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Europe Releases Vision for Paris Climate Change Deal

Feb 25, 2015

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

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. 

Exxon Mobil Refinery Explosion Injures 4; Shaking With Magnitude of 1.7 Earthquake

Feb 19, 2015
(Los Angeles Times)

Four workers suffered minor injuries after a large explosion Wednesday morning at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, according to an Exxon spokesman.

The explosion was the equivalent of a magnitude 1.7 earthquake, according to Caltech.

Residents in the area were asked by police to remain indoors after the explosion. That shelter-in-place order has been lifted, but a smoke advisory was issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

About 47 firefighters responded after the explosion about 8:50 a.m. The blast was followed by a ground fire that was quickly extinguished, a Torrance fire captain said.

When firefighters arrived at the refinery, Capt. Steve Deuel said, they found flames likely fueled by gasoline.

Oil Train Derails in W. Virginia; Tanker Enters River, Towns Evacuated

Feb 17, 2015

A CSX Corp train hauling North Dakota crude derailed in West Virginia on Monday, setting a number of cars ablaze, destroying a house and forcing the evacuation of two towns in the second significant oil-train incident in three days.

One or two of the cars plunged into the Kanawha River, said Robert Jelacic of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

CSX said the train was hauling 109 cars from North Dakota to the coastal town of Yorktown, Virginia, where midstream firm Plains All American Pipelines runs an oil depot. It said one person was being treated for potential inhalation of fumes. No other injuries or deaths were reported.

Federal Environmental Review Makes Arctic Drilling More Likely

Feb 13, 2015
(Los Angeles Times)

A revised environmental review of a contested Arctic oil lease makes drilling in the area far more likely, a development that has infuriated environmentalists.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released the new environmental assessment of drilling leases on Thursday, upping the projected oil yield but saying little otherwise about the potential environmental impact.

The revised report was a particularly bitter disappointment for environmentalists, who had just celebrated the Obama administration’s decision in January to put parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off-limits from future oil and gas leasing.

Nebraska Judge Halts TransCanada's Use Of Eminent Domain For Keystone Route

Feb 13, 2015
(Huffington Post)

A Nebraska judge has issued a temporary injunction barring TransCanada from using eminent domain to force landowners to sell rights allowing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on their property.

Pipeline owner TransCanada said it will suspend all eminent domain proceedings, including those against landowners who are not among those who sued the company. The company said in a statement that it will seek an accelerated schedule for a trial.

TransCanada filed paperwork in late January to begin using eminent domain to acquire land along the pipeline path from owners who didn't agree to sell rights to the company. This came shortly after the Nebraska state Supreme Court issued a decision that essentially cleared the way for the pipeline, though it left some open legal questions about the process the state had used to approve the route.

Congress Passes Keystone XL bill, Obama Expected to Veto

Feb 12, 2015

The Republican-led Congress gave final passage on Wednesday to a bill to approve the long-pending Keystone XL pipeline, a measure that next goes to President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto it.

The bill passed by 270-152 in the House of Representatives, with only one Republican voting against it and 29 Democrats for it. The legislation passed in the Senate in late January.

Obama, a Democrat, opposes the bill because it would pluck the approval process from his administration. He wants the State Department to finish its assessment of the pipeline and make his own decision on it afterward.

Congress Set to Pass Bill Approving Keystone XL Pipeline

Feb 11, 2015

The Republican-controlled Congress is set to send a bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline to President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto it.

The House is expected to pass the bill easily Wednesday afternoon, capping weeks of debate over one of Republicans' top priorities - a bill authorizing the construction of the much-delayed pipeline. Yet support in both the Senate and House has not been enough to override a veto.

The pipeline is the first of many standoffs expected between Obama and Republicans on energy and environment.

California Calls on Pension Funds to Divest From Coal

Feb 11, 2015

America's biggest state pension funds came under rising pressure on Tuesday to dump coal companies from their combined $500bn portfolio, in a major escalation of the fossil fuel divestment campaign.

The California senate leader, Kevin de Leon, said he was introducing a bill on Tuesday calling on the two state funds – CalPERS, the public employees' pension fund, and CalSTRS, the teachers' pension funds, drop all coal holdings.

The bill is part of a larger package of climate measures – endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown – aimed at gearing up California's efforts to fight climate change.

The former US vice-president and climate champion Al Gore spoke to the CalSTRS board in Sacramento last Friday. Gore has long argued that fossil fuels are a risky proposition as a long-term investment.

"Our state's largest pension funds also need to keep their eyes on the future," De Leon, a Democrat, said in an email. "With coal power in retreat, and the value of coal dropping, we should be moving our massive state portfolios to lower carbon investments and focus on the growing clean-energy economy."

The two state funds are the biggest targets so far of a divestment movement that has moved from college campuses towards mainstream financial conversation.

CalPERS manages about $300bn in assets, including 30 coalmining companies valued at about $167m, according to a fact sheet prepared by De Leon’s office.

CalSTRS with assets of about $190bn has about $132m in coal assets.