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Ruptured Ohio Pipeline Could Have Been Leaking Since Late February

Mar 21, 2014

Thousands of gallons of oil have been recovered from the pipeline leak in Colerain Township, and repair efforts can start because the break in the pipe has been found.

Crews continued their efforts to clean up the mess and minimize the environmental effects Thursday.

The work reached a milestone Monday night, as crews discovered the site of the leak. A 5-inch crack on the underside of the pipe caused approximately 10,000 gallons of oil to leak.

Officials said they cannot tell how long the leak had been going on, but residents said that they had been smelling oil since late February.

With the exact break site located, crews are working to make repairs, but that could take some time.

Troubling Milestone: CO2 Levels on Path to Cross 400 PPM for a Month

Mar 20, 2014
(Climate Central)

Last year, atmospheric carbon dioxide briefly crossed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. However, it didn’t cross that threshold until mid-May. This year’s first 400 ppm reading came a full two months earlier this past week and the seeming inexorable upward march is likely to race past another milestone next month.

"We're already seeing values over 400. Probably we'll see values dwelling over 400 in April and May. It's just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever," said Ralph Keeling in a blog post.

Keeling runs a carbon dioxide monitoring program for Scripps Institute of Oceanography, a position he took over from his father who started it. The program takes daily measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which sits at 11,141 feet on a volcano’s northern flank. Measurements have been recorded there continuously since March 1958. They've risen steadily since the first measurement of 313 ppm as humans have continued to burn more fossil fuels.

The graph of those concentrations is known as the Keeling Curve, one of the most iconic images in science. In addition to showing a steady rise in carbon dioxide, the graph also shows the seasonal variations in the curve. In Northern Hemisphere spring, plants burst to life and suck carbon dioxide out of the air until they die off in the fall.

Calif. Officials Prepare for Worst as Historic Drought Deepens Wildfire Risk

Mar 20, 2014

California is facing wildfires "outside of any normal bounds" as a historic drought turns drying brush and trees into a perfect tinderbox, officials have warned. The state recorded 665 wildfires from 1 January, about three times the average of 225 for this time of year, according to figures compiled by Cal Fire, the state's department of forestry and fire protection.

Each day without heavy rain deepened the risks of a catastrophic fire season and made it hard to deal with more wildfires if and when they broke out, officials warned. John Laird, the secretary for natural resources, told the Guardian: "This is going to be a fire season outside any normal bounds. Anything could happen at any time."

Although the wildfire season does not officially start until May in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, locals are adjusting to life on a year-round frontline.

"This is the first time it really hit home that we have this danger," said Annette Lambert, who lives with her husband and two young children on top of a thickly wooded slope with spectacular canyon views. More than 200 communities across the state, including those overlooking Auburn, were designated fire-risk zones in the drought.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford Resigns

Mar 20, 2014
(Wall Street Journal)

Alberta Premier Alison Redford said Wednesday she will resign as the Western Canadian province’s leader, leaving her longtime ruling party leaderless amid plunging public support levels and despite a booming economy driven by oil industry growth.

Ms. Redford, 49, has headed the centrist Progressive Conservatives since 2011, but has faced growing discontent stemming from questions about her use of public funds and a halting response from her government to criticism from opposition parties and, increasingly, the public at large.

Ms. Redford has been a tireless proponent of the energy industry, a key economic engine for the province and Canada as a whole. She visited Washington five times since becoming premier to lobby U.S. policy makers to approve the controversial Keystone XL project which would connect northern Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

Climate Change Is Putting World at Risk of Irreversible Changes, Scientists Warn in Rare Policy Intervention

Mar 18, 2014

The world is at growing risk of "abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes" because of a warming climate, America's premier scientific society warned on Tuesday.

In a rare intervention into a policy debate, the American Association for the Advancement of Scientists urged Americans to act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and lower the risks of leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations.

"As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do," the AAAS said in a new report, What we know.

"But we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action."

The United Nations' climate science panel, the IPCC, will gather in Yokohama, Japan next week to release the second in a series of blockbuster reports, this time outlining how a changing climate is affecting rainfall and heat waves, sea level and the oceans, fisheries and food security.

