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Today's Climate

April 15, 2014

(Los Angeles Times)
Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows. Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average.
Donny Williams didn't spend his weekend in Washington walking around the Tidal Basin taking in the cherry blossoms. He was training people how to get arrested.
(Think Progress)
Canada's energy industry has officially surpassed transportation as the largest producer of climate-change causing greenhouse gases, in no small part because of large increases in tar sands extraction, according to a government report quietly released Friday. In its overview of reported greenhouse gas emissions from industry facilities in the year 2012, Environment Canada said that oil and gas production now accounts for one quarter of Canada's greenhouse emissions, narrowly beating transportation.
(Denver Post)
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was walking down Denver's 16th Street Mall recently when a Greenpeace activist asked if he'd like to ban fracking. It reflected the intensifying battle over how to balance public demands for a pristine environment and health versus ramped-up production of fossil fuels.
(Columbus Dispatch)
State officials now say a series of earthquakes that shook Mahoning County last month likely were caused by fracking, leading them to create the most stringent drilling rules in the nation, requiring seismic monitoring near fault lines and epicenters. Yesterday, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced the rules, which say that monitors must be placed at new drilling sites within 3 miles of known fault lines or areas that experienced an earthquake greater than magnitude 2.0.
(New Castle News)
Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.The new rules, issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources last week, require that new gas and oil drilling permits within three miles of "a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than 2.0 magnitude" would require companies to install sensitive seismic monitors.
(The Courant)
State lawmakers worried about toxic byproducts from natural gas drilling wells in other states persuaded the legislature's judiciary committee Monday to approve a ban on "fracking" waste coming into Connecticut for storage or treatment. The panel voted 34-6 in favor of the measure, which now heads to the Senate.
(Globe and Mail)
Oil sands companies, which have benefited from years of low natural gas prices, are once again facing rising costs as the commodity they need to fuel much of their operations becomes more expensive. Increasing prices for natural gas hit hardest at projects that use steam to soften oil-rich bitumen deposits to the point where the bitumen can drain into wells from which it can be pumped to the surface. Natural gas is an unavoidable expense in these projects, because it is needed to heat water to create steam.
The U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting for another round of research into methane hydrates, the potentially huge energy source of "frozen gas" that could step in for shortages of other fossil fuels. The department is looking for research projects on the North Slope of Alaska that could explore how to economically extract the gas locked in ice far below the Earth's surface.
Climate scientists meeting in Berlin have been accused of "marginalizing" the views of developing countries. They are preparing to release a key report on how the world must cut carbon emissions to stem dangerous warming.
Smog-hit China is set to pass a new law that would give Beijing more powers to shut polluting factories and punish officials, and even place protected regions off-limits to industrial development, scholars with knowledge of the situation said. Long-awaited amendments to China's 1989 Environmental Protection Law are expected to be finalised later this year, giving the Ministry of Environmental Protection greater authority to take on polluters.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Economic development in the Eurozone is gaining ground, though any recovery there will be tepid. With North America relying less on foreign imports, energy investors should be following shifting demand dynamics to Asian economies. U.S. and European policymakers have been focused on energy security in the Eurozone as Russian energy company Gazprom rattles its sabers at a Ukrainian government tilting strongly toward the European Union.

