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Capturing Methane Pollution From Gas Drilling Proves Cheap to Fix

Mar 4, 2014
(ClimateWire)

Nearly half the methane released into the atmosphere from the U.S. oil and gas industry could be eliminated using existing technologies at an affordable cost, according to a study released today.

The report, by the analyst group ICF International, was commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an environmental group spearheading an effort to measure and decrease emissions of methane from natural gas

Hundreds of Keystone XL Protesters Arrested at White House (Photos)

Mar 2, 2014
(ThinkProgress)

Youth activists held a rally on Sunday outside of the White House demanding President Obama stop construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands south across the country from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

About 1,000 were expect to turn out for the protest, many of them university students. An estimated 300 people locked themselves to the White House fence before being arrested by security.

Click here to see photos posted on Twitter

More photos here by Politico

Los Angeles City Council Approves Ban on Fracking

Feb 28, 2014
(Los Angeles Times)

Amid an outcry from worried residents and environmental activists, Los Angeles is poised to ban hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and other technologies used to increase production from oil and gas wells.

The City Council voted unanimously Friday to start drafting rules that would bar such practices until city politicians are sure Angelenos and their water are safe.

The council asked the city attorney and other staffers to prepare an ordinance that would change the city zoning code.

Under the proposal, so-called fracking, acidizing and other kinds of “well stimulation” would be prohibited until the council was assured that state and federal regulations adequately protected people from their effects.

Keystone XL Review Didn’t Breach Rules, State Dept IG Says - Full Report

Feb 27, 2014
(Bloomberg )

The U.S. State Department’s inspector general said the agency's selection of a contractor to write an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline didn’t violate federal conflict of interest rules, a finding that removes another hurdle for the long-delayed project.

Environmental groups including Friends of the Earth had alleged that the contractor, Environmental Resources (TRP) Management, didn't disclose financial ties to TransCanada Corp., the Calgary-based pipeline company that is proposing to build Keystone.

A months-long review didn't back-up the claims.

Read the full report:

 

GAO Set to Probe State Dept's Keystone Review, Lawmaker Says

Feb 26, 2014
(The Hill)

The Government Accountability Office will begin an investigation into the State Department's environmental review process of the Keystone XL pipeline, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said on Tuesday.

The Arizona Democrat asked the GAO to take a look at the process the State Department went through to complete its recently released environmental analysis of TransCanada's plans for the pipeline, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Gulf refineries.

The GAO said every Congressional request goes through a review process before a decision is made to investigate.

In a Turnaround, Japan Pushes to Revive Nuclear Energy Sector

Feb 25, 2014
(New York Times)

The government of Shinzo Abe took its biggest step yet toward reviving its shuttered nuclear energy program on Tuesday, announcing details of a national plan that designates atomic power as an important long-term electricity source.

The new plan, which states Japan will push to restart reactors closed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and suggests it might build new ones, overturns a promise made by a previous government to phase out the country’s atomic power plants. It also marks a major vote of confidence for nuclear energy at a time when its worldwide prospects have been clouded by the multiple meltdowns at Fukushima three years ago.

Supreme Court Gives Qualified Support for EPA to Set Carbon Emissions Limits

Feb 24, 2014
(Guardian)

Environmental campaigners drew solace from a Supreme Court hearing on greenhouse gas controls on Monday that left justices appearing to support the US government’s broad role in setting emissions limits for power stations.

The case, brought by power companies and 13 states including Texas, argued that the Environmental Protection Agency was overstepping its powers by using air quality rules to tackle climate change.

But a majority of court justices who spoke during Monday's 90 minute oral arguments did not appear willing to re-open a 2007 Massachusetts case upholding the broad power of the EPA, according to experts following the case.

David Doniger, the Climate and Clean Air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "Chief Justice Roberts made that clear early on, saying that even though he was a dissenter in 2007, the court isn't going to reconsider Massachusetts, or the follow-on decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, which establish EPA's authority to set Clean Air Act standards for both vehicles and factories that emit carbon pollution that drives dangerous climate change."

Doniger added: "Now more than ever, it's clear that EPA's authority to set standards for carbon pollution—the basis of Obama’s Climate Action Plan—is firmly settled on solid ground."

The results of the latest and narrower challenge to EPA powers may not be known for several months and industry lawyers argued the agency should not be able to use permits to tackle climate change.

"Greenhouse gases are not included within the [permitting] program at all," said Peter Keisler, representing the American Chemistry Council, which is among two dozen manufacturing and industry groups that want the court to throw out the rule.

But solicitor general Donald Verrilli, arguing for the administration, urged the court to leave the permitting program in place. "This is an urgent problem. Every year that passes, the problem gets worse and the problem for future generations gets worse," Verrilli said.

The Supreme Court justices also appeared unwilling to hear challenges to basic science of linking carbon pollution and climate change.

"None of the petitioners tried to pick a fight there," said Doniger. "Justice Antonin Scalia asked sarcastically if sea level rise was occurring anywhere but in Massachusetts, but no one seriously challenged EPA on scientific issues this time."

Supreme Court experts expect a decision in the case, called Utility Air Regulatory Group v Environmental Protection Agency, may narrowly come down in favor of the EPA based on Monday's arguments.

"As is so often the case when the Court is closely divided, the vote of Justice Anthony M Kennedy loomed as the critical one, and that vote seemed inclined toward the EPA," said Lyle Denniston of the legal website Scotusblog.

Enbridge Line 9: Canadian Program Unearths Unreported Spills, Alarming Communities Along Route

Feb 24, 2014
(Toronto Star)

An aging Enbridge pipeline that runs across Ontario has had at least 35 spills—far more than reported to federal regulators—but many municipalities along its route have never been informed of the incidents, a CTV W5 investigation reveals.

The National Energy Board, which regulates pipelines in Canada, has records of seven spills, while Enbridge told the investigative program there had been 13.

But W5's analysis of information from the energy board, the company and Ontario's Ministry of the Environment showed 35 spills associated with the 830-kilometer Line 9. (The Quebec government refused to provide W5 with any information).

Houston Chronicle Investigation of Texas Oil Field Safety Finds Failures, Deaths, Injury

Feb 24, 2014
(AP)

Injury claims, government data and public records of oil field accidents since the start of the onshore drilling and fracking boom in 2007 show the federal government failed to implement safety standards and procedures, according to a Houston Chronicle investigation.

The examination also shows a lack of government inspections and shoddy practices by many oil and gas companies. The newspaper says the result is a toll of badly injured or killed workers.

Texas accounted for about 40 percent of the 663 workers the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said were killed nationwide in oil field-related industries between 2007 and 2012, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday

Deal Reached to Slow Freight Trains Carrying Crude

Feb 22, 2014
(The Hill)

The Department of Transportation and Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced an agreement Friday to lower the speed limit for freight trains carrying crude oil.

They also agreed to inspect tracks more frequently as part of a new safety effort.

The voluntary reforms follow the high-profile December derailment of a train in Casselton, N.D., that resulted in 400,000 gallons of crude oil being spilled and prompted a push for more stringent federal regulation of freight rail shipments involving hazardous materials. 

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said increasing the safety of freight rail oil shipments was a goal for both the DOT and the freight rail industry.