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Today's Climate

April 22, 2014

(The Hill)
The White House maintained on Monday that the decision to delay the review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline was not based on politics. The State Department said last week it would delay its recommendation on the project, and the White House said it was not involved in that decision."I know there's a great urge and has always been to make this about politics," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "But we've see along this process, along the way here, along the route, you know, a series of actions taken in keeping with past practice where the reviews are done out of the State Department."
A court challenge holding up TransCanada Corp. (TRP)'s Keystone XL pipeline should be dismissed, Nebraska's governor said, urging his state's high court to allow the project to move forward. The case's outcome is delaying the Obama administration's review of the international project, the State Department said 18. Nebraska's Republican Governor Dave Heineman yesterday asked the state's top court to throw out a trial judge's ruling that the route for the pipeline was approved without proper authority.
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Potentially dozens of gallons of fracking wastewater and diesel fuel spilled into Chartiers Creek at 3 a.m. Monday after a fuel tank truck caused a rear-end, chain-reaction collision with two wastewater tank trucks stopped at a traffic light on Henderson Avenue in Canton, Washington County. The tractor-trailer owned by 1923 Transportation LLC, owned by Zappi Oil of Washington and transporting off-road diesel fuel, was traveling south on Henderson Avenue (Route 18) when it slammed into the first tank truck owned by Highland Environmental LLC in Somerset.
(Toronto Star)
The Harper government, which never foresaw that pipelines would become the battleground in a frenzied struggle over climate change, is contending with a continentwide wave of political opposition that has imperilled plans to sell more Canadian petroleum in foreign markets. In British Columbia, a few thousand people in the small coastal town of Kitimat have given powerful symbolic momentum to the movement against pipelines designed to carry oilsands-derived crude for export.
(New York Times)
The Keystone XL pipeline is a great political symbol. The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels daily of carbon-heavy crude from Canada's Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, has galvanized environmental activists, who call it a litmus test for President Obama's commitment to fighting climate change. It is a political weapon against Mr. Obama for Republicans, who call it a symbol of job creation and energy security. It has motivated liberal donors, led by the California billionaire Tom Steyer, who has personally urged Mr. Obama to reject the pipeline.
(StateImpact Texas)
With budgets already reduced and with more cuts on the way,  federal environmental regulators are expected to be doing fewer inspections of industries that pollute. If state environmental regulators were expected to take up the slack, many of them—including those in Texas—are dealing with budget cuts of their own.
(The Times-Picayune)
A group of U.S. pension funds, including those for public employees in Louisiana, Maryland and Texas, filed suits in federal court in Texas on Friday that accuse BP of making public statements about the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill that resulted in the defrauding of investors, according stories filed by the Reuters news service and the Baltimore Sun.
On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gathered on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart. One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.
(North County Public Radio)
A group opposed to hydrofracking says documents it's obtained show that the Cuomo Administration is conducting a thorough and comprehensive health study on the controversial natural gas drilling process.The Finger Lakes-based organization is wondering, why then, the review has been conducted almost entirely in secret.
(Houston Chronicle)
Environmental advocates across the country are urging foundations and universities to sell their investments in oil and gas companies, arguing they have a responsibility to withhold support from companies whose activities contribute to climate change. Whether the strategy is effective is another question.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Gazprom sent its first shipment of oil from its controversial Russian Arctic offshore platform on April 18, a landmark event that Russian President Vladimir Putin said would contribute to economic growth. "The start of loading the oil produced at Prirazlomnaya means that the entire project will exert a most encouraging influence on Russia's presence on the energy markets and will stimulate the Russian economy in general and its energy sector in particular," he said.
(Al Jazeera America)
Amendments to China's 1989 environmental protection law that will mean stiffer punishments for polluters have been submitted to the country's parliament for deliberation, official news agency Xinhua reported late on Monday. The National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, will consider the amendments during its latest bimonthly session, which runs until Thursday this week, Xinhua said.

