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Washington Promises to Deliver Carbon Cuts Plan by March 2015

Sep 19, 2014

The U.S. has outlined its vision of how a global climate agreement could work, and confirmed it is on track to reveal its proposed carbon cuts by March 2015.

It wants countries to offer an initial five-year plan for greenhouse gas cuts, from 2020-2025. That proposal is contested by the E.U., which wants 10 years.

"If the end date were 2030, which some have suggested, parties might be unsure about how ambitious they could be," the U.S. argues in a document sent to the UN.

"We might end up locking in ambition at a lower level than would have been possible had we first chosen 2025 and then made new contributions for 2030."

The timing of the 13-page submission from the State Department is significant, arriving five days before UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon hosts a heads of state climate summit in New York.

Last December at a summit in Warsaw leading economies committed to revealing their "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs) by the first quarter of next year.

TransCanada CEO: Keystone XL Costs Expected to Double

Sep 19, 2014
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))

TransCanada Corp.'s chief executive said the cost to build the Keystone XL pipeline, currently estimated at $5.4 billion, is expected to double by the time the U.S. government completes its review of the largest part of the project.

Russ Girling, chief executive of the Calgary, Alberta,-based company, in an interview this week said he expects the project's cost could increase to a "number that gets you into the high single digits to a 10 number."

Obama Official to Start as New NRDC President

Sep 17, 2014
(Washington Post)

Rhea S. Suh, President Obama's nominee to head the Fish and Wildlife Service at the Interior Department, was named president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group that has been particularly influential in pressing the Obama administration to move ahead with carbon dioxide limits on coal plants.

Suh becomes only the third president in the NRDC's 44-year history, replacing Frances Beinecke.

Suh is currently serving as assistant secretary of the Interior for policy, management and budget, overseeing the department's $12 billion budget and 70,000 employees. Earlier in her career she taught earth science in the New York City school system, worked as a program officer for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Hewlett Packard Foundation, and served as senior legislative assistant to then-Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Col.).

A 1992 graduate of Barnard College, she also has a master's degree from Harvard University's graduate school of education. She is a first generation Korean American and a native of Colorado.

As Climate Change Intensifies, Costs of Combating Wildfires in U.S. Expected to Soar

Sep 17, 2014
(Huffington Post)

Wildfires may cost the U.S. as much as $62.5 billion a year by 2050 as the effects of climate change worsen, argues an economic analysis released Tuesday.

Wildfires cost the U.S. government $1.7 billion in 2013, but that figure only includes firefighting. It doesn't take into account the loss of private property or timber, the loss of the ecosystem benefits forests provide, or the cost for rehabilitating burned forests. The economic loss caused by wildfires is 10 to 50 times higher than the suppression costs alone, argues a new paper from New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

While fighting wildfires is already expensive, costs are projected to rise as the climate changes and fires burn hotter, longer, and over more acres.

Economic damages, the paper's authors argue, should be taken into account when projecting future climate costs. Right now, they are not included in the so-called social cost of carbon figure that the Obama administration uses to evaluate the benefits of avoiding climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The paper argues it should be, along with a number of other costs that the three groups document as part of their Cost of Carbon effort.

Black Lung at Historically High Levels, Says Fed. Health Officials

Sep 17, 2014
(Charleston Daily Mail)

Coal miners in West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia are suffering from an advanced form of black lung at some of the highest rates in decades, according to new information released by federal health officials.

"Each of these cases is a tragedy and represents a failure among all those responsible for preventing this severe disease," states a letter about the research to a scientific journal.

The prevalence of "progressive massive fibrosis," a debilitating and lethal form of black lung, is at its highest rate since the early 1970s for miners in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, according to new research. Experts with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a department under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summarized their study in a letter published Monday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"Excessive inhalation of coal mine dust is the sole cause of (progressive massive fibrosis) in working coal miners, so this increase can only be the result of overexposures and/or increased toxicity stemming from changes in dust composition," the study states.

