This hollow used to be peaceful.
Not long ago, Randy Heater and his daughters would roam the Monroe County hills to hunt, setting up deer stands on quiet fall days when the air was still.
On Dec. 13, that stillness shattered.
Crews lost control of a fracked well on a hilltop near Heater's house. Natural gas surged into the air.
From their backyard, less than a mile from the well, the Heaters heard it. The rushing gas sounded like a broken air hose, Heater said—a deep, steady WHOOOOSH.
As the weekend approached, gas was still spewing uncontrollably.
The Environmental Protection Agency released new rules Friday for the disposal of coal ash, the first national guidelines for dealing with the waste generated by burning coal.
The rules don't regulate coal ash disposal as tightly as environmental and community groups had wanted. They put coal ash into the same disposal category as household trash and non-hazardous industrial solid waste, and leave the enforcement largely up to states and local governments.
The rules call for the closure of active surface impoundments and landfills that "fail to meet engineering and structural standards," according to the EPA. They will also require regular inspections of the structural integrity of surface impoundments at active sites, the agency said, as well as monitoring and cleanup of unlined surface impoundments that are found to be leaching into groundwater.
The rules also require that new surface impoundments not be built in "sensitive areas such as wetlands and earthquake zones," and will require that they be lined.
The Environmental Protection Agency is punting a decision on whether to pursue regulations on methane emissions from industrial sources until after the holidays.
An EPA official told The Hill on Wednesday that the agency is holding off on its decision until after the holidays despite consistent statements by Administrator Gina McCarthy that the EPA would make a call this fall.
As the clock wound down, however, advocates and critics of possible regulations alike began to question if the EPA would move to target methane emissions.
The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.
“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.
That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he is indefinitely blocking oil and natural gas drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, a move that drew cheers from wildlife groups and muted reaction from oil and gas proponents.
In a video message posted online, Mr. Obama cited the environmental and economic benefits of Bristol Bay's natural habitat, including how it provides 40% of the nation's wild-caught seafood, as reasons why drilling shouldn't be allowed.
"It's something that’s too precious for us just to be putting out to the highest bidder," Mr. Obama said.
Hotter days mean less cold cash for Americans, according to a new study matching 40 years of temperatures to economics.
Days that averaged about 77 degrees ended up reducing people's income by about $5 a day when compared with days that were about 20 degrees cooler. A county's average economic productivity decreases by nearly 1 percent for every degree Fahrenheit that the average daily temperature is above 59, says a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper released Monday.
And, the study's authors predict, if the world continues on its current path of greenhouse gas emissions, even warmer temperatures later this century will squeeze the U.S. economy by tens of billions of dollars each year.
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.