Lakes – 44% of the total for all of the lakes. Two-thirds of that phosphorus came from crop land, with an average load of 1.43lbs per acre, the report found.

There is evidence also that a particular kind of fertiliser could be the main driver of the toxic algal blooms. Researchers from Heidelberg University say there has been a rise in dissolved reactive phosphorus, which is soluble in water and is more available to promote algal growth. The researchers found a decline in the other form of the nutrient, particulate phosphorus, over the same time period.

Circle of Blue, in a major research project on Lake Erie algal blooms, also found a potential link to a switch to no-till farming in nearby farms.

Lake Erie has also grown more susceptible to the algal blooms because of invasive species and climate change. Heavy rains in spring and early summer – a critical time for algal bloom formation – cause more phosphorus to enter the lake through agricultural runoff. Hotter temperatures then cause the blooms to spread.

The NOAA, which has been tracking harmful blooms, forecast a larger than average outbreak of toxic algae this year – although it was expected to fall short of the 2011 record.

Dozen States Led by W.Va. Sue EPA Over Climate Rule

Aug 4, 2014
(Bloomberg)

A dozen states led by West Virginia sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block a proposed rule that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The states said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the EPA from issuing power-plant rules under one section of the Clean Air Act, known as 111(d), when it has already regulated them under a separate section. The agency previously used the act to regulate hazardous air pollutants in 2012, according to the filing.

The high court ruled in 2011 that the “EPA may not employ section 111(d) if existing stationary sources of the pollution in question are regulated under...the ‘hazardous air pollutants’ program,” the states said in their filing in federal court in Washington.

Water Toxins Released by Algae Spur State of Emergency in Toledo, Ohio

Aug 3, 2014
(Newsy.com)

Residents of Toledo, Ohio, are being warned not to drink the water as it is likely toxic. 

"The governor is involved. They've declared a state of emergency. The National Guard is involved. The Ohio Department of Public Safety is involved. The Ohio emergency information center is up and running."

The city of Toledo released this notice just after midnight Saturday telling all Toledo water customers not to consume the water. The notice says two sample readings from the water treatment plant showed excesses of microcystin in the water. 

Microcystins are toxins produced by bacteria, and can cause vomiting and diarrhea when consumed.

Taiwan Gas Pipeline Explosions Kill 25, Injure 267

Aug 1, 2014
(AP)

Heavy machinery pulled vehicles from huge trenches gouged by explosions along an underground pipeline in Taiwan's second-largest city that killed at least 25 people and injured 267.

The series of five explosions from about midnight Thursday to early Friday struck a densely populated industrial district in the port of Kaohsiung where petrochemical companies operate pipelines alongside the sewer system under city streets. The cause of the disaster was being investigated.

Four firefighters were among the victims when the blasts went off hours after they'd been called to investigate gas leaks. At least six fire trucks were flung into the rubble. The blasts sent flames shooting into the sky and hurled concrete and cars through the air, leaving meter (yard) -deep trenches down the middle of several roads.

PG&E Charged With Obstruction of Justice, 27 Related Counts Over San Bruno Blast

Jul 30, 2014
(AP)

A federal grand jury charged Pacific Gas & Electric on Tuesday with lying to federal investigators in connection with a fatal pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a suburban Northern California neighborhood in 2010.

The U.S. attorney in San Francisco announced the obstruction of justice charge and 27 related counts, which are in a new indictment charging the utility with felonies. It replaces a previous indictment that contained 12 counts related to PG&E's safety practices, but not obstruction.