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Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hits Record Low for Winter Maximum

Mar 19, 2015

Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for its maximum extent in winter, which scientists said was a result of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said on Thursday that at its peak the ice covered just over 14.5m sq km of the northern seas. This was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous lowest maximum in 2011.

The peak occurred on 25 February, which the NSIDC's senior research scientist Ted Scambos said was "very early but not unprecedented."

Climate change is driving declining ice coverage in the Arctic, with a recent study found it has also become significantly thinner, down 65% since 1975.

Scambos said northern oceans have progressively warmed because of climate change. This winter, the warmer seas combined with mild weather to create exceptionally poor conditions for the annual freeze.

"[The record low extent] is significant, in that it shows that the Arctic is being seriously impacted by our warming climate," said Scambos. "In general, sea ice retreat has proceeded faster than modelling expects in the Arctic, although models are catching up."

Obama to Order Cuts in Federal Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Mar 19, 2015
(New York Times )

President Obama will sign an executive order on Thursday to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions, a White House official said, his latest use of presidential power to address the root causes of climate change.

It is part of Mr. Obama’s effort during his last two years in office to use an expansive interpretation of his presidential authority to counter strong opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress to enacting climate legislation.

Having failed during his first term to push a cap-and-trade bill through Congress, Mr. Obama has begun a systematic effort to regulate pollution through the existing Clean Air Act, advancing new rules on emissions from cars and trucks, power plants and oil and gas wells.

U.S. Catholics Lead in Concern About Climate Change, Says Yale Study

Mar 19, 2015

Pope Francis might be preaching to the choir on climate change when he releases his environmental- and sustainability-focused encyclical later this year.

A study released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has found that more Catholics in the United States are worried about global warming than other Christian groups and they are more supportive of policy action to reduce the effects of climate change.

The findings come as Pope Francis has taken a strong stance backing action on climate change, saying it is largely a man-made problem and that it risks the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.

Canada Regulator Probing TransCanada Over Safety Allegations

Mar 19, 2015

Canada's energy regulator is investigating up to a dozen new allegations of natural gas pipeline safety-code violations at TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO), according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

The regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), and the company confirmed an investigation is under way but offered few details of the allegations.

It marks the second time in recent years the regulator has probed safety practices at Canada's second-largest pipeline company following complaints by a whistleblower.

Documents reviewed by Reuters showed the allegations include faulty or delayed repairs, sloppy welding work and a failure to report key issues to the regulator.

House Passes Bill to Ban EPA 'Secret Science'

Mar 19, 2015
(The Hill)

The House passed a bill Wednesday that aims to increase public scrutiny of the scientific research behind Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

Passed 241-175, the GOP bill would prohibit the EPA from using so-called "secret science" to justify its rules.

Instead, the EPA would have to make public the details of all the research upon which its rules rely. If a rule's science isn't made public, the EPA would not be allowed to write the rule.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman. It answers a common GOP claim that the EPA uses "secret science" that prevents the public and the agency’s opponents from criticizing research.

Oil Shipments to Restart in Pipeline That Broke Under Yellowstone River

Mar 12, 2015

A Wyoming company is preparing to resume oil shipments through a pipeline that broke and spewed 30,000 gallons of crude into Montana's Yellowstone River, even as most of the spilled oil remains unrecovered.

Cleanup is on hold near the small city of Glendive, where the water supply for 6,000 residents was temporarily contaminated.

Efforts to remove oil from the Yellowstone will resume after it's clear of ice and safe to work on, said a spokesman for Bridger Pipeline LLC, the company responsible for the spill. But prospects were considered slim for much more crude to be recovered so long after the spill.

The Casper, Wyo., company began restarting a 50-mile section of the pipeline that runs south of the spill site to Baker, Montana on Wednesday, spokesman Bill Salvin said.
Workers also have been setting up equipment to drill a new passage for the line deeper beneath the river, under an order from federal regulators.

Koch Industries Won't Comply With Dems' Probe into Fossil Fuel Money in Climate Research

Mar 11, 2015

The industrial conglomerate run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is refusing to provide Democratic lawmakers with information on whether it has paid for climate change research.

Last month, three Democratic senators sent 100 letters to an assortment of fossil-fuel companies and organizations seeking information on whether they have backed research into global warming and other environmental topics.

Koch Industries Inc., which includes refining, chemical and pipeline companies, was among the recipients.

But in a March 5 letter obtained by The Associated Press, Mark V. Holden, Koch's senior vice president and general counsel, wrote that such information treads on First Amendment rights.

Read the full letter.

Climate Skeptics Attempt to Block Merchants of Doubt Film

Mar 11, 2015

On screen, the man widely regarded as the grandfather of climate denial appears a genial participant in a newly-released expose about industry’s efforts to block action on global warming.

But behind the scenes, Fred Singer has lobbied fellow climate deniers to try to block the film, Merchants of Doubt, and raised the prospect of legal action against the filmmaker.

“It’s exactly what we talk about in the film. It’s a product of a playbook which is to go after the messengers and attack and try and change the conversation, and try to intimidate, and it is very effective,” said Robert Kenner, the filmmaker.

Since the film’s release, Kenner, and Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor and co-author of the book on which the documentary is based, have come under attack in climate denier blogs, and in email chains.

The backlash appears to have been initiated by Singer, 90, a Princeton-trained physicist who has a cameo in the film.

Singer dismisses the dangers of secondhand smoking. He also denies human activity is a main cause of climate change. “It’s all bunk. It’s all bunk,” a seemingly jovial Singer says in the film.

By last autumn however Singer appeared to be having second thoughts about his participation in the project.

In a series of email exchanges with a global network of climate deniers from Christopher Monckton to the Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon, Singer raises the prospect of blocking the film’s release.

“Gents, Do you think I have a legal case against Oreskes? Can I sue for damages? Can we get a legal injunction against the documentary?” Singer wrote last October. “I need your advice.”

Train Derailments Raise Concerns About Volatility of Alberta Tar Sands Crude

Mar 11, 2015
(Globe and Mail)

Two trains that derailed and caught fire in Northern Ontario were carrying crude from Alberta’s oil sands, suggesting concerns about the volatility of oil-by-rail shipments cannot be limited to the Bakken crude that was involved in the Lac-Mégantic tragedy and a spate of other major accidents.

The Ontario derailments of Canadian National Railway trains come after a series of conflagrations involving crude drawn from the Bakken formation, which straddles North Dakota, Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Bakken crude is widely believed to be more volatile than conventional oil and operators in North Dakota will soon be required to take extra precautions to reduce its volatility.

At least six trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and caught fire since the 2013 accident in Lac-Mégantic, which killed 47 people.

Group Wants Investigation Into Whether Fla. Banned Climate Change Talk

Mar 11, 2015

Did Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration ban state environmental scientists from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in their work?

Scott says no, but some former employees say supervisors forbade them from using the terms — a striking charge in a U.S. state considered by climate scientists to be one of the most at risk of damage due to sea rise and stronger storms in a warming climate.

Now, an environmental group is asking for a state investigation to get to the bottom of it.