It's Possible to Fix Climate Change and Grow the Economy, Study Says

Sep 16, 2014

Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use, an international report said on Tuesday.

The study, by former heads of government, business leaders, economists and other experts, said the next 15 years were critical for a bigger shift to clean energies from fossil fuels to combat global warming and cut health bills from pollution.

"It is possible to tackle climate change and it is possible to have economic growth at the same time," Felipe Calderon, a former Mexican president and head of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, told a news conference.

Many governments and businesses wrongly fear that measures to slow climate change will undermine jobs and growth, he said. The report is meant to guide world leaders at a Sept. 23 climate summit hosted by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Almost 200 nations are working on a U.N. pact, due to be agreed in Paris in late 2015, to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions. Progress to combat global warming has been slow despite two decades of work.

Proposed Textbooks Teach Climate-Change Doubt in Texas

Sep 15, 2014
(National Journal)

Texas Board of Education member David Bradley wants to set the record straight on global warming.

"Whether global warming is a myth or whether it's actually happening, that's very much up for debate," Bradley said. "Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise."

Bradley is not a climate scientist, but he's about to make big decisions governing what Texas students learn about climate change.

In November, Bradley and the rest of the state's 15-member board will vote to adopt new social-studies textbooks for public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. When he does, he says that part of his mission will be to shield Lone Star schoolchildren from green propaganda.

Instead, Bradley plans to push for textbooks that teach climate-science doubt—presenting the link between greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity and global warming as an unsubstantiated and controversial theory.

North Dakota Meets First Flare Reduction Goal Over Three Months Early

Sep 14, 2014
(Bismarck Tribune)

Statewide oil production topped 1.1 million barrels per day in July, and the state met its first benchmark to reduce flaring.

Preliminary July numbers released Friday by the Department of Mineral Resources show production of 1,110,642 barrels per day—an increase of more than 18,000 over the June figure of 1,092,519 barrels per day.

Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said July was the first time the state met a benchmark put in place to reduce flaring. He said flaring statewide dropped to 26 percent, down from 28 percent in June, but "industry's going to have to work very hard to maintain that."

Helms said short stretches of pipeline through federal land leading to two different processing plants are likely to be delayed, which could create problems with maintaining benchmarks over the winter.

New rules approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission earlier this year set benchmarks for reducing flaring as a percentage. Under the first one, statewide flaring is supposed to be down to 26 percent by Oct. 1.

Montreal Mayor to Enbridge: Line 9 Pipeline Reversal Plan Still Not Good Enough

Sep 12, 2014
(CBC News)

Denis Coderre, Montreal's mayor and head of the Montreal Metropolitan Community, says Enbridge has not met all 30 conditions set out to earn his approval on the controversial Line 9 pipeline project.

Enbridge wants to reverse the flow of Line 9, a 639-kilometer stretch of pipeline between Sarnia, Ont. and Montreal.

Right now, Line 9 runs from Montreal to Sarnia, but Enbridge wants to reverse the flow to bring Albertan crude oil to Montreal refineries. 

Coderre, speaking as head of Montreal Metropolitan Community, said Enbridge has failed to meet two of the criteria outlined by the MMC's vigilance committee.

The MMC is a planning, coordinating and funding body that represents 82 communities in the greater Montreal region.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper to Skip U.N. Climate Summit in NYC

Sep 11, 2014
(The Hill)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper won't be attending the United Nations climate summit in New York this month. 

Harper is the latest among top leaders to reveal he will not be attending the day-long summit, which is meant to build momentum for the Paris 2015 talks where countries will work to sign a global pact on greenhouse gas emissions. 

Harper will be attending a dinner hosted by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that evening, however, where climate change will be discussed, said Jason MacDonald, Harper's communications director.

Canada will be represented at the summit by Leona Aglukkaq, its minister of the environment, MacDonald said.