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Michigan Citizens Rise Up and Force a Gas Pipeline to Skirt Their County

Strong, savvy opponents turned back a pipeline. Now they turn to help their neighbors do the same.

Oct 14, 2014

People in Michigan's Oakland County were ready this time. When a Texas-based company announced plans for a natural gas pipeline that would bisect the county, township boards in Oakland County passed resolutions against it. Rallies stirred locals to action. Federal regulators were bombarded with letters against the project.

With resistance gaining momentum, ET Rover Pipeline Company LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners, quietly reversed its plans. Now people in neighboring Genesee and Lapeer counties—the new path of the pipeline—are reeling, and asking the winners for help.

Two months after ET Rover revealed maps showing that its pipeline would cut across pubic land and through backyards in Oakland County—and only a few weeks after the first opposition appeared–ET Rover chose an alternative route north that touches only a tiny slice of Oakland County.

"We weren't going to let this happen again," said Kathy Thurman, the Brandon Township supervisor who heard from community members that they'd had enough of the turmoil caused by earlier pipeline projects. Brandon Township is in Oakland County.

California Heat Delivers a Costly Blow to Coastal San Diego

The punishing heat has tested the region's energy supplier and is a harbinger of things to come as coastal areas get hit hard by climate change.

Oct 14, 2014

San Diego, known for having one of the most desirable climates in the United States, set a record over the summer that will never be broken: It had zero days that were cooler than normal. None. Four were exactly the climatological norm, and 90 were warmer than average.

For 13 days this year, including three days this month, Lindbergh Field, the city's official weather station near the bay, has hit 90 degrees or hotter. The average number of 90-degree days in an entire year: 1.3.

Those stats are no surprise to Carolyn Ingham, who lives in the city's North Park neighborhood, where few people have—or have ever needed—air conditioning.

"I feel like all I've been doing is overheating and sweating," Ingham said. "It really has just been unbearable."

For Ingham and her husband Scott and hundreds of other coastal San Diego County residents, trying to make the weather bearable proved costly. It also tested the region's energy supplier and could be a harbinger of things to come as coastal areas get hit hard by climate change.

Small Study May Have Big Answers on Health Risks of Fracking's Open Waste Ponds

A first of a kind study from West Virginia will help Americans inside the fracking boom understand the dangers of exposure to VOCs.

By Zahra Hirji, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer

Oct 10, 2014

When Mary Rahall discovered that oil and gas waste was being stored in open-air ponds less than a mile from a daycare center outside Fayetteville, W. Va., she started digging for information about the facility's air emissions and protections for a nearby stream.

She wasn't satisfied with the answers she got from state regulators and politicians, so the mother of two set out to find a scientist who could help. Eventually her questions found their way to William Orem, a chemist at the U.S. Geological Survey office in Reston, Va., and he began collecting air and water data at the site last fall. 

Orem's small study could have implications far beyond Fayetteville, because it's among the first scientific efforts directed at how air emissions from oil and gas waste could be affecting human health. He suspects waste disposal might turn out to be "the weakest link of all" in the oil and gas extraction and production cycle.

40% Drop in Solar PV Cost is Brightest Spot of Global Energy Picture

$44 Trillion is needed to make the transition to clean energy, IEA expert tells ICN, but will yield $115 trillion in savings.

Oct 10, 2014

In a world wrestling with climate change and the need to phase out fossil fuels, nothing is more critical than making sure there are reliable and cost-effective clean energy technologies ready to fill the void.

Shift to Low-Carbon Economy Could Free Up $1.8 Trillion, Study Says

A pair of new studies are part of a growing international effort to assess the costs and benefits of moving on from burning fossil fuels to clean energy.

Oct 9, 2014

As governments, businesses and investors ponder a future in which the world moves away from fossil fuels to avert a climate crisis, the implications for the global economy are getting high-profile attention.

The issue dominated the agenda at the UN climate summit, and is being reprised in Washington this week at an annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, where this year CEOs will join talks about how to deal with global warming.

The heightened efforts come amid studies describing the costs and benefits of the shift away from carbon-based energy.

The latest come from the Climate Policy Initiative, which on Oct. 9 published two reports indicating there will be significant financial benefits if the world adopts "the right policies" as it transitions to a low-carbon economy consistent with the safe 2-degrees Celsius target.

One report finds that ridding our electricity and transportation systems of carbon could free up trillions of dollars for investment in green energy.



Coal-Fired Politics: In Kentucky Senate Race, Bitter Rivals Woo a Dying Industry

Incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell and challenger Alison Grimes are fighting over an industry that provides just .6 percent of Kentucky's jobs.