April 14, 2014

The cost of keeping global warming in check is "relatively modest," but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change said Sunday. Such gases, mainly CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, rose on average by 2.2 percent a year in 2000-2010, driven by the use of coal in the power sector, officials said as they launched the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change's report on measures to fight global warming.
(The Nation)
Two prominent public health organizations are pressing the State Department to study the public health implications of the Keystone XL pipeline before reaching a decision on its approval. "There is an increasing recognition that the environments in which people live, work, learn and play have a tremendous impact on their health," reads a letter sent Friday to Secretary of State John Kerry by the American Public Health Association and the National Association of County and City Health.
(Texas Tribune)
In December, a new terminal in the Port of Beaumont welcomed its first customer: a train carrying 43,000 barrels of crude oil from Colorado. Workers at the terminal, the Jefferson Transload Railport, transferred the crude to a barge, which traveled down the Neches River to a nearby refinery. As shale fields scattered across the Midwest and West Texas produce millions of barrels of crude oil, energy companies are finding the national pipeline network insufficient to transport their output.
(Al Jazeera America)
Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation's strictest. A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers told the Associated Press. He called the link "probable."
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Enbridge Energy's pipelines have for decades carried crude oil from Canada and North Dakota across northern Minnesota to U.S. oil refineries. Enbridge, whose headquarters is in Calgary, runs its U.S. pipeline development business from Duluth-Superior with about 700 employees. One of them is Mark Curwin, senior director of strategic coordination for U.S. projects.
(The Hill)
A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not required to adopt carbon monoxide standards to mitigate global warming, and that its current standards are sufficient to protect public health. Environmental groups had challenged the EPA's 2011 decision that it does not have to adopt carbon monoxide secondary standards—meant to protect the environment—and that its existing primary standards—meant to protect health—are sufficient.
(Southern California Public Radio)
Pitzer College has announced it will divest its $125 million endowment of financial holdings in fossil fuel companies by the end of the year. The move makes Pitzer the first college in Southern California to commit to climate divestment, and the largest endowment in higher education to do so to date.  Divestment from fossil fuel companies is the goal of a network of activists who argue that profiting from or supporting industries that contribute heavily to climate change is morally wrong.
(E&E Publishing)
President Obama is poised to disappoint a valuable swath of his base no matter how he rules on Keystone XL. But with Democrats facing a possible loss of Senate control next year, would alienating pro-pipeline unions or anti-pipeline environmentalists sting harder for the party?
(Houston Chronicle)
Eons before the first wildcatters smelled oil in West Texas, massive slabs of eroded sediment had fused and folded into thick bands underground, trapping the primordial sludge in layers of earth too deep to reach until modern-day engineers discovered a way. The technological breakthroughs of the past half-decade have made the plains near Odessa and Midland—long considered past their prime—some of the most coveted land in the nation.
(New York Times)
Residents of this isolated mountain valley of terraced cornfields were just going to sleep last April when they were jolted by an enormous roar, followed by a tower of flames. A shock wave rolled across the valley, rattling windows in farmhouses and village shops, and a mysterious, pungent gas swiftly pervaded homes. "It was so scary—everyone who had a car fled the village and the rest of us without cars just stayed and waited to die," said Zhang Mengsu, a hardware store owner.
A crude oil leak from a pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) is to blame for water contamination that has affected more than 2.4 million people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou, media reported on Saturday. The official Xinhua news agency cited Yan Zijiang, Lanzhou's environmental protection chief, as saying that a leak in a pipeline owned by Lanzhou Petrochemical Co., a unit of CNPC, was to blame for the water contamination.
(National Journal)
Mr. DeMille, climate change is ready for its close-up. Environmentalists have long complained that climate issues are largely ignored on television news. And when climate does make the main screen, the discussion is not about how to address global warming, but instead on a question that the movement—and the vast majority of scientists—consider long-settled: whether human activity is changing the climate.

April 11, 2014

(The Hill)
White House press secretary Jay Carney attempted to sideline any noise that President Obama would establish a hard deadline for his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday."Our position on that process hasn't changed, which is that it needs to run its appropriate course without interference from the White House or Congress," Carney said to reporters. "It was because of actions taken by Republicans in Congress that one delay was caused in the process already."
Japan's cabinet approved the first national energy strategy since the Fukushima nuclear accident more than three years ago, designating nuclear as an important source of electricity for the resource-poor nation. The 78-page plan maps out policies on the production and supply of atomic power, clean energy and other sources. The document is based on the recommendations of a 15-member task force comprised mostly of academics.
The student-led effort to pull Harvard's $32.7 billion university endowment out of the fossil fuel campaign just gained the support of the school's faculty. In an open letter to the Ivy League school's president and trustees, signed by 93 staff members, they called the university out for supporting greenhouse gas-reducing programs on campus "while maintaining investments that promote their increase locally and worldwide."
(McClatchy Tribune)
Grain producers, manufacturers and coal shippers told federal regulators Thursday that rail service has deteriorated drastically in the nation's midsection in recent months, leaving crops in piles on the ground and fuel stocks low at electric power plants as resources go undelivered. Railroad representatives told the federal Surface Transportation Board that a brutal winter, combined with a record grain harvest, was to blame for the delays, but the industry's critics charge that their shipments are taking a back seat to crude oil.
U.S. Development Group is seeking permits to build an oil terminal on the Washington coast that could handle about 45,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The $80 million proposal at the Port of Grays Harbor is one of several in Washington that together would bring millions of barrels of oil by train from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.
(StateImpact Texas)
As the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has grown, so has the need to build pipelines to transport it to markets. Chester County has become a natural nexus for pipelines, due to its proximity to the shale as well as heavily-populated areas along the East Coast. Pennsylvania's Joint Legislative Conservation Committee held a hearing today in Chester Springs to discuss ways to expand state oversight of pipelines.