April 21, 2014

(Washington Post)
The State Department announced last week that it was extending the Keystone XL pipeline's five-year stay in purgatory—this time, indefinitely. A departmental review scheduled to end in May has been pushed back while the Nebraska Supreme Court decides a case that could affect the pipeline's path. It seems unlikely that the issue will be resolved before polls are cast in the 2014 midterms, meaning another controversial policy that could affect this year's closest Senate races is in limbo.
The Obama administration's announcement Friday that it was delaying a ruling on the Keystone XL oil pipeline drew an angry reaction from supporters of the $5.4 billion project, including some who said it was designed to push the issue beyond the November election. "This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable," Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, said in a statement that called the move "nothing short of an indefinite delay."
Just a few miles from the spot where Enbridge Inc plans to build a massive marine terminal for its Northern Gateway oil pipeline, Gerald Amos checks crab traps and explains why no concession from the company could win his support for the project.
(New York Times)
From Mauritius to Manitoba, climate change is slowly moving from the headlines to the classroom. Schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow that process. Strapped school budgets, concerns about overburdening teachers and political opposition to what in some places is a contentious subject have complicated the spread of lessons on climate change.
(Washington Post)
The geological marvel known to Texas oilmen as the Eagle Ford Shale Play is buried deep underground, but at night you can see its outline from space in a twinkling arc that sweeps south of San Antonio toward the Rio Grande. The light radiates from thousands of surface-level gas flares and drilling rigs. It is the glow of one of the most extravagant oil bonanzas in American history, the result of the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
(Al Jazeera America)
Supporters of the oil and gas industry are urging a three-member, governor-appointed task force in Kansas to avoid jumping to conclusions in its study of whether fracking is causing a rise in earthquakes across the south-central region of the state. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of oil and gas extraction where a mix of water, sand and chemicals is shot into the ground at high pressure to release fossil fuels.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
More than 5,000 Minnesotans have signed a petition calling on Gov.Mark Dayton to enact a two-year moratorium on frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota.
(Oregon Live)
The volume of oil hauled on Oregon's rails increased 250 percent in 2013. A sharp increase in crude shipments along a rail route through Portland, Scappoose, St. Helens and Rainier drove the jump. In 2013, 19,065 tank cars moved more than 11 million barrels of oil through Oregon, according to annual reports that railroad companies submitted to the Oregon Department of Transportation. That's up from the 5,491 cars that moved 2.9 million barrels in 2012.
(Think Progress)
Spring should be a time of renewal and hope, especially after such a long and relentless winter. But for residents of Lac-Mégantic and the surrounding areas, the melting snow is once again revealing the charred rubble of a ghost town and stirring up the crude oil that had for months been out of sight—if not out of mind—at the bottom of icy rivers.
(Charlotte Observer)
Coal ash, infamous for its recent splash into the Dan River, also lies along Charlotte's outerbelt. It's next to a Huntersville car dealership and under a Lowe's store in Mooresville.
(Midwest Energy News)
Feeling that elected officials have betrayed them in the battle over piles of petroleum coke on the Southeast Side of Chicago, residents have vowed to take the fight to the streets and into their own hands. In unseasonably frigid temperatures at a local park Tuesday evening, they discussed a march planned for April 26, ongoing protests and the idea of boycotting BP, whose Whiting, Indiana refinery is the source of the "petcoke" piling up along the Calumet River.
An ongoing U.S. Department of Energy-backed research project led by a U.S. Navy scientist predicts that the Arctic could lose its summer sea ice cover as early as 2016 - 84 years ahead of conventional model projections. The project, based out of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School's Department of Oceanography, uses complex modelling techniques that make its projections more accurate than others.
(USA Today)
With the click of a computer mouse, the potential risks of rising sea levels will soon be searchable—by ZIP code—for all U.S. coastal communities. An online mapping tool will show how much sea levels are expected to rise in each area, as well as the number of residents and buildings that could be flooded. Initially launched in March 2012 for New York, New Jersey and Florida, it will expand to cover New England on Wednesday, the Pacific states later this spring and the rest of the coastal U.S. by the end of summer.

April 18, 2014

(National Journal)
On a flat, roughly one-acre square cut into a hilltop in the rolling farmlands, four natural-gas wells sit adjacent boxy machines that separate wastewater and hydrocarbons sucked from the ground over two square miles. Attached to those boxes are gauges small enough to easily escape notice. But they're of outsize importance: They measure methane—a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—and other emissions. Controlling methane is key to lowering the climate footprint of the natural-gas industry and its efforts to sell itself as the environmentally friendly fossil fuel.
Four years after the Deepwater Horizon spill, oil is still washing up on the long sandy beaches of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and some islanders are fed up with hearing from BP that the crisis is over. Jules Melancon, the last remaining oyster fisherman on an island dotted with colorful houses on stilts, says he has not found a single oyster alive in his leases in the area since the leak and relies on an onshore oyster nursery to make a living. He and others in the southern U.S. state say compensation has been paid unevenly and lawyers have taken big cuts.
(The Hill)
Tom Steyer is vowing to throw his political weight and money behind any lawmaker in Congress who comes under attack for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.The billionaire hedge fund manager turned environmental activist penned an open letter on Thursday, pledging to utilize his primarily self-funded super-PAC, NextGen Climate Action, to back members of Congress that face attack from pro-Keystone XL groups heading into the midterms.
Coal, the former king of American energy, is making a comeback after being left for dead in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas. For years coal has been losing market share as the American fracking boom created a flood of cheap and abundant natural gas. But natural gas prices have edged upward, and the frigid winter created unprecedented energy demands. Power plants have increasingly been turning to coal as the solution. There's serious doubt whether the resurgence in coal can last in America with stricter environmental rules coming. But the global outlook for coal is bright, and U.S. coal producers hope to take advantage by increasing exports to other countries hungry for cheap energy. The International Energy Agency believes coal will be the No. 1 fuel for meeting the worldwide increase in energy demand.
How much global warming will we get in the future? That largely depends on how much extra carbon-dioxide humans put in the atmosphere. And that—in large part—hinges on how much coal China ends up burning in the years ahead. China has been growing rapidly—and with 1.3 billion people, it needs a staggering amount of energy. Currently, 65 percent of that energy comes from coal, the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels. That's a huge deal: Over the last decade, fully half of the global increase in carbon-dioxide emissions has come from growth in China's coal consumption.