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Climate Change Threatens Nation's Historic, Cultural Landmarks, Study Finds

May 20, 2014
(USA Today)

Climate change is putting historic and cultural landmarks around the USA at risk, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit science advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

"Sea-level rise, coastal erosion, increased flooding, heavy rains and more frequent large wildfires are damaging archaeological resources, historic buildings and cultural landscapes across the nation," says the report, "National Landmarks at Risk."

The report, which was not a peer-reviewed study, includes 30 at-risk locations, including places where the "first Americans" lived, the Spaniards ruled, English colonists landed, slavery rose and fell, and gold prospectors struck it rich.

The full report:

 

EPA Tightens Decades-Old Oil Refinery Pollution Rules

May 16, 2014
(Houston Chronicle)

New federal rules would force oil refiners to adopt more aggressive measures for reducing hazardous air pollution, including the first mandatory monitoring of their fence lines for cancer-causing benzene.

The Environmental Protection Agency's move Thursday to revamp the nearly 20-year-old rules comes after residents from Houston, Port Arthur and other cities complained about toxic emissions from nearby refineries.

The sweeping proposal introduces a requirement that refiners measure benzene levels at their perimeter and provide the information in real time to the public. The rules also call for limits on releases of the harmful chemical that drift over the fence line and into neighborhoods.

Pipeline Rupture Spills 50,000 Gallons of Oil in Los Angeles

May 15, 2014
(Reuters)

An estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled over a half-mile area due to a break in an above-ground pipeline in Los Angeles on Thursday, the fire department said on Thursday.

No injuries were reported, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement. The pipeline was shut off remotely, and the incident shut down a section of the Atwater Village area of the city, a local NBC affiliate reported.

"Oil is knee-high in some areas," the fire department said. "A handful of commercial businesses are affected."

Retired Military Leaders: Climate Change Already 'Catalyst for Conflict'

May 14, 2014
(New York Times)

The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesdayby a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.

The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.

The full report:

 

W. Va. Mine Accident: Two Deaths Confirmed After Roof Collapse

May 13, 2014
(WOWKTV.com)

West Virginia State Police have confirmed the deaths of two miners following a roof collapse at the Brody Mine #1 near Wharton, WV.  

Family members have identified one of the victims as Eric Legg.  The other victim has not been identified at this point.

Some previous MSHA violations of the 250 at Brody Mine #1 include methane hazards, emergency preparedness/escapeway hazards, and roof hazards.  In addition to MSHA violations at Brody mine - inspectors say the mine failed to report some injuries to the agency. Brody Mine #1 received more than 250 "significant and substantial" violations in a 2013 MSHA review.

UN Report Backs First Nations Against Pipeline Megaprojects

May 12, 2014
(PostMedia News)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper could narrow the gulf of mistrust with aboriginal peoples by blocking major resource projects including two proposed pipeline megaprojects to the B.C. coast — unless First Nations consent to construction, the United Nations said Monday.

A report by James Anaya, the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said there is a "crisis" in Canada and that the level of mistrust has perhaps worsened in the past decade.

Anaya put the two oil sands pipeline megaprojects Enbridge's to Kitimat and Kinder Morgan Canada's to Burnaby at the top of a long list of economic proposals that have drawn bitter complaints from aboriginal leaders Anaya met during a fact-finding mission last year.

Federal Agency Failed to Inspect Thousands of Higher Risk Oil and Gas Wells, Study Finds

May 11, 2014
(AP)

The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press before its public release, highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands.

Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data.

In Climate Push, Obama to Tout Renewables, Announce Solar Panels Back at White House

May 8, 2014
(Los Angeles Times)

President Obama will promote his record on energy efficiency on Friday by touting several initiatives he says are taking hold across the country – as well as the completion of one very close to home.

After years of delay, solar panels have been installed on the first family's residence at the White House, according to aides, who say Obama will make the announcement at a speech in Mountain View, Calif., on Friday.

The news makes good on a nearly four-year-old promise to return the renewable energy source to the most high-profile roof in the country. (President Carter had solar panels installed there, but President Reagan had them taken down in 1986.)

U.S. Regulator Orders Bakken Oil Shippers Not to Use Older Rail Cars

May 8, 2014
(Wall Street Journal)

The Transportation Department's nonbinding safety advisory, which carries less weight than an emergency order, said shippers should use the sturdiest cars in their fleets to transport crude from the Bakken shale.

The advisory effectively applies to about 66,500 tank cars--68% of the total commonly used to transport oil and other flammable liquids. Shippers instead should use the roughly 31,000 cars that have been retrofitted to improve safety or were built to higher standards.

The call to get the older tanker cars off the rails drew immediate criticism as too weak.

"Making it voluntary is not going far enough," Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) told Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Mr. Foxx assured her that the federal government was moving as quickly as possible to issue new rules.

MORE: Too Much Propane Could Be a Factor in Exploding Oil Trains

INFOGRAPHIC: Oil Train Explosions: The Importance of Removing Volatile Gases

Stanford to Divest $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock

May 7, 2014
(New York Times)

Stanford University announced Tuesday that it would divest its $18.7 billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies, becoming the first major university to lend support to a nationwide campaign to purge endowments and pension funds of fossil fuel investments.

The university said it acted in accordance with internal guidelines that allow its trustees to consider whether "corporate policies or practices create substantial social injury" when choosing investments. Coal's status as a major source of carbon pollution linked to climate change persuaded the trustees to remove companies "whose principal business is coal" from their investment portfolio, the university said.

Stanford's associate vice president for communications, Lisa Lapin, said the decision covers about 100 companies worldwide that derive the majority of their revenue from coal extraction. Not all of those companies are in the university's investment portfolio, whose structure is private, she said. Over all, the university's coal holdings are a small fraction of its endowment.