The Obama administration will soon finish rules aimed at controlling pollution from toxic coal ash, making good on a promise it made less than two months after President Obama’s inauguration.
The rules would be the first federal standards regulating coal ash, a byproduct from coal-burning power plants that contains substances like arsenic, mercury and chromium, frequently stored in ponds next to rivers or other waterways.
Lisa Jackson, then the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), promised the rules in March 2009, just over two months after a pond at a coal plant in Kingston, Tenn., spilled more than a billion gallons into the Emory River and nearby land.
Now, nearly six years later, the EPA is getting ready for a Dec. 19 court-imposed deadline to finalize rules it proposed in 2010.
About 190 nations agreed on Sunday the building blocks of a new-style global deal due in 2015 to combat climate change amid warnings that far tougher action will be needed to limit rising world temperatures.
Under the Lima deal, governments will submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions by an informal deadline of March 31, 2015 to form the basis of a global agreement due at a summit in Paris in a year's time.
The texts, breaking deadlock among weary delegates almost two days into overtime after two weeks of talks, appeased developing countries led by China and India, concerned that previous drafts imposed too heavy a burden on emerging economies compared to the rich.
Climate talks in Lima ran into extra time amid rising frustration from developing countries at the "ridiculously low" commitments from rich countries to help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The talks – originally scheduled to wrap up at 12pm after 10 days – are now expected to run well into Saturday, as negotiators huddle over a new draft text many glimpsed for the first time only morning.
The Lima negotiations began on a buoyant note after the US, China and the EU came forward with new commitments to cut carbon pollution. But they were soon brought back down to earth over the perennial divide between rich and poor countries in the negotiations: how should countries share the burden for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and who should pay?
The talks were designed to draft a blueprint for a global deal to fight climate change, due to be adopted in Paris late next year. But developing countries argued that before signing on they needed to see greater commitments that the industrialised countries would keep to their end of a bargain to provide the money needed to fight climate change. After 10 days of talks, developing countries argued that those assurances were not strong enough.
By midweek, a little over $10bn had been raised for a green climate fund, intended to help poor countries invest in clean energy technology. That was below the initial target of $15bn and many of those funds will be distributed over several years.
It was also unclear how industrialised countries could be held to an earlier promise to mobilise $100bn a year for climate finance by 2020, negotiators from developing countries said. “We are disappointed,” said India’s Prakash Javadekar. "It is ridiculous. It is ridiculously low.” Javadekar said the pledges to the green climate fund amounted to backsliding. “We are upset that 2011, 2012, 2013 – three consecutive years – the developed world provided $10bn each year for climate action support to the developing world, but now they have reduced it. Now they are saying $10bn is for four years, so it is $2.5bn," he said.
The frustration – with the lack of climate finance as well as other aspects of the draft text – was widespread among developing countries, especially those in the gravest danger from climate change.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an impassioned plea on Thursday for all nations to work for an ambitious U.N. deal next year to fight climate change, saying time was running out to reverse a course "leading to tragedy."
He also took aim at domestic U.S. critics of President Barack Obama who question whether climate change is mainly man-made. Kerry said scientific findings were overwhelming and "screaming at us, warning us."
"Every nation, every nation has a responsibility to do its part," he said in a speech at United Nations talks in Lima that are trying to sketch out elements of a draft 190-nation deal due in Paris in late 2015 to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Catholic bishops from around the world are calling for an end to fossil fuel use and increased efforts to secure a global climate treaty.
Catholics, they say, should engage with the process leading to a proposed new deal to be signed in Paris next year.
The statement is the first time that senior church figures from every continent have issued such a call.
With 1.2bn people worldwide calling themselves Catholic, the church has considerable potential to influence public debate on any issue.
President Obama spoke in dismissive terms of the Keystone XL pipeline Monday during an interview on "The Colbert Report Monday, saying its modest benefits need to be weighed against its contribution to climate change, "which could be disastrous."
During an interview taped at George Washington University, the president did not explicitly say whether he would grant or deny a permit to the controversial project that would transport heavy crude from Hardisty, Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. But he highlighted many of the pipeline's disadvantages, and downplayed its benefits.
As the Obama administration nears a decision on whether — and how — to clamp down on methane leaking from active oil and gas operations, new research suggests abandoned wells may be a significant source of the potent greenhouse gas.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on 19 representative abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, it can be extrapolated to the approximately 3 million across the country.
And while federal regulators are now concentrating on methane emitted during oil and gas production, the new study conducted by researchers with Princeton University suggests that accumulating leaks from abandoned wells over decades may be a bigger problem.
Oil, gas and coal interests that spent millions to help elect Republicans this year are moving to take advantage of expanded GOP power in Washington and state capitals to thwart Obama administration environmental rules.
Industry lobbyists made their pitch in private meetings last week with dozens of state legislators at a summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-financed conservative state policy group.
The lobbyists and legislators consideredseveral model bills to be introduced across the country next year, designed to give states more power to block or delay new Obama administration environmental standards, including new limits on power-plant emissions.
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.
But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.
"Outstanding!" William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt's office. The attorney general's staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general's signature. "The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House."
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq heads to the United Nations climate summit this weekend with no new targets and no commitment to action on Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the oil sands, but with a pledge to crack down on a little-known chemical that represents a tiny portion of this country’s emissions.
On Friday, the minister announced that Ottawa will enact new regulations to control hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning and heating. The powerful short-term greenhouse gases account for only 1 per cent of Canada’s overall emissions. But she reiterated that Ottawa will not move to regulate emissions from the oil sands until the United States is ready to address its oil industry – a decision that, according to many analysts, makes it virtually impossible for Canada to hit its 2020 target.