But the AAAS scientists said they were releasing their own assessment ahead of time because they were concerned that Americans still failed to appreciate the gravity of climate change.

Despite "overwhelming evidence," the AAAS said Americans had failed to appreciate the seriousness of the risks posed by climate change, and had yet to mobilise at a pace and scale needed to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The scientists said they were hoping to persuade Americans to look at climate change as an issue of risk management. The society said it plans to send out scientists on speaking tours to try to begin a debate on managing those risks.

The report noted the climate is warming at almost unprecedented pace.

"The rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades."

An 8F rise – among the most likely scenarios could make once rare extreme weather events – 100-year floods, droughts and heat waves – almost annual occurrences, the scientists said.

Other sudden systemic changes could lie ahead – such as large scale collapse of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, collapse of part of the Gulf Stream, loss of the Amazon rain forest, die-off of coral reefs, and mass extinctions.

"There is a risk of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes in the earth’s climate system with massively disruptive impacts," the report said.

The risks of such catastrophes would only grow over time – unless there was action to cut emissions, the scientists said.

Wyoming First State to Block Science Standards That Teach Climate Change

Mar 17, 2014
(Casper Star-Tribune)

Wyoming is the first state to block a new set of national science standards, but a week after Gov. Matt Mead signed off on the change, education advocates are still digesting what the action means for the state.

Some say the provision, which came through a last-minute budget footnote, blocks the state from considering any part of the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of K-12 standards developed by national science education groups and representatives from 26 states. Others, including the provision's author, say it prevents the wholesale adoption of the standards as they are written.

U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil

Mar 14, 2014
(New York Times)

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, BP is being welcomed back to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

An agreement on Thursday with the Environmental Protection Agency lifts a 2012 ban that was imposed after the agency concluded that BP had not fully corrected problems that led to the well blowout in 2010 that killed 11 rig workers, spilled millions of gallons of oil and contaminated hundreds of miles of beaches.

BP had sued to have the suspension lifted, and now the agreement will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new business for the company. But even more important, oil analysts said, it signifies an important step in the company’s recovery from the accident, which has been costly to its finances and reputation.

New York County Issues Moratorium on Expansion of Crude Oil Processing

Mar 13, 2014

New York's Albany County on Wednesday issued a moratorium on the expansion of crude oil processing in the Port of Albany, pending a public health investigation.

Processing and storing crude oil at the port could pose health risks, said County Executive Daniel McCoy, who estimated that the health review could take "many months."

The moratorium targets a proposed expansion at an oil-processing facility operated by Global Partners LP. The company is seeking to build several boilers that would heat crude oil before it is off-loaded and shipped for refining.

Wyoming High Court Reverses Ruling on Fracking Fluids Disclosures

Mar 12, 2014
(Casper Star-Tribune)

The Wyoming Supreme Court today reversed the ruling of a Casper judge who found ingredients used in fracking fluids are trade secrets and exempt from freedom of information requests.

The high court stopped short of issuing a decision on whether or not fracking ingredients are considered a trade secret, a designation which would exempt them from disclosure under the Wyoming Public Records Act. Instead, the justices ruled the state district court must decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not an ingredient qualifies as a trade secret.

In 2010, Wyoming became the first state in the country to require companies disclose the chemicals used for fracking to state regulators. But the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission denied requests from environmentalists and landowners' groups to publicly disclose the components used in fracking fluids, saying intense industry competition and financial investment in their development protected them against public release.

Two Dozen Arrested in Philly Oil Pipeline Protest

Mar 10, 2014
Dozens of environmentalists blocked entrances to a federal office building yesterday in Center City to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and police began arresting them.

About 40 activists stood in front of three sets of doors to the William J. Green Building, on Arch Street near 6th, as an additional 100 people sang, chanted and waved signs in support of the civil disobedience. A fourth entrance remained open.

The actions were "a preview of the resistance to come" if President Obama's administration approves the $5.3 billion project, said Alexa Ross, spokeswoman for Earth Quaker Action Team, which organized the demonstration.

Two dozen people were arrested by federal officers on charges of blocking a federal building and failure to obey an officer, Ross said.