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Today's Climate

April 23, 2014

(The Hill)
Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy on Tuesday sought to downplay the importance of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and said the Obama administration will continue to focus on the bigger problem of climate change.McCarthy tried to turn the attention toward climate change during an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," less than one week after the State Department stopped the clock with 14 days left in the 90-day interagency review of the $5.4 billion project.
(Charlotte Observer)
Duke Energy's top North Carolina executive told state lawmakers Tuesday that digging up coal ash from disposal sites across the state and trucking the industrial waste to modern landfills, as critics are demanding, could cost as much as $10 billion. A cheaper option, which leaves the coal ash in place at most sites, would cost at least $2 billion.
(AP)
Dr. Lyle Best traveled nearly 200 miles from the heart of North Dakota's oil patch Tuesday to tell state regulators one thing: "Slow down." The North Dakota Industrial Commission is considering a proposal that would cut back on the state's booming oil production as a means of controlling the amount of natural gas that's being burned off at well sites and wasted as a byproduct of the more valuable substance, oil.
(Broomfield Enterprise)
Oil and gas company Sovereign plans to sue Broomfield to bypass the city's controversial, voter-approved ban on fracking. Sovereign planned in 2013 to drill new wells in Broomfield but was not able to because voters in November narrowly approved a ban on fracking.
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he can't personally block the frac sand industry from expanding in southeastern Minnesota, rebuffing a group of mining opponents who delivered a moratorium petition to St. Paul as part of an Earth Day rally at the Capitol. Bobby King, policy program organizer for the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project, said a rarely-used statute called the Critical Areas Act allows the governor to engage the state's Environmental Quality Board (EQB), without action by the Legislature, in a process that could lead to a two-year moratorium against frac sand development.
(Think Progress)
This week, the White House approved a long-awaited rule that limits how much coal dust miners can be exposed to, increasing the workers' protection against this dangerous byproduct of coal mining. The rule, approved Monday by the Office of Management and Budget, is expected to lower the the current limit on coal dust exposure, which has been in place since 1972.
(Bloomberg)
The Obama administration's latest Keystone XL delay is having an unintended consequence: the revival of the effort in Congress to circumvent the White House by forcing approval of the project. While a plurality of U.S. senators are on record supporting Keystone, no bill relating to the pipeline other than a non-binding resolution has passed in the chamber. 
(Guardian)
Conservative groups may have spent up to $1 billion a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort. The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks.
(Houston Chronicle)
Rail industry representatives on Tuesday told federal investigators they need clear government guidance on how to boost the safety of tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol across the United States, lest they be penalized for making voluntary improvements that fall short of later mandates.
(StateImpact Texas)
If you follow local headlines in Midland-Odessa, it seems like there's a fatal car crash every couple of days. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the oil-booming Permian Basin saw a 13 percent increase in roadside deaths from 2012-2013. Last week, a victims' rights coalition in Midland held a panel discussion on how to deal with the region's increasingly dangerous roads.
(McClatchy DC)
The push to start drilling in the Atlantic Ocean is gaining momentum and dividing people along the grand coast of South Carolina, where some local leaders fear what it could mean for tourism. "If we had an event like they had in the Gulf it would be devastating for us," said Hilton Head Mayor Drew Laughlin, referring to the April 2010 drilling rig explosion that killed 11 and gushed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. "Our beach and our environment are our signatures. Our entire economy is built on hospitality."
(Los Angeles Times)
The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a statewide list of census tracts most burdened by pollution, providing a first-of-its-kind ranking certain to pressure regulators to clean up neighborhoods with long-standing health risks. Many of the worst pollution pockets identified and mapped by state officials are in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire. Their residents are largely low-income Latinos who have had little power to force improvements in their communities.

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."
(Bloomberg)
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.
(NPR)
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.
(Bloomberg)
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."
(Reuters)
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.