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Obama 2016 Budget Urges States to Cut Emissions Faster

Feb 2, 2015
(Reuters)

President Barack Obama's fiscal 2016 budget proposes $7.4 billion to fund clean energy technologies and a $4 billion fund to encourage U.S. states to make faster and deeper cuts to emissions from power plants, officials told Reuters.

Obama's budget, which will be published later on Monday, also calls for the permanent extension of the Production Tax Credit, used by the wind industry, and the Investment Tax Credit, used by the solar industry, the officials said.

Obama has made fighting climate change a top priority in his final two years in office. The White House sees it as critical to his legacy.

Fracking Set to Be Banned From 40% of England's Shale Areas

Feb 2, 2015
(Guardian)

Fracking is set to be banned on two-fifths of the land in England being offered for shale gas exploration by the government, according to a Guardian analysis.

Such a wide-ranging ban would be a significant blow to the UK's embryonic fracking industry, which David Cameron and George Osborne have enthusiastically backed.

There were setbacks last week after the Scottish government declared a moratorium and UK ministers were forced to accept a swath of new environmental protections proposed by Labour, leading some analysts to say the outlook for fracking was bleak.

One of those new protections was to rule out fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and groundwater source protection zones (SPZs).

Neither the government nor Labour have stated how much of the land available for future shale gas drilling – 60% of England - would be affected by the new bans. But a Guardian data analysis has revealed it is 39.7%, with large swaths of the south and south east off-limits, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and Peak district.

Fracking is set to be banned on two-fifths of the land in England being offered for shale gas exploration by the government, according to a Guardian analysis.

Such a wide-ranging ban would be a significant blow to the UK’s embryonic fracking industry, which David Cameron and George Osborne have enthusiastically backed.

There were setbacks last week after the Scottish government declared a moratorium and UK ministers were forced to accept a swath of new environmental protections proposed by Labour, leading some analysts to say the outlook for fracking was bleak.

One of those new protections was to rule out fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and groundwater source protection zones (SPZs).

Neither the government nor Labour have stated how much of the land available for future shale gas drilling – 60% of England - would be affected by the new bans. But a Guardian data analysis has revealed it is 39.7%, with large swaths of the south and south east off-limits, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and Peak district.

Poll: Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change

Jan 30, 2015
(New York Times)

An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford Universityand the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future.

In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.

Keystone Passes in U.S. Senate, Faces Obama Veto

Jan 30, 2015
(Reuters)

Republicans in the U.S. Senate made good on a pledge to pass the long-pending Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday, a measure the White House said President Barack Obama would veto.

Senators voted 62-36 on the bill to bypass the Obama administration's review of Keystone, five short of the number needed to overturn a potential rejection by the president. All Republicans present voted for the bill as did nine Democrats.

Approving Keystone has been the top priority of Republicans in the new Congress after they won control of the Senate in November.

Scotland Announces Moratorium on Fracking

Jan 29, 2015
(Guardian)

The Scottish government has announced a moratorium on all planning consents for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking.

Welcomed by campaigners as "a very big nail in the coffin for the unconventional gas and fracking industry in Scotland," energy minister Fergus Ewing told the Scottish parliament on Wednesday afternoon that the moratorium would allow time for the government to launch a full public consultation on the controversial drilling technique, and to commission a full public health impact assessment.

Westminster MPs on Monday defeated an attempt to impose a UK-wide moratorium but the coalition government had to accept several Labour proposals to tighten regulation of shale developments.

"Given the importance of this work it would be inappropriate to allow any planning consents in the meantime," Ewing told the Holyrood chamber, to applause. "I am therefore announcing a moratorium for the granting of planning consents on all unconventional oil and gas extraction including fracking." He said that the Scottish government would also be working to further strengthen planning guidance and strong environmental regulation.

Acknowledging that local communities would bear the brunt of any developments, Ewing said that a public consultation “will allow everyone with a view to feed it in to government”.

He added that the government would take evidence from all interested parties, including chemical giant Ineos which owns Grangemouth oil and gas refinery and has acquired 729 square miles of fracking exploration licences around the central belt.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, described the announcement as a "huge victory for the communities, individuals and groups who have been campaigning to stop this dirty industry in Scotland."

Senate Near Finish Line on Keystone XL

Jan 28, 2015
(National Journal)

The Senate's weeks-long reintroduction to regular order on the Keystone XL pipeline bill could be over as soon as Thursday.

After moving through more than a dozen amendments as part of a marathon voting session Wednesday afternoon, aenators reached a deal that sets up a final vote on the pipeline bill Thursday afternoon.

There will be votes on up to seven amendments in the morning, with another block of amendments coming in the afternoon. Under an agreement between Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., that's expected to clear the way for final passage after the final amendment votes.

NTSB: Systemic Flaws in Safety Oversight of Gas Pipelines

Jan 28, 2015
(AP)

Three powerful accidents in recent years highlight weaknesses in the oversight of how natural gas providers maintain the largest pipelines in their networks, accident investigators said Tuesday as they issued more than two dozen safety recommendations.

A major effort a decade ago by the federal government to check a rise in violent pipeline failures in "high-consequence" areas where people are more likely to be hurt or buildings destroyed has resulted in a slight leveling off of such incidents, but no decline, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

U.S. Proposes Allowing Oil, Gas Drilling Off Atlantic Coast

Jan 28, 2015
(Reuters)

The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed allowing for the first time oil and gas exploration in a wide swath of U.S. waters off the Atlantic Coast.

The 2017 to 2022 drilling plan begins a process that could take many years before waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia are cleared for drilling.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the plan was "a balanced proposal" to make available oil and gas fields believed to be recoverable "while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop."

Senate Stops Keystone XL Pipeline Bill From Moving Forward

Jan 27, 2015
(Reuters)

Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked the Keystone XL pipeline bill from moving forward on Monday, but supporters of the project vowed to push ahead and eventually get a vote on the measure.

The Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to limit debate, voting 53 to 39 on the measure.

The Keystone bill allows Congress to approve TransCanada Corp's project to link Canada's oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Senate Stops Keystone XL Pipeline Bill From Moving Forward

Jan 27, 2015
(Reuters)

Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked the Keystone XL pipeline bill from moving forward on Monday, but supporters of the project vowed to push ahead and eventually get a vote on the measure.

The Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to limit debate, voting 53 to 39 on the measure.

The Keystone bill allows Congress to approve TransCanada Corp's project to link Canada's oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

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