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New York Towns Can Prohibit Fracking, State's Top Court Rules

Jul 1, 2014
(New York Times)

In a decision with far-reaching implications for the future of natural gas drilling in New York State, its highest court ruled on Monday that towns can use zoning ordinances to ban hydraulic fracturing, the controversial extraction method known as fracking.

Since the issue arose about six years ago, there has been a statewide moratorium on fracking, and the State Health Department is currently studying its potential health effects. But in recent years some towns, worried that the state would eventually allow the practice, have taken matters into their own hands by banning fracking within their borders. Among them, two towns — Dryden, in Tompkins County, and Middlefield, in Otsego County — amended their zoning laws in 2011 to prohibit fracking, on the basis that it would threaten the health, environment and character of the communities.

California Low-Carbon Rule Survives Big Legal Challenge

Jun 30, 2014
(Sacramento Bee)

California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, one of the centerpieces of the state's fight against global warming, survived a significant legal challenge today when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit brought by oil-industry and out-of-state farm groups.

The court's decision lets stand a 2013 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the state’s low-carbon fuel standard. But opponents of the law said there will be more litigation against the standard under different legal theories. "I don't think this closes the door," said Anthony Francois of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative Sacramento group that filed court briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The standard became law in 2007 by executive order of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It requires fuel producers to reduce the "carbon intensity" of their products by 10 percent by 2020.

Rate of Deforestation in Indonesia Overtakes Brazil, Study Says

Jun 30, 2014
(Guardian)

Indonesia has greatly under-reported how much primary rainforest it is cutting down, according to the government's former head of forestry data gathering.

UN and official government figures have maintained that the country with the third biggest stretch of tropical forest after the Amazon and Congo was losing 310,00 hectares of all its forest a year between 2000 and 2005, increasing to 690,000 hectares annually from 2006 to 2010.

Exact rates of Indonesian deforestation have varied with different figures quoted by researchers and government, but a new study, which claims to be the most comprehensive yet, suggests that nearly twice as much primary forest is being cut down as in Brazil, the historical global leader.

Belinda Arunarwati Margono, who was in charge of data gathering at Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry for seven years and is now on secondment at South Dakota university, calculates that nearly 1m extra hectares of primary forest may have been felled in the last 12 years than was recorded officially.

In the paper in the journal Nature Climate Change published on Sunday, Margano says primary forest losses totaled 6.02m hectares between 2000 and 2012, increasing by around 47,600 hectares a year over this time. Because previous estimates of forest loss have included the clearing of pulp plantations and oil palm estates the real loss of primary forest has until now been obscured.

In 2012, she calculates, Indonesia lost 840,000 hectares of its primary forest, compared to 460,000 hectares in Brazil, despite its forest being roughly a quarter the size of the Amazon. This, says Margano, was the most lost by any country.

Oil Spill at Albany, N.Y. Port Contained by Crews

Jun 30, 2014
(AP)

Environmental clean-up crews have responded to an oil spill at the Port of Albany after 100 gallons of oil spilled out of a rail car.

Richard Hendrick, general manager at the port, said the spill was contained by Sunday afternoon and that no oil went into the Hudson River.

Hendrick says crews from the state Department of Environmental Control responded quickly to the incident.

Albany's river port has emerged as a major hub for rail and barge shipments of crude oil, prompting concerns about spills and fires from some residents and environmental groups.

Unitarian Universalists Vote to Divest From Fossil Fuels

Jun 29, 2014
(Providence Journal)

Delegates to the 53rd annual General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist Association voted overwhelmingly Saturday to divest from major producers and processors of fossil fuels, and pursue investment in clean-energy technologies, said spokeswoman Rachel Walden.

Of the 2,000 delegates, "it was a very small portion who voted 'No' on the business resolution," Walden said. The vote was held at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center after a half-hour discussion.

Ed Horch, of Somerville, N.J., was among those voting to divest.

"This is one tactic in an overall strategy in working against overdependence on fossil fuels," Horch said. "It's not going to cause ExxonMobil to go broke, but that’s not what it’s intended to do."

Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Grants Land Title to B.C. First Nation

Jun 26, 2014
(The Canadian Press)

For the first time, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized a First Nation's title to a specific tract of land -- a historic decision with major implications for contentious energy projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Thursday's unanimous 8-0 decision, which overturned an appeal court's ruling, will essentially make it easier for First Nations to establish title over lands that were regularly used for hunting, fishing and other activities.

The landmark ruling is the Supreme Court's first on aboriginal title and will apply wherever there are unresolved land claims.

Enbridge's Sandpiper Oil Pipeline Approved by North Dakota Regulators

Jun 26, 2014
(Bismarck Tribune)

State regulators gave their final approval Wednesday to a $2.6 billion pipeline project that could transport nearly a quarter-million barrels of crude oil daily to market.

The three-member North Dakota Public Service Commission voted unanimously in favor of the Sandpiper project during the commission's meeting at the state Capitol.

Canadian company Enbridge will oversee the construction. The 616-mile project, between 24 inches and 30 inches in diameter, would be able to move up to 225,000 barrels per day from a facility south of Tioga to an existing terminal in Superior, Wis. About half the pipeline mileage would be in North Dakota.

Federal regulators recently gave the project the green light on their end.

Northern Gateway Oil Pipeline Report 'Flawed,' 300 Scholars Tell Canadian PM

Jun 26, 2014
(CBC News)

Hundreds of scientists and scholars have signed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that says the recent report on the Northern Gateway pipeline is so flawed, it's essentially useless.

The university professors, from both the natural and socials sciences, say the joint review panel (JRP) report has so many systemic errors and omissions that it can't be used to make decisions on whether the pipeline is beneficial to the public.

MORE: Like Keystone in the U.S., Canada's Pipeline to Pacific Is High-Voltage Politics

The 300 signatories from across Canada and around the world say the panel's recommendation to approve the proposed pipeline from the oilsands in Alberta to the north coast of B.C. was based on a "flawed analysis of the risks and benefits to B.C.'s environment and society."

"We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject this report," says the letter.

Full letter:

 

Loveland, Colo. Voters Strike Down Fracking Moratorium

Jun 25, 2014
(The Coloradoan)

Loveland voters on Tuesday struck down a proposed moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial oil and gas extraction process that has been restricted in several cities along Colorado's Front Range.

More than 20,000 ballots were cast, but ultimately the moratorium failed by about 900 votes, said city spokesman Tom Hacker. Results came in just after 10 p.m., making the Loveland election one of the last Colorado races to be decided Tuesday .

"Fortunately that means the Loveland citizens have spoken and that common sense prevailed," said BJ Nikkel, director of the Loveland Energy Action Project, a group that campaigned against the moratorium.

U.S. Ruling Loosens Four-Decade Ban On Oil Exports

Jun 25, 2014
(Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd.)

The Obama administration cleared the way for the first exports of unrefined American oil in nearly four decades, allowing energy companies to start chipping away at the longtime ban on selling U.S. oil abroad.

In separate rulings that haven't been announced, the Commerce Department gave Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Enterprise Products Partners LP permission to ship a type of ultralight oil known as condensate to foreign buyers. The buyers could turn the oil into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

The shipments could begin as soon as August and are likely to be small, people familiar with the matter said. It isn't clear how much oil the two companies are allowed to export under the rulings, which were issued since the start of this year. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security approved the moves using a process known as a private ruling.