Oct 8, 2014

Coal has been an ever-present part of one of the most expensive and high profile midterm elections this year—the Kentucky Senate race between Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes—despite its rapidly declining economic significance. 

Kentucky's newspapers and airwaves are full of ads from both candidates pledging to protect the industry and fight the Environmental Protect Agency's attempts to regulate its carbon emissions. Each candidates' statements have become popular political fodder for attack ads by SuperPACs on both sides of the aisle. As one local news channel put it, coal "has become the hot issue in the country's hottest political contest." 

But the industry that Grimes and McConnell have spent so much time and money fighting over is a bit of an illusion, several experts said. Coal has been dying for decades within Kentucky.

Under Pressure, Texas to Install Air Monitor in Heavily Fracked County

Investigation by ICN and the Center for Public Integrity helped spur Karnes County commissioners to think seriously about fracking's toxic air emissions.

By Lisa Song and David Hasemyer

Oct 7, 2014

Backed by results of a recent air-quality study, mounting pressure from local officials, news reports and the simmering discontent of residents, Texas regulators have decided to install an air monitor in the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will install the air monitor in Karnes County, the epicenter of one of the fastest-growing drilling regions in the nation. More than 10,000 oil and gas wells have been sunk in the region since 2008, and residents have complained of breathing difficulties and other health problems.

In February, an investigation by InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity and the Weather Channel revealed that the TCEQ knows almost nothing about air quality in the area. The series, "Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie," found that from September 1, 2009, through August 31, 2013, there was a 100-percent increase statewide in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production and that companies were rarely fined, even when inspections revealed they were operating equipment improperly.

In Fracking's Wake: Vast Open Pits of Chemical Sludge - MULTIMEDIA

By David Hasemyer and Zahra Hirji

Oct 6, 2014

Big Oil + Bad Air is an 18-month investigation by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity.

The latest installment tackles a little-covered issue: air emissions from the waste that America's drilling boom has created.

How Oil & Gas Waste Became Exempt From Federal Regulation: A Timeline

Key event was in 1988, when the EPA decided to classify most oil and gas waste as 'non hazardous,' even though it contains dangerous chemicals.

By Zahra Hirji and Paul Horn

Oct 6, 2014

In the small town of Nordheim, Texas, residents are trying to stop a commercial oil and gas waste facility proposed for a large plot of land less than a mile away. They worry that the Texas wind will carry toxic air emissions into the town and across the campus of the local school.

The residents' effort is hampered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision in 1988 to classify most oil and gas waste as "non hazardous," even though it contains chemicals, including benzene, that are known to cause health problems. The industry lobbied hard for the non-hazardous classification, arguing that the cost of treating the waste as hazardous would be exorbitant.

Here's a look at how the exemption came about, and a recent effort to repeal it.

Open Pits Offer Cheap Disposal for Fracking Sludge, but Health Worries Mount

A1988 federal rule exempts oil waste from a 'hazardous' designation, allowing for lax disposal methods that could expose people to dangerous emissions.

By David Hasemyer and Zahra Hirji

Oct 2, 2014

NORDHEIM, Texas—School Superintendent Kevin Wilson tugged at his oversized belt buckle and gestured toward a field less than a mile from Nordheim School, where 180 children attend kindergarten through 12th grade.

A commercial waste facility that will receive millions of barrels of toxic sludge from oil and gas production for disposal in enormous open-air pits is taking shape there, and Wilson worries that the ever-present Texas wind will carry traces of dangerous chemicals, including benzene, to the school.

"Many of these students live outside of where they could be exposed," said Wilson, a contemplative man with a soft Texas accent. "But we are busing them to the school, putting them in the direct path of something that could be harmful to them. It makes you think: Are we doing what's best for the students?"

Along with Nordheim's mayor and other angry residents, Wilson is trying to stop the 204-acre facility, but he faces an uphill battle. In Texas, as in most states, air emissions from oil and gas waste are among the least regulated, least monitored and least understood components in the extraction and production cycle. Although the wastewater and sludge can contain the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and other processes—chemicals known to affect human health—little has been done to measure waste emissions or determine their possible impact on nearby residents.Nordheim School Superintendent Kevin Wilson surveys the site of a proposed oil and gas waste facility. Credit: Eleanor Bell/Center for Public IntegrityNordheim School Superintendent Kevin Wilson surveys the site of a proposed oil and gas waste facility. Credit: Eleanor Bell/Center for Public Integrity