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Congress Passes Keystone XL bill, Obama Expected to Veto

Feb 12, 2015
(Reuters)

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
(AP)

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
(Guardian)

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.

BP to Urge Shareholders to Support Climate Resolution

Feb 6, 2015
(Reuters)

BP Plc said on Thursday it will tell shareholders to back a resolution brought by investor activists calling on the oil major to improve transparency on its climate change risk exposure, following a similar move by Royal Dutch Shell Plc last week.

"We consider the resolution to be non-confrontational, and it gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our current actions and build on our existing disclosures in this area," a BP spokesman said in an email.

BP will formally tell shareholders to support the measure at an investors meeting on April 16.

Shareholder groups ClientEarth, Share Action and Aiming for A have proposed resolutions that both global energy companies disclose additional information in five areas related to climate change in their annual reports, beginning in 2016.

Energy Department Kills Troubled Bush-Era CCS Project

Feb 4, 2015
(National Journal)

The Energy Department is walking away from FutureGen, a public-private effort to create a power plant that traps and stores carbon emissions, which began but faltered under President George W. Bush and was revived by the Obama administration.

DOE is yanking funding for the project that was authorized to receive $1.1 billion in funding via the 2009 stimulus law, though the bulk was never spent.

Bush, who proposed FutureGen in 2003, envisioned a pioneering plant that would demonstrate sophisticated technology that uses coal cleanly on a commercial scale. Since then, other projects designed to trap power-plant emissions have begun moving ahead, though large-scale carbon capture remains far from widespread commercial deployment in the electricity sector.

House Vote on Keystone XL Approval Set Next Week

Feb 4, 2015
(The Hill)

The House will vote next week on the Senate's bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced the scheduled vote to reporters on Tuesday, days after the Senate approved the bill.

The House easily passed similar legislation in January. But the Senate added a number of amendments, necessitating another House vote.

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.

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