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Germany's Largest Utility to Spin Off Fossil Fuel Assets and Focus on Renewables

Dec 1, 2014
(Guardian)

Germany's biggest utility firm, E.ON, has announced plans to split in two and spin off most of its power generation, energy trading and upstream businesses, responding to a crisis that has crippled the European energy sector.

E.ON said it wanted to focus on its renewable activities, regulated distribution networks and tailor-made energy efficiency services, citing "dramatically altered global energy markets, technical innovation, and more diverse customer expectations."

"E.ON's existing broad business model can no longer properly address these new challenges," the chief executive, Johannes Teyssen, said in a statement.

Germany's power sector has been in turmoil, hit by a prolonged period of weak demand, low wholesale prices and a surge in renewable energy sources which continue to replace gas-fired and coal-fired power plants.

E.ON said it would prepare next year for the listing of the new company created by its breakup, with the spin-off taking place after its 2016 annual general meeting.

The split will not be accompanied by job cuts, E.ON said, adding that about 40,000 employees would remain with the parent group, while the remaining 20,000 would join the new company.

E.ON did not provide an earnings breakup for the two future companies. E.ON’s generation, upstream and global commodities units, the last of which includes trading, accounted for about 35% of its €9.32bn (£7.4bn) in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in 2013. Renewables and regulated businesses alone accounted for 54%.

E.ON will hold a news conference on Monday about its plans, which will include investing more in wind and solar power.

EPA Unveils Contentious Plan to Tighten Ozone Standards

Nov 26, 2014
(The Hill)

The Obama administration unveiled an ambitious plan Wednesday that it said would improve public health by slashing the ozone pollution that causes smog.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy framed the update to the ground-level ozone standard as an imperative, bringing agency rules in line with the latest science to protect the nation's most vulnerable populations from a range of respiratory illnesses including asthma.

"Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk," McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday morning.

EPA to Unveil Tighter Restrictions on Ozone Pollution

Nov 26, 2014
(The Washington Post)

The Obama administration is expected to propose restrictions on smog-causing ozone on Wednesday in a move that will address a major cause of respiratory illness for millions of Americans while also setting the stage for new clashes with the Republican-controlled Congress.

The Environmental Protection Agency's long-awaited proposal will reportedly call for toughening restrictions on the pollutant, which forms when chemicals in factory smoke and automobile exhaust react to sunlight. Ground-level ozone has been linked to numerous premature deaths annually as well as to the "code red" respiratory warnings common to Washington and other urban areas during the summer months.

China Plans to Start National Carbon Market in Next Two Years

Nov 25, 2014
(Bloomberg)

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, plans to start a nationwide carbon market in the next two years following a pledge to cap emissions by 2030.

Opening in 2016, the market would have matured by 2020, Su Wei, an official at the climate change department under the National Development and Reform Commission, said today at a press conference in Beijing. China, which is working on an absolute control plan for carbon emissions, may announce rules for carbon-permit trading as early as the end of the year, Su said.

U.S. Treaty Envoy: Climate Deal Must Leave 'a Lot' of Fossil Fuels in the Ground

Nov 25, 2014
(Guardian)

The world’s fossil fuels will "obviously" have to stay in the ground in order to solve global warming, Barack Obama’s climate change envoy said on Monday.

In the clearest sign to date the administration sees no long-range future for fossil fuel, the state department climate change envoy, Todd Stern, said the world would have no choice but to forgo developing reserves of oil, coal and gas.

The assertion, a week ahead of United Nations climate negotiations in Lima, will be seen as a further indication of Obama’s commitment to climate action, following an historic US-Chinese deal to curb emissions earlier this month.

A global deal to fight climate change would necessarily require countries to abandon known reserves of oil, coal and gas, Stern told a forum at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

"It is going to have to be a solution that leaves a lot of fossil fuel assets in the ground," he said. "We are not going to get rid of fossil fuel overnight but we are not going to solve climate change on the basis of all the fossil fuels that are in the ground are going to have to come out. That’s pretty obvious."

Last week's historic climate deal between the US and China, and a successful outcome to climate negotiations in Paris next year, would make it increasingly clear to world and business leaders that there would eventually be an expiry date on oil and coal.

"Companies and investors all over are going to be starting at some point to be factoring in what the future is longer range for fossil fuel," Stern said.

Kinder Morgan Protest Arrests Continue In B.C., 11-Year-Old Girl Taken Into Custody

Nov 24, 2014
(The Canadian Press via Huffington Post)

At least a dozen protesters including an 11-year-old girl were taken into custody Sunday on a mountain near Vancouver as a demonstrations continued against a controversial pipeline project.

Dozens of people have been arrested since Thursday, when the RCMP began enforcing a court injunction ordering protesters to clear a pair of work sites on Burnaby Mountain, where Kinder Morgan is conducting drilling and survey work related to the proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline.

EPA Punts on Renewable Fuels Standard

Nov 22, 2014
(Bloomberg)

The Obama administration's decision to put off this year's quotas for using renewable fuels sets up fights in Congress and the courts over a program that has been bitterly contested for nearly a decade.

The delay, announced yesterday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, caps months of fighting between refiners and ethanol producers over a proposal by the agency to lower the quotas for using ethanol, biodiesel and cellulosic fuels.

1 Killed, 3 Injured in Explosion on Gulf of Mexico Oil Platform

Nov 21, 2014
(Wall Street Journal)

An explosion at an offshore oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed one worker and injured three others Thursday afternoon, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Fieldwood Energy LLC of Houston reported the blast around 3 p.m. at its Echo platform about 12 miles off the Louisiana coast. The oil and gas pumping facility wasn't producing fuel at the time and no pollution has been reported, according to the federal regulator.

MoveOn.org Warns Clinton: Back Keystone, Lose Your Base

Nov 20, 2014
(National Journal)

The progressive group MoveOn.org is pressing Hillary Clinton to come out against the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline, warning that she could lose Democratic voters if she doesn't take a stand against the project.

"Hillary Clinton's refusal to take a position raises the possibility that she is worse on climate change than 80 percent of the incoming Senate's Democratic Caucus," said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action.

She warned: "If she's considering a run for president and wants the support of the party's base, Hillary Clinton should clarify that she opposes this dirty and dangerous pipeline."

Harvard Students Move Fossil-Fuel Divestment Fight to Court

Nov 19, 2014
(New York Times)

A group of Harvard students, frustrated by the university's refusal to shed fossil fuel stocks from its investment portfolios, is looking beyond protests and resolutions to a new form of pressure: the courts.

The seven law students and undergraduates filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts against the president and fellows of Harvard College, among others, for what they call "mismanagement of charitable funds." The 11-page complaint, with 167 pages of supporting exhibits, asks the court to compel divestment on behalf of the students and "future generations."