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Keystone Could Add 400% More CO2 Than State Dept Estimated

'Our simple model shows that...the pipeline's effect on oil prices could substantially increase its total GHG impact,' finds a peer-reviewed study.

Aug 11, 2014

Building the Keystone XL pipeline to bring Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in the United States could add more than 100 million additional metric tons of carbon dioxide to world emissions—four times more than the maximum estimated in the State Department's study of the project's environmental impact, according to a new study.

The reason, said two researchers from the Stockholm Environmental Institute in the journal Nature Climate Change, is that extra oil flowing onto world markets through TransCanada's pipeline would lower world market prices enough to stimulate extra consumption of oil.

Refining and consuming that extra oil would, in turn, increase greenhouse gas emissions.

This was a factor that the State Department never considered in its voluminous study of the Keystone XL, they said.

Obama Action Group Joins Fight Against Christie's Climate Pact Exit

OFA's involvement in the campaign to get New Jersey Gov. Christie to rejoin a regional carbon trading scheme sends several political signals.

Aug 9, 2014

Environmental activists who have been campaigning for three years to get New Jersey to rejoin a regional cap-and-trade system have a potent new ally: Organizing for Action, President Obama’s grassroots lobbying operation.

OFA's role in the New Jersey fight showed up as the state held a hearing on Friday on its controversial exit three years ago from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a carbon trading pact. The hearing was called after a state judge ruled earlier this year that Gov. Chris Christie’s unilateral withdrawal had violated the rules of due process.



Colorado's Frack-Free Movement Sacrificed for Democrats Facing Re-election

Political compromise delivers a sudden slap in the face for green groups behind two ballot initiatives, now derailed.

Aug 8, 2014

8/11/2014: The story has been updated with comment from the campaign director of Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy.

Backed by a wall of suited supporters, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper proudly announced Monday that it was game-over for two popular anti-fracking state ballot initiatives.

Among the supporters was Pete Maysmith, executive director of the green group Conservation Colorado. But notably absent from the Denver press conference, however, was the rest of the green scene—members of the state's dozens of environmental grassroots groups. Many had helped collect far more than the 86,105 signatures required to get the two fracking measures on the ballot by the Aug. 4 deadline. On Monday, they waited in their homes and offices to hear the good news—that the signatures numbering more than 250,000 combined–had officially been submitted.

Instead, they heard that their long fight was suddenly over. 

De Blasio's Neglect of Climate Policy Thwarts Continued Progress on Bloomberg Legacy

New York's mayor has yet to appoint a director to the city's top climate agency, and has remained largely mum on the issue.

Aug 6, 2014

Eight months into his tenure as mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio still has no one at the helm of the city's office for fighting climate change.

The mayor has yet to appoint a director for the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, the seven-year-old department created under Mayor Michael Bloomberg that's charged with directing, planning and coordinating the city's ambitious climate action agenda. Under Bloomberg, the office helped transform the city by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 16 percent, retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency, and cleaning up the air, water and land.   

Experts warn that with no one steering the office, the progress that New York City has made on climate change could be stalled, and its reputation as a global leader on climate action damaged.

"It is urgent that a director be implemented soon," said Kizzy Charles-Guzman, director of Urban Conservation Policy at the Nature Conservancy, a 63-year-old global conservation organization based in Arlington, Virginia. "The clock is ticking on climate change and the city needs a strong, visionary leader...or it risks losing valuable momentum."

Bakken Oil Pipeline Would Bisect Minnesota, Cross 144 Waterways

Enbridge says it consulted with regulatory agencies and communities for a year and a half to select the best route, which faces intense public opposition.

Aug 6, 2014

Retired first grade teacher Beth Baker-Knuttila has so much she wants to tell the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission about why adding an oil pipeline near her beloved Portage Lake isn't a good idea.

On Thursday she'll have just three minutes to try to convince the PUC to reject a proposed Enbridge, Inc. pipeline that would cut across 144 lakes, streams and rivers, and skirt the shores of the Park Rapids lake that has been her home for 35 years.

The 616–mile Sandpiper pipeline is one of the first major pipelines designed to carry crude oil out of the booming Bakken Shale region of North Dakota. 

It will begin in the northwest corner of North Dakota and cross into Minnesota then pass 299 miles through the heart of the state to Superior, Wisc. Once running, it could carry nearly 10 million gallons of crude oil a day—an estimated 20 percent of the oil produced in the Bakken—to refineries in the Midwest and East and Canada.

Beth Baker-Knuttila stands in front of Portage Lake. Credit: Baker-KnuttilaBeth Baker-Knuttila stands in front of Portage Lake. Credit: Baker-Knuttila"There's just so much at stake here," Baker-Knuttila said. "It's not just about my home. It's about protecting the beautiful natural resources against some tragic accident."

