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Nebraska Court Date Pushes Final Keystone XL Decision Past the Midterms

Jul 9, 2014
(The Washington Post)

The Nebraska Supreme Court will announce as soon as Thursday that it will hear oral arguments in the case over the Keystone XL pipeline's route in early September, effectively postponing any final federal decision on the controversial project until after the midterm elections.

In April, the State Department announced that it would not issue a determination on whether the pipeline was in the nation's interest until Nebraska resolved whether the project's path through the state complied with state law. A group of landowners is challenging the decision by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to sign legislation designed to speed the project by approving its route and letting the company use the power of eminent domain in negotiating right of way for the project.

Nebraska to High Court: Keystone Pipeline Route Is Legal

Jul 9, 2014
(Bloomberg)

The Keystone XL pipeline's proposed route through Nebraska was legally drawn, lawyers for the state told its Supreme Court in defending legislation, struck down by a state judge, that gave the job to the governor and the conduit's builder.

With President Barack Obama's approval of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)'s planned $5.4 billion pipeline still pending, Nebraska's attorneys in a filing yesterday reiterated their argument for reversing Judge Stephanie Stacy's February ruling in favor of landowners who challenged the route selection measure.

The judge said the law that allowed the company and Governor Dave Heineman to map Keystone's path breached a provision of the state constitution reserving that power to Nebraska's Public Service Commission.

Mysterious Blast at Chevron Plant Shakes Pollution-Weary Texas Town

Jul 9, 2014
(Grist)

A yet-to-be-explained explosion at a Chevron Phillips chemical plant in Port Arthur, Texas, last night has the community in a bit of an uproar, judging by Facebook updates I've been collecting throughout the day. Chevron referred to it as a "localized fire," in its statement to the media. Whatever the label, it injured two of the plant's workers, and badly enough that highway traffic was stopped so a medical helicopter could come take one to the hospital.

Hilton Kelley, the Port Arthur environmental justice activist who won the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2011, got as close to the scene as possible to take pictures of the fires." These events are very common in this community (where) thousands of pounds of dangerous toxins are released when these emission events [sic] happen," he wrote on his Facebook page, where he posted the pics.

House GOP Funding Bill Would Block Obama’s Climate Rules

Jul 8, 2014
(The Hill)

House Republicans unveiled a funding bill Tuesday for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would block proposed rules to limit carbon pollution from power plants and redefine the federal government’s jurisdiction over lakes and streams.

The appropriations bill would give the EPA $7.5 billion for fiscal 2015, 9 percent below 2014's level. The measure includes $24 million in cuts to the EPA’s administrative programs, such as the administrator’s office and congressional affairs, and also funds the Interior Department.

Study: Tar Sands Pollutants Contaminate Traditional First Nations' Foods

Jul 7, 2014
(The Globe and Mail)

New scientific research has found that wild-caught foods in northern Alberta have higher-than-normal levels of pollutants the study associates with oil sands production, but First Nations are already shifting away from their traditional diets out of fears over contamination.

The research, to be officially released on Monday, found contaminants in traditional foods such as muskrat and moose, and that aboriginal community members feel less healthy than they did a generation ago, according to an executive summary obtained by The Globe and Mail.

TransCanada’s Donation to Canadian Town Means Silence on Pipeline

Jul 6, 2014
(Bloomberg)

TransCanada Corp. (TRP) provided an Ontario town along the proposed Energy East pipeline route with cash to buy a rescue truck on conditions that include the municipality not comment on the company's operations.

TransCanada gave Mattawa C$30,000 ($28,200) under its community engagement program, according to an agreement appended to the agenda of the town council's June 23 meeting. The city agreed to "not publicly comment on TransCanada's operations or business projects" for five years as part of the agreement, the document showed.

Calgary-based TransCanada plans to apply for a permit this year for Energy East, which would supply crude to the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf Coast as well as European and Asian markets. The 1.1 million barrel per day pipeline would consist of a converted natural gas line that passes near Mattawa as well as new pipe installed farther east.

Cape Wind Gets $150M Boost in DOE Loan Guarantees

Jul 3, 2014
(Boston Globe )

The U.S. government is promising to back the controversial Cape Wind project with $150 million, federal officials said, signaling a vote of confidence that the offshore wind farm will get built.

The support will come in the form of a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. With this federal commitment, which still needs to be finalized, Cape Wind would have raised $1.45 billion, or nearly 60 percent of the estimated $2.5 billion it will take to build more than 100 turbines in Nantucket Sound.

"All of it has been coming together," said Peter W. Davidson, executive director of the Energy Department's Loan Programs Office. "It's a great project, and we believe it will give birth to a very important industry."

NASA Launches Satellite to Monitor Climate Change After 2009 Failure

Jul 2, 2014
(AP)

A rocket carrying a NASA satellite lit up the pre-dawn skies Wednesday on a mission to track atmospheric carbon dioxide, the chief culprit behind global warming.

The Delta 2 rocket blasted off from California at 2:56 a.m. and released the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite in low-Earth orbit 56 minutes later, bringing relief to mission officials who lost a similar spacecraft five years ago.

The flight was "a perfect ride into space," said Ralph Basilio, the OCO-2 project manager, at a post-launch press conference.

3 Consecutive Months of CO2 Levels Above 400 PPM

Jul 2, 2014
(Climate Central)

April fell first. It lasted through May. Now June will be the third month in a row with average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million.

Atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas, which helps drive global warming, haven't been this high in somewhere between 800,000 and 15 million years.

And while the 400 ppm mark is somewhat symbolic (as the increase in warming between 399 ppm and 400 ppm is small), it serves to show how much carbon dioxide has been put into the atmosphere since preindustrial times, when concentrations were around 280 ppm. The increase in this and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has warmed Earth's average temperature by 1.6°F since the beginning of the 20th century. World leaders agreed at a U.N. summit in 2009 to limit warming to 3.6°F, but prominent climate scientists like James Hansen have said that amount of warming will still be too much.

While other scientists differ on pinpointing particular numbers and limits, many who study climate change agree that some kind of action is needed.

“It is urgent that we find a way to transition to non-carbon fuels as our source of primary energy,” said Pieter Tans, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The world first passed the 400 ppm milestone on May 9, 2013. The first 400 ppm measurement of 2014 came two months earlier. CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, which have been monitored since 1958, have been steadily above that level since the beginning of April, which marked the first full month with an average CO2 level above 400 ppm.

While concentrations of CO2 have begun their seasonal decline from their May peak (which was just shy of 402 ppm), the daily averages have stayed consistently above 400 ppm. With the month almost at an end, June’s average will be above 400 ppm.

Russia's Gazprom Neft Starts Arctic Oil Drilling

Jul 1, 2014
(UPI)

A subsidiary of Russian energy company Gazprom Neft said it started drilling its single-well program in the arctic waters of the Pechora Sea.

The subsidiary, Gazpromneft-Sakhalin, started exploratory work in the Dolginskoye field on the continental shelf in the Pechora Sea.

The company said it was working on the field during ice-free months of the summer.