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At Least 24 Killed in Malaysia, Thailand Floods as 200,000 Evacuated

Dec 28, 2014
(Al Jazeera)

Severe flooding in Malaysia and Thailand has killed at least 24 people and forced the evacuation of more than 200,000, according to official data reported Sunday.

Northeastern Malaysia and southern Thailand are regularly hit by flooding during the annual northeast monsoon, but this year the rain has been particularly heavy. Scientists have predicted that as climate change worsens, storm patterns will become less predictable and more severe.

The worst flooding in Malaysia in more than a decade has killed 10 people, authorities said Sunday. Five of those casualties were in the worst-hit state of Kelantan, in the northeastern part of the Malaysian peninsula. Across the border in southern Thailand, 14 people have been killed in the floods that began in mid-December.

There are fears that the death toll could increase as communities have been left stranded without food or medicine.

Australia Records Biggest Emissions Drop in a Decade as Carbon Tax Kicks In

Dec 24, 2014

Australia's greenhouse gas emissions dropped 1.4 percent in the second full year of the carbon price – the largest recorded annual decrease in the past decade.

Data released by the Department of the Environment showed that emissions in the June quarter rose 0.4 percent. However, annual emissions to June 2014 dropped 1.4 percent.

This period includes the second 12 months of the carbon pricing system, which was introduced by the previous federal government in 2012. The Coalition fulfilled an election pledge by abolishing carbon pricing in July.

Emissions reduction accelerated during the two-year span of carbon pricing, with emissions edging down by 0.8 percent in the first 12 months of the system.

9 Days Later, Ohio Gas Well Still Leaking

Dec 23, 2014
(Columbus Dispatch)

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.

EPA Releases Long-Anticipated Rules for Coal Ash Disposal

Dec 19, 2014
(Huffington Post)

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.

EPA Punts Decision on Methane Regulations

Dec 18, 2014
(The Hill)

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.

Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks

Dec 17, 2014
(New York Times)

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.

Video: Obama Blocks Oil and Natural Gas Drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Dec 17, 2014
(Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd.)

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.

Study: Hotter Days in U.S. Mean Less Cold Cash

Dec 15, 2014

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.

Obama Administration Will Soon Unveil First Coal Ash Regulations

Dec 15, 2014
(The Hill)

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.

U.N. Talks Agree Building Blocks for New-Style Climate Deal in 2015

Dec 14, 2014

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.