Climate Change Law in New York Bridges Partisan Divide

Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and the business community, get behind the groundbreaking bill.

Aug 5, 2014

Adapting for climate change is no longer just a recommendation in New York State. It is about to become the law.

New York lawmakers passed a measure in June requiring that communities design projects to handle the impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels, heavy flooding and more intense storm surges. The legislation—known as the Community Risk and Resiliency Act (S06617)—affects infrastructure ranging from bridges and parks to wastewater management systems and covers projects that need government funding or permits. It is expected to be signed into law by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo by the end of the summer.

Over the past five years, climate action at the national level has largely been at a standstill. That has left the states to fend for themselves. Some, including Connecticut, Vermont and Maryland, have taken small steps to prepare for climate change, discouraging construction in high-risk flood zones and recommending that new projects be built to withstand future climate impacts. For the most part, though, state decision-makers have done little.

New York's Community Risk and Resiliency Act is the only legislation in the nation to require that climate impacts be a part of the permitting and funding process—and not just in the state's coastal areas, but in all 62 counties.

In San Bruno Gas Blast Case, Cozy Emails Between Judge and Defendant

Loss of confidence in important utility regulator adds pressure for accountability from overseers of pipelines, drilling operations and oil-by-rail.

Aug 4, 2014

The release last week of possibly improper emails between a utility and the California Public Utilities Commission has caused further damage to the credibility of the state's energy regulator and sparked a renewed push to oust the commission's powerful longtime president.

The mounting crisis of confidence at one of the nation's most influential state utility commissions comes as communities around the country are demanding more transparency and accountability from the regulators who oversee pipelines, oil and gas hydraulic fracturing wells and oil-filled trains.

Pressure on California's utility commission intensified last Monday, when the City of San Bruno—site of a horrific gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in 2010—released emails and documents that appear to show illegal communications about the ongoing San Bruno case and a pattern of coziness with Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility responsible for the tragedy.

IMF's Blunt Message to Nations: Raise Fossil-Fuel Taxes to Fight Climate Change

'Many energy prices in many countries are wrong. They are set at levels that do not reflect environmental damage, notably global warming.'

Aug 1, 2014

Countries all over the world, including the United States, should be collecting much higher pollution taxes on fossil fuels—stiff enough to reflect the long-term cost of global warming's damage, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday in an important new study.

The IMF, one of the world's leading development institutions, has long favored putting a price on carbon as an essential defense against the mounting damages of climate change.

But its advice has never been so blunt, or so detailed.

"Many energy prices in many countries are wrong," said the report, entitled Getting Energy Prices Right. "They are set at levels that do not reflect environmental damage, notably global warming."



$1 Groupon Coupon for Rooftop Solar Energy Finds 800+ Takers

The discount was offered to customers in 15 states, and comes at a time of rising popularity of 'distributed' solar generation.

Aug 1, 2014

Over 800 people across the United States took advantage of a novel online deal to get a discount setting up solar panels on their rooftops.

One of America's top solar companies, SolarCity, partnered with the coupon website Groupon for the offer. For $1—the price of a regular cup of coffee at McDonald's—buyers could get $400 off a solar contract that includes solar panel consulting, surveying, custom design installation and ongoing customer service. It works out to getting three to four months of free electricity.

The deal ran through June and July, and put solar on the radar for millions of online shoppers who might normally visit Groupon's website for deals on hotels or manicures.

"The Groupon program preformed very well and the response exceeded our expectations," said Jonathan Bass, vice president of communications for SolarCity, a California-based company chaired by Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and Paypal fame.

The deal wasn't Groupon's first foray into solar campaigning—but it was the largest. The discount was offered to customers in 15 states, and comes at a time of rising popularity of solar power, especially the residential version.

Q&A: Why First Nations Are Stopping Enbridge's Tar Sands Pipeline

'We're serious about our economy. We want to make sure that it's self-sufficient and doesn't harm the environment—so it lasts forever.'

Jul 31, 2014

British Columbia's First Nations have fought the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline that would cross their land for years, and they have no intention of letting up just because the federal government recently approved it. They've ignored the wishes of Canadian Prime Minister Harper, shrugged off oil industry promises of local jobs, and rejected offers of part ownership in what could be a lucrative and long-lived project.

In short, they've been impervious to the kinds of political pressure and financial enticements that routinely succeed in smoothing the way for oil-related projects in the United States. How come?

A big part of the defiance comes from the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of aboriginal groups in British Columbia that has no interest in allowing diluted bitumen from Alberta's oil sands to pass through their territories or get shipped through their fishing grounds. The environment is too important to their culture, to their economy and to a succession of generations to come.