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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.

Newly Disclosed Oil-by-Rail Info Reveals Traffic Is Heavy

Jun 25, 2014
(AP)

Disclosures from railroads about volatile oil shipments from the Northern Plains show dozens of the trains passing weekly through Illinois and the Midwest and up to 19 a week reaching Washington state on the West Coast.

The Associated Press obtained details on the shipments Tuesday under public records requests filed with state emergency officials. They offer the most detailed insights to date on the increasing volumes of crude being moved across North America by rail in the wake of a domestic shale oil boom.

The disclosures from railroads also underscore an unsettling fact: Many of those shipments pass through highly urbanized areas where the consequences of an accident would be most severe.

White House Plans Another Climate Change Push

Jun 24, 2014
(Huffington Post)

One year after President Barack Obama rolled out his climate change action plan, the administration is putting fresh emphasis on its environmental agenda.

The White House plans to host two roundtable discussions this week on the economic threats that climate change poses and the "opportunities to overcome those risks," a White House official said in an email Monday night, which emphasized the potential costs of not addressing planet-warming emissions.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and White House leaders also plan to meet with billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on Wednesday to discuss a report they will release this week titled, "Risky Business," which assess the economic costs of climate change. Steyer and Paulson are the co-chairs for the report.

Globe Breaks May Temperature Record; Experts Expect More Records to Fall

Jun 23, 2014
(AP)

Driven by exceptionally warm ocean waters, Earth smashed a record for heat in May and is likely to keep on breaking high temperature marks, experts say.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Monday said May's average temperature on Earth of 59.93 degrees Fahrenheit (15.54 degrees Celsius) beat the old record set four years ago. In April, the globe tied the 2010 record for that month. Records go back to 1880.

May was especially hot in parts of Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Spain, South Korea and Australia, while the United States was not close to a record, just 1 degree warmer than the 20th century average. However, California is having a record hot first five months of the year, a full 5 degrees above normal.

EPA Gets Split Decision From Supreme Court on Its Early Greenhouse Gas Rules

Jun 23, 2014
(Politico)

The Supreme Court has just partially upheld and partially rejected a set of early EPA greenhouse gas regulations for major pollution sources, following a legal challenge brought by the utility industry.

The 5-4 ruling does not affect the much more sweeping regulations the agency issued June 2 requiring cuts in carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants. Nor does it limit the agency’s overall ability to regulate greenhouse gases — the Supreme Court has twice ruled that EPA has that authority.

Still, the case has some symbolic importance, given that it focused on EPA's interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

Today's case — Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA — debated whether EPA’s earlier decisions to consider greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and to regulate vehicles’ carbon emissions automatically triggered requirements to regulate greenhouse gases under other air programs.

Crews Cleaning Up After 7,500-Gallon Oil Spill Into a Colo. River

Jun 22, 2014
(AP)

Environmental officials and work crews were preparing Saturday to remove oil-stained soil from an area where 7,500 gallons of crude leaked from a flood-damaged storage tank into a northern Colorado river.

Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Noble Energy crews and officials with the Environmental Protection Agency were cleaning the site and draining a nearby storage tank on the Poudre River near Windsor. He said oil has affected some standing water and vegetation near the site, but because waters have receded, the threat of any remaining oil entering the river is "very low."

Oklahoma Quakes This Year Top Tremors in California; Linked to Fracking

Jun 20, 2014
(CNN)

California may be known for its earthquakes, but so far this year it has been surpassed by an unlikely state: Oklahoma.

Experts say wastewater wells are likely linked to the big increase in the number of quakes recorded in Oklahoma.

Between 1978 and 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of just two quakes of 3.0 magnitude of greater. In 2014, as of Thursday, there have been about 207 such quakes recorded in the state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Second LNG Export Terminal Clears U.S. Permit Hurdles

Jun 20, 2014
(Houston Chronicle)

Sempra Energy won federal approval Thursday to build a facility for exporting liquefied natural gas in southwest Louisiana, becoming only the second such U.S. project to secure all major necessary federal permits.

But even as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized Houston-based Sempra subsidiary Cameron LNG to add liquefaction equipment to its existing natural gas import terminal in Hackberry, La., senators who support boosting natural gas exports were scrutinizing the Obama administration's plans for vetting similar projects around the country.

Obama's New Carbon Rule Backed by Most Americans — WSJ/NBC Poll

Jun 18, 2014
(Wall Street Journal)

More than two-thirds of Americans support President Barack Obama's new climate rule and more than half say the U.S. should address global warming even if it means higher electricity bills, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Widespread support for the carbon rule, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month, is a rare bright spot for Mr. Obama, who otherwise received mostly low marks by poll respondents on topics ranging from his overall competence to his administration’s decision to trade five imprisoned Taliban officials in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The poll finds that 67% of respondents either strongly or somewhat support EPA’s new rule, while only 29% oppose it. Americans are also increasingly willing to stomach higher electricity costs in order to cut carbon emissions.

NASA May Anomaly Hints 2014 Will Be Hottest Year on Record

Jun 17, 2014
(Reporting Climate Science)

Global average surface temperatures could be on track to chalk up a new record in 2014 if the trend set in the first five months of this year continues.

Data released today by US agency NASA shows that May's global temperature anomaly – the variance with the long term average - was 0.76oC. This compares with the previous warmest Mays in 2010 (0.70oC) and in 1998 (0.68oC) - an El Nino year.

This follows the release of satellite measurements of the average temperature of the global troposphere for May by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) which showed that May 2014 was the third warmest May in the satellite record which dates back